A recent issue of Sports Afield Magazine ran an unusual piece about elephant “hunting” in Africa, in which the pachyderms are shot with a dart gun. This follows the current fad for darting white rhinos and posing with the doped-up beasts as they sleep off their nembutol, or whatever it is.
Ted Kerasote, who wrote the article (titled “The Green Hunt”), was enthusiastic about the practice, as it allowed you to “hunt” elephants without killing them. Well, OK, if it makes his liver quiver. The only problem I have with the whole business is that it’s not hunting. To illustrate this, let’s look at a couple of other pursuits.
The object of professional boxing is see to who can pound the stuffing out of whom. Olympic boxing, on the other hand, counts only the number of punches landed, and goes to some lengths to make sure that no one is inconvenienced by an authentic ass-whipping. That is the reason it’s followed by so many with such rapt boredom. Can anyone name an Olympic boxing champion in any weight division since Sugar Ray Leonard won gold in 1976?
And then there is bullfighting, which is not considered a sport by its fans but a form of theatre, the object of which is the demonstration of courage in the face of death. Take the death out of it and all you have is a guy in tights embarrassing both himself and a bull in a stadium full of people.
Hunting, and especially the hunting of dangerous game, is about life and death. If you try to kill an elephant there is always the chance he will kill you, and the death of one of you is what gives the enterprise its meaning. If you yearn to stick a needle in the rump of some poor elephant, by all means do so, but don’t file the activity under “hunting.” It ain’t.