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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Trump Jr.’s Mongolia gambit fuels public outcry, Congressional action against trophy hunting

The news that Donald Trump Jr. had killed an imperiled species of sheep for a trophy in Mongolia in August 2019, without a permit, was shocking but not a surprise. American trophy hunters are accustomed to traveling the world to slay animals with impunity. 

Argali-sheep-blog-300x200
Photo courtesy Publicdomainphotos-Dreamstime.com

But they can no longer do so without public scrutiny. The broad outcry over Trump Jr.’s secret trophy hunt reinforces the point that most Americans disapprove of killing threatened and endangered species, something they’ve signaled again and again since the killing of Cecil the lion in 2015. Over the last few years, we’ve been blessed to see the emergence of a strong and unified cultural intolerance for such indiscriminate slaughter by American hunters of wealth and privilege.

Congress is paying attention and has recently introduced legislation designed to halt American trophy hunters’ reckless rampage across the globe and their senseless killing of animal species already under threat. The Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act of 2019 would prohibit both the import of trophies and the hunting in the U.S. of threatened and endangered species.

Sadly, our country is the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, including federally protected species that our nation spends millions of taxpayer dollars to protect. Certainly, we must do all that we can to address the external pressures of poaching, habitat loss, and other human-caused mortality now driving many animal species toward extinction. But restricting trophy hunting of ESA-listed species would be an especially vital contribution to genuinely protect such animals throughout the world.

The ProTECT Act has received a strong boost in the form of scientific findings and public support from the academic community. Not long ago, a group of scientists challenged a letter published in Science, which emphasized the benefits of trophy hunting to conservation, on the grounds that the information presented was false and that some of the letter’s authors were closely tied to the trophy hunting industry. 

For many of us, and plenty of hunters, there is an important distinction between the action of a trophy hunter who kills imperiled species for fun and to get a “trophy” to take home to put on display, and that of hunters who kill to put food on the table. Opinion polls conducted in the U.S suggest that American hunters see trophy hunting as the least acceptable reason to kill an animal, with 72 percent of the hunting community denouncing it.

For years, anxious to defend the lax legal and enforcement policies of the animals’ home range nations, trophy hunters have paradoxically claimed that America has no business trying to dictate or intervene in other countries’ affairs. Yet, they have also argued that local communities are highly dependent on trophy hunting’s single-source revenues and boasted about the degree to which their killing of animals drives conservation incentives.

Now, however, there’s a new bulwark against such misrepresentation in the form of emerging alternatives that better support America’s foreign aid goals of stability, anti-corruption, and sustainable economic growth in local economies where trophy hunting takes place. The evidence of benefits and value tied to non-lethal wildlife related tourism is growing.

Public support is the bedrock of our successes in Washington, D.C., and you are our most powerful ally in instituting meaningful change. With growing bipartisan support, the ProTECT Act of 2019 represents an opportunity to bring about the demise of trophy hunting and to promote and strengthen ecologically and economically superior options like wildlife tourism. When Congress returns after the holiday break, we’re going to hit the ground running in our campaign to advance this exciting measure.  And we’re going to need your continued, sustained engagement to stop trophy hunting dead in its tracks.

Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the ProTECT Act

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