Sport and Trophy Hunting

Chapter 7
Sport and Trophy Hunting


This chapter examines sport and trophy hunting and the associated traditions of violence and dominion over animals inherent in these activities as a cause of animal harm. It examines the link between trophy hunting, masculinities and identity, and the illegality of much big game hunting (i.e. the killing of protected species or killing that takes place in contravention of regulations). It also examines how sport tourism and the commercial killing of wildlife for sport constitute a distinct type of crime and criminal behaviour.


While it is important to note that sport and trophy hunting are not inherently unlawful, research indicates that illegality and corruption are endemic in the sport and trophy hunting industries. Separate from the lawful killing of small numbers of animals carried out under permit and quota systems, a wider problem of the illegal killing of protected animals and collection or harvesting of their parts for trophies or animal products exists. Trophy hunting thus contributes to other illegal trades and has implications beyond its immediate animal harm activities.


The chapter also discusses the myth of trophy hunting as either being for conservation purposes or contributing to the conservation of rare species. It discusses how trophy and big game hunting also involve other types of criminal behaviour such as fraud and bribery where those involved are driven in pursuit of rarer, endangered species. Illegal trophy hunting can involve either making profits from dealing in animal carcasses (e.g. supplying the ivory or Asian medicine markets) or the masculinities driven trophy and memorabilia aspects of killing a protected species of big game for personal satisfaction.


Defining Sport and Trophy Hunting


Sport and trophy hunting evoke strong feelings among their supporters and opponents. Public debate about trophy hunting often centres on questions of morality concerning the ‘sport’ elements of such hunting and the extent to which money paid by hunters benefits game animal populations and the local economy.


Big game hunting is predominantly an African concern, closely associated with wildlife safaris in the African countries of Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lindsey et al. (2006) identify 23 African countries as having hunting industries with the largest in South Africa generating revenues of US$100 million a year (revenues paid to operators and taxidermists). However, big game ranches exist in other parts of the world and animals have been brought, for example, from African and Asian countries to the United States to populate ranches and safari parks (Green 1999) and Palazy et al. identify that ‘especially in Texas’ some species considered to be extinct in the wild are available for hunting in US ranches (2011: 5). Lindsey et al. (2012) identify that hunting safaris are usually sold in packages based on the key ‘Big 5’ species; those which are the five most prized specimens for hunters; the rhino, the elephant, the leopard, the lion and the Cape buffalo. Some rarer antelope species are also prized by hunters. While many of these species are prevented from being traded due to their CITES status as endangered, they may be legally shot in certain limited circumstances in African countries where populations are considered by local authorities to be stable and well managed, and where there is economic benefit in allowing a certain level of hunting. Indeed, given the availability of hunting licences as a saleable commodity, professional hunting companies have emerged to provide commercial hunting trips to Africa, offering big game shooting experiences for consumers from anywhere in the world willing to pay for an ‘authentic’ wildlife safari. As a result, trophy hunting has become a legitimate form of sport tourism adding to the economy of African or sub-continent countries where the exploitation of such natural resources has become an economic (and sometimes political) necessity.1


This chapter distinguishes sport and trophy hunting from the traditional hunting and shooting activities discussed in Chapter 5 by defining sport hunting as a commercially driven activity where individuals pay to hunt animals in a sporting context. The traditional hunting activities discussed in Chapter 5 have their origins in subsistence hunting and the killing of animals for food and even in their commercialized form have some links to supplying meat or fish for consumption. While contemporary food production methods mean that such hunting is no longer necessary except perhaps in remote rural areas where trappers and hunters live off the land and in the case of subsistence hunting by indigenous peoples (as discussed by Chapter 6), game laws have developed from traditional forms of hunting to specify a range of animals classed as game which can be legally shot or otherwise killed primarily for food consumption purposes. Commercial shooting operations such as the grouse and pheasant shooting estates of the UK have thus adapted traditional hunting to commercialized sporting hunting where only a limited proportion of the animals killed will enter the food market.


By contrast, the basis of sport and trophy hunting is power, masculinities and recreation. Sport and trophy hunters are predominantly male and tend to target larger males for shooting (Short and Balaban 1994, Palazy et al. 2012), thus overtly exercising male power over less powerful males; those animals selected for hunting purposes. However the perception of certain animals as having equal power, in particular the ‘Big 5’, is also a factor where hunting males positively wish to assert their dominance over a competitor. An important aspect of recreational gun culture, masculine notions of the right to hunt and to exercise power over others is the extent to which the use of violence is an appropriate means of resolving conflicts (see Chapters 3 and 4). Such ideas are ingrained in some aspects of western society where masculinities and the social acceptance of male power influence the extent to which male violence and perspectives on male dominance are generally accepted as a social norm although excessive use of violence is criminalized and socially unacceptable. However within such societal constructs certain males will naturally be attracted to activities which emphasize the expression of male power and male behaviours. Big game hunting, for example, sometimes places the hunter at personal risk and incorporates a range of stereotypical male behaviours relating to aggression, dominance and the thrill of chasing after an animal in its natural environment where nominally, at least, it should have the upper hand.


