According to news reports, Donald Trump Jr. spent Earth Day shooting prairie dogs in Montana. His guide was Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Congress and himself a hunting enthusiast. Prairie dogs are not killed to be eaten, but strictly for fun.
Fun? What’s wrong with these people? How can killing defenseless rodents in their natural habitat be seen as fun? This fact further underscores how pathetic and callous the Trump family is. C’mon, Don Jr., really?!
In a stunning reversal of policy, the BC Liberals are promising to eliminate grizzly bear hunting in the province’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Premier Christy’s Clark’s Liberals made the promise as they unveiled a new platform for the May 9 provincial election that promised to protect healthy and sustainable wildlife populations.
“We must operate on the principle of conservation first in order to pass on B.C.’s natural splendour so future generations can enjoy it,” said the Liberal platform. “That’s why our wildlife management practices are determined by the best available science.”
The BC Liberals previously defended grizzly bear hunting in British Columbia, despite opinion polls showing nearly 90 per cent of B.C. residents opposed to the trophy hunting of grizzlies. But the new platform promised to phase it out.
“Today’s BC Liberals will work with the Coastal First Nations towards the elimination of the grizzly bear hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest, continuing with the science based approach to the bear hunt elsewhere in the province,” the platform said.
“We know that many First Nations have a deep connection to the land, and also use wildlife for food, social and ceremonial uses. Our hunting, trapping and angling regulations are designed to ensure species conservation and to maintain healthy wildlife populations for use.”
Green Party and NDP also opposed hunt
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver proposed legislation, in March 2015, to stop the hunt.
The latest move by the Liberals also follows a similar commitment by the BC NDP which also pledged, last November, to end the controversial trophy hunt.
One of the provincial NDP candidates, Bryce Casavant,is a former conservation officer who was fired for refusing to kill two orphaned black bear cubs in 2015.
Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, has actively campaigned against the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in B.C. over the years. He said the foundation welcomed seeing major political parties support calls to end the hunt.
“The evidence is overwhelming. Every argument that’s been put out there to justify the grizzly hunt has been blown out of the water, whether it’s economic, ecological or ethical,” Genovali said. “Studies have shown that bear viewing generates more revenue than bear hunting.
“I think finally the political parities recognized that [grizzly hunting] is not a winning party platform, at least with regard to the Great Bear Rainforest.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 8:50 p.m. PT with additional background information.
Correction 9:56 p.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Bryce Casavant refused to kill two grizzly cubs. This has been corrected to black bear cubs.
Don Jr. made his big debut tonight and some say he made a big splash and helped “humanize” his father. But he and his disgusting brother, Eric, deserve nothing but scorn for the series of wild animal kills that spread across Twitter tonight.
I was not aware of their depravity towards animals until tonight. The folks calling Don Jr. “Patrick Bateman” on Twitter were spot on.
From The Daily Beast:
Back in 2012, photos surfaced of the elder Trump’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, proudly posing with the carcasses of dead animals they hunted while on a big-game hunting expedition in Africa. The photos showed Donald and Eric posing with a lifeless cheetah, Donald clenching a knife along with the bloody, sawed-off tail of an elephant, and the pair posing next to a crocodile hanging from a noose off of a tree.
Here are Trump’s sons holding up a dead cheetah, all smiles:
The Trump boys were hunting in Zimbabwe—the same country where Cecil was killed—and though Zimbabwean animal conservation groups looked into the incident, the hunt was deemed perfectly legal. Once the photos went viral online, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted (and then deleted): “Not a PR move I didn’t give the pics but I have no shame about them either. I HUNT & EAT game.”
Later, Donald Jr. clarified his thoughts on the big-game hunt in an interview with Deer & Hunting magazine in August 2012.
“I think what made it sort of a bigger story and kind of national and even global news was that I didn’t do what a lot of other people do, which is immediately start apologizing for what I am and that I’m a hunter and all this,” Donald Jr. told Deer & Hunter. “I kinda said, ‘No, I am what I am. I did all those things. I have no regrets about it.’”
CORRECTION: It has been noted several times in the comments that the Trump kids are holding up a dead leopard, not a cheetah. Apologies for the mistake. I relied on the news story instead of my own eyes.
Donald Trump Jr. is the Trump who has not always seemed at ease with being a Trump. He grew up in the penthouse of Trump Tower but was happy to escape the gilded trappings of his Manhattan childhood to spend parts of the summers hunting and fishing with his maternal grandfather in the woods of what was then Czechoslovakia.
After graduating from his father’s alma mater, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he tended bar in Aspen, Colo., rather than immediately join the family business. Several months later, on Feb. 25, 2001, during a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, he was arrested on charges of public drunkenness and spent 11 hours in jail.
“I think, like anyone else, I made my mistakes,” Mr. Trump said of his arrest. “We have to be honest with ourselves. I’m not good at it, moderation. You have to have the conversation, be a realist, and say, ‘I guess I’m not doing myself any favors.’”
