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They’re known as canned hunts; captive mammal hunting ranches in the US which offer the chance to shoot a zebra or antelope or even a lion for several thousand dollars. The animals are fenced in and often unafraid of humans so the kills are easy, to the extent that some venues even provide the option of shooting them via the internet, with the use of a camera and a gun on a mount.

It’s estimated that there are more than 1,000 of them – completely legal. But many US hunters consider them a betrayal of every belief they hold dear. “I don’t consider that hunting,” said John Rogalo, a New Jersey hunter who has been stalking bears, deer and turkeys for nearly 50 years.

“It’s a weird culture that has developed in this country in the past few years. I joke that you may as well ask the farmer if you could shoot his black Angus because at least you’d get more meat for it.”

South African Airways bans all wildlife trophies from flights

Rogalo is firmly on one side of an ever-deepening divide in the hunting community – one of the longest and proudest traditions in US culture. He considers himself part of a proud lineage of conservation-minded hunters whose totem is Theodore Roosevelt, the former president and avid outdoorsman.

Roosevelt and his contemporaries invoked a mantra of “fair chase” which they defined as an “ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful” pursuit that does not give the hunter some sort of improper advantage over the prey. He would call himself a true “hunter”.

“Hunters view it as a sport, you may take days or weeks tracking your quarry … If you didn’t get anything, that didn’t matter. It was the pursuit that counts,” says Craig Packer, a zoologist best known for his work on lions in south and east Africa.

Xanda – Cecil the Lion’s son – pictured here with one of the Ngamo Plains Lioness in 2015. In July 2017 he was killed, like his father, by a hunter. Photograph: Courtesy of Hwange National Park

On the other side of the divide from Rogalo are the “shooters”, as they are known. “The shooter will come over, check his Blackberry every few hours, kill something and go home. There are now more and more shooters – younger, more urban, masters of the universe. They will have bait put out, sit in a blind and shoot lions as they feed. There’s no sport in that. It’s like a selfie.”

Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who gained international infamy after shooting Cecil the lion in 2015, would almost certainly qualify as a shooter rather than a hunter. Palmer paid guides $50,000 to stalk Cecil, famed for his black mane, before shooting him with a bow and arrow. Controversially, bait was used to lure the 13-year-old lion outside of a protected area in Zimbabwe.

“Trophy hunting is about spending lots of money killing rare animals for instagram likes,” says comedian Jim Jefferies on his US late night show.

Palmer was initially apologetic for killing a famous and well-loved lion but has since adopted the mantra that the fee he paid will help lion conservation in Africa, recently tweeting that “trophy hunting actually HELPS.” Palmer is a member of “hunter’s rights” organisation the Safari Club, which has logged more than 40 of Palmer’s kills including, among other animals, a polar bear.

Last week it was revealed that Cecil’s six-year-old son Xanda was shot and killed by another trophy hunter, also outside the boundary of a reserve in Zimbabwe. It’s unclear what will happen to Xanda’s remains – Palmer had wanted to sever and mount Cecil’s head before it was handed over to police – but these trophies are garnered with minimum effort essentially for the thrill of it, all to a backdrop of a 60% decline in African lion numbers over the past three decades.

Most US hunters remain on the ‘hunting’ side of the debate. A nationwide poll from 2013 found that 35% of American hunters aged over 18 said they hunted “for meat” with just 1% saying they wanted to procure a trophy from the animal, but tightly-held tradition and socialising are also key elements of the American hunting experience.

Sport hunting in Zimbabwe is big business, with hunters such as David Barrett paying $10,000 for the experience. Barrett, who is British, and others argue that Western hunters provide vital revenue to local communities. Photograph by Barcroft Media/ Getty

“A lot of it is about storytelling and male bonding. There is a lot of card playing,” Simon Bronner, an ethnologist who has spent plenty of time with hunters in Pennsylvania while researching books said. “There’s this idea that being out in the woods is recreating the pioneer experience that they see as being the basis of America. They are living an experience where land is a resource controlled locally in an urbanised country that is changing around them.”

It’s the emotional charge, the quiet time in the woods (many hunters frown upon cellphone use and reject mechanised modern weaponry in favour of bows and muskets) that creates a virtuous circle, according to Bronner, that brings revenue and oversight to states through licenses while ensuring the stewardship of the land. “Anyone who spends time in the woods and watches wildlife would demand that we do more work on improving habitat.”

The original hunter-conservationist

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, perfectly embodied the belief that “true hunting” was a vital part of conservation.

Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, one of five national parks created by president Theodore Roosevelt. Photograph: Alamy

Up until the end of the 19th century, it had been open season on American wildlife. Bison were considered so bountiful that people could shoot them from trains, while waterfowl were gunned down to provide plumage for hats.

