What's wrong with Trophy Hunting?

Trophy hunting is the stalking and killing of wild animals with guns or bows and arrows with the purpose of obtaining part of the animal as a trophy to represent the success of the hunt. The League believes this multi-million pound international industry is utterly unjustifiable from an animal welfare point of view but also for conservation reasons as it is pushing some of the world's most threatened species toward extinction. 

It is not hard to find pictures or scenes from old films which feature the head of a lion or elephant fixed on the wall. The image of the ‘heroic’ hunter stalking their prey through the jungle before killing and displaying their trophy has become part of our culture.

But those images belong in the past. Many of the animals being targeted are now endangered, and claims that trophy hunting somehow benefits conservation have been debunked. But even if in some cases some minor short-term local conservation benefit may occur, in trophy hunting clean deaths are not common and animals can suffer a long agony before dying, so the practice should be banned on animal welfare grounds alone.

A 2016 report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare showed that trophy hunting is very much alive. As many as 1.7 million hunting trophies were traded between nations between 2004 and 2014, including at least 200,000 trophies from threatened species. This research found that 107 different nations participated in trophy hunting but the United States accounts for 71% of the import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nations, Germany and Spain (both 5 percent).

In the UK, the League was involved in the exposure of trophy hunting at Woburn Abbey Deer Park, where it was revealed that a tour company is offering trophy hunters from around the world the chance to shoot the deer bred there.

Stag hunting, one of the types of hunting (alongside fox hunting and hare hunting) that the League has long campaigned against, could be considered a type of trophy hunting, as the head, teeth and feet of the killed stag are given or sold as trophies to the participants of the hunt.

Hunter points to a deer with his rifle in the sunset

Cecil the Lion

In July 2015, international public outcry followed the killing of a lion called Cecil. Cecil was a ‘famous’ protected lion in Zimbabwe, but he was killed by a trophy hunting American dentist, who claimed he wouldn’t have shot Cecil if he had known he was famous. Cecil was first shot with an arrow and after 40 hours of agony was finally shot dead with a gun, which is not an unusual occurrence in trophy hunting.

The killing of Cecil was a watershed moment as it opened the world’s eyes to the continuing slaughter of animals by trophy hunters. Cecil represented the thousands of unnamed animals who are killed every year for 'sport', and strengthened the call for trophy hunters to stop hunting.

Trophy hunting and conservation

Much in the same way that hunting in the UK is justified as ‘fox control’, trophy hunters justify killing lions, elephants and other animals by saying that the money raised goes towards conservation and helping local communities and endangered species.

Reports have shown however that this argument does not ring true. During an undercover League Against Cruel Sports investigation in spring 2004, Sir Edward Dashwood, director of the E J Churchill Sporting Agency, admitted to investigators that "90% of the trophy fee goes straight into some Nigerian's pocket or African politician or whatever it is."

Other reports have put the amount of money raised by trophy hunting that goes back into some local African communities as around 3%.

In 2016 according to the NY Times, a new report by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee found there was little evidence that the money is being used to help threatened species, mostly because of rampant corruption in some countries and poorly managed wildlife programs. It concludes that trophy hunting may be contributing to the extinction of certain animals.

Evidence also shows that tourist safaris to watch wild animals in the wild are worth far more to local economies than trophy hunting. A 2004 study by the University of Port Elizabeth estimated that eco-tourism on private game reserves generated "more than 15 times the income of livestock or 'game' rearing or overseas hunting".

A lion in the savannah looking at the camera

Canned Hunting and ‘walking with lion cubs’

Canned hunting is the hunting of animals in an enclosure too small to allow an animal any chance of escape, or the hunting of captive animals which have been released just to be hunted.

Animal loving tourists may well be unknowingly contributing to the trophy hunting industry by taking part in activities such as meeting lion cubs in southern Africa. These activities often allow tourists to play with and feed tame lion cubs – but most do not ask what happens to the lions once they are too old to be petted.

In some cases the truth is uncomfortable. The older lions can be moved on to ‘canned hunting’ estates, where they will be released into an enclosed area. Trophy hunters can then ‘hunt’ these lions – lions which are accustomed to humans and have no means of escape.

The term canned hunting has also been used to describe 'game' bird shooting in the UK, as captive pheasants and partridges are factory farmed before being released into an area where they will be encouraged to stay near to a food source. Disorientated and unused to being in the wild, the birds have little chance of escaping when they are scared into the air in the direction of the waiting guns.

What is the League doing about trophy hunting?

The League Against Cruel Sports has campaigned for a long time to ban trophy hunting. Important League reports have included The Myth of Trophy Hunting as Conservation back in 2004, which exposed the truth about how much money from the trophy hunting industry actually goes into conservation.

Another report, Wild About Killing, investigated the involvement of some British travel agents in trophy hunting, with undercover League investigators being offered trips to kill various animals.

The League has also lobbied Members of the European Parliament to ban the importation of hunting trophies, most recently calling on MEPs to sign a European Parliament motion calling for a ban on hunting trophies being imported into Europe.

In the UK, stags are still hunted as ‘trophies’, another reason to ensure that the Hunting Act 2004 is strengthened so stag hunts can no longer use any of its exemptions to continue hunting deer.

How can I help stop trophy hunting?

  • Please let us know if you have any information about companies promoting or profiting from trophy hunting. You can contact our Animal Crimewatch team in confidence
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