Bullets, Breeding, and Biodiversity: An Analysis of Trophy Hunting within South Africa’s Green Wildlife Economy

Authors: Dave Knieter*, West Virginia University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Animal Geographies, Africa
Keywords: trophy hunting, breeding, conservation, game farming
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

South African wildlife game breeders claim that international trophy hunters demand quality animals with the longest horns and the biggest bodies. This paper examines the relationship between the production, consumption, and commoditization of privately owned wildlife to critique the neoliberal logics supporting the intensification of breeding a range of species, including color variants such as golden wildebeest, to satisfy an “inch-chasing” clientele. Drawing on multi-sited qualitative interviews and participatory observations in Washington DC, Las Vegas, and South Africa, as well as discourses circulating throughout social media and hunting websites, this project analyzes the attitudes, perceptions, contradictions, and internal tensions sustaining and threatening the trophy hunting industry. Game breeders assert that producing stronger and exotic species strengthens bloodlines and replenishes a gene pool once existent in the colonial era, and argue that money generated from such production improves conservation and socioeconomic outcomes. Phrases such as “if it pays, it stays,” and “conservation through utilization” are used in the face of critique from animal rights groups and conservation NGOs voicing moral and ethical concerns about the treatment of animals, particularly the practice of breeding lions in captivity for “canned” trophy hunts and the lion bone trade. At the same time South African ‘land expropriation without compensation’ weighs on the minds of many white landowning farmers, some of whom fear loss of land, livelihood, and life.

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