In 2001, Mr. Trump, the eldest of the five children from Donald J. Trump’s three marriages, went to work for the Trump Organization in the same building where he had grown up. He rose to executive vice president, and his status as a family member in good standing was on display when he appeared as a boardroom adviser on “The Apprentice,” the NBC reality show that re-established his father as a celebrity mogul nearly two decades after he had captured the public’s attention with his first best seller, “The Art of the Deal.”
Now Donald Jr., 39, has completed his own apprenticeship.
Since his father was sworn in as president, he and his brother Eric, 33, have taken over management of the Trump Organization, with Donald Jr. overseeing commercial licensing and much of the international business and Eric managing the golf courses, among other duties. Donald Jr. is also a rising figure in Republican politics and a robust defender of the family name. As a public speaker who brings in an estimated $50,000 per speech, he has impressed conservatives with a rough, straightforward manner that belies his cushy upbringing.
Like his father, he uses Twitter to thrash liberals and lend support to those who are friendly to the president’s populist agenda. Given that he is a skilled outdoorsman and a member of the National Rifle Association who owns dozens of firearms, among them a Benelli Super Black Eagle II (for hunting waterfowl) and an AR-platform semiautomatic rifle (for marksmanship competitions), Mr. Trump also connects with heartland voters in a way that his more refined sister Ivanka may not.
While Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have lately elevated their social profile in Washington and Palm Beach, Fla., while keeping close contact with the president, her oldest brother has largely avoided the balls and benefits, preferring to hunker down in Midtown during the workweek and spend weekends in the Catskills with his wife, Vanessa, and their five children.
“Don is the more chill version of any of the kids,” said Dee Dee Sides, who has known him since the early 2000s.
He came into his own as a public figure during the presidential campaign. On the stump he was equally at ease before crowds in both Mississippi and Michigan, and television pundits gushed about his political future after his bluntly effective speech at the Republican National Convention, with some mentioning him as a potential mayoral candidate in New York City.
“I don’t know if I could go all-in at that,” Mr. Trump said of a political career. “There is a part that is incredibly enticing. But it’s not human most of the time.”
Even as he embraces his new status in business and politics, Mr. Trump sounds, at times, as if it is some kind of anomaly.
“If I could miracle myself away,” he said, “I would live out West.”
Into the Woods
Mr. Trump’s friendships are rooted, for the most part, in hunting and fishing, sports that do not appeal to the golf-loving patriarch of the Trump family. He said he decided early on not to measure himself against his father.
“I think people are often surprised, but I never defined myself as, ‘I’m the business guy who has to supersede what my father has done,’” he said. “He’s a totally unique individual. Somehow having to top his accomplishments is never the way I perceived things.”
He developed a distaste for living in public at an early age. In 1990, his father separated from his mother, Ivana Zelnickova, a Czech model and skier, after having an affair with the model and sometime actress Marla Maples. Donald Jr. was 12 at a time when gossip columnists, someencouraged by his father, chronicled the family soap opera. During this time, Donald Jr. did not speak to his father for a year, New York magazine reported in 2004 in an article about the Trump children.
Before the divorce, Mr. Trump found a role model in someone quite different from his father: his maternal grandfather, Milos Zelnicek, an electrician who was an avid outdoorsman. In the summers, he stayed at the Zelniceks’ home in a town near Prague for six to eight weeks at a time, and his grandfather schooled him in camping, fishing, hunting and the Czech language.
“He needed a father figure,” his mother said in a telephone interview. “Donald was not around that much. They would have to go to his office to say hello to him before going to school.”
Mr. Zelnicek, who died in 1990, allowed his grandson a freedom not readily available to a child of Fifth Avenue. As Mr. Trump put it: “He said: ‘There is the woods. See you at dark.’ I think I felt a little trapped in New York City.”
Despite the advantages of wealth, Mr. Trump said his life at home was not always easy. “In our family, if you weren’t competitive you didn’t eat,” he said. “You had to fight for what you wanted.”
His mother recalled walking into the breakfast room one morning and noticing that the chandelier was broken: “Ivanka said it was Don Jr. So I put him over my knee and spanked him. He said, ‘Mom, it wasn’t me!’”
It turned out that Ivanka lied, the former Mrs. Trump said.
The divorce was made final in 1992, and Mr. Trump’s father married Ms. Maples the next year. Donald Jr. went to boarding school, the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., where he practiced skeet shooting, and then it was on to Wharton, where he rowed crew and joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. People who knew him then saw him as distinct from his parents.
“He wasn’t into the gold,” said Jennifer Ireland Kubis, a New York real estate agent who dated one of Mr. Trump’s college friends. “He was trying to escape it.”
The young Mr. Trump also earned a reputation for hard partying, which seems to have continued until the Mardi Gras arrest. He no longer drinks, and he has suggested that the discipline of the sporting life kept him from going over the edge: “I know that the benefits I got from being in the woods, from being in a duck blind, from being in a tree stand at 5 o’clock in the morning, kept me out of so much other trouble I would have gotten into in my life,” he said in a speech at a fund-raising banquet for the 2016 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City.
