The flock of airlines moving to implement or strengthen policies against the transportation of hunting trophies continues to grow, since Safari Club member Walter Palmer killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. Most recently, Swiss International Air Lines, Aer Lingus, and Finnair have confirmed their recent commitments, bringing the total number of airlines pledging to not ship some or all hunting trophies to nearly 30 in just a few short weeks. In the wake of our recent outreach to international airlines and carriers, we’ve also heard from several airlines that want to consult with us about what other cruelly obtained animal parts or products they shouldn’t be transporting.
Richard Branson, on behalf of Virgin Atlantic, is demonstrating true leadership in calling for all airlines and freight carriers worldwide to develop “a strict ethical cargo policy to clearly identify shipments not acceptable for carriage.” Thus far, the International Air Transport Association has not responded to Virgin Atlantic’s proposal. But with consumers now alert to many of the ethical issues that have emerged since Cecil’s killing, that effort will be hard to ignore, especially with the cascade of carriers already refusing to provide a proverbial getaway car for people who shoot the world’s rarest and most majestic animals in a head-hunting exercise.
A few carriers, including UPS and South African Airlines, have refused even to stop transporting trophies of the Africa Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and cape buffalo). They’re defaulting to the notion that what’s still legal is right, even as the global public has offered a ringing denunciation of the deeds that Walter Palmer and people like him have committed. We must do our best to disable the transportation systems that enable wealthy elites to treat Africa as a smash-and-grab zone, looting that continent’s greatest treasures to feed their zeal for competitive trophy hunting.
While Walter Palmer may elude extradition to Zimbabwe, he’s going to go down in history as a poster child for the opportunistic and selfish denizens of the worldwide trophy-hunting fraternity. Palmer has brought international attention to the SCI and the pay-to-slay hobby and industry that it encourages with its Grand Slam Competitions to kill the world’s most cherished wild animals.
SCI quickly recognized the danger that Palmer’s recklessness created for them and threw him overboard even as he gained points in the group’s frequent-slayer program. It’s confounding to some, but predictable to us, that several conservation organizations are actively supporting the position of Safari Club International in this situation. To say nothing of the inhumanity and frivolity of the enterprise, there’s no evidence that trophy hunting is sustainable on a biological or economic basis in the vast majority of places where it occurs in Africa. To the contrary, there is ample evidence that trophy hunting is harming wild populations of threatened species, including African lions and African elephants.
Let’s maintain the pressure and the focus, and do our best to achieve lasting reform, so that Cecil will not have died in vain.