These ways of relating to wild things aren't new; they've been with us for years and they have significant roots in an imperial world where animals were global commodities to be taken from the land and exchanged. The Animal History Museum's online exhibition, "Animals and Empire," gives a fascinating insight into the relationships between these kinds of creatures and the people who interacted with them in the colonial world. Julie Hughes' piece, "Indian Princes and Royal Tigers', explores the way in which Indian maharajas organized tiger hunts as a matter of status and to demonstrate the extent of their dominion over their kingdoms. Once the native wild animals had been shot out, the princes resorted to very much the same kinds of techniques used in today's canned hunting by hand rearing, creating special enclosures, and purchasing animals to populate the hunting "arena."
In the days of Empire, up until World War II, the maharajas, particularly when wanting to demonstrate to their colonial master that they had some level of autonomy, were obliged to organize tiger hunts, even if it was through artificial means (Fig. 5). The king's royalty and power was tied up with the perceived majesty of the tiger and the hunt was a symbol of the prince's power and dominance over his land. Although some of the outward aspects of 21st century canned hunting resemble what the maharajas were reduced to doing to maintain their tiger hunts during the era of empire, the deeply symbolic, almost magical, relationship between the hunter and their prey is missing.