During his first year in the family business, he spent weekends at the Mashomack Preserve Club in Pine Plains, N.Y., where he ran into Gentry Beach, an acquaintance from college who was working at a Manhattan investment firm.
“We loved being outdoors,” said Mr. Beach, who grew up in Dallas.
Mr. Beach, 41, introduced Mr. Trump to Thomas Hicks Jr., 39, a Dallas friend whose father, an equity investor, once owned the Texas Rangers. Through the years, the three have hunted white-tailed deer in Texas, birds in Scotland and pheasant in Hungary.
“For some people — you see that in New York a lot — they go hunting once every other year and they talk about it at a cocktail party for the next two years until they do it again,” Mr. Trump said in an interview. “For me, it is the way I choose to live my life.”
Being friends with Donny, as his closest friends call him, can be tricky, given the divisiveness of his father’s politics. Ms. Sides, for one, said she did not discuss politics with her friend. “Our views are different,” she said. “Don has never asked me, and he would not ask.”
It was his father who introduced Mr. Trump to Vanessa Haydon, the woman who would become his wife, at a fashion show in 2003. A onetime model with the Wilhelmina agency who once dated Leonardo DiCaprio, she had grown up on the Upper East Side. At the time of their engagement, Mr. Trump accepted a ring from the Bailey Banks & Biddle jewelry store in Short Hills, N.J., in exchange for publicity, recreating his proposal at its Short Hills Mall location in New Jersey. Soon afterward came an unflattering headline in The New York Post: “Trump Jr. Is the Cheapest Gazillionaire: Heirhead Proposes With Free 100G Ring.” Even his father joined in the criticism, saying on the CNN talk show “Larry King Live,” “You have a name that is hot as a pistol, you have to be very careful with things like this.”
Business and Politics
Although Mr. Trump has been charged with holding down the family business without input from his father — who resigned his position in the company without relinquishing his financial stake — he took advantage of his new standing within the Republican Party to dine last Saturday with a group of political heavyweights that included Senator Ted Cruz of Texas at the annual Reagan Day fund-raising dinner, where he delivered a speech.
He told the crowd that he had had virtually “zero contact” with the president since the election, but added that he had found it difficult to resist the pull of politics. “I thought I was out of politics after Election Day,” he said, adding that he had thought he would “get back to my regular life and my family.
“But I couldn’t,” he said.
Two weeks before the Dallas speech, Mr. Trump found himself in the role of real estate tycoon during a stop in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the opening of a Trump International Hotel and Tower. Although the building unveiled that day was, at 63 stories, the city’s second highest, the city’s mayor, Gregor Robertson, skipped the event after demanding for two years that the Trump name be stripped from the building’s facade.
The president’s son began his talk with a poke at the news media: “I’d like to thank the press,” he said. “Just kidding.” Outside, about 100 protesters waved signs and shouted “Love Trumps Hate.”
To a large degree, his public image has been shaped by photographs that surfaced online in 2012 and re-emerged last year. They were taken during a hunting trip in 2010 arranged by Hunting Legends International, a safari company based in Pretoria, South Africa. A licensed guide accompanied Donald Jr. and Eric, along with a ranger from the Zimbabwe national parks department, who monitored the hunt.
One photograph shows the Trump brothers taking a helicopter to the Matetsi, a region of Zimbabwe abundant with elephants and endangered leopards. Another shows Eric with his arms wrapped around the limp body of a dead leopard. Perhaps most disturbing to nonhunters and to those who do not hunt endangered or vulnerable species was the picture of Donald Jr., knife in one hand, the bloody tail of an elephant in the other.
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Animal rights advocates, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, cried foul after Hunting Legends posted the photos, and a sponsor dropped the show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric appeared on as advisers, along with their father. Donald Jr. took to Twitter to defend himself, writing to one detractor, “I’m not going to run and hide because the PETA crazies don’t like me.”
He argues that the economic benefit of such safaris to African communities is often overlooked. Further, he said, the controversy allowed him to connect with other sportsmen. “There were people who I didn’t know who were hunters,” he said. “And, from that perspective, I get invited a lot.”
What is lost on nonhunters, he said, is the sense of community that is part of hunting trips. “Too much of hunting has turned into the notion of the kill,” he said. “It’s a component, the meat. But so much is experiential, so much is relationships. It is sitting in a duck blind with seven people, cooking breakfast. For me, it’s been a great way to see the world. The least interesting part is the three seconds it takes to pull the trigger.”
As that legislation moved toward enactment, several Game Commissioners indicated publicly their intent to “go slow” in authorizing semi-auto use.
Moving so rapidly to permit semi-auto rifle use for all hunting will have unintended consequences.
Some even shared possible scenarios, where semi-autos might be permitted for use in hunting predators, like coyotes, but not during the regular big game seasons for deer and bear.
