Kevin Pietersen has launched a fierce attack on Arsenal owner, Stan Kroenke, labelling the American “scum” after the company he owns launched a new television channel documenting barbaric bloodsports.
The former England cricketer, who is raising awareness about illegal poaching of rhinos in South Africa, has also called on Arsenal supporters to do everything they can to ensure majority shareholder Kroenke is “driven out” of the Premier League club.
“I find it sickening that anyone could want to endanger these animals whatsoever, but for someone to turn it into a TV show for entertainment absolutely boils my blood,” Pietersen exclusively told The Independent. “The guy, and those who contribute and support those practices, are scum.
A short timeline of elephant poaching
“Enough is enough. These stunning animals are being slaughtered to the point of extinction and for anyone to celebrate it is absolutely repugnant.
“I’ve had so many messages from Arsenal fans telling me they hate him as much as anyone, so if that’s the case, he has to be driven out. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want this person representing something I love.”
These animals don’t have a voice, but we do. If we don’t do anything, no-one will
Kroenke faced a heavy backlash following revelations in The Times that his company, Kroenke Sport Entertainment, is responsible for the UK launch of My Outdoor TV [MOTV] through its entity Outdoor Sportsman Group.
The channel will screen shows that follow hunters across the globe, primarily in Africa where big-money hunting trips are available, and involve various ways of killing wild animals that includes by bow and arrows and by guns.
One programme shows a presenter shooting a critically endangered African elephant before the bull turns and charges at him. Two more shots are heard before the animal falls to the ground and dies.
“There’s no other feeling in the world quite like walking up on your bull elephant,” the man says to the camera.
Another show, called Dark Continent Quest, features huntress Jana Waller and her travels across the world killing animals with a bow and arrow. One episode shows Ms Waller killing a hartebeest in South Africa, with the arrow hitting the animal before it runs away. Ms Waller and her guide, John Faul, wait for the animal to bleed to death before approaching it.
“It’s a good shot. Definitely, some liver and some lungs hit,” says Mr Faul while the animal is still alive.
Ms Waller adds “the shot was a little far back for me, but one shot did it,” before holding up the hartebeest’s “beautiful heart shaped horns”.
It has caused a wave of criticism aimed at Kroenke, particularly from Arsenal supporters given that the American billionaire owns 67 per cent of the club’s shares. The channel has also been dubbed the “Netflix of the hunting world” by its supporters, who are willing to pay $9.99 [£7.60] a month for the subscription.
However, its UK launch, which took place at the Game Fair in Hertfordshire at the weekend, has upset more than it has pleased, with names such as comedian Ricky Gervais, presenters Rachel Riley and Robert Peston and Olympian Greg Rutherford all taking to social media to echo Pietersen’s anger.
“These animals don’t have a voice, but we do. If we don’t do anything, no-one will,” Pietersen added.
A spokesman for MOTV defended the programmes that will make up its coverage, and claimed that it will only show “ethical hunts”.
“MOTV will present ethical, fair chase hunting and as long as it’s legal it will be on there,” said Simon Barr, the channel’s spokesman. “If you like hunting elephants, there will be legal elephant hunts, ethical elephant hunts, shown in that context.”
Many of the presenters that take part in the hunting also describe themselves as “conservationists”, despite the brutal and graphic methods of killing the animals. Supporters of hunting claim that the big-money hunts are sometimes the only way of generating the funds that help protect species from extinction, though critics have described the early viewings as “sickening”.
“I’m sure people won’t like all the content on MOTV, but it won’t be censored,” Mr Barr added. “On every film there’s an explanation of what hunting does for conservation and the local community.”
However, that defence was rejected by Philippa King, the chief operating officer of the League Against Cruel Sports, and she claimed that large parts of the money generated by trophy hunting does not go towards the conservation of endangered species.
“We’re living in a world now where most people can see how brutal and shameful trophy hunting is, yet the Arsenal boss is choosing to launch his sick TV channel in the UK,” Ms King said in a statement.
“Most people won’t agree that trophy hunting is in any way ethical, and studies have debunked claims that most of the blood money goes towards supporting conservation,” Ms King added. “I’m not sure in what way an idiot with a gun against an elephant is a fair chase.
“Mr Kroenke could do the world a great favour by stopping peddling this kind of sickening TV and turning his focus on helping the animals he apparently likes to see killed.”
The channel will shows various programmes from hunting and shooting tutorials to cooking shows based on the latest way to eat the animal killed on a hunt, as well as fishing and gun programmes.
The Independent has contacted Arsenal for comment, but has not received a reply.