Belfast Telegraph

'Where does your food come from?' asks Tyrone Tory candidate criticised over African safari hunt

'It beats going out in Tyrone in January and freezing my proverbials off' says Roger Lomas

By Jonny Bell

A Conservative election candidate facing a barrage of criticism for shooting dead an antelope and posing with it for a picture during an African safari, has challenged people on where they think their food comes from.

Roger Lomas defended a hunting trip to South Africa during which he shot and killed an antelope saying it was more humane than how cattle and poultry are treated in abattoirs.

The West Tyrone Assembly hopeful has faced a barrage of criticism from animal rights campaigners after pictures of him posing with the slain animal emerged over the weekend.

Mr Lomas has been a regular huntsman for decades and challenged his critics: "Where do you think food comes from?"

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he added: "I'm a Tory aiming for the country vote.

"There are other politicians out there that shoot and there is not so much said about them.

"Where do people think their food comes from?

"Sausages don't come from Cookstown, Cod doesn't come from Donegal and Chicken doesn't come from Kentucky."

Speaking on on Monday morning's Stephen Nolan show Mr Lomas said the animal was destined for the food chain and his hunting methods ensured it was treated more humanely than many home-grown animals that are slaughtered in abattoirs.

He also stressed that the animal was not rare to South African farming.

The Garvaghy man said the animal would have been culled regardless of his intervention and said the meat went straight back into the food system.

He denied that it was a trophy hunt and that the picture of him posing beside the dead animal was "just a memory of the trip".

Mr Lomas said: "That was a cull animal, a female and the farmer needs three to 400 killed a year.

"That was a 325kg cow and it needed to be killled.

"Plenty of us would be photographed with other animals - field sports are part of the countryside.

"Americans pay big money to go out and shoot the males, the British and Irish hunters - we're savvy - no one wants to shoot the females, we only pay $20 to $50."

Mr Lomas said the animal was "properly hunted".

"The Americans give hunting and shooting a bad name," he said.

"British and Irish hunters are well respected in Africa because we get off our backsides and get out there and do a proper ethical and professional job of culling the animals.

"The animal doesn't know we are there, they don't anticipate death.

"Go to an abattoir and hear the animals, they know what is about to happen to them."

He went on: "In Africa, the farmer needs 15 acres for one cow - the ground is incredibly arid. It can not support the farmer and the local wildlife.

"Here in Tyrone it's one acre a cow.

"[To hunt] is better than the animal starving to death because the land is over farmed."

"I have been stalking in Tyrone for 30 years and I go out to South Africa now because it's the middle of the winter, it's 26 degrees, beautiful weather and beats going out in Tyrone in January and freezing my proverbials off.

"It happens, what do you think poultry farmers do with their chicken? What do you think cattle farmers do with their cattle?

"When I go out hunting killing is not the actual drive. Every hunter knows that that is the easy bit.

"The hard bit is actually dragging a 325kg animal to the nearest access point, bleeding it, gutting it and preparing it for the meat chain.

"It teaches you respect as to where your meat on the table comes from."

Mr Lomas said he got no joy from the actual kill, but enjoyed "pitting his wits against an animal with incredible hearing, sight and smell.

"It is a real challenge," he added.

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