‘There’s no sport in that’: trophy hunters and the masters of the universe
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Two years after Cecil the Lion was killed by a hunter, his son Xanda has suffered the same fate. Oliver Milman talks to hunters in the US and finds that the community is increasingly divided over what hunting really means
Theyre known as canned hunts; captive mammal hunting ranches in the US which offer the chance to shoot a zebra or antelope or even a lion for several thousand dollars. The animals are fenced in and often unafraid of humans so the kills are easy, to the extent that some venues even provide the option of shooting them via the internet, with the use of a camera and a gun on a mount.
Its estimated that there are more than 1,000 of them – completely legal. But many US hunters consider them a betrayal of every belief they hold dear. I dont consider that hunting, said John Rogalo, a New Jersey hunter who has been stalking bears, deer and turkeys for nearly 50 years. Its a weird culture that has developed in this country in the past few years. I joke that you may as well ask the farmer if you could shoot his black Angus because at least youd get more meat for it.
Rogalo is firmly on one side of an ever-deepening divide in the hunting community one of the longest and proudest traditions in US culture. He considers himself part of a proud lineage of conservation-minded hunters whose totem is Theodore Roosevelt, the former president and avid outdoorsman. Roosevelt and his contemporaries invoked a mantra of fair chase which they defined as an ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit that does not give the hunter some sort of improper advantage over the prey. He would call himself a true hunter.
Hunters view it as a sport, you may take days or weeks tracking your quarry … If you didnt get anything, that didnt matter. It was the pursuit that counts, says Craig Packer, a zoologist best known for his work on lions in south and east Africa.