A few weeks ago, I talked about my view on recreational hunting, where I expressed my personal distaste for the practice, but emphasized how important it is for conservation.
This time, I will be talking about a different kind of recreational hunting: trophy hunting. In trophy hunting, part of the animal is kept and usually displayed. Trophy hunting is legal (not to be confused with poaching, the illegal practice of hunting or fishing) but may be restrictions as in recreational hunting. However, its legality doesn’t protect it from criticism. Like other forms of recreational hunting, trophy hunting can drive in massive funds for conservation, with hunters paying tens of thousands of dollars for a single kill, but a lot of animal rights activists are skeptical about where the funds go and criticize the ethics of the practice.
For simplicity sake, I will look into a few points about trophy hunting and case studies:
It’s not sporting: Some conservation-minded hunters criticize trophy hunting as “not sporting.” A lot of hunters take pride in tracking their quarry and the relationship with the outdoors and consider the chase more important than the kill. On the other hand, trophy hunters measure the success on the hunt exclusively by what they kill. I strongly agree with this idea. For example, while male lions are one of the most sought after trophies, they are surprisingly easy to kill. Male lions sleep for about twenty hours a day and are largely sedentary when they’re awake while the lionesses do all the work. That doesn’t sound very sporting to me.
Trophy hunting brings in money for conservation and gives back to local communities: Some trophy hunters argue that trophy hunting, particularly in Africa, generates funds for conservation and helps local economies. However, “[a]nalysis of literature on the economics of trophy hunting reveals, however, that communities in the areas where hunting occurs derive very little benefit from this revenue.” Rather, the money goes “to firms, government agencies and individuals located internationally or in national capitals.”
Trophy hunting only seeks the larger, reproductively idle males: This may be true as adult males are usually the most sought out on trophy hunts. However, just because an individual is no longer reproducing doesn’t mean they are invaluable to the population. For example, even though female lions do most of the hunting, male lions in the pride protect the cubs from other male lions looking to take over the pride.
Case study: Cecil the Lion: In 2015, a 13-year-old charismatic lion called Cecil was lured out of a Zimbabwean national park and killed by an American dentist. Although the hunter paid handsomely for this hunt, the legality of the kill has raised a lot of controversy. Not to mention, months after the kill, Cecil’s species was listed as endangered, which raised even more outrage.
While, like local game, I would be willing to sacrifice few legally hunted individuals (as long as their species is not threatened) for the big conservation picture, these massive amounts of money from trophy hunting expeditions are not going to conservation or local communities. I also have reason to believe that trophy hunting undermines the environmental ethics of hunting and the spirit of the chase.
I strongly suggest watching the short documentary The Women Who Kill Lions, recently added on U.S. Netflix, and notice the massive differences between the conservation-minded recreational hunter and the selfish trophy hunter.