Steerpike

Animal lobby turns on Guardian columnist

Animal lobby turns on Guardian columnist
It's not the first time Monbiot has found himself in hot water (Credit: Peter Summers/Getty Images)
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The Animal Sentience Bill is the centrepiece of the government's environmental agenda, designed to protect helpless creatures and recognise they can feel pain. But will Guardian columnists be included under the new law? For it seems poor George Monbiot has been the victim of a rather unedifying pile-on in recent days. His crime? Suggesting that controlled trophy hunting should be used to incentivise animal conservation. 

Monbiot, a devoted environmentalist of the public school kind, argued that such activities 'when well-regulated' can provide much-needed funds to poor communities in places like Africa and actually help improve the number of endangered species. That suggestion led to furious denunciations, accusations and remonstrations about the long-time vegan's blood-thirsty barbarism, despite his protestations that he personally loathed poaching. 

Indeed Peter Egan, the extra from Netflix series Afterlife, even went so far as to compare Monbiot's stance to the treatment of Jimmy Savile as the Graun columnist is 'accepting abuse because it raises money.' Meanwhile Carrie Johnson's friend Dominic Dyer (he of Operation Ark fame) waded into the mix by claiming Monbiot had become a 'voice piece for Safari Club International,' asking 'What about ethics, cruelty and corruption George'?

Such little local difficulties would normally be overlooked; after all, Twitter is where common sense goes to die. But the spat between Monbiot and his onetime eco-allies illustrates a bigger argument: how best to protect endangered species? Most of the public detest seeing portly trophy hunters gurning over the corpse of some poor Mufasa taken before his time. But are such spectacles worth it, to find a lasting and effective settlement to the fundamental issue of a species' survival? 

It hasn't escaped Steerpike's notice that the government is having to grapple with difficult questions itself as it debates the Animals Abroad Bill. Two-and-a-half years after Boris Johnson promised to end the 'vile trade' of trophy hunting, a ban on ivory sales was again postponed last month. Given all the delays, Defra ministers will be hoping they're not next on the endangered species list.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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