Guest Op-ed: Stop Big Game Trophy Hunting

By Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

“International trophy hunting is a multinational, multimillion-dollar industry practiced throughout the world. Trophy hunting is broadly defined as the killing of animals for recreation with the purpose of collecting trophies such as horns, antlers, skulls, skins, tusks, or teeth for display. The United States imports the most trophies of any country in the world.” Read the 26-page report by the Congressional Research Service (March 20, 2019).

 American trophy hunters pay big money to kill animals overseas and import 126,000 wildlife trophies per year. They also do their sport-killing domestically: Bears, bobcats, mountain lions, wolves and other domestic wildlife fall victim to trophy hunting, damaging natural ecosystems.

 The United States, international trophy hunting is addressed by several laws, including the Endangered Species Act. ESA does not regulate trophy-hunting activities within range countries directly; rather, the law governs what can be imported into the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regulates trophy hunting, in part, by issuing permits to import trophies of species that are listed as threatened or endangered under ESA.

 Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Trophy hunters rationalize reasons out the wazoo to justify killing of animals in the wild. Hunters pump money into the economy. Hunters help with conservationism. Really? Hunters kill for the thrill. And hang their prize on walls to brag. Decorate your walls with something else. Is destroying wildlife for pleasure unethical? Yes.

 “Trophy hunting—the killing of big game for a set of horns or tusks, a skin, or a taxidermied body—has burgeoned into a billion-dollar, profit-driven industry, overseen in some cases by corrupt governments. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa allow trophy hunting, with varying degrees of transparency and control, establishing yearly quotas meant to reflect the status of species and creating exclusions for highly vulnerable populations. South Africa, for instance, no longer allows hunting of leopards. Kenya has banned trophy hunting outright since 1977, and in Botswana, a comparatively wildlife-rich country, a temporary ban in government-controlled hunting areas went into effect in 2014,” according to an article in National Geographic.

 Cecil, a famed black-maned lion in Zimbabwe, was lured with bait, shot with an arrow and suffered for more than 10 hours before his hunters tracked and finished killing him in 2015. Cecil’s death sparked international outrage in 2015; his son, Xanda, met a similar fate two years later.

 Cecil, the lion, was stalked and killed by a Minnesota dentist under the guise of conservation. How much did that cost him for bragging and boasting rights?

 Trophy hunting in places where animals are bred and held captive for the purpose of being killed (canned hunting) results in cutting off the head of a creature to decorate a wall. Ah, have a beer and boast. Oh, have a bratwurst and brag.

 Why do people thrill kill animals? “Why we may never understand the reasons people hunt animals as ‘trophies’” is an explanation by criminologist Dr. Xanthe Mallett. “Perhaps hunting large animals is an example of some people’s need to show dominance over others. Research shows increased levels of hostility and a need for power and control are associated with poor attitudes towards animals, among men in particular.”

 “Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.—Mark Twain

Writing this column, I searched around my house to make sure I was not being a hypocrite. Any items made of ivory? No. Any bearskin rugs on my floor? No. Any boots or bags made of crocodile skin? No. Any coats made of animal fur? No. Any pillows made of duck feathers? No. I do own a purse and a pair of boots that are partly made of cow hide (leather). I’m assuming the leather is a byproduct of the meat from the cow which feeds humans. While growing up, I ate venison. Chicken, turkey, and seafood have a place on my table. And on occasion, I eat bacon. But I’ve never committed an animal thrill kill. Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].

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