Animal Rights ’ groups have condemned one of Britain’s most exclusive hunts for auctioning a trophy hunting safari.
Members of the Avon Vale Hunt at its £90-a-head ball could bid on the trip to South Africa offering the chance to shoot dead a “Common Springbuck trophy, a Gemsbuck trophy, an Impala trophy and a Warthog trophy”.
It included four nights in a lodge and the chance to work with a professional hunter and trackers. Rifles, ammunition, meals and drinks were included.
The hunt refused to say how much it sold for on October 1 but a similar package would cost up to £5,000.
Campaigners said trophy hunting is unethical and brings almost no benefits to the communities where the hunts happen.
The auction lot this year
Avon Vale Hunt, based near Chippenham, Wilts, and with an annual membership of £1,500, is one of the most exclusive in the country and has multi-millionaire landowners and businessmen and women as members.
This includes Sir James Fuller, a non-executive director of the pub giant Fuller, Smith & Turner, and the owner of the 4,500-acre Neston Park Estate.
Hunt secretary Nicky Simpson said: “This particular auction lot did include the legal hunting of native African species which is common to include in packages of this sort.
“Hunting safaris that use a professional hunter and tracker, such as this one, help the management and cull programme of these animals where the population is increasing, by picking out the sick, old and weak to maintain healthy stock.”
But animal charity Born Free disputed this. Head of policy Dr Mark Jones said: “Far from being vital for conservation, trophy hunters cynically kill animals for fun, and by doing so cause intense animal suffering while increasing the pressure on already beleaguered wildlife.
“Research shows that, typically, very little of trophy hunters’ fees ever reach conservation authorities or local communities.
“The vast majority of the British public rightly oppose trophy hunting and support proposals to ban imports of hunting trophies into the UK.”
Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs, who have long-campaigned against the Avon Vale hunt, said: “We are disgusted but unsurprised to find our local fox hunt auctioning off a trophy hunting tourist trip to their supporters at their annual hunt ball.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: “By auctioning off an animal-slaughtering expedition, the organisation exposes its total ignorance about the intrinsic value of wild populations and its absolute lack of conscience and ethics.”
It said: “Trophy hunters are despised the world over for shooting magnificent animals simply to boast about it and display these placid, stalked, and ambushed “exotic” animals’ heads on their walls to impress other hunters.”
It added: “True conservationists are those who work to keep animals alive.”