South African taxidermists fear for the future of their trade as the UK bans the import of hunting trophies.
The new law, approved by UK lawmakers in March and sponsored by animal activists, aims to help protect endangered species. Taxidermists question this approach.
“The legal wildlife trade has been cast, there is a shadow being cast over them. That everything that we do is illegal and that we are trying, we are killing off all the animals, and that is so much far from the truth- that is not true. Why will I kill my own market…”, asks Pieter Swart, owner of a taxidermy workshop.
According to a 2018 study, trophy hunting contributes more than $340 million a year to South Africa’s economy supporting around 17,000 jobs.
“If they are going to ban this job, it’s going to cost a lot to me, because I am not going to manage to feed my family and everything. Because, for me and all of us working here us, the workers, we are getting to survive thanks to this”, said Elias Pedzisai, an employee at the taxidermy workshop.
The new UK law is also seen as the beginning of a change in attitude amongst European countries.
“In terms of ethics and morals, to hunt an animal only to be mounted on your wall, I think it’s a little bit questionable and a little bit unethical”, claims Keshvi Nair, spokeswoman for South Africa’s National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Critics however say shooting wild animals for fun is cruel, wasteful and pushes endangered species closer to extinction.
“The ban in the UK is going to be one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive ban. I mean it’s covering thousands and thousands of animals, and I think that can very much act as an example to the rest of the Western world and elsewhere where trophy hunting imports are still permitted, and I think you know that the UK can lead as an example here”, concludes Dr. Matthew Schurch, wildlife expert with Humane Society International.
Similar legislation is being considered in countries such as Italy, Belgium and Spain.