Green Councillor defends his hobby of big game hunting – saying it benefits the South African economy
A former Green Party councillor has defended his hobby – as a big game hunter.
Defiant Ben Wightman, 27, has proudly posted trophy photos of himself next to a series of animals he has shot in South Africa.
The controversial images – on his publicly-open Facebook page – show a grinning Wightman, rifle in hand.
The dead animals next to him include two antelopes, a bloodied warthog, an ostrich, buffalo and zebra.
He also has the heads of dead animals and other trophies on the walls of his home.
Wightman represented the Green Party on Kirkburton Parish Council, near Huddersfield, West Yorks. and lost his seat in May.
His big game pastime is in direct conflict to his party’s pre-election boast of having the “strongest animal protection policies of any parliamentary political party in Britain.”
Their Animal Manifesto also says: “We oppose all forms of hunting and will strengthen the Hunting Act.”
But Wightman, who has made three hunting trips to South Africa in 2008, 2011 and 2014, claimed: “It’s not about killing, it’s about conservation.”
He said: “I am a firm believer that one of the best ways of management and conservation is with a rifle.
“We are taking out old, lame or unfit animals that are causing problems for local farmers.
“It’s a holiday or part of it is a holiday. A group of us go together and have a good laugh and some beers. We are all passionate hunters and shooters.
“We approach shooting as you would a job. There is a lot of over-population out there and animals sometimes do a lot of damage and that needs addressing.
“This is shooting and conservation. You employ a professional hunter and a couple of local lads from the village as trackers and you pay them and the landowners money. It helps the economy.
“We are not just out for anything. One of the farmers who rears cattle was having a problem with zebras on his grassland, eating the grass.
“We observed the situation and saw two old males and two old females who would not make it through the next season. They were past breeding age. We took two of them out.
“There was a herd of eight zebra and we took two elder ones. That’s two less animals to eat his grass.”
Wightman said the meat from the slaughtered animals was given away to local people, but the skin was kept as a “trophy”.
He said: “I don’t like the word ‘trophy’, it’s a memento. I have had the skin tanned and dressed to go down as a memory.
“Everything we eat while we are there is something we have shot.
“We can’t bring it back with us. I am a big bloke but even I couldn’t eat a whole zebra.”
According to pictures posted on Wighman’s Facebook wall the former councillor has hunting trophies plastered over the wall of his home in Lascelles Hall,
Huddersfield, including the mounted head of a kudu or African antelope.
Wightman defended that particular killing, saying the animal was coming to the end of its life.
He added: “If he had been left he wouldn’t have made it over the winter. When we examined the carcass it had loose and missing teeth.
“To me that was a well planned shot, a good kill. The animal would not have lasted. Its teeth would have fallen out and it would have been foundstarved to death having lost the quality of life it had.
“I would like to go out at my peak. I would much rather go out in my prime of life knowing I had done something worthwhile.
“I genuinely believe I am making a difference and doing good.”
However Wightman’s own girlfriend, Maddie, is a strict vegetarian, and opposes his hunting hobby.
Wightman said he and Maddie had “agreed to differ” but had not appreciated him “coming home tarted up in blood having taken a roe deer out in Scotland.”
Since losing his seat in May, after he finished bottom of the poll with a humiliating 86 votes, Wightman said he has left the Green Party and would be standing as an independent in the future.
He said: “I know for a fact the Green Party would not approve.
“The Green Party has a lot of principles but one policy that upsets me was ending recreational fishing. It’s a primary source.
“Without fish the human race wouldn’t be as over-populated as it is.”
He also audaciously claimed Greenpeace had said hunting was the “most ethical way to obtain meat and control species.”
He added: “We have hunted for as long as man has been on the planet and wildlife has profited from that.”