But surprisingly, at their January meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to permit the use of semi-automatic rifles in all seasons, for all species and have indicated their intent to follow through and grant final approval to this sweeping proposal at their next meeting on March 28.
The new law doesn’t make semi-automatic weapons legal for hunting in time for the upcoming firearm deer season, which begins Monday.
Anyone who followed this unfolding issue assumed from earlier PGC statements that the debate would “go slow,” following a conservative approach to introducing semi-automatic rifles into Pennsylvania hunting.
What happened in the course of a few weeks that caused the sweeping approval of semi-autos to be fast-tracked? It’s obvious that something influenced commissioners’ earlier stated intent to be deliberate in handling this issue. Is this part of a legislative deal in the works?
Game commissioners who have spoken about the unanimous preliminary approval stated their rationale this way–that other states have not experienced an increase in hunting accidents caused by hunters using semi-auto rifles in the woods.
But I question that enough time was available, between the governor’s signature on the legislation and the Game Commission’s initial unanimous vote, to conduct a thorough review.
Furthermore, commissioners’ defense of their vote is based entirely on one factor. But is safety the only issue the PGC should consider?
We hunters make up about five percent of the total Pennsylvania population. That doesn’t mean the other 95 percent are “anti-hunters” but they are non-hunters. Their perception of hunters and hunting is vital to the continuation of our hunting traditions.
Moving so rapidly to permit semi-auto rifle use for all hunting will have unintended consequences.
From personal experience, I notice a difference in the reaction of non-hunters when I discuss hunting with a bow or a flintlock. They respect and support the ethical taking of game through methods that conform with the “fair chase” intrinsic to our hunting tradition.
My concern is with their perception of hunters when they see us using firearms designed for military purposes in the deer woods.
Eventually, there will be an accident involving a semi-auto rifle. It may even be an accident that has nothing to do with semi-auto technology, but the public won’t care about that.
All they will see is a hunter with a semi-automatic rifle designed for combat use, and they’ll blame all hunters and the Game Commission for whatever tragedy occurred. We hunters don’t need that kind of black eye. Is the rapid expansion of the semi-automatic rifle to hunt deer worth this risk?
The proposed rule implicitly recognizes this risk as it limits semi-auto rifles to a 5-shell capacity magazine for hunting. But these guns come equipped to carry a 20-shell magazine.
In view of the Game Commission’s sudden “flip” from its original intention to carefully deliberate semi-autos for hunting, how can we be assured that the 5-shell maximum will not soon expand, until the full 20-shell banana clip is legalized?
The deer woods will echo with “if it’s brown, it’s going down.” More errant shots, more deer wounded and left to rot in Penn’s Woods.
Several commissioners have defended their preliminary vote to authorize by saying hunter opposition was less than they expected.
It’s obvious that opposition was light because commissioners misled everyone. They initially said they’d take a slow and deliberate course.
People who are concerned about this trusted them to fully consider this issue, from all viewpoints.
But then commissioners surprised everyone with the unanimous vote and intention to move rapidly forward. The classic bait-and-switch tactic. Why?
I am a life-long hunter who was taught the importance of one-shot discipline while qualifying for the Boy Scouts marksmanship merit badge, by my NRA-certified Hunter Education instructor, and by my father, recognized for distinguished marksmanship during WWII Battle of the Bulge.
All my early shooting and hunting mentors reinforced the importance of minimizing a reliance on firepower but maximizing self-control while hunting, in the interest of safety, humaneness and the accuracy of my own shooting.
I believe we must continue to emphasize this ethic in training future hunters.
The use of semi-auto rifles for hunting undermines that ethic and will erode our standing in the eyes of public opinion, critical to our future.
I am not opposed to change. But this issue has many facets and ramifications that need studied and thought through. I want us to manage change with deliberation so that we hunters, and the honored tradition of hunting, do not suffer unintended damage we cannot repair.
The Game Commission should table this misguided proposal at their March 28 meeting and allow for more public input from hunters and non-hunters alike.
David Levdansky, a Democrat from Allegheny County, was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1985 to 2010. He is a life-long hunter.
A team of women known as “squirrel girls” helped weigh animals on digital scales at the annual Squirrel Slam in Brockport, N.Y., on Saturday.CreditMike Bradley for The New York Times
BROCKPORT, N.Y. — They crouched and hid, using the gray, rainy skies and fallow fields as camouflage. They scurried across well-traveled roads, up barren trees and perhaps even toward the border with Canada. They used their wits, their two extra legs and — yes — their bushy tails to fend off their pursuers.
And yet, it was not the squirrels but the hunters who triumphed here on Saturday during the annual Squirrel Slam, a decade-old fund-raising event that has drawn the ire of animal lovers and environmentalists.
The slam and its former host and beneficiary — a volunteer fire department in the nearby town of Holley in western New York — are the subject of a lawsuit filed in state court by Lauren Sheive, a squirrel aficionado who claims there has not been a proper review of its environmental effect.
