By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Despite ecological devastation, habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, poaching and all the other threats that undermine the ability of wild animals to survive in their natural habitats, Europe’s largest hunting fair opened this week in Dortmund, Germany.
Considering the imminent danger these threats pose to the survival of wildlife all over the world, it is absurd that more than 80 national and international exhibitors from Canada, Argentina, Namibia, South Africa, Germany, Spain, Poland and others, have assembled at Jagd & Hund 2023 to sell trophy hunting trips. A twisted form of entertainment rooted in wealth and spectacle, trophy hunting expeditions shuttle customers, who pay top dollar to a select few, into foreign (often poorer) countries so they can shoot and kill charismatic animal species in their home ranges: Elephants, lions, tigers, leopards, rhinos, polar bears and other beloved species all often fall victim to these hunts.
Exposing hunting conventions that glorify animal killing helps to raise awareness concerning the conservation threat posed to the hundreds of species, many endangered or even critically endangered, targeted by trophy hunters, as well as the suffering of hundreds of thousands of individual animals brutally slaughtered by trophy hunters each year. But we’re doing much more to confront this scourge. In addition to exposing hunting fairs, we seek to modify trophy import policies as a way of protecting animals; without the ability to bring back a whole animal or an animal part, trophy hunters are typically less enthusiastic about these expeditions.
The European Union is the second largest importer of hunting trophies from internationally regulated mammals (“regulated” means the species are considered at-risk or nearly at-risk of extinction by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), behind the United States, which imports more trophies from such species than any other country.
It's imperative that governments and travel companies come to understand that trophy hunting is both devastating to animal welfare and conservation and increasingly out of touch with reality. Killing iconic animals whose populations are already under serious pressure can have far-reaching damaging biological and ecological impacts in habitats already riddled with other environmental crises.
It’s no wonder that there is overwhelming public opposition to trophy hunting. Opinion polls show that most EU citizens (over 80%) oppose trophy hunting and want to end trophy imports. In South Africa, one of the most popular destinations for trophy hunters, 68% of the respondents oppose trophy hunting. The Wildlife Animal Protection Forum South Africa, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, wrote an open letter to the Mayor of Dortmund opposing Jagd & Hund 2023. The letter was signed by more than 90 supportive organizations and was endorsed by world renowned wildlife conservationists, wildlife veterinarians, international dignitaries, politicians and environmental lawyers.
Many governments and industry leaders have responded to public opposition by ending their involvement in the trophy hunting industry. Some of the world's largest travel providers, including Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Expedia Group, for example, called on the South African government to end trophy hunting and focus on a wildlife-friendly future. In Italy, the Italian Exhibition Group SpA recently cancelled Italy’s largest hunting fair because such an event contradicted the company’s ecological values.
In the public policy arena, the evidence of our gains is especially strong. The European Parliament recently positioned itself in favor of an EU-wide ban on the import of hunting trophies. The Netherlands, Finland and France already ban the import of hunting trophies of certain species. And in the United States, we’re forging ahead with our own ambitious agenda for reform in the 118th Congress.
While Jagd & Hund 2023 celebrates the destruction of life by booking hunters on future animal killing sprees, you can take action to shape a world where trophy hunting is nothing but a bad memory, and wildlife tourism involves shooting cameras instead of guns:
- Currently, in the U.S., we are advocating for new Endangered Species Act regulations that would better control the importation of African elephants and their parts into the country. You can send a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of this proposal for elephants.
- You can also urge the U.S. to list hippos under the Endangered Species Act to help protect them from hunters.
- If you’re in Europe, you can sign a petition urging the European Parliament to stop trophy imports.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.