Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy

The baby and the bathwater: trophy hunting, conservation and rural livelihoods

R. Cooney, C. Freese, H. Dublin, D. Roe, D. Mallon, M. Knight, R. Emslie, M. Pani, V. Booth, S. Mahoney and C. Buyanaa. Published in a special edition of Unasylva (Volume 68 2017/1) on Sustainable Wildlife Management with articles from members of the Collaborative Partnership for Wildlife (CPW) (of which SULi is a member) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Trophy hunting is the subject of intense debate and polarized positions, with controversy and deep concern over some hunting practices and their ethical basis and impacts. The controversy has sparked moves at various levels to end or restrict trophy hunting, including through bans on the carriage or import of hunting trophies. In March 2016, for example, a group of members of the European Parliament called (unsuccessfully) for the signing of a Written Declaration calling for examination of the possibility of restricting all imports of hunting trophies into the European Union. 

Although there is a pressing need for the reform of hunting governance and practice in many countries, calls for blanket restrictions on trophy hunting assume that it is uniformly detrimental to conservation; such calls are frequently made based on poor information and inaccurate assumptions. Here we explain how trophy hunting, if well managed, can play a positive role in supporting conservation as well as local community rights and livelihoods, and we provide examples from various parts of the world. We highlight the likely impact of blanket bans on trophy hunting and argue for a more nuanced approach to much needed reform.

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