A sobering, and often difficult to watch, documentary, Trophy examines the interconnectedness of industrial scale big-game hunting, breeding, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa to show the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities. Interviewing animal breeders, hunt organisers, ecologists and wildlife rangers, the film asks such important questions as:
As Africa’s most iconic animals continue to disappear, can the
controversial practices of hunting and breeding actually help to increase the populations?
Can assigning economic value to an animal help to
What gives humans the right to own animals and to decide
whether they live or die?
And is there any real future for a “natural”
world in our rapidly developing, capitalist world?
The film is given a 15 certificate for its release in the UK with 'strong language' being given as the reason for this certificate, overlooking the scenes of hunting and animal corpses that would surely make any caring parent want to keep their children away from the film. Scenes that make the film difficult to watch for anyone who cares about animals and the future of biodiversity on this planet.
However it is worth watching precisely because it asks difficult questions and forces the viewer to see things from an angle they may not want to consider.
One focus of the film is on large scale farming of rhinos for their horn, which can be harvested every couple of years giving the rhinos a long life, though whether a truly happy is life is as debateable as whether free range cattle or chickens lead a happy life, or more so as rhinos are still wild creatures whereas cattle and chickens are domesticated. But is it better to have plenty of rhinos living in large fenced off reserves where they are farmed and protected from poaching, or to allow their numbers to decline to zero as it looks like they otherwise will inevitably do?
Hunting is also brought in as away of conserving nature. Allowing wealthy foreigners to pay large sums of money to shoot trophy animals brings in money that can then conserve the wider populations of these animals and the habitats they live in. I can see the logic in this and according to the film there are parts of South Africa that now have
larger populations of some wild animals because they are being bred for
hunting. However it is horrible to think that this is what we have come to as a society and it is appalling to watch some rich American who thinks that God put animals on the earth so he could shoot them killing a lion. And it's heartbreaking to watch the slow death of a slaughtered elephant or to witness a baby rhino running around crying after it's mother has been killed.
Trophy will screen at Edinburgh Filmhouse on Thursday 21 December.