BY JOHN NASH
I have been asked to review the following book:
First, this book is not an academic treatise. It is a rude, anti-hunting rant dressed up in pretentious academic verbiage. If you are an anti-hunter, you’ll think it is a wonderful and important bible, confirming all your wildest delusions about cruel, evil hunters. If you are a hunter, you will be angered by its blatant mischief, deception, irrelevant examples and unjustified assumptions. It was commissioned as a critique by Born Free and written for the animal rights market by this vainglorious Big Brother House TV psychologist. Unsurprisingly, it has the sticky but highly profitable fingerprints of the animal rights movement all over it. Serious psychology, it is not.
The good professor views trophy hunting from an idealist, deontological position that trophy hunting is simply “wrong”, and it is therefore evil – ignoring the proven fact that it funds huge swathes of conservation areas and increases wild animal numbers. (An idealist, for example, says it’s simply “wrong” to shoot a suicide bomber regardless of the loss of innocent lives he might cause). Beattie similarly dismisses the widely published, peer-reviewed, scientific utilitarian, consequentialist argument that shows a trophy hunt may be bad in isolation, but helpful in certain circumstances if the consequences of a hunt achieves a greater good for wildlife generally. (Unlike idealists, a utilitarian or consequentialist says shooting one suicide bomber is acceptable if it saves a hundred innocent lives). Sadly, idealism finds a home in the clouds of academia, while utility deals with the bovine limitations of everyday reality.
He claims that a photo of a smiling hunter posing with a trophy is not just a photo of a happy hunter smiling with a trophy after a successful hunt. Oh, no – that smile is really the false “Duchenne” smile of a suspected psychopathic, narcissistic Machiavellian, possessed by the “The Dark Triad” (Oooh, Matron!). Beattie opines that the grinning hunters try to explain away their awful mistake and hide their violence (like a wife-beater, a violent doorman or a terrorist, no less) behind a false smile, and in the case of a female hunter, wearing too much make-up (Beattie seems to have a bit of a teenage fixation with Kendall Jones, an attractive female bow hunter. He should really seek the help of a proper psychologist with it). After trying to get the ominous “Dark Triad” to stick by association without any connecting evidence whatsoever, he then claims (page 79) there is no evidence of any direct link, yet, later on the same page goes on to suggest that it is “prima facie evidence of relevance to trophy hunting.” Such clarity of thought. Such precision.
He tells the story of “Cecil” using the social fiction version rather than published facts. He assumes that trophy hunting is about “conspicuous consumption”, not about the fundamental (evolutionary, objective) challenge and excitement of hunting or the emotional satisfaction and scoreboard that collecting Rowland Ward trophies brings. He can’t apparently admit that the Big Five are so called not because they are the “five most desired”, but because they are, genuinely, the five most dangerous and present the greatest challenge. Without highly trained and experienced professionals at hand, much trophy hunting of the big five would be suicidal.
He describes objectification and commodification as psychopathy, apparently ignoring that they are normal and fundamental to male evolution and resource supply, and rather worryingly doesn’t seem to understand that hunting animals and hunting people are easily separated in the normal human mind (millions of subsistence hunters, pest controllers, game keepers, farmers and many others manage the separation quite well). Hunters understand that hunting animals is OK, but hunting humans is not. The separation is easily understood by most people, but is lacking in animal rights advocates, hence Beattie’s confusion, a confusion he shares with psychopaths.
He claims that trophy hunters are “Machiavellian” (social manipulators), ignoring the fact that hunting is primarily a solitary occupation. He assumes hunters to be “narcissistic” (craving attention) although hunting is about lone stealth and the solitude of wilderness. He doesn’t seem to understand that hunting is all about the stalk and hunt and in becoming, for a short while, a predator in nature. Trophy hunting’s primary importance is not the “kill“. His view is like saying that people eat meat in order to kill animals. Similarly, he claims hunting is about “cruelty and hurting animals” when sport hunting is the very opposite, concerned with a clean kill (defined as a humane and rapid kill, not, as he thinks, “a clean kill is a dead animal with the blood washed off it”).
He doesn’t understand that modern hunting weapons and their optics are beautifully engineered tools that have evolved through practical use and are designed for safety and efficiency, not for “unfair advantage”, nor does he understand the difficult skills and experience required in their safe and effective use, again confusing pride in their skillful use with “narcissism”.
Despite warnings that most hunter satisfactions research has limitations, he carries on regardless with his preconceived and prejudiced view, lazily lifting and making erroneous assumptions, out of context, from the serious work of Darimont, Child, Ebeling-Schuld and others.
All In all, it looks like an anthology of cherry-picked, unrelated animal rights and self-generated articles focused on some Ryder Haggard fiction, thrown together to justify this hatchet-job opinion of a smug ivory tower professor who clearly hasn’t the faintest bloody idea what hunting, trophy hunting, modern wildlife management, sustainable consumption or the vast wildlife industry is all about.
Without doubt, he would be more at home in the Big Brother House than he would be in the African bush.
John Nash grew up in West Cornwall and was a £10 pom to Johannesburg in the early 1960’s. He started well in construction project management, mainly high rise buildings but it wasn’t really Africa, so he went bush, prospecting and trading around the murkier bits of the bottom half of the continent. Now retired back in Cornwall among all the other evil old pirates. His interests are still sustainable resources, wildlife management and the utilitarian needs of rural Africa.