Katie Pavlich: In Defense of ‘Trophy’ Hunting

Katie Pavlich: In Defense of ‘Trophy’ Hunting

Trophy Hunting

What exactly does “trophy” hunting mean? Killing a lion and taking its head? What about those who legally kill other animals and then do the same? Does it apply only to the animals ignorant onlookers deem magnificent? Or should the term apply to all animals hunted and used for a variety of purposes?

The term doesn’t really mean anything, but it does allow hunting critics to claim animals, like the African lion, are killed for “no good reason other than ego or sport.” The facts prove otherwise.

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Hunters spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in Africa, directly fueling local economies, employment and conservation efforts. It’s a rich industry in a place where industry is extremely limited and where poverty runs rampant. Hunters are the reason healthy animal populations of once endangered species are thriving today. Wildlife in Africa, as well as other places around the world, only survives and thrives when it has an economic value. Similar to any other natural resource, animals must be managed in order to be maintained. Hunting allows for this practice and provides a regulated, sustainable way to conserve habitat and wildlife populations for future generations. Without it, poaching goes unabated in countries where hunting is banned and is fueled by a lack of resources provided by the sport. In the countries where the African lion is hunted, it is not endangered.

In light of the recent death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, these facts have been ignored, by ignorant and emotional anti-hunting Westerners demanding bans and making false claims about “trophy” hunts. In addition, the outrage over lion hunting seems to come from outsiders who do not understand what it is like to live among them. The vast majority of those living in Zimbabwe, and other African countries where lions are hunted, have a hard time understanding the recent outrage over the killing of Cecil by a Minnesota dentist.

“Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being ‘beloved’ or a ‘local favorite’ was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from ‘The Lion King’? In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror," Zimbabwe native Goodwell Nzou recently wrote in The New York Times. “The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus.”

Last week, United, American and Delta airlines announced they would no longer transport animal remains from “trophy” hunts after mass hysteria from uninformed, outraged Westerners tapping on their keyboards thousands of miles from where the hunts take place. Their list includes rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo, leopard and lion remains.

The consequences of this move won’t do anything to help animals and will only punish those who live in countries where hunting is not only celebrated but necessary to sustain the environment. The move was immediately criticized by government officials from a number of different countries that allow and rely on hunting.

“This will be the end of conservation in Namibia,” Namibia’s environment and tourism minister told The Guardian in response to the new transport ban. “If conservancy members have no income, they will abandon their role in protecting the country’s natural resources. These anti-trophy hunting campaigns are very serious as many countries are joining the chorus now. It will also be uphill for the hunter if trophies are not to be shipped.”

Animals in Africa must be assigned an economic value in order to be protected. Private conservation efforts, led through hunting programs, are responsible for the resurgence of a variety of species on the continent.

Take, for example, the southern white rhinoceros, which only existed in a quantity of 20 until private industry, and eventually hunting, came in to save it in the early 1900s.

“Saving the white rhino from extinction can be attributed to a change in policy that allowed private ownership of wildlife. While protecting the rhinos encouraging breeding, the ranchers were able to profit by limited trophy hunting. Poaching for rhino horn, which is in high demand for medicinal and ornamental purposes, had also devastated the rhino population. CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] banned the commercial sale of rhino horn, which caused black market sales to skyrocket and encouraged poaching. If the ban were lifted, ranchers are ready to supply the market by harvesting the horns humanely, which then regrow just like fingernails,” research from the Property and Environment Research Center shows. “Strong property rights and market incentives have provided a successful model for rhino conservation, despite the negative impact of command-and-control approaches that rely on regulations and bans that restrict wildlife use.”