In particular, Ms. Sheive and her lawyers allege that the slam — which is held on the last Saturday of February during squirrel-hunting season — is particularly damaging to the arboreal rodents because the key to winning the one-day contest is to bag the heaviest squirrels; that is, those that might be pregnant.
“Since it is baby time, the moms will be fatter and larger,” according to an affidavit submitted by Ms. Sheive, who lives in Williamson, N.Y., east of Rochester. “So if, as could happen, there is an overkilling of females who are potentially leaving young to die in their nests, what does that do to the balance of nature?”
State environmental officials dispute that assertion, saying the hunt falls outside of the period in which squirrels breed and care for their young. Supporters of the slam have long been bewildered by the accusation that they are somehow upsetting the area’s ecology, saying the event is merely a fun way to raise money and promote community bonding.
“Everyone thinks I’m sending 300 people into the woods and slaughtering all the squirrels,” said Dennis Bauer, a hunter who helps organize the event, noting that the slam is not localized, but countywide. If it were harming squirrels, he said, “I wouldn’t do it.”
The dispute also touches on age-old friction between rural and urban mores, with some here grumbling that the conflict was being stoked by downstaters who would not know a Remington from a Rembrandt.
“I think it’s the coolest — Americana in action,” said Jeff Allen, a former logger in Alaska and a local resident who was up early to check out the slam. “And I think this is just a great little thing for upstate New York.”
At the same time, the hunt has also tapped into a broader push by national animal rights groups to stop hunting contests, including those that target animals such as coyotes, pigeons and prairie dogs.
In Albany, state lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban any contest where the goal “is to take the greatest number of wildlife,” though the winners of the squirrel slam receive a small cash prize based on weight, not the number of animals killed. (Slam hunters are limited to five squirrels; the state limit for most species is six a day.)
Still, the New York State director of the Humane Society of the United States, Brian Shapiro, has expressed concern that the slam could cause “the wider community to believe that wildlife is unimportant and killing for a monetary prize is meritorious.”
When the lawsuit was filed in 2015, it was initially dismissed. Then in December, Ms. Sheive won on appeal, and the case was sent back to Orleans County Supreme Court for further review. Arguments there are due on Monday.
One of the slam’s principal opponents has been Richard Brummel, a Long Island resident and grass-roots environmental advocate who has waged a dogged campaign against the event in recent years, citing the State Environmental Quality Review Act to challenge the hunt. He said that his love of squirrels was born from a suburban upbringing and that the animals were “agile,” “industrious” and “very acrobatic.”
“And they are actually somewhat approachable,” he said.
Squirrels are plentiful in New York, according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which categorizes three types of squirrels — gray, fox and black — as having “abundant population” and allows them to be hunted in most parts of the state from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28.
Some squirrels, however, are considered nuisances and thus are hunted by humans year round. And many of the squirrels in this neck of the woods fall into that enemy-of-the-people category, said Amethyst McCracken, an avowed pet lover who works at an animal-care office in Holley.
“We have squirrels here the size of cats,” said Ms. McCracken, a licensed veterinary technician. “They do damage. They cause accidents. They chew through power cords, go through drains.”
Like others here, Ms. McCracken said part of the slam’s problem might be branding. “When you hear ‘slam,’ you think about someone taking it and slamming them on the ground,” she said. But whatever the hunt is called, its organizers insist that the animals did not go to waste. Their tails are used to make fishing lures, while much of their meat — a flavor that has been compared to rabbit or, yes, chicken — finds its way into squirrel stew and other foods.
Joey Inthavong, an immigrant from Thailand who lives in Rochester, collects hundreds of squirrels from the slam every year. He insisted the quality of the local squirrels was excellent.
“They live outside, eat apples, like deer, eat good food,” Mr. Inthavong said. “Not like in the city — they eat garbage.”
Lawyers for Ms. Sheive, who declined to comment, said it was not clear how many squirrels were killed during the slam. They are seeking to stop the event until the effect of the “large number of squirrels killed in a small geographic area in a short span of time” is determined, said Ross M. Kramer, a partner at Winston & Strawn, a Park Avenue law firm in Manhattan.
Regardless of the looming legal action, the slam proceeded on Saturday, though without the Holley Fire Department after previous protests. Kevin Dann, the fire chief, said his company was “100 percent uninvolved.”
“People in New York City don’t like that we hunt up here,” he said.
Instead, the event was transferred to an Elks Lodge in Brockport, a college town on the Erie Canal, about 20 miles west of Rochester. Most of the participants were experienced hunters — rifles and high-powered pellet guns being the weapons of choice — and had war stories about their nimble prey.
“They’re like little ninjas,” said Brett Jacobson, an avid hunter from Greece, N.Y. He noted that squirrels often scare off deer during that hunting season. “They’re obnoxious,” he said.
All told, New York has more than 500,000 licensed hunters — including 30,000 squirrel hunters. The participants in Saturday’s slam worked in a range of professions, including public-school teachers, salesmen and small-business people. Many chatted amiably in the hall of the Elks Lodge, drinking draft beer and buying raffle tickets.
