Unsportsmanlike Trophies

Hunting big game for trophies with a high-powered rifle is an execution, not a sport. If the target of such a hunt is an animal whose population is stressed, as the most prized specimens usually are, the lack of ethics is compounded.

Britain's Prince William, president of the United for Wildlife organization, supports trophy hunting if the prey are "old, sick, animals". It is okay to snag a souvenir for the den, he says, if the animals are "infertile and at the end of life". [Senior citizens might consider the Prince's language a bit too open-ended.]

But in the wild, hunters of large land animals are not looking for decrepit specimens to display on their mantelpieces. No self-respecting trophy hunter wants a mounted mangy stuffed head as a reflection of his stalking prowess. That yen for quality is shared by "sportsmen" patronizing private ranches that feature canned hunting of captive animals in an exercise of ritual slaughter. One can make a case for gunning down big game when subsistence hunting, culling overpopulation, scientific research, or self-defense are in play. But the slaying of large land mammals most sought after by aggressive trophy hunters (i.e. lions, Leopards, rhinos, and bears) rarely if ever qualifies for any one of those justifications.

In condemnation of recreational trophy hunting, the African nations of Kenya, Botswana, and Zambia have banned the activity within their borders. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of Africa, although the world's major airlines have stepped into the breach and refused to transport wildlife trophies.

Proponents of trophy hunting argue that the tourist revenues generated by the activity provide an incentive for preserving wildlife.

But there is a better way, and an environmentally sustainable one at that for recreational hunters to capture wildlife memories and experience macho stimulation.

They should take their cue from those sport fishermen who after a successful effort release their catch for another day.

Why not use a camera rather than a rifle to personally memorialize large land animals. It is more of a challenge to maneuver near enough to take a dramatic close-up photograph of a fierce creature than to nail it with a telescopic, high-powered rifle from a hundred yards away. Have a guide or companion authenticate authorship of the photograph. Perhaps have them take a photograph of you in action as further verification.

From an economic perspective, the animal survives to attract additional tourist dollars instead of ending up as a carcass with a one-time payoff.