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‘Tastes like venison’: Politician admits to eating the elephant he hunted

In this Jan. 29, 2003, file photo, an elephant crosses a river in Samburu national park in Kenya. (Karel Prinsloo/AP)

An Australian lawmaker took to the floor of a state parliament this week to denounce "the insidious growth of skewed animal rights ideology." Then he was interrupted with a question: "Did you eat the elephant?"

"Yes," answered Robert Borsak, the lawmaker.

Borsak, a member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, has been pictured with an elephant he shot during a hunting trip to Africa a decade ago. And while he railed against hunting critics in the Parliament of New South Wales this week, he confirmed that he did, indeed, eat the elephant he killed.

"Yes I did, but it wasn't in one sitting," he told the Sydney Morning Herald following the admission. "It tastes like venison. There are parts of the head and the neck which we sliced and fried with a bit of butter; it's very tasty."

It would have been wasteful to not utilize the animal after killing it, he added. Borsak told CNN he ate one meal of elephant and then ate more as dried cured meat while he was hunting.

"What do you think happens to elephant carcasses that are killed under license?" Borsak said to CNN. "They are the property of the traditional owners. They value the meat as one of their only sources of protein."

Green Party MP Jeremy Buckingham, who interrupted Borsak's floor speech to ask whether he ate the elephant, called the admission "disgusting."

The fight to save African elephants

"It’s sick to shoot and kill an elephant for thrills, and it’s revolting that Mr. Borsak would eat the elephant," Buckingham told NewsCorp.

Borsak defended hunters during his floor speech as "the original conservationists" who don't "actively tolerate animal cruelty."

"The welfare of animals is important, very important, but humans have a right to eat meat if they choose to do so. It is as simple as that," he said. "I choose to hunt and gather my own meat because it is my right to do so. It is a clean, organic and sustainable way to live. I choose to cull feral and invasive animals because culling protects our native species and habitats, and I consider myself a responsible and ethical hunter and fisher."

Big-game trophy hunting has attracted plenty of controversy, particularly when photos of hunters posing next to dead lions, giraffes and cheetahs go viral on social media.

The death of Cecil the lion and the big business of big game trophy hunting

The practice is also a multimillion-dollar industry that attracts thousands of hunting tourists to Africa. Proponents of big-game hunts argue that the money handed over by wealthy international hunters to participate in legal hunts goes in part toward conservation programs.

But opponents have criticized big-game hunts, expressing moral outrage and arguing that it fuels illegal activity by funneling animal skins and bones into the black market. They've also called into question the economic benefit to locals, citing government corruption as a complicating factor.

Why female big-game hunters become the hunted online, in a way men don’t

African elephants are considered a vulnerable species, a grade below endangered, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. As of 2013, there were an estimated 470,000 elephants on the continent, down from 550,000 in 2006. Conservationist experts have warned that poaching could lead to the animal's extinction within decades.

Borsak wrote a column in the Sydney Morning Herald last year entitled "Why I shoot elephants."

"I posted an account of a trip to Africa on a hunting website about 10 years ago, where it sat without comment or controversy until it was pointed out, most likely by these same 'animal activists,' to the mainstream metropolitan media, which then decided to make it an issue."

The politician argued that elephants are not endangered in southern Africa and they compete with subsistence farmers. Borsak wrote he hunted under a Zimbabwe management program that charges hunters to "humanely shoot elephants that are destroying crops."

"You can imagine what damage problem elephants can cause to these crops. Elephants also kill many rural Zimbabweans each year," he wrote. "They go into the crops, generally at night, and while the villagers try to keep guard, beating pots and pans in an effort to drive them away, their efforts mostly fail. Indeed if they enrage the animals, they are often trampled."