After “goatgate” a Namibian minister called for trophy hunters to kill the selfies posted on social media — but respect for the quarry is key
What’s the connection between the Scottish island of Islay, scene of that infamous goat photo (News, 31 October), and the African country of Namibia? Some of you may know that Namibia is a fine hunting country — a popular destination for British stalkers. But did you also know that earlier this year Namibia proposed a legal ban on the posting of trophy photos on social media?
This is not because the country’s conservation establishment is anti-hunting. Quite the reverse. The authorities want to protect properly regulated sport hunting, which funds so much wildlife conservation.
Nearly four months before our own “goatgate” media storm, Namibian wildlife officials had decided to act on the potentially damaging misuse of unseemly trophy hunting images. Their proposed legislation might seem somewhat clumsy but I understand it is born out of exasperation at the promotional antics of certain commercial hunting outfits.
The Namibian environment and tourism minister, Pohamba Shifeta, expressed concerns that some photos and videos on social media could misrepresent hunting in his country. He said: “Hunting is permitted by the Namibian Constitution. However, it is morally not correct to post such pictures.” This sweeping announcement, made on 3 July, caused a ripple of concern among the country’s hunting outfitters. Many of them rely on social media to promote their services to overseas clients.
More recently, the Namibian Professional Hunting Association
(NAPHA) held a meeting with the minister to agree a way forward. In place of a total ban on trophy photos on social media, NAPHA has proposed a “clearly defined guideline structure for responsible social media marketing”. This is to sit within a broader code of conduct with compulsory training courses for hunting professionals, encompassing “ethics, social media, shot placement, trophy handling” and so on.
Whatever you think of such steps, the interesting fact is that the Namibians seem to be taking some form of legislative action on this issue. To some, goatgate is yet another example of the hypocrisy of the public and of the media. The latter, of course, has a vested financial interest in stoking up controversy, which all too easily overflows into naked hate-mongering.
Yet media sensationalism, turbocharged by social media, is an inescapable part of the world we live in. Given this, you do have to wonder at the wisdom of posting trophy photos on publicly accessible platforms such as Facebook. Those who live by clickbait die by clickbait.
One of the underlying issues is that certain images are too easily misrepresented as showing a lack of respect for the quarry. By contrast, look at the German way of treating shot game. A branch from a native tree species is carefully placed in the mouth of a downed deer or wild boar, as well as capercaillie and blackcock. This “letzter bissen”, or last bite, is profoundly respectful. A corresponding “schützenbruch”, or hunter’s branch, is presented to a shooter, forming a ritual bond between hunter and hunted.
I gather that other respectful ceremonies, such as the blowing of hunting horns over the bag at the end of the hunt, are found throughout continental Europe. Perhaps there are lessons for us?
“The media has a vested interest in controversy, which overflows into naked hate-mongering”