Helen Martin: Let's turn our fire on trophy hunters like Larysa Switlyk

WHO would have imagined guns featuring in headlines relating to Morningside and Islay?

Monday, 29th October 2018, 5:00 am
TV presenter Larysa Switlyk smiles for the camera as poses with one of the goats she shot

A gun shop in the Capital suburb is a bit surprising. A disgusting American hunter woman, a TV presenter, proud of shooting sheep and goats is not surprising at all, except for the fact that she was allowed to exercise that barbaric US pleasure on a Scottish isle.

Both have certainly caused controversy and revealed opposing opinions in Scotland over guns, shooting as a sport, shooting being encouraged in schools and the horrific extent of “trophy” hunting in our rural areas.

Most of us want nothing to do with guns, yet many independent schools have rifle clubs, perhaps a rather weird aspect of considering themselves “upper” class, right-wing and into the military.

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Outrage after '˜sickening' US hunting trip on Scottish island

Fencing and archery (albeit historic methods of killing), feature as sports in the Olympics, but shooting isn’t confined to history. It’s a current death tool along with knifing and strangulation – yet it’s also an Olympic “sport”. Hence the need for a gun shop.

Trophy hunting as a “hobby” is recognised throughout the UK as an American “sickness”, be it the murder of endangered species or domestic wildlife. Though to be fair, it’s also rife in parts of Europe.

In Scotland, deer culling is a regular, though upsetting, necessity because of their fast-growing population, their stripping of plants and trees, damage to the eco-system and other creatures, and the spread of Lyme disease.

Professional game-keepers and conservationists cannot, I accept, be blamed for culling. I hope some of them hate that part of the job. The thought of looking into any animal’s eyes, or focusing on it through a telescopic lens and pulling the trigger, would make me – and I hope, most sane folk – vomit and shudder with shame and revulsion.

Now we have venison in supermarkets. And if we traced back in our family history we’d all reach a point when our ancestors had to hunt and kill to provide food and survive.

But today, country estates in the Highlands host shooting parties of hunting tourists, a commercial enterprise we shouldn’t encourage.

The feral goats on Islay also have to be culled by animal charities such as the RSPB. Alas, that charity also supports landowners offering shooting “sports” to rich, keen, heartless stalkers!

How can anyone tolerate a blonde bimbo in cammo hunter gear, aiming at sheep or wild goats and shooting them for “fun”, then holding up the corpse so the camera can focus on the dead animal’s face, while she grins with pride?

The SSPCA accepts legitimate culling, but not amateur “fun” trophy hunting.

And Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government will review the situation which is “upsetting and offensive”, and consider whether changes to the law are required. She will, of course, face protests from estate owners arguing that such stalking and hunting is worth £155 million a year. Well, ban hunters, switch to photo “safaris” or create a decent, rural business.

We can’t leave animals to over-breed, destroy the habitat for others, or spread diseases. Only human beings are allowed to do all that. But “humane” and professional culling of animals in Scotland is better than welcoming cruel, rich, killers to do it for fun and post their grotesque, nightmarish, “trophy” boasts online.

Felling trees is a costly business

NOTHING, including the total triviality of improving access to the National Gallery, justified felling more than 50 mature trees in Princes Street Gardens. The Gardens are ruined, the public are furious, city centre pollution is suddenly worse. Cutting them down will for many people be more important, damaging and plain stupid on the part of the council, than trams or anything else.

Here are a few stats from Michigan State University about what just one tree living for 50 years generates – $31,250 worth of oxygen; $62,000 worth of air pollution control; increase of soil fertility and control of soil erosion worth $31,250; recycling $37,500 of water; and providing home, feed and support for insects, birds etc. Multiply that by 50 and it works out at £6,318,000.

I agree with Meadowbank campaigners’ objecting to at least 61 trees being axed to redevelop the stadium site. I doubt the council will give a damn.

‘-isms’ do not apply to Afros

NOW here’s a dangerous topic. US Vogue had to apologise to protestors accusing it of “cultural appropriation” when it carried a photograph of white, dark-brunette model Kendall Jenner whose normally straight hair had been designed into a big, wide, back-combed perm-type style of the 70s to suit her dress.

Apparently, complainers considered it an “Afro”, therefore in some way, having racist connotations.

Racism is disgusting (actually, it seems China is now about the most racist country in the world especially towards Muslims and Christians). But in the 70s, “big” and curly, yes “Afro”-type hairstyles, were popular for male, female, black, white, blonde or red-heads.

If anything, it was seen as an anti-racism fashion statement.

Such silly nit-picking complaints about racism, sexism or any other “-ism” results in walking on egg-shells rather than marching strongly towards equality.

Online reviews leave bad taste

Edinburgh restaurant the Mumbai Diners’ Club (pictured) was upset last week by fake online reviews. Ignore them. Many, good or bad, are not genuine, and who relies on the ratings of strangers who might have different tastes? Good dining thrives on word of mouth, not text or post.