Paul Goldstein

Paul Goldstein


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Sarah Palin shot a caribou earlier this week, which caused much controversy (peupleloup)

The unspeakable in pursuit of the (almost) inedible


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12th December 2010

Sarah Palin has outdone herself once again with the furore over her hunting excursions, but this is far from being a black and white issue

The worldwide papers this week were full of photos of the incredibly brave Sarah Palin shooting a caribou. She was quick to defend this butchery on a variety of social networking sites. What she does with her spare time is clearly our business, and to have to stomach her justification for this 'sport' whilst trying to pass it off as sustainable, is hard to digest.

Hunting, whether controlled or otherwise is an incredibly complex subject. For many species such as tigers, rhino, cheetah, leopard and lion, the argument is unequivocal – we are close to losing them and murder for sport has to stop. For other animals it is a much greyer area.

Two sides to every story

A few years ago Louis Theroux got his not inconsiderable ego battered by a dour Afrikaner while he presented a one-eyed shockumentary on hunting in South Africa. Yes he was right to highlight the absurdity of the supposedly brave camouflaged hunters - nascent Tea Party members, one and all - but to try and belittle a teak-tough farmer over a few NeoCons shooting a couple of unendangered plain animals was simply stupid. He is the master of the cheap shot but this was also naive. Previously this unloved northern parcel of the country had nothing. Now it has a clinic, a school and some much needed employment. This is a difficult and rightfully emotive argument, and I have spent all-night sessions arguing both sides around the campfire.

Each year, staggeringly, the venal Namibian government hands out hunting concessions and permits for more flaccid butchers to hunt breeding male desert elephants. This species is on the edge of extinction, eking out a parlous existence in the marginal yet spectacular deserts of Damaraland in Namibia. Contrast this greed with the Botswanan smallholder who loses half his livelihood as elephants pillage his meager plot every dry season. There are thousands of elephants in this huge country, far too many to sustain. They have been well looked after. Should the countries that have compromised their herds be able to state terms on culling?

Every traveller will have their own opinion

The thought of pulling the trigger on an animal is vile and turns my stomach. However, the sight of an old elephant on his sixth and final set of teeth dying of starvation is also shocking.

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs Palin was confusing North and South Korea. Easy mistake to make. The whole charade sounded ominously reminiscent of one of Mr Reagan's rambling briefings over Central America, when he confused Nicaragua and El Salvador (another disastrous foreign policy catastrophe). That is a worry. The fact that she needed six shots (with telescopic sight) to bring down this unfortunate ungulate was also worrying. She only gets one shot on the red button.

Oh, and in Swahili Caribou means ‘welcome’… funny that.

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