I think the best definition of a populist government is passing laws that you know won’t work, to solve a problem that you don’t really believe exists, because the polls do it well.

Both Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, in part because they share an essential “ideal son-in-law” energy, are often portrayed as having, if not defeated populism, at least put the disease into remission. Yet one of the most far-reaching pieces of populist legislation in the UK has passed the House of Commons under Sunak and with the opposition leader’s full support.

He Hunting Trophies (Import Ban) Bill it can still get unstuck in the House of Lords, although this is a rare populist move with many champions in the UK’s unelected second house. The bill would ban people from bringing hunting trophies (lion skins, zebra skins, wild boar tusks and the like) into Britain.

It has been criticized by conservationists in Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, who point out that money raised from big game hunting funds conservation and that, in the absence of people willing to slaughter populations of animals for pleasure, they will have to turn to those willing to. do it for profit. Contrary to the world depicted in Disney cartoons, lions and elephants do not roam the savannah singing songs and recreating Village. They kill people and destroy farmland, and someone, be it an orthodontist from Surrey or a farmer in Zambia’s copper belt, will have to shoot the lion every once in a while.

However, the legislation is almost certain to pass, despite many doubts about whether it will achieve its stated goals: to protect endangered wildlife and encourage conservation.

Like most populist measures, it is a blow amid the prejudices and preferences of the electorate. In a British context, that means appealing to a country that will do anything to help animal welfare, as well as stop eating them.

Add to that an old-fashioned dose of British class warfare: hunting animals for sport is something fancy people do, and conservatives, particularly after a series of post-war animal rights scare stories. Brexit hurt them so much in 2017, they will. seize the opportunity to make a draconian gesture in this direction. So you have the coalition for a bill whose ability to tackle trophy hunting is uncertain, enforced by a country whose own ban on fox hunting is essentially only policed ​​by saboteurs. Very few of the MPs who assented to the bill would support even something comparatively easy, such as Meatless Mondays in parliament’s canteens.

After the bill becomes law, a connoisseur Brit will still be able to munch on buffalo meat, zebra mince, or an impala garnish: they just won’t be able to show the horns of one they’ve shot, and that will come at great cost. for conservation efforts.

The law reflects a bias held not only in the UK but in most of the Western world: we consider killing an animal for its meat a lesser offense (or no crime at all) than killing it for sport.

Full disclosure: me too. I love to eat meat, but when I meet a tourist traveling for the purpose of hunting, it falls short of my estimation.

But it’s not obvious that my reason for enjoying a steak is any more justifiable than a person who derives primary satisfaction from punching a lion between the eyes. I don’t need to eat steak: someone does need to shoot a lion or a deer once in a while. It’s not just that we blanch by allowing big game hunters to display trophies; To say that you are happy to eat a deer killed cleanly by a hunter who took pleasure in doing so is considered more bizarre than chewing on a hamburger from an animal slaughtered by an unhappy worker in an industrial slaughterhouse.

It is not only in the slaughter of animals that the issue of job satisfaction is complex. We may feel uncomfortable with a soldier who is particularly enthusiastic about serving in active conflict, or a teacher who enjoys giving detention even when he accepts that these are necessary jobs. But we are equally comforted if the person who cleans our office is a neat freak, and disturbed if the staff at our children’s day care is not taking care of the babies. So why would we rather poorer countries pay someone to manage their animal populations than charge a tourist to do it?

Our intuition is, I think, half right: there is something a little sinister about enjoying the act of taking a life, however necessary. But with British MPs quick to oppose an act they find distasteful in a way that increases the cost in countries far from us, we should start by thinking a little more about our own eating habits at least.


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