Trophy Hunting and Territorial Dominance


Palazy et al. (2012) explain that in contrast to subsistence hunting where survival or providing for others are factors, ‘trophy hunting consists of killing few animals, for recreational purposes, both for pleasure, that is the experience of the hunt, and in order to collect and display trophies made of horns, antlers, skulls, tusks or teeth’ (2012: 4). The hunting experience is expressly sold by a number of safari or big game hunting tour operators as a means of ensuring that hunters will not only be able to participate in hunting activities but crucially will be able to relive the experience through collecting and retaining trophies. Horns, antlers, skulls, etc. serve as a permanent reminder of the hunter’s victory but can also act as a memory trigger, taking the hunter back to his victory and dominance over the animal and allowing him to relive the experience. Thus, both the act of hunting and the removal and retention of a trophy are explicit acts of dominance and integral to the trophy hunting experience and its continued significance to the hunter. As a result it both appeals to and is marketed at a particular personality type who seeks more challenging and memorable game rather than the lower level recreational hunter whose interest may be more in shooting as an activity than the specific type of target and experience offered by trophy hunting. Trophy hunting’s reliance on species which offer trophy opportunities represents an incursion into wild areas not entirely controlled by man and is recognized by animal rights theory as direct predation against animals of a type that goes beyond simple killing. Francione argues that humans should simply leave animals alone (2008: 13) and that a ‘hands off’ approach to animals combined with strict prohibitions on direct harm would provide a minimal animal rights framework. Yet man generally exercises control over animal habitats, not only through the encroachment of human developments on areas where traditionally animals have held sovereignty by being free to handle their own affairs (which can include killing each other where necessary for survival), which sometimes forces animals to relocate, but also by actively managing many areas where animals live free. Trophy hunting represents interference in the lives of wild animals of a type that does not exist in companion animals; given the fact that the wild animals involved in trophy hunting generally exist separate from human developments and that one aspect of the activity is that attempts are made to provide animals that are as ‘wild’ as possible. Dunayer suggests that separate from the right not to be murdered by humans ‘the most important right for free nonhumans probably is the right to their habitats’ (2004: 143). Yet the conflicting interests of man and animal are such that, in some cases, the only way that some natural habitats can be preserved is by attaching value to them in the form of assigning property or other rights. Donaldson and Kymlicka (2011) argue that wild animals form their own sovereign communities which are entitled to protection against colonization, invasion, domination and other threats to self-determination. However interference with animals’ sovereignty is an integral part of animal hunting and provides a means of exerting territorial dominance over the world’s last remaining wild areas. Thus while animals may generally be left to their natural behaviours in wildlife parks and game reserves, their autonomy is limited to the extent that it is allowed by man and may be periodically (temporarily) revoked.


In practice game reserves and other wilderness areas often fall within the remit of the relevant government’s conservation or wildlife authority and are managed either for tourism or wildlife exploitation through the sale, lease or temporary purchase of hunting or fishing rights. Thus while animals might be deemed by animal rights theorists to either have natural property rights or to be entitled to claim such rights (Hadley 2005) they lack permanent sovereign control of their territory and hunting provides a means by which this lack of sovereignty is reinforced through hunters’ territorial dominance.


Species justice perspectives and Donaldson and Kymlicka’s animal citizenship arguments (2011) suggest that formal recognition of animal sovereignty would limit man’s interference with or exploitation of wild animals. Donaldson and Kymlicka propose a new model of animal citizenship which suggests removing animals from human stewardship and to instead develop a sovereignty model for wild animals based ‘on the capacity of animals to pursue their own good, and to shape their own communities’ (2011: 170). This model extends the basic animal rights perspective by recognizing the right of wild animals to be present as permanent residents of natural environment areas on the basis of sovereign citizenship, and provides a check on human activity and interventions in the wild by allocating territory and limiting human interventions in a sovereign animal community.


Donaldson and Kymlicka’s proposal represents an attempt to develop animal rights discourse beyond discussion of direct violence towards animals and to address the complexities of human relations with wild animals (2011: 205). However, within these complexities attitudes towards animals and natural habitats exist that cannot be resolved solely through a rights or citizenship framework and which are closely associated with masculinities and perspectives on power relationships. Thus illegal hunting takes place not solely because legislation does not provide for effective animal protection or rights but because it provides a means through which individuals who wish to commit violence and exert power over the vulnerable (which includes big game animals) are provided with a means to do so and can express their desires. While legal trophy hunting is theoretically controlled, one theme emerging from this book’s discussion of different animal harm activities is that legal animal harm frequently facilitates illegal animal harm and encourages the development of illegal activities where profit and demand for animal harm are possible. Thus the principle that animals may be killed for sport and trophy purposes not only makes it likely that individuals will wish to do so but also makes it likely that entrepreneurs wishing to make larger profits will find a way to bypass any regulations and further develop the hunting market. But even where strict prohibitions on killing animals are in force individuals disposed towards such activities will continue to break the law where they are able to legitimize their activities through the techniques of neutralization and justification discussed in Chapter 3, or where the killing of animals serves some personal need to do so and they are sufficiently motivated to find a means to fulfil this need.