“Hunting Africa”: how international trophy hunting may constitute neocolonial green extractivism

Jul 14, 2023 | Studies

By Sian Sullivan – Journal of Political Ecology


In the post-Cold War neoliberal moment of the mid-1990s, Safari Club International’s (SCI) nascent but now defunct ‘African Chapter’ published a Strategic Plan for Africa. Its aim was to secure the “greatest hunting grounds in the world” for access by SCI’s hunting membership, the core of which is based in the United States. In advocating private sector-led trophy hunting under the umbrella of the SCI “market place”, the plan supported an archetypal mode of ‘green extractivism’: killing indigenous African mammals and exporting body parts as hunting trophies was justified as ‘green’ by claiming this elite and arguably ‘neocolonial’ extraction of animals is essential for wildlife conservation. Already in 1996 SCI deflected scrutiny of this form of ‘green extractivism’ through promoting a view that any critique of this putative ‘green hunting’ should itself be dismissed as ‘neocolonial.’ This discursive twist remains evident in a moment in which trophy hunting is receiving renewed attention as countries such as the UK attempt to write trophy import bans into legislation. I engage with these politicized claims and counter-claims to foreground the lack of neutrality permeating trophy hunting discourse. I work with recent political ecology engagements with ‘post-truth politics’ to unpack SCI-supported advocacy for using accusations of ‘neocolonialism’ to counter critique of the neocolonial dimensions of trophy-hunting; showing how elite and greened extractivism through recreational access to land and African fauna is thereby consolidated. I draw on case material from Namibia – a country exhibiting stark inequalities of land and income distribution alongside a thriving trophy hunting industry – to explore how extracted ‘green value’ from ‘conservation hunting’ may shore up, rather than refract, neocolonial inequalities.

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