But at the turn of the century nascent environment groups such as the Audubon Society, as well as a new breed of venerated “gentleman” hunters such as Roosevelt, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone – the Boone and Crockett club exists to this day – pushed for change.

Roosevelt didn’t create the first national park – Yellowstone, perhaps the first reserve of its kind in the world, was established in 1872 under president Ulysses S Grant – but it was he who set out the moral imperative of protected areas for America’s natural wonders.

Even as he was heading west in order to hunt the continent’s big game before it disappeared, Roosevelt’s writing was pockmarked with sadness at the disappearing bounty. He wrotetimelessly that it is “vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird.

“Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals.”

As president, Roosevelt signed five national parks into existence and helped create the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to unilaterally designate protected areas – which he used 18 times, most notably to safeguard the Grand Canyon.

Though Roosevelt’s decision to protect the Grand Canyon was controversial at the time, it has since become one of the US’s most iconic places. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Simultaneously his presidency spawned the US Forest Service to protect public lands where hunting, grazing and other activities are allowed, unlike in the more sacrosanct national parks. He helped draw the clear delineation between pristine areas almost frozen in time for species conservation, and areas for fishing and shooting and rampaging around on horses and, later, four wheel drive cars; a distinction that has endured in conservation management around the world. This sort of neatly divided mapping is by no means perfect – Cecil the lion didn’t know he had crossed an invisible line to an unprotected area; elephants will never have their long migration routes free of farmland and therefore irate farmers – but it at least fostered the idea that wildlife had a place too, that animals don’t actually provide an inexhaustible supply of targets for carefree hunters.

But even as he made these reforms, Roosevelt continued to embrace the American ideal of hunting as an activity for all. His great grandson Tweed Roosevelt says: “Hunting for Brits was an upper class activity, whereas we’ve gone to great lengths to make it an activity for the people… Sportsmen like Roosevelt created a concept of fair chase, rather than firing cannons at ducks. I don’t think he would support canned hunts.”

But Roosevelt was also a keen, even obsessive, hunter, and saw no conflict in that: “Nothing adds more to a hall or a room than fine antlers when their owner has been shot by the hunter-displayer, but always there is an element of the absurd in a room furnished with trophies of the chase that the displayer has acquired by purchase,” he wrote in 1902. Two weeks after he finished his second term in the White House, Roosevelt embarked upon a 15 month shooting tour with the goal of bringing back a cornucopia of African wildlife to start a natural history museum in Washington DC. The former president and his entourage bagged thousands of animals, including a bull rhino in the Belgian Congo: he called the beast “a monster surviving over from the world’s past, from the days when the beasts of the prime ran riot in their strength, before man grew so cunning of brain and hand as to master them.”

Even then, Roosevelt’s huge kills sparked some public protest. These days, despite the claims by hunters that their money helps local communities and species, there is growing revulsion against the idea of big game hunting. There was barely constrained glee recently when Theunis Botha, a South African big game hunter, died recently after being crushed by an elephant that had been shot by a colleague.

An online petition mourning the elephant calls the incident “karma”. And palpable anger at Cecil’s death forced Palmer into hiding, a fate shared by Texas millionaire Corey Knowlton, who paid $350,000 at an auction for the privilege of shooting an endangered black rhino in Namibia in 2015. Knowlton said the three-day hunt would benefit the species but then faced death threats over his trip, and told CNN, which had accompanied him on the safari: “I think people have a problem just with the fact that I like to hunt. Being on this hunt, with the amount of criticism it brought and the amount of praise it brought from both sides, I don’t think it could have brought more awareness to the black rhino.”

President Theodore Roosevelt poses beside a slain elephant in Kenya’s Meru Boma district, 1909. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Then there is the Trump family, breezily upending norms and expectations.

Donald Trump Jnr, the president’s eldest son, goes hunting with his bow most weekends and is referred to by his friends as the “Fifth Avenue redneck.” He has targeted elk and mule deer at home as well as “15 or 16 species” in Africa, where he has been pictured grasping a severed elephant’s tail and holding a dead leopard with his brother, Eric.

Last year, Donald Trump Jnr said the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) “should be encouraging American hunters legally and ethically hunting abroad, not hindering them.” He also called for wolves to be culled in the US west, claiming they deprive hunters of moose.

Donald Trump Jr on Zimbabwe hunting trip. Photograph: Hunting Legends

Junior is seemingly attempting to fashion a new type of “hunter” – invoking the spirit of Roosevelt while posing with big game body parts and viewing public lands as sites for shooting and mining and not much else.

“We have to make sure we’re heard,” he told Petersen’s Hunting. “Lately, we’ve been a forgotten group. I want to change that now and forever.

“And we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that any kind of Trump presidency is going to be the best since Theodore Roosevelt for outdoorsmen, for hunters, for our public lands, and for this country as it relates to anything in the great outdoors.”

This article was first published by The Guardian on 27 Jul 2017.


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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.

 

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[…] Origen: POLL: Should trophy hunting be banned? » Focusing on Wildlife […]

Barbara Baggs

OH YEAH..LOW LIFE HUMANS..

Rakesh Arya

All type of hunting should be banned

Carol Thompson

Degrading,don’t like looking at it,cruelty

Bee Bond

what kind of question is that…..:(

Mark van der Westhuizen

Sick assholes kill anything…hang these criminals by their sex with a large fish hook and feed them to the Wild cape hunting dogs Alive

Barbara Wood

Yes bann it

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

how anyone could find this sadistic abomination in any way acceptable is beyond belief!!!

Amit Roy

Immediately should ban it.How they got the permission to do so.

J. McDonald

So vile. This is all about rich, bored individuals who think killing & having a animal’s head hanging around, will make them feel superior which really only shows how small & insignificant they are. How truly pitiful & disgusting this practice is. Leave the animals alone as they have just as much right to exist.

Solem de Guzman

YES Eric & Donal d Trump Jr stop your trophy hunting activities!

Diane Leischer

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Carole Spencer

Absolutely It Should Be Banned WORLD WiDE!!

Martha Hammell Mast

this is murder/put both in prison

Dorothy Phillips

Yes

Lynette Lichenstein

yes and those known to hae killed executed. or disabled and tossed into a den of lions who are hungry.

Susan Johnson

of course… why even ask?

Val Thibodeaux

I need to be hunted and shot!!!!!

Marilyn Ashman

I would love to see trophy hunters Shot Down by some Drones! <3
Someday soon that might happen! Looking forward to the news! 🙂

Christa Elliott

For the animals yes but if you’re hunting the hunters then NO!

Rosette Putzeys

jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Claudia Stanich

YES…YES…YES !!

Alex Corti

Disgusting people

Martha Hahn

How can they be proud of that? What is wrong with these people, totally missing the compassion gene? What happended to being the stewards of this earth? Not the destroyers are all wonderous creatures. 🙁

Dixie Shelton

Absolutely yes!!!!

Elefteria Alexiou

yes, it should be banned

Gary Shelton

kill them

Marla Briggs

Absolutely

Roland Mills

Yes.

Marcelo Eduardo

O MUNDO ESTÁ CHEIO DE ESTÚPIDOS E IDIOTAS …

Phyllis Kaelin

OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE BANNED. YES

Michelle Powers

YES ,,,,,, BANNED !

Maria Anna Mavromichalis

YES YES & DEFINITELY YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KILLING SHOULD NEVER BE A SPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kathryn Phelps Summers

Yes, YES!

Linda Kabelowsky

Yes

Janel VanNoort Compton

Yes!!

Scott Barnes

Can’t they put their energy into something more kind that killing? What does it say about these people? Cowards, disrespectful of nature, hate, selfish, bored, ..

Teri Campbell Denk

This should be banned.

Yorka Ines Moen

Yes yes yes yes

Patricia Tucker

YES!!!!!!!!!!, But trump won’t do anything about it. Him and his family hunt wild animals for sport. They probably have a trophy room.

Lynda Jordan

YES

Glenda Randall Griffin

Yes yes yes

Bird Watching HQ

I am not opposed to people hunting animals when it’s going to be used for food AND the animals (like deer) are plentiful and in no danger of extinction.
Trophy hunting absolutely disgusts me. It seems like a big ego trip and weird that is how they get their kicks.

Pat Miller Sudderth

Too bad the lion didn’t get to these two first.

LenaMaria Holgersdotter

Ofcourse….NOW!!!!!

David Garcin

all hunting and poaching must be banned because the animals have just as much right here on earth as we humans we are not superior to them

Suzanne O'Shea

Of course ALL trophy hunting and murder of this earth’s amazing unique creatures should be banned!!! I don’t understand how it can be allowed. Why would you even want to kill something so wild and beautiful??? What will they do when they’ve killed everything that should be cherished and observed from afar…..humans are the most cruel and greedy of our world’s population!!

Kathy Hedegard

Absolutely Yes!

Phyllis Crawford

YES

Connie Pennington

HELL YES< IT SHOULD BE BANNED……THIS IS BARBARIC AND SCUM DO THE KILLING TO BUILD THEIR DAMN EGOS……….MAY KARMA COME QUICKLY TO YOU BOTH!

wpDiscuz

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