Fact Checking Sir Ranulph


Sir Ranulph Fiennes has once again embarked on a crusade against hunting. This time in an article in The Times on July 1st. As usual, he is not afraid of working creatively with the truth. He outrageously claims without further documentation that:

“Half the animals shot by trophy hunters are wounded rather than instantly killed, say US studies.”

My educated guess is that this is, in fact, Eduardo Goncalves’s claim and that the documentation in the shape of “US studies” is non-existent. I certainly have not come across such studies during my 25 years as a freelance writer and editor for the international sporting press. I am aware of very detailed statistics from Denmark showing that a maximum of 1-2% of roe deer shot upon by Danish hunters are probably wounded to some degree. 1-2% is a very far cry from 50%. I refuse to believe that Danish hunters (being one myself) are much better shots than the average “trophy hunter.”

Two years ago, Fiennes claimed that “trophy hunters” drove Scimitar-horned Oryx to extinction in the wild in North Africa. A claim that turned out to be 100% false. There were 4,000-6,000 animals in the most significant single population in Chad three years after the last recorded trophy hunt for the animal.

Later Sir Ranulph and Goncalves claimed that it is normal to deliberately wound animals in their knees to make it easier for hunting clients to kill from the car. In my mind, it takes a very twisted imagination to make these things up. Apart from being practically impossible (and extremely dangerous to try), this ridiculous claim was also wholly undocumented.

It might have dawned on these anti-hunting campaigners that purely emotional argumentation does not justify jeopardizing the future of millions of wild animals depending on hunting tourism. Neither is it enough to cancel thousands of rural African jobs – or at least it should not be. Sadly, in place of factual arguments, these campaigners fabricate their truth, and even more sadly, the British press gladly publish without any reasonable fact-checking.

The number of fabrications is mind-blowing. In Mr. Goncalves’s books on the subject, he has claimed that trophy hunters have been allowed to import chimpanzee hunting trophies into the US. This is not true – a fact check found that the “hunting trophies” were, in fact, blood samples for scientific research. Neither was it true when Goncalves claimed that there are monkey breeding ranches in Zambia breeding monkeys for trophy hunting. A fact-check revealed the claim to be based on a single typo in a trade database and that Goncalves had not realized that “ZA” is code for South Africa (Not Zambia).

He also claims that Canadian authorities allow “canned” bear hunting – i.e., shooting bears bred in captivity. They do not, and the Canadian authorities I talked to were appalled to learn of these unfounded accusations. It is also untrue when he repeatedly claims that giraffes are threatened by “trophy hunting.” Furthermore, contrary to his charges, British “trophy hunters” never hunted ANY species to extinction. Neither did any other “trophy hunters,” for that matter.

I sent a letter to the editor of The Times refuting the outrageous fabrications brought forward by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. As usual, they did not even dignify the effort with a polite refusal. This does not make the times unique on the British media scene. Most UK newspapers (with a few brave exceptions) are engaged in a widespread campaign against hunting. Factual information that contradicts this agenda is ignored.

The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting is based on a web of lies and misinformation. It is not a very solid foundation for serious legislation. I welcome a discussion about hunting tourism – its consequences and its ethics – but we cannot have a conversation based on fabrications. We cannot have a debate that allows only one side a chance to be heard. It is a waste of everybody’s time and an insult to the intelligence of the people reading these propaganda articles.

Jens is a Scandinavian outdoor writer based in Sweden.