Last year, when12-year-old huntress Aryanna Gourdin posed with a dead impala, giraffe and zebra she had killed in Africa, the public was appalled. "You don't deserve any respect. Taking for granted the greatest gift of mother nature and the universe," wrote one of her many critics on the internet. "Sickening little witch" wrote another.
Before the killing of Cecil the lion and certainly afterwards, trophy hunters face an image problem. Killing majestic, endangered animals for "fun" or "sport" not for food is widely considered sick and even psychopathic.
In 2012, many Spaniards were horrified when the King of Spain went to Africa to kill an elephant. The year before, the CEO of Godaddy.com, Bob Parsons,videotaped his own killing of an elephant. Wheeee! John Liautaud, founder of Jimmy John's, also posted photos of himself posing with elephants, a rhinoceros and a leopard he killed provoking boycotts of his chain. And of course Donald Trump's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have famously posed with an elephant, leopard, crocodile and other animals they killed in Zimbabwe. (They are "great shots, they love it," says Trump.)
Generally speaking, hunters like to cast themselves as "conservationists" and wildlife defenders. Some in the press still remember former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's 2008 "hunting junket" where he laughed at the birds he was killing while assuring reporters "It's the hunters who actually keep the wildlife alive." Huckabee is the father of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump's current press secretary.
Killing deer to save them from "overpopulation" is a favorite fabrication of state Departments of Natural Resources which is dramatically belied by how they fret when diseases actually threaten the deer population and how they zealously support deer breeding. Wisconsin, for example, sports 700 licensed deer and elk farms and deer hunting is a $400 million business. It's not about "conservation" or "overpopulation"---- it's about hunter revenues.
When meat from hunted animals is eaten, few complain. But sometimes the meat cannot be unloaded. About ten years ago, food pantries in Wisconsin refused venison that hunters generously "donated" because they would not eat it themselves. Why? The meat was feared to contain the fatal deer prion disease, Chronic Wasting Disease.
A few years ago, the big game hunting group Safari Club International (SCI), whose members include former President George H. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, tried in a PR stunt to unload meat on cancer patients. "We don't call our meat organic," said Angie Hall, chairperson of the Naples/Fort Myers Safari Club, "However, it is not very likely that wild animals were injected with hormones. Patients swear by the program. The meat builds their strength." Hall did not directly address questions about contamination from lead ammunition in wild game in her health claims.
In 2001, SCI members pressured Botswana to drop its ban on lion hunting and Bush, Quayle and Schwarzkopf were said themselves to be hunting lions in unconfirmed reports.
Since the zebras and other exotic animals killed by little Aryanna Gourdin and the Trump sons are clearly not a food source, trophy hunters are spinning a new defense of their blood sport. Killing elephants, lions, zebras and other exotic, endangered animals helps local economies and saves other animals from being killed by trophy hunters.
This trophy-hunters-as-philanthropists spin has been widely adopted to make trophy hunters look like good guys. But the truth is eco-tourism on private game reserves generates 15 times more than the trophy hunting as well as more jobs. "Eco-tourism lodges in Eastern Cape Province produce almost 2000 rand ( 180) per hectare," writes Elliott Morley.
Even if the thousands a rich trophy hunter pays to kill an elephant or leopard spared other elephants or leopards the logic is still morally askew. Would anyone defend sex tourism by saying that the abuse of one 11-year-old girl saves other 11-year-old girls from abuse by sex tourism?
(Article changed on September 16, 2017 at 19:08)
(Article changed on September 16, 2017 at 19:53)