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The Blooding of Prince Harry and the Boston Strangler


By Dr Penny Morgan

Penny is a retired zoologist who specialised in bird behaviour. Post retirement, she took a degree in law and now she is writing thrillers with an animal welfare theme. In this article, she explores how regularly killing animals may lead to desensitisation and a blunting of empathy. If so, perhaps this is why violent behaviour by serial offenders often escalates.



Trophy hunting addiction

Hunting animals to death, and taking pleasure in it, while well-established in many cultures, can be quite addictive. Safari Club International promotes competitive trophy-hunting (while at the same claiming to promote conservation) and it lobbies strongly for the continued freedom to hunt. Hunters typically pose triumphantly next to their kills, often sporting wide grins like the now infamous dentist Walter Palmer who, in 2015, lured the much-loved lion Cecil out of a protected area of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe in order to kill him with a bow and arrow. Palmer, an experienced big game hunter, later apologised for his role in the animal’s killing, saying he believed he was taking part in a legal hunt.

a man sitting in a room amongst over a dozen deer heads
A 'gentleman' sits among his trophies

Inadequate humans?

It’s difficult to view post-hunt photos without wondering if this is about inadequate humans trying to assert dominion over animals. As revealed on the Safari Club International website, there are several categories of prizes offered to aspiring hunters, including the Hall of Fame Award to honour great hunters who have hunted extensively and globally. The Big Five megafauna in Africa – elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion, and buffalo – are much sought after, not for filming but for killing. 'Thrill killing' is big business. You need deep pockets for that sort of African experience. Hunters typically pay tens of thousands of pounds. If your pockets aren’t that deep, there's always 'canned hunting' where endangered species, like the Scimitar-horned oryx, often semi-tame, are bred on ranches specially for your entertainment. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.


Real men go 'porkchopping'

A Born Free report outlines numerous other methods of killing: canned hunting, helicopter hunting for feral pigs with assault rifles (offered by a company called ‘Porkchoppers’), fox hunting, dog fighting, cock fighting, badger-baiting. The list goes on. One satisfied ‘Porkchoppers’ customer said: ‘The name says it all... in a society of political correct­ness, safe spaces and declining levels of testosterone, we’re here to give you a glimpse into any and everything real men do.’ Oh dear. Between 2016 and 2020, it is estimated that 700,000 hunting trophies – including skulls, mounts, and teeth of animals such as giraffes, rhinos, and zebras – were imported into the US.

Trophy hunting is linked to smaller horns for mountain sheep

As for conservation, that's nonsense. The curl on the Canadian Mountain Sheep horn has been found to have reduced by about 25 per cent due to trophy hunters harvesting the biggest, most mature males. This has led to evolutionary changes. As this report by the Canadian Mountain Network explains. Trophy hunting is acting as a form of artificial selection. So, that leaves pleasure as the real motive.


The Boston Strangler and other infamous killers

There is an undoubted link between violence towards animals and violence towards humans. It’s a well-recognised early indicator of future violence. Many infamous serial killers harmed animals when they were children, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Gary Ridgeway, John Wayne Gacy, and the Boston Strangler. It’s long been a popularly held belief that children who are abusive toward animals are serial killers in the making. But is this true? Research has revealed that 25 per cent of aggressive prison inmates had committed multiple acts of animal abuse as children. 45 per cent of school shooters had histories of alleged animal cruelty, and 21 per cent of serial murderers admitted to childhood animal abuse. Such people also show antisocial tendencies. This includes a lack of empathy, remorse, and guilt. These children might also be prone to pathological lying and juvenile delinquency.

Rattlesnake Roundup

Considering this dangerous link, wouldn’t a reasonable human want to teach children not to inflict cruelty on animals? Unfortunately, those adults who enjoy the thrill of the kill seem eager to teach children their ways. For example, at Sweetwater Jaycee’s Rattlesnake Roundup, an annual event in Sweetwater Texas, children are encouraged to skin the snakes and make handprints of snake blood on walls. A 2023 Born Free report about the event included disturbing details about the evident enjoyment gained by the participants from inflicting cruelty on the reptiles. The reporter stated that ‘Sweetwater Jaycee’s Rattlesnake Roundup is a showcase of cruelty and unfettered prejudice, glorifying violence and dominion over animals, humans, and the wider environment’. According to a WIkipedia article, however, many round-ups are no longer slaughtering snakes, but have transitioned to educational festivals celebrating rattlesnakes and other wildlife - see WIki.


The blooding of Prince Harry

In the initiation rite of ‘blooding’ in fox hunting, a young child has fox’s blood smeared on the cheeks by the master of hounds. This ghoulish practice risks the child believing that fox hunting is an entirely acceptable and even praiseworthy sport. Henry Salt (1851-1939), an English humanitarian and reformer, wrote: ‘Of all practices connected with 'sport' none are more loathsome than those known as 'blooding' whether it be the 'blooding' of children, which consists in a sort of gruesome parody of the rite of baptism, or the 'blooding' of hounds, in other words the turning out of some decrepit animal to be pulled down by the pack, by way of stimulating their blood-lust’. I had hoped that this practice had died out, but Prince Harry includes an account of this experience in his autobiography Spare (2023, chapter 27): 'Blooding - a tradition from the ages. A show of respect for the slain, an act of communion by the slayer... Around my fifteenth birthday I was informed that I'd be undertaking the true stalker initiation. It happened at Balmoral'. Harry, with his guide Sandy, shot a stag early one morning. Sandy slit open its belly and pushed Harry's head inside the carcass. His nose and mouth were 'full of blood, guts, and a deep upsetting warmth'. Harry described this 'blood facial' as 'baptismal' and that in that moment he 'felt close to God'. It was, for him, a form of Nature worship.

What distinguishes these killings is a total disregard or respect for non-human animals, and from there it’s not a quantum leap to adopting the same attitude towards humans. The danger of desensitisation is that killing becomes easier – and not only animals, remembering that many serial killers start with mutilating animals and then move on to acts of killing which escalate in brutality and frequency. Killing of this sort is not only unnecessary but positively dangerous.


Links

Safari Club International (SCI) https://safariclub.org/world-hunting-awards/







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