We have no better evidence of the non-partisan nature of animal protection than new data from a national poll, released this week by The HSUS, that shows deep and widespread opposition to trophy hunting, including strong disapproval of allowing imports of sport-hunted elephant and lion trophies from several African nations.
The survey showed that voters, by a margin of more than five to one, oppose allowing American trophy hunters to import into the United States the parts of elephants and lions they kill in Africa, with 78 percent opposing and 15 percent supporting the imports. Those trophy imports are opposed by 76 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Democrats, and 75 percent of non-partisan voters. More broadly, 69 percent of Americans say they oppose trophy hunting, including 79 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Republicans, and 67 percent of non-partisan voters.
President Trump’s direct language, offered up in a tweet taking issue with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to allow the import of elephant and lion hunting trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, exposed trophy hunting for what it is: a frightful and gratuitous assault on some of the world’s most spectacular animals. And he signaled he wasn’t buying the tired old canard that trophy hunters have trotted out for years — that the money they pay in license fees and guiding services to kill rare and even endangered animals somehow justifies the killing and is essential to help conserve them.
The survey shows that the American people are with the president on this issue. Pro-trophy hunting advocates claim that trophy hunters provide much-needed revenue for Africans living in economically depressed regions and that the need for such revenue outweighs the need to preserve wildlife populations. The survey showed that 78 percent of American disagree with the claim that trophy hunters provide much-needed revenue for Africans in rural areas, including 75 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats.
It’s clear that these numbers reflect a deep dislike for the practice of killing animals just for their heads or hides. Add in the fact that it is only rich Americans who go to African nations and slay wildlife and then take certain parts home, and you have a colonialist tint to the entire, violent vacation experience sought by a selfish few.
These survey results come two weeks after President Trump described wildlife trophy hunting as a “horror show” – and it’s clear that his declaration has moved Republicans in our direction on this issue. There is negligible support for allowing trophy parts from elephants and lions to come into the country, and the strongest support for President Trump shutting down the imports comes from Republicans. The survey found that a majority of Americans support this action, with the strongest support coming from Republicans (72 percent support to 19 oppose) and conservatives (64 support to 24 oppose) but also pluralities of Democrats (48 support to 35 oppose) and liberals (49 support to 28 oppose) backing the president on trophy hunting.
Editorial boards throughout the nation have called on the federal government to ban imports of lion and elephant trophies. So have pundits, including conservatives Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, and Mark Levin. Members of Congress have also weighed in. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., led a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed by 23 senators, urging a restored ban on elephant and lion trophies. And in just one day of circulation, a letter to President Trump led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. garnered 68 bipartisan signatures in support of a prohibition.
Keeping elephants and lions alive is key to economic progress in so many African nations. Millions of tourists trek to natural areas throughout Africa to see elephants, lions, and other extraordinary wildlife on the continent, collectively contributing billions to the economies of wildlife-rich nations. Dramatically fewer in number than wildlife watchers, trophy hunters generate minuscule dollars in relative terms. What’s more, trophy hunting robs these nations of their greatest resources, diminishing the wildlife-watching experiences of so many tourists. That’s no doubt why Kenya has long banned trophy hunting, and in 2014, Botswana — which has more elephants than any other nation — outlawed all trophy hunting, too.
Our intolerance for animal cruelty, especially when it is purposeful, wasteful, and done for boastful, selfish purposes like trophy hunting and dogfighting, is an American characteristic that binds us together as a nation and is something we should be proud of. President Trump has keenly tapped into this American value by calling for a hold on renewing the imports of trophy hunted elephants and lions. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should heed the science and formally prohibit such imports.