by Merritt Clifton
WASHINGTON D.C.––How does British crown prince William’s attitude toward animals differ from that of the nouveau riché Vietnamese who have funded the poaching deaths of more than 2,000 rhinos in the past two years alone?
Many Vietnamese mistakenly believe that powdered rhino horn is a cure for cancer.
William just kills wildlife for fun.
And mouths the right platitudes to woo fawning media.
Calling poaching and wildlife trafficking “one of the most insidious forms of corruption and criminality in the world today,” William on December 8, 2014 appealed to U.S. president Barack Obama to do more about it.
Obama did not have William thrown out of the Oval Office of the White House on his ass.
William’s wildlife massacres, after all, are legal, and mostly do not involve threatened or endangered species.
“High-profile and a little trigger-happy”
Mostly. “Hunting and wildlife conservation are not necessarily opposing hobbies,” opined Kevin Health of Wildlife News in 2013, when William retired from the British military and declared his intent to do conservation work, “but when you are high-profile and a little trigger-happy then [giving up hunting] reduces the chances of looking like a hypocrite and idiot. William has already had a small taste of that. While on a hunting safari in Africa he managed to ‘bag’ an endangered bird by ‘mistake.’”
William’s meeting with Obama was a warm-up for a similar appeal to the International Corruption Hunters Alliance at the World Bank headquarters.
“The cumulative effect of wildlife crime is shocking,” William told the corruption hunters. “We need new efforts to drive wildlife trafficking from our lands, our seas, and our skies. Time is not on our side.”
William himself, however, has often taken time out from whatever conservation work he may be doing to kill significant numbers of some of the purported beneficiaries.
Finca la Garganta
For example, reported Martin Bagot of the Daily Mirror on February 7, 2014, “The heir to the throne, 31, is gunning for game at the 37,000-acre Finca La Garganta estate in rural Cordoba near Seville in southern Spain.” William’s targets, Bagot said, were boar and white stag.
William is a frequent visitor to the Finca La Garganta shooting estate, owned by the Duke of Westminster –– “Britain’s third-richest man and one of his godfathers,” wrote Bagot. While courting his wife, Kate Middleton, William reportedly took her to Finca La Garganta to kill dozens of animals. In January 2012, after William’s younger brother Harry completed advanced training as a helicopter pilot, William and Harry shot 740 captive-reared partridge at Finca La Garganta in a single day.
“Six months ago,” Bagot recalled in his February 2014 report, William “made an impassioned speech about the illegal hunting and trade in rhino horn,” similar to his addresses to Obama and the World Bank gathering.
“Asked in an interview what he thought of people who hunted rhino, William replied, ‘I think they are extremely ignorant. I think they are selfish. I think they are wrong, totally and utterly wrong. It makes me very angry. It’s a waste. Along with elephants, they’re two of the most heavily poached animals currently in the world. If we don’t do something about them it is going to be a tragic loss for everyone.’”
But the Vietnamese perspective is that 110,000 new cases of cancer per year, 82,000 deaths, and a 73% death rate, among the world’s highest, are also a waste, and that if it is not selfish for westerners to kill animals strictly for sport, it is not selfish for a cancer patient who can afford to buy rhino horn to try it in quest of a cure.
An August 2014 survey of 1,000 residents of Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Nha Trang, and Can Tho found that only about 38% of Vietnamese still believe rhino horn can cure cancer, but that means about 30 million Vietnamese continue to hope that a few costly pinches of rhino horn powder can avert tragic losses for themselves and their families. The view that rhino horn can cure cancer is already yielding to public education, funded by the Animals Asia Foundation, Kairos Coalition, and Humane Society International, among other animal charities. Only two years ago more than half the people in Vietnam thought rhino horn could cure cancer.
But William’s favorite charity, the Tusk Trust, a £2.1 million a year organization founded in 1990, enjoying royal patronage since 2005, is not doing educational work in Vietnam. It is promoting “sustainable development” in six nations of Africa.