Mr. Bauer, the hunter who helps organize the event, is a mechanic. He says the event draws all kinds of people — “fathers and daughters, 60-year-old brothers, husbands and wives.” And sure enough, a steady stream of hunters arrived in the late afternoon, bearing boxes and plastic bags full of squirrels.
The squirrels were handed off to a team of women called “squirrel girls,” who weighed them on digital scales as Mr. Bauer recorded weights. The winning team — teenagers from Kendall, N.Y. — brought in the heaviest individual squirrel (nearly two pounds), and five squirrels that weighed more than seven pounds total.
Mr. Bauer said it had been a tough day to hunt, driving rain and wind, but a good day for the slam: All of the money raised — from $10 tickets, raffles and the like — would go to the local Elks, who said they would use it for causes like helping veterans and fighting cerebral palsy.
Many of the hunters said they understood that squirrel hunts may not be for everyone, particularly those in cities, where the animals are more likely to be in a park than your barn.
“It’s a country thing,” said Rich Ezell, 62, who hunted with his son-in-law, adding that the event was for a good cause. “I wouldn’t shoot them just to shoot them.”
A View To A Kill
By Michael Satchell
The Humane Society of the United States
What weighs 21 pounds, contains 2,560 pages, and lists thousands of names and numbers? It’s not the New York City telephone directory, but here’s a hint: Its listings run from Addax to Zebra.
The answer is Safari Club International’s three-volume compendium of trophy hunters who are immortalized in this record book for doing nothing more than killing animalsóan entire alphabet of animalsóto win SCI awards competitions. The catalog is a macabre scorecard detailing who shot what animal, where and when. Thousands and thousands of animals, covering more than 1,100 species, are figuratively buried between the covers here.
You can learn, for example, that in 1910 in the Sudan, Theodore Roosevelt killed a rhino whose horns measured 24 4/8 inches and 7 4/8 inches, scoring 67 1/8 points to make the former U.S. president the No.1 hunter of Northern white rhino. Or that one Marc Pechenart shot an elephant in the Central African Republic in June 1970, earning a score of 302 points for the biggest pachyderm. The animal’s left tusk weighed 154 pounds and the right 148 pounds.
With its photographs of grinning hunters posing with lifeless animals and its meticulous rankings for the biggest tusks, horns, antlers, skulls and bodies, the SCI record book perfectly encapsulates what trophy hunting is all about: killing for killing’s sake. The book lays bare the hunters’ obsessions: a craving to shoot the largest animal, a desire to kill the most animals and rack up SCI awards, or a fetish to bring home the animal’s head and hang it on the wall.
The mother of all these obsessions, though, is the awards competition. SCI members shoot prescribed lists of animals to win so-called Grand Slam and Inner Circle titles. Thereís the Africa Big Five, (leopard, elephant, lion, rhino, and buffalo); the North American Twenty Nine (all species of bear, bison, sheep, moose, caribou, and deer); and the Antlered Game of the Americas, among many other contests.
To complete all 29 award categories, a hunter must kill a minimum of 322 separate species and sub-speciesóenough to populate an entire zoo. This is an extremely expensive and lengthy task, and many SCI members take the quick and easy route. They shoot captive animals in canned hunts, both in the United States and overseas, and some engage in other unethical conduct like shooting animals over bait, from vehicles, with spotlights, or on the periphery of national parks.
Wayne Pacelle, HSUS senior vice president for communications and government affairs, captures the essence of SCI members and their motivation:
“It’s a perverse and destructive subculture,” he says. “Thousands of animals suffer and die for the amusement of wealthy elites who have the means to pursue any form of recreation, but choose to shoot the world’s rarest and most beautiful animals. There’s no societal value to the exercise, just a selfish all-consuming mentality of killing, collecting, and showing off trophies. They know the price of every animal, but the value of none.”
It’s easy to parody and criticize Safari Club International, but it’s a mistake to underestimate the club’s power and influence on shaping policies that are detrimental to wildlifeóand beneficial to those members who stand tall over freshly killed animals in the SCI record books.
Since it was founded in 1971, the Tucson-based non-profit has grown to some 40,000 trophy collectors. More than half boast an annual income of more than $100,000 (compared to 6% of hunters nationwide). The average member owns 11 rifles, six shotguns, five handguns and a bow. Two-thirds spend about one month hunting each year, and a quarter of the members more than 50 days.
The club contributes large sums to mostly Republican candidates and, not surprisingly, has been able to ingratiate itself with various administrations, most notably the Bush Administration, and with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). With the help of friendly members of Congress and officials in USFWS, SCI has consistently attempted to navigate around the intent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and import once-banned trophies of endangered and threatened wildlife. Sometimes, the club has succeeded, sometimes not.
