How many animals does the British Royal Family kill every year?
The revelation that right before hosting an international conservation symposium in London, Prince William hopped a flight to an exclusive hunting ranch in Spain with brother Harry for a weekend shooting spree has left the British public wondering just how much killing these royal hunters get up to in any given year.
Now we have some insight.
The animal protection group Animal Aid reports that from February through December 2013 (January figures were not recorded) on the Windsor Estate alone, the total number of animals killed was 7,129. And Windsor is just one of the royal estates; others, which include Sandringham and Balmoral, are where the family does most of its hunting.
The animals killed on the Windsor Estate included:
- 3901 pigeons
- 1161 rabbits
- 772 jackdaws
- 325 squirrels
- 191 crows
- 159 foxes
- 145 rats
- 127 muntjac
- 118 parakeets
- 70 magpies
- 56 roe deer
- 55 rooks
- 28 hares
- 9 jays
- 9 moles
- 3 mink
According to Animal Aid:
The Crown Estate claims that most of the animals killed (including the pigeons, rabbits and jackdaws) were at the request of the Crown Estate’s tenant farmers. The deer and squirrels were killed at the request of the foresters, while foxes were killed to ‘protect’ game birds (who are reared only to be shot for sport). Moles are killed to preserve the formal gardens and the sports ground.
Right after the shooting spree in Spain earlier this month, Prince William’s United for Wildlife coalition of seven of the world’s top conservation organizations brought together delegates from 50 countries to address the catastrophe facing wildlife around the world.
William says he’s horrified by what’s happening to the elephants, rhinos and other kinds of animals who are on the edge of extinction. But he and his family are among the world’s top hunters. As we noted here, his grandfather, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is both a hunter and President Emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund. (Similarly, in the United States, members of the prestigious Safari Club International like to think of themselves as conservationists.)
When William describes those who are killing wildlife in Africa as “international criminals”, he would do well to take a long look in the mirror. It’s all very much a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop – unless, of course, you’re one of the 159 foxes who were killed on the Windsor Estate last year, not to mention the thousands more who die when the aristocrats dress up in red coats and funny hats, quaff champagne, and ride out on a fox hunt. (Oscar Wilde famously described this tradition as “the ineffable in pursuit of the inedible” or, according to some versions, “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.”)
William explained where he’s coming from in a video he made with his father, Charles, just before the “conservation” conference in London:
“I have become even more devoted to protecting the resources of the Earth for not only my own son but also for the other children of his generation, too, to enjoy.”
For the hunting elite, “enjoying” wildlife is largely about shooting and killing as many animals as they can get away with. The animals, as they see it, exist for our benefit. So, we need to preserve them not for their benefit but for ours.
As Charles put it:
“Humanity is less than humanity without the rest of creation. The destruction of these endangered species will diminish us all.”
But whether or not we humans are diminished by what the hunters do is not the point. The hunting aristocracy is already ethically diminished. Our concern is over how diminished these animals will be when they no longer exist.
Meanwhile, it’s easy to point fingers at the wealthy elite of China who now dominate the trade in ivory and rhino horn. However horrific what they’re doing, they are just the most recent arrivals on the ivory scene.
To his credit, William is calling for all the ivory carvings and trinkets in Buckingham Palace (1,200 in all) to be destroyed. But all this blood ivory is testimony to what his own family has wrought on the world’s wildlife – and to the killing that he himself continues on his family’s estates and on canned hunting grounds around the world. If he wants to claim the mantle of conservationism, William needs to start by coming clean as to where all that ivory came from. And other hunters and ivory collectors (like the Catholic Church) need to do the same.
And when he describes those who are killing wildlife in Africa as “international criminals”, William would do well to take a long look in the family mirror.
After all, the criminals he claims to despise are just the latest in a long tradition. And the British royals are among their top role models.