American Public Roars After It Gets a Glimpse of International Trophy Hunting of Lions

By on July 29, 2015 with 29 Comments

Cecil the lion is dead because Walter Palmer the dentist is a morally deadened human being.

The man traveled clear across the world – from the suburbs of Minneapolis into the pay-to-slay world of Zimbabwe, where dictator Robert Mugabe sells off hunting rights and other natural resources to the highest bidders – for the chance to kill the king of beasts. In this case, the victim was a lion who has been widely photographed and somewhat habituated to a non-threatening human presence in Hwange National Park. The hunt was a “guaranteed kill” arrangement, where Palmer paid about $50,000 to hire professional guides to help him complete the task. The local guides knew exactly what they were doing. In the dark of night, they lure a famed, black-maned lion from an otherwise protected area, with a dead carcass as bait. Palmer then stuck Cecil with an arrow.

Even though he’s used that weapon to kill countless other rare animals all over the globe – from leopards to black bears to Argali sheep – Palmer didn’t deliver a killing shot. He wounded the animal, and because he did it at night, I bet he didn’t have the courage to track the animal at that time. So he waited, while the lion tried to live minute to minute and hour to hour after receiving the stab wound from the arrow. At some point, Walter and the professional guides resumed the chase. It took them nearly two days to find him, and then they apparently shot him with a firearm. The killers then removed a radio collar nestled around his neck – because Cecil was also the object of a study by Oxford researchers. Some reports say they tried to disable the signal from the collar, unsuccessfully. The team took the customary pictures of the westerner guy standing atop a beautiful, muscled animal, and then they decapitated and skinned him, as keepsakes for Palmer’s global crossing in order to conduct a pointless killing.

The lion is one of Safari Club International’s Africa Big Five, along with elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo, and the idea of killing each of them motivates thousands of wealthy people to do it. It’s one of more than 30 hunting achievement and “inner circle” awards you can get if you become a member of Safari Club – including Cats of the World, Bears of the World, and Antlered Game of North America. If you win all of the awards, and there are plenty people who do, you have to shoot more than 320 different species and subspecies of large animals. In the process, you spend millions of dollars, in addition to spilling an awful lot of blood and spreading a lot of death.

Partly because of the dramatic decline in lion populations, and also to stop heartless and selfish people like Palmer from meting out so much pain and suffering, The HSUS and HSI filed a petition four years ago to protect lions under the terms of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to its credit, proposed a rule to list the lions as threatened.

The United States is the world’s largest importer of African lion parts as hunting trophies and for commercial purposes. Between 1999 and 2013, the United States imported about 5,763 wild-source lions just for hunting trophy purposes; this averages to 378 wild-source lions per year. Worse, this number has increased in recent years. That’s a lot of Walter Palmers doing ugly things.

The Oxford University study Cecil was part of was looking into the impact of sports hunting on lions living in the safari area surrounding the national park. The research found that 34 of 62 tagged lions died during the study period. Of these, 24 were shot by sport hunters.

When we think of Bengal or Siberian tigers, we think of big cats nearing extinction. We should think the same way about lions, since their populations have been plummeting. They are in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

For most of us, when we learn they are in crisis, we want to help — to protect them from harm, because we empathize with their plight.

But for one subculture in the U.S., when wildlife are rare, that means they want to rush in and kill them precisely because they can do something that few others can.  It’s like the rush of trophy hunters to Canada to shoot polar bears when the United States announced it planned to list them. “Let me shoot a polar bear before they are all gone!” They want to distinguish themselves from others who live in the world of competitive hunting.

Sadly, Cecil’s story is not unique – American hunters kill hundreds of African lions each year and are contributing to the steady decline of the species.  Today we sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which recently took steps to protect chimpanzees and African elephants, urging the agency to make final its regulation to upgrade the legal status of lions, to restrict people from trekking to Africa and bringing back their parts for no good reason. Not for food.  For vanity. For ego gratification. And because they are morally deadened.

Ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to protect African lions from extinction »

Editor’s note: This version has updated numbers on wild-source lions trophy-hunted each year.

Breaking News: Cheesecake Factory Makes Major Announcement on Gestation Crates, Cage-Free Eggs

By on July 28, 2015 with 1 Comment
Breaking News: Cheesecake Factory Makes Major Announcement on Gestation Crates, Cage-Free Eggs

The Cheesecake Factory—a restaurant chain with nearly 200 locations—announced it is embracing the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare for its farm animal procurement program. The first steps include eliminating pork from operations that use gestation crates by 2020 (two years ahead of its earlier announced timeframe) and switching exclusively to cage-free eggs with a timeline that . . . 

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Breaking News: Nepalese Organizers Announce an End to the World’s Bloodiest Animal Sacrifice Spectacle

By on July 28, 2015 with 10 Comments
Breaking News: Nepalese Organizers Announce an End to the World’s Bloodiest Animal Sacrifice Spectacle

A few months back, I wrote with burning anger and sadness about the world’s largest animal sacrifice, Nepal’s Gadhimai festival, an event held every five years that results in an orgy of killing – nearly half a million animals slaughtered in the open air. Today, I have extraordinary and unexpected news: Humane Society International/India and . . . 

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MARC’ed Progress

By on July 27, 2015 with 2 Comments
MARC’ed Progress

In January, with an inside view from a long-serving, whistleblowing veterinarian, The New York Times exposed appallingly cruel and unnecessary experimentation on farm animals at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), a government-run laboratory in Nebraska. Reporter Michael Moss documented scientists at the Center locking pigs in steam chambers until they died, breeding calves . . . 

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Breaking News: Obama Announces Landmark Commercial Trade Ban on Ivory

By on July 25, 2015 with 26 Comments
Breaking News: Obama Announces Landmark Commercial Trade Ban on Ivory

With Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Barack Obama announced that the United States will take urgently needed steps to curtail wildlife trafficking and address the devastating elephant poaching crisis, issuing a proposed rule that will establish a near-complete ban on the commercial ivory trade in America. The president made his remarks just minutes ago in . . . 

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Korea Dog Meat Trade Survivors Settle Down in Forever Homes

By on July 23, 2015 with 2 Comments
Korea Dog Meat Trade Survivors Settle Down in Forever Homes

In January, I shared the story of 23 dogs who managed to make it out of a dog meat farm in South Korea – which, for all of the other dogs who’ve ever met the fate of being caught up and caged in such a facility, has always been a dead end. For these dogs, the story . . . 

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Time for Federal Anti-Cruelty Statute

By on July 22, 2015 with 5 Comments
Time for Federal Anti-Cruelty Statute

Today, our federal legislative priorities gained even sharper focus with the introduction of the Senate version of the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, advanced by U.S. Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. This bill, introduced in the U.S. House as H.R. 2293 by Representatives Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom . . . 

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New York Blood Center Just the Latest Threat to Chimps

By on July 21, 2015 with 5 Comments
New York Blood Center Just the Latest Threat to Chimps

Today, Kathleen Conlee, our vice president of Animal Research Issues, was in New York with Dr. Brian Hare, Change.org petition starter, Amanda Ketterer, a youth representative of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, and other HSUS staff to deliver petitions signed by more than 185,000 people, asking the New York Blood Center (NYBC) to reinstate . . . 

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Putting a Stop to Doping Horses and Fixing Races

By on July 20, 2015 with 9 Comments
Putting a Stop to Doping Horses and Fixing Races

There is cause for hope that Congress may finally do something to impose some standards on horse racing and empower a non-governmental, independent organization to stop the widespread race-day doping of horses – a contributing factor to perhaps as many as 24 horses dying every week on American racetracks. Last week, on behalf of a . . . 

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Our Dizzying Array of Animal Care Programs

By on July 17, 2015 with 0 Comments
Our Dizzying Array of Animal Care Programs

This week, The HSUS worked with law enforcement and both local and national groups in Chatham County, N.C. to rescue nearly 200 animals, most of them from a single mobile home. Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Stuart called it an “intervention,” and like too many cases we see, the situation got out of hand and way beyond . . . 

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