The latest example of SCI’s growing influence in Washington is the Bush Administration’s initiative to “save” the world’s endangered species by killing or selling them, and then using the revenues as an incentive for poor countries to improve their conservation efforts. This scheme to protect rare wildlife is a formula for disaster. It will reverse 30 years of ESA protections for hundreds of exotic creatures who are heading for, or teetering on, the brink of extinction.
The proposal, which conveniently dovetails with SCI’s agenda, offers several examples of how wildlife can be exploited for profit. It suggests imports, such as wild-caught Asian elephants for circuses and zoos, Morelet’s crocodile skins for luxury leather items like shoes and handbags, and Asian bonytongue tropical fish to supply the aquarium trade. American trophy hunters could shoot and import trophies of straight-horned markhor, a rare goat found in Pakistan, and then head north on a quickie expedition to nail Canadian wood bison.
These are only examples. If approved, the proposal portends open season on many disappearing species, particularly large mammals, the so-called charismatic megafauna. It would also be a huge incentive for poaching and smuggling. Imagine how much rich trophy hunters would offer China to shoot giant pandasóarguably the world’s most beloved animalóif they were allowed to import their stuffed remains. Picture furriers importing the hides of endangered snow leopards to swathe the ethically challenged. And now that pet tigers have earned a bad rap, might cheetahs become the newest rage among exotic pet owners?
For three decades and under strict controls, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed only a few rare animals, such as pandas, to be brought in for scientific research and breeding. Until SCI began to push its agenda in Congress and at the Interior Department, USFWS very rarely approved the importation of endangered-species trophies. Now, the agency is proposing not only to ease those trophy import restrictions but also to allow the import of live animals for entertainment (or the pet trade) and the import of skins and hides for luxury apparel.
Such a plan goes against USFWS’s historic rationale, which quite correctly notes that fostering a commercial market for disappearing wildlife will inevitably hasten its demise.
No Trickle-Down Economics
Encouraging the sale and import of heads, hides, and live animals to enhance survival efforts in the wild may sound logicalóuntil you examine the sorry history of other purported “sustainable” wildlife-use programs. The record shows that few of the dollars trickle down to benefit either wildlife or local people in the impoverished range states because corrupt officials inevitably divert the money.
During the 1990s, in a well-intentioned-but-misguided conservation effort, the U.S. government spent more than $12 million to underwrite sustainable wildlife-use programs in Zimbabwe. The idea was to give local people the opportunity to raise money for community projects by selling hunting permits for African elephants. The program ended up subsidizing trophy hunting, and little of their trophy fees reached the villages.
USFWS’s new endangered species proposal doesn’t offer much hope to alter this historical course. Despite agency assurances, the plan isn’t the product of careful scientific assessment or innovative thinking. It’s driven, in large part, by the working relationship between the Bush Administration and SCI, and by the administration’s apparent hostility toward the Endangered Species Act.
SCI’s membership includes former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who has lobbied the government of Botswana on the group’s behalf to lift the ban on killing the nation’s dwindling lion population. What’s more, President George W. Bush appointed Matthew J. Hogan, SCI’s former Government Affairs Manager, as one of the two current deputy directors of USFWSóa classic example of the fox guarding the hen house. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, in turn, has worked to weaken the ESA, from abandoning federal efforts to restore grizzlies in Idaho to undermining a key provision that allows citizens to sue the government to speed up protection of imperiled species.
Aiming High…Shooting Low
SCI got off to a shaky start during its early forays into Washington politics. In 1979, when the organization was not even a decade old, it sought government approval to circumvent the spirit of the law and import an astonishing 1,125 trophies of 40 animals on the endangered species list. They included gorillas, cheetahs, tigers, orangutans, and snow leopards.
With a straight face, SCI said its goal was “scientific researchÖincentive for propagationÖsurvival of the species.” There was one small problem. The trophies weren’t dead yet. The prospect of permitting the wholesale slaughter of more than 1,000 rare animals was a bit too much, even for USFWS, and the request was denied.
As its lobbying became more sophisticated, SCI began pouring money into national political campaigns. Since the 1998 election cycle, it has contributed $596,696 to Republican candidates and $92,500 to Democrats. Not coincidentally, Congressional Republicans have made repeated attempts to amend and weaken the ESA, while USFWS, turning its back on decades of precedents, has proposed to allow hunters to import trophies of endangered animals killed in the wild. These import easements are critical to one of SCI’s true aims.
All those pictures in the SCI record books, and in the club’s glossy magazines like Safari and Hunt Forever, are a form of pornography to the blood sports crowd. Would-be big-game hunters can pore over photos of triumphant and sated trophy collectors holding up the head of a dead ungulate by its horns or standing atop the hulk of a dead elephant or posing with a dead leopard draped around his neck. But like all pornography, the image is never enough. The hunter eventually wants a taste of the real thing. And, of course, he must have a trophy to savor the experience.
As former SCI president John J. Jackson III once wrote: “A trophy of any species attests that its owner has been somewhere and done something, that he has exercised skilled persistence and discrimination in the agile feat of overcoming, outwitting, and reducing game to possession.”
