Something’s rotten at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

By on March 9, 2018 with 20 Comments

Most Americans learned about the trophy killing fringe group Safari Club International for the first time in July 2015. That’s when one of its members, Walter Palmer, killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, leaving the poor creature in agonizing mortal pain for at least 10 hours before deigning to finish him off. A new book by Andrew Loveridge, an Oxford University wildlife biologist, lays bare the circumstances of the wealthy Minnesota dentist’s misconduct. Palmer and his guides used a slaughtered elephant as bait, let Cecil suffer for hours in agony, and then took steps to cover up their seemingly illegal actions.

Now, a second SCI member is in the news for greenlighting the trophy animal importation policies that led to Palmer’s wanton killing of Cecil in the first place. But that member, Greg Sheehan, also happens to be principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which makes him more dangerous to African wildlife than a thousand Walter Palmers. By signing the order that consigns countless imperiled African animals to death by trophy hunting, Sheehan’s made a mess of America’s global wildlife policy. And he’s done it all in defiance of the president of the United States.

That’s right. Even though President Trump told the world back in November that he thought trophy hunting was a “horror show” with no conservation value, Sheehan and the FWS have lifted existing bans on the import of elephant and lion trophies from certain African countries. This is something that SCI and allied organizations like the National Rifle Association had been pressing for as a part of their all-out assault on wildlife in the United States and abroad. And they knew just who to talk to.

SCI itself announced the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to the American public on November 15, the surest sign of improper collusion between trophy hunting interests and the federal government, and the announcement came during a Safari Club event in Tanzania where Sheehan was a guest. A few weeks later, Sheehan was again an honored guest at SCI’s Las Vegas convention, a festival of taxidermy, safari killing packages, and celebrations of SCI’s Record Book, a catalogue of cruelty filled with soulless, clinical details of kills and carcasses. Sheehan met with officials and stakeholders from Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa at the convention, to further seal the fate of Africa’s wildlife along with those who sit at the head of the African wildlife table.

There’s really only one fundamental fact worth knowing about SCI; it stands for killing, one hundred percent of the time. In February 2017, when the U.S. Congress voted to overturn the “fair chase” rule restricting the baiting, trapping, and use of airplanes to track and shoot bears and wolves on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in Alaska, SCI was there – not on the side of traditional hunting, but on behalf of the most radical ideas, like the supposed right to shoot animals in their dens. In June 2017, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted Wyoming gray wolves and returned their management to the state, SCI cheered – not on behalf of nature or sound wildlife management, but again for the radical fringe. In November 2017, with Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming poised to authorize limited trophy hunts for grizzly bears outside Yellowstone Park after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revoked the species’ threatened status, SCI was there too, giddy at the opportunity to kill these iconic bears. In 2018, SCI awarded one of its highest honors of “International Professional Hunter of the Year” to a trophy hunter who has been prosecuted by African authorities for crimes against wildlife.

In Washington, D.C., you have to look around pretty hard for an organization with an agenda so debased, and you sure have to wonder about the competence and wisdom of a public servant who would want to be counted on SCI’s rolls. Over the years we’ve become accustomed to the idea that SCI will defend anything when it comes to the killing of animals. But we’re bound to say that we still have higher expectations of our government.

SCI has a stranglehold on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service right now, and it’s our earnest hope that President Trump will take steps to free the agency from the iron grip of this fraternity for trophy hunters.

Tell Secretary Zinke to protect elephants and lions >>

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. risa m mandell says:

    The depraved set their sights on the vulnerable: Sports require a level playing field.

  2. George Nagle says:

    I hate to use the analogy that the fish rots from the head down, but it’s appropriate to understand what’s rotten at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The rot starts with Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior. Most agencies that impact wildlife report to the Sec. of the Interior. Ