About Hunting Ethics

Extract from an email by Ron Thomson 2 June 2020

Nobody has the right to tell somebody else what to do. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

What is “ethical” to one man is ridiculous to another.

If somebody does not like the idea of hunting captive-bred lions then all they have to do is to NOT HUNT captive bred lions. He can then go to Tanzania, sit in a hide (which has no ‘ethical value’ at all) and wait for a big lion (that he has chosen from photographs taken by trail-cam) and he can shoot the lion of his choice from his camp-chair inside the hide, as it eats its supper.  If that is what you would rather do.  Then: Go and do it.  But don’t tell other people – who can’t afford US$ 100 000 to hunt a wild lion in Tanzania – that they can’t shoot a captive-bred lion in South Africa (because it is, supposedly, unethical – BY YOUR STANDARDS) .

A hunting ‘ethic’ is something that a hunter does when he is hunting alone. It is a very personal belief in acceptable behaviour to individual hunters.  And when I hear people (hunters?) bemoaning the fact that if he shoots a captive bred lion he won’t get his name in ‘the’ record book, I know he has got his values all screwed up.  I accept that hunting records have a value.  I accept the existence of record books – for whatever purposes.  But when the hunter prescribes his own ethical standards on the grounds of whether or not his name will appear in a record book, then he has lost touch with reality.

The MAIN thing about hunting is the HUNTING EXPERIENCE – not the size of the trophy.  THAT comes a dismal second third or fourth in line of importance. And the experience you can get from hunting a captive bred big male lion in a 1000 ha. enclosure, covered in thick bush – under ANY circumstances -when you have to HUNT that lion on your two flat feet – is infinitely better than the experience you will get from sitting in a hide waiting for a lion come back to a bait. And I think it is especially better because you are not patting yourself on the back because you have convinced yourself to believe that sitting in a hide and waiting for the lion to come to you, is “more ethical” (simply because you have listened to other people talking, who have a big hate for hunting captive bred animals) – &  patting yourself on the back because you have convinced yourself that hunting a captive-bred lion is ‘unethical’.

It is my belief that hunters should have a choice: hunt a wild lion or hunt a captive bred lion. And they should be able to follow their own ethical standards.

If YOU wish to follow the so-called ”Code of Sport Hunting Conduct for Africa”  – GOOD FOR YOU – You go ahead and follow those standards.

But please don’t insist that only people who follow those rules should be allowed to hunt wild animals in Africa.

You are right about the TGA’s support for sustainable wildlife use.– read our manifesto to get the facts right – but just because we disagree with other people when they tell me what ethics are right and which ones are wrong doesn’t maske me (or the TGA) a heretic. … because THAT is a terrible arrogance.



Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za.

Ron Thomson has 279 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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