Trophy collectors may rhapsodize about their spiritual love for the quarry, the hunter’s path to self-actualization, the thrill of the chase, the test of manhood, and other such philosophical jabberwocky. But at the end of the day, and after a $65,000 safari, the only thing that matters is hanging that head on the wallóand the rarer the animal, the better it feels.
An example: Kenneth E. Behring, who donated $100 million to have the Smithsonian memorialize him with the Behring Family Hall of Mammals on the Washington D.C. Mall, went to Kazakhstan in 1997 and paid the government enough to allow him to shoot a Kara Tau argali sheep.
The animal, even SCI acknowledges, is critically endangered; the species is listed on CITES Appendix I and can not be imported into the United States as a trophy without the help of a museum. Behring, who like all SCI members, regards himself as a conservationist, killed his Kara Tau argali when only 100 remained and shipped it to a Canadian taxidermist. The Smithsonian then petitioned USFWS for an import permit, but withdrew the request in the storm of negative publicity that followed.
But Behring isn’t the only SCI member with questionable ethics. Back when Teddy Roosevelt was laying waste to Africa’s wildlife, hunting may have embraced those mythic elements that SCI still loves to invoke: a Hemingway-esque mantra of danger, romance, bravery, and the thrill of slaying the beast.
On today’s safari, however, the customer is coddled in luxury tent camps, replete with flush toilets, hot showers and gourmet dining. All he (or she) has to do is shell out tens of thousands of dollars, pull the trigger when instructed, and pose for the money shot. He doesn’t even get blood on his hands. A professional guide stalks the target, lines up the shot, tells the client when to take it, acts as a backup shooter if the animal is wounded, and supervises the gutting, skinning and decapitation.
And that’s in the wild. From South Africa to New Zealand to Texas, many of these trophy collectors shoot captive animals in canned hunts staged in fenced paddocks on game ranches, a practice the Boone and Crockett Club calls “unfair and unsportsmanlike.” The animals are habituated to humans and are shot at feeding stations, salt licks and watering holes. The “spirit of fair chase,” supposedly enshrined in SCI’s code of ethics, is conveniently ignored.
SCI’s highly flexible “fair chase” code also urges members to “comply with all game laws and demonstrate abiding respect for game, habitat and property.” That admonition regularly falls on deaf ears.
In 1998, several top SCI leaders, including Behring and then-president Alfred Donau, reportedly went on a wildlife killing spree in Mozambique. According to a published report, they left animals wounded and dying and shot elephants in alleged violation of national law. Other SCI members have been convicted of killing endangered species and trying to smuggle them into the U.S.
Wealthy hunters, including SCI members, have also been caught in federal tax scams. In one celebrated case, a museum in Raleigh, North Carolina, gave trophy hunters the title of “associate curator,” which helped them persuade foreign officials to grant permits to shoot rare animals. Hunters went on to donate low-value trophies to the museum and receive wildly inflated appraisals, which were then deducted from their federal taxes. In some cases, the mounts were reacquired by the donors. Before authorities busted the ring, the museum took in 1,800 specimens and valued them at a whopping $8.4 million. At SCI’s 1999 annual convention, members were offered a document titled Secrets of Tax Deductible Hunting, advising them to declare their home trophy rooms as museums, call themselves curators, and “donate your record-book animal for the mouthwatering tax deduction.”
Incidents like these fuel the club’s negative image. Most Americans are largely ambivalent about hunting wild animals for food, but polls show strong public opposition to killing exotic animals for fun, competition, and bragging rights. To counter this perception and burnish its reputation, the club donates meat to food banks, stages “sensory safaris” where the vision-impaired can touch and feel stuffed animals, and arranges hunting for the disabled.
To Matthew Scully, author of the highly acclaimed book Dominion, such window dressing is humbug. “They practice a socially conscious sadism here,” Scully writes. “Ethics at the Safari Club is ordered libertinism, like teaching cannibals to use a table napkin and not take the last portion.”
– Michael Satchell is a senior consultant for The HSUS.
An American who carried out a hunt in Canada is facing the wrath of animal rights activists after he posted a video capturing the kill on YouTube.
Josh Bowmar, who lives in Ohio, used a spear to slay a black bear, which is legal in Canada. Bowmar was immediately met with criticism after posting the video, but he was also quick to fire right back.
Masha Kalinina, of Humane Society International, said the animal was “heartlessly slaughtered for fun.”
“No-one could argue there is any skill involved here, no exhibition of hunting prowess, and certainly this has nothing to do with conservation as trophy hunters often argue,” Kalinina added. “This is pure selfish blood lust, a desire for a thrill and a trophy at the expense of an innocent life.”
Bowmar, however, ensured that the bear, which he described as “extremely nutritious,” was not wasted in any way. Likewise, Bowmar said those scoffing at his hunt should be ashamed of themselves for “for trying to kill a heritage that has existed for over a million years.”
Not only that, Bowmar detailed the skill involved in such a hunt, despite Kalinina’s claim that there was none involved.