“Sustainable development,” promoted by the World Wildlife Fund and allied pro-hunting organizations since 1961, is a conservation philosophy which holds as a central tenet the notion that wildlife should “pay for itself,” in part by being hunted and “harvested” for the sale of body parts. This includes horns and hides collected as trophies.
Some advocates of “sustainable development” also advocate for the legal sale of ivory and rhino horn collected from culled and naturally deceased elephants and rhinos, and confiscated from traffickers.
But ivory poaching exploded throughout Africa after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species allowed South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabe to sell stockpiled ivory in 2007, for the first time since 1989 The arrival on the international market of legally sold ivory both whetted demand for ivory and provided cover for illegal trafficking.
There is nothing to suggest that legally selling rhino horn would have a different outcome.
Buckingham Palace ivory
William appears to differ from those who favor selling elephant ivory and rhino horn as commodities. In February 2014 he reportedly told primatologist Jane Goodall, 79, that all of the estimated 1,200 ivory artifacts believed to be in the Buckingham Palace collection should be destroyed, a view that his father Prince Charles called “naïve and stupid,” according to anonymous source quoted by Ben Glaze of the The Mirror.
But this is to date the only disagreement William is known to have had with the British royal tradition of wildlife massacre.
“When William describes those who are killing wildlife in Africa as ‘international criminals,’” blogged Best Friends Animal Society cofounder Michael Mountain in February 2013, “he would do well to take a long look in the mirror. It’s all very much a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop––unless, of course, you’re one of the 159 foxes who were killed on the Windsor Estate last year,” along with 6,970 other animals included in a tally published by the Scottish organization Animal Aid.
Windsor, as Mountain pointed out, “is just one of the royal estates; others, which include Sandringham and Balmoral, are where the family does most of its hunting.”
Royal family tradition
William’s grandfather, Prince Philip, reportedly killed 15,500 captive-raised birds at Sandringham in a five-week spree coinciding with the distribution of one of the first fundraising appeals that he signed as a founding patron of the World Wildlife Fund.
During a six-week spree at Christmas 1987, after Philip became titular head of the World Wildlife Fund, he and his sons Charles, Andrew, and Edward broke Philip’s previous record for sustained bloodshed by shooting nearly 18,000 captive-raised pigeons, pheasants, partridges, ducks, geese, and rabbits at Sandringham.
Introducing William and Harry to hunting at the ages of seven and 10, respectively, against the wishes of their late mother Princess Diana, Prince Charles and friends reportedly shot 12,000 pheasants at Sandringham at Christmas 1991.
In October 2001 the royals began offering bagged partridge and pheasant shot by family members for sale at the Windsor Castle gift shop.
The Queen herself
The Queen herself was photographed in the act of clubbing a wounded pheasant to death with her walking stick at a Sandringham shoot in January 2004. Later in the year Philip and several friends blasted birds at Sandringham in front of children from a nearby school, many of whom belonged to the school bird-watching club.
Members of the royal family and their retinue have been investigated many times for cruelty in connection with hunting and maintaining animals to be hunted. The Scottish SPCA, for example, in February 1996 questioned staff at the Queen’s Balmoral and Dalnadamph estates about allegations that they illegally culled deer by chasing them into pens with off-road vehicles.
The Royal SPCA in January 2007 reportedly investigated an incident at Sandringham in which members of a hunting party that Philip led first shot and then bludgeoned a fox.
While that case filled the Fleet Street tabloids, Harry’s then-girlfriend Chelsea Davy promoted her father’s Zimbabwean hunting concession at the annual convention of Safari Club International in Las Vegas.
Other members of the royal entourage have demonstrated cavalier attitudes toward wildlife, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, who in March 2005 offered a dish of cooked swan to two police officers who visited his home to question him about the death of the swan. Davies got off with a warning after claiming that the swan was killed by flying into a power line.
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