When public policy collides with reality

It’s usually reality that wins when there’s a conflict with what those making public policy would wish were true. This being a useful lens through which to consider proposals for public policy of course:

Mr Goldsmith said: “The fight against trophy hunting of endangered animals matters. It is clear that it is morally indefensible and that is why I am delighted that the Conservative Government will consult on a ban on the import of these trophies. By placing a higher value on animals alive rather than dead, we will begin to turn back the tide of extinction.”

The last sentence works. We humans work that way which is why it does. Things that are of higher value we preserve, even produce more of them. So, yes, we would like to make those endangered animals worth more.

Banning trophy hunting unfortunately doesn’t do that. A live predator has a negative value to those around it. Because, you know, predation. Things with negative values we humans usually try - and often succeed in doing so - to get rid of. Britain is, and has been for some centuries now, entirely out of wolves and lynx.

Trophy hunting produces a positive value to the existence of those live predators. And “predator” has a wide meaning here, elephants predate upon crops and gardens for example. A value because people will pay handsomely to come shoot the predators and collect the trophies.

So much so that there are farms raising animals such as lions for the express purpose of their being shot to create a trophy. Humans raising animals because they have value being a pretty good way of stemming extinction risks - we’re not short of cattle nor fur foxes as examples.

That is, the way to increase the value of animals is not to reduce their value. Obviously, although that’s what the government has just announced it’s going to enact. Reality differs.