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Another elephant?


A few months ago, the French newspaper Le Monde (Le Monde 31st December 2011), drew attention to the slaughter of elephants in Africa. In figures that can be contrasted, it is known that in 2011, 23 tonnes of ivory were collected and sold, which according to the organisation Traffic, is the equivalent of 2,500 elephants. To say that the situation of the African elephant is getting worse is simply a reiteration.

The perpetrators of such slaughters, which continue at a steady pace this year, are often mercenaries contracted to obtain the tusks; the demand for which has dramatically increased in Asia and more specifically, in Malaysia. As a result, from the beginning of January to mid-February this year, 200 elephants have been exterminated in northern Cameroon, with total impunity and indifference from the country's authorities. On other occasions, the death of elephants, buffalo, rhinos and other valuable species arises from organised safaris in Africa or bear hunts that are still permitted in European countries like Hungary, Romania and Poland, ignoring strict EU regulation governing hunting and the restrictions of it. This is all justifiable, it seems, as an elitist hobby.

It is true that there are countries in southern Africa - such as Botswana - that permit hunting of elephants and other wild animals in idyllic enclosures on the grounds that this activity is an essential source of income for the country, as it generates a lot of jobs. And, I add, of illegal trade, making the CITES convention a metaphor.

"It's not a crime to kill an elephant. It's bigger than all that. It's a sin to kill an elephant. It's the only sin that you can buy a license and go out and commit." Many film fans, who follow Clint Eastwood's directing career, cannot forget the words with which the hunter refuses to shoot an elephant that, eventually, appears in his sights. It is the end of a film (White Hunter Black Heart) that is a tribute to the films of John Huston and also a tribute to a noble, intelligent and sensible creature like the elephant. A true miracle of nature. The magnificence of living in freedom. I do not know how to justify or explain that killing such a creature, or any other wildlife specimen, could constitute a pastime or leisure activity legitimised by an alleged contribution to protecting the balance of nature.

There is something obscene about hunting for fun. There is something ridiculous and cruel about being photographed with the dead body of your victim. Giving animals the respect they deserve, widening the "circle of compassion" simply makes human beings noble. It won't be long before hunting elephants or any wild animal will result in rejection, growing rejection, in increasingly wide layers of the population.

Fox hunting was banned in Great Britain − and it was not easy, as it was a pastime related to rural life and done by rural nobility. Ecological harmony has not sunk, the British economy has not sunk, traditions do not seem to have been lost or the identity of the British collapsed. Queen Elizabeth II, who is celebrating her 60th anniversary on the throne, often appears with her dogs, horses, with an image that corresponds to one that, in English-speaking countries, is considered an admirable personality trait, which is to love animals and show compassion towards them, also publicly. It is also common to see American presidents with their pets (we even know their names...). Perhaps it cannot be denied that these images are published for publicity purposes but it is publicity that spreads the values of an entire society.

I would not like (many would not like) to see a Spanish political representative posing with a dead body and a hunting rifle ever again. I would prefer it if no elephant were every exhibited, killed without mercy, along with someone who is supposed to represent us as civilized citizens. I would prefer him to appear walking his dogs (which, by the way, we saw the current Minister of Justice do last year) or for the website of Moncloa or Zarzuela to also start showing photos of the pets who live there, if there are any! Something would be starting to change.

Teresa Giménez-Candela
Professor of Roman Law
Animal Law Professor
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

keys slaughter, elephants , africa

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