Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If this is true, the proliferation of canned hunting facilities is a glaring example of our nation’s moral regress.
Canned hunting facilities, also known as hunting ranches or trophy ranches, are acreages enclosed by high, game-proof fences. For a fee, “hunters” can kill the animals held captive there. The facilities range in size from ten acres to several hundred acres. It is estimated that there are currently over 4,000 hunting ranches in the United States.
Many of these facilities offer a “no-kill, no-fee” policy. Animals in these facilities range from domestic species of game birds, deer and elk, to exotic species such as Russian boar, wildebeest, and zebra. Hunters of all skill levels are welcome and offered a choice of weapons; guns, bow and arrow, and in some cases, spears.
Some facilities offer guides who will go out on ATVs, find the quarry, and drive the animals into the line-of-sight of the hunters. In other cases, tree stands or blinds are set up near feeding stations-you simply wait for the species of your choice to walk by. In some facilities, the animals are drugged.
Undercover video shot on an exotic game ranch in Oklahoma illustrates this practice in all of its gory detail. The video shows a hunter surrounded by a group of friends with leashed dogs. A truck comes into view pulling a trailer. A cage sits on the bed of the trailer and in the cage, a black leopard.
The truck stops about 15 feet in front of the hunter and the driver releases the black leopard. It is obviously sedated and has to be poked and prodded out of the cage. As soon as it hits the ground, the hunting party releases the dogs and the leopard takes refuge under the trailer. The hunter, who paid thousands of dollars for the opportunity to kill this “ferocious” beast, actually lies on his belly and shoots the trembling leopard as it tries to hide.
Canned hunting facilities have rightly outraged the animal protection community. How can this possibly be called hunting when there is no chance for the animal to escape? How can the phases “fair chase” and “guaranteed kill” be used in the same brochure? It is the reward of the hunt without doing the work. It is decadence brought to a new and grisly height.
There are reasonable voices leading the movement to end canned hunting. Wayne Pacelle, executive director of the Humane Society of the United States, along with the Fund for Animals, has worked tirelessly to educate the public of the atrocities associated with canned hunting. These groups have sponsored and supported legislation that would eliminate the interstate transport of exotic animals for the purpose of hunting in enclosed areas. Strong lobbies for groups such as Safari Club International have been effective in stopping these legislative efforts. Safari Club International is a trophy-hunting club which boasts over 40,000 members. They have a detailed and macabre accounting system that allows them to track all of the animals their members kill and to award them accordingly. (The records now fill seven volumes.)
For example, to win the Africa Big Five award, a member must have killed an elephant, a rhinoceros, a leopard, a Cape buffalo, and a lion. Initially, the Club required a member to go to Africa to bag their game. The rules have changed, allowing members to take the Cape buffalo and the lion in the United States. They have also introduced new categories that reward members for “introduced exotics.” Where better to work toward that reward than at a posh trophy ranch, where you could kill members of ten or twelve different species in one weekend?
Pineywoods Trophy Ranch might be just the place. Their website boasts, “We are extremely proud of the exotics we have to offer and we welcome hunters any time of year. While staying with us, you will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of our luxurious lodge, complete with big-screen television and warm fireplace. Exotics can be hunted at your convenience.” Never mind that many of these exotic animals were purchased at sales, or from zoos, or bred on the premises. A kill is a kill.
SCI gained its legislative clout from its close association with George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush is a regular speaker at Safari Club’s annual convention and there are many SCI members in the Republican ranks. As President, Bush appointed Safari Club’s former Government Affairs Manager, Matthew J. Hogan, as a deputy director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. One of the functions of USFWS is to regulate the importation of hunting trophies.
Unfortunately, in this age when rational civil discourse has degenerated into all-or-nothing shouting matches, the efforts to stop canned hunting by the animal protection community have been largely misrepresented. They have been portrayed as Bambi-loving, tree-hugging, dope-smoking leftist extremists who want to outlaw all hunting. The loudest voice shouting this message comes from has-been rocker Ted Nugent.
Ted Nugent will gladly display his “whack-em-and-stack-em” histrionics on any media outlet that will let him. His misty-eyed defense of hunting revolves around property rights, the Second Amendment, and sustained use (the idea being that hunters will protect habitats and be good stewards because they want to make sure that there are enough animals around for them to kill). He never speaks of the fate of the animal hunted. Nugent (a self-avowed draft dodger and NRA Board member) is a ridiculous parody of the men and women who are real hunters and true sportsmen.
Field and Stream, America’s number one sportsman’s magazine, conducted a national hunting survey in 2003. The results showed that sixty-five per cent of its readers disapproved of canned hunting. These traditional hunters and sportsmen can provide a powerful voice in the fight to end this barbaric and cruel practice. It is time to drag the dirty little secret that is canned hunting in to the light of day.
Jim Posewitz, retired wildlife biologist and founder of Orion -The Hunter’s Institute, said of those who operate trophy ranches, “There is an evil seed buried here. By selling these facsimiles of real wild animals, these people degrade the whole reality of hunting.”Powered by Sidelines