Sharp­shooter

Af­ter “goat­gate” a Namib­ian min­is­ter called for tro­phy hunters to kill the self­ies posted on so­cial me­dia — but re­spect for the quarry is key

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - ALASDAIR MITCHELL -

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”

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