Most forms of animal cruelty seem so perfectly alien to good people. They cannot understand how certain individuals can do such awful things to animals. And certain practices–whether clubbing seals, staged fighting of dogs or roosters, confining a dog or a sow in a tiny cage or crate for the animal’s life, or keeping a lion or a tiger at home in a garage or a family room–seem way outside the norms of social behavior. Most of us cannot fathom that such things are still legal, or how otherwise sensible people can engage in this kind of conduct.
One practice that seems to get almost universal condemnation, including from hunters, is the business of captive hunting, where shooters pay for the privilege of killing semi-tame animals–even endangered species–confined within a fenced enclosure. Yet there are still more than 1,000 captive hunting facilities throughout the United States. It’s an epidemic in the hunting industry, and one can go on the Internet and find countless places to shoot just about any kind of animal from antelope to zebra.
Within the last few weeks, we’ve seen several exposés on network affiliates that drew back the curtain on some of these shocking practices: in Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri. They’re all worth watching.
Safari Club International continues to drive patronage of canned hunting facilities by scoring “trophies” from these facilities in its record books. In fact, one of SCI’s trophy hunting achievement awards is called “North America Introduced” animals, and a hunter can win the award only by shooting non-native animals here in North America. That typically means paying to shoot animals at captive hunting facilities. An HSUS investigation conducted earlier this year in New York and Texas, and broadcast on Animal Planet, revealed a captive hunt operator drugging his animals with tranquilizers and ranch guides driving herds to shooters waiting in a blind for an easy shot. But the terror and suffering starts long before these animals realize they are being chased by aggressive humans and have no way out–many of them must first endure the frightening experience of being loaded onto trucks and taken to noisy auctions where whips and prods greet them.
Some states have tried to address this problem. This year, Michigan wildlife managers shut down captive hunts of wild pigs in the state. An attempt by the canned hunt operators to absurdly rename their facilities as “sporting swine estates” and fight the decision was unsuccessful. But last year, a positive ballot measure supported by fair-chase hunters to outlaw captive hunts in North Dakota didn't receive enough "yes" votes to pass.
About half of the states restrict or prohibit captive shoots for exotic mammals. But that means it’s legal in the rest. That's why we're working to rid the nation of this captive cruelty. You can follow updates on the issue from our Wildlife Abuse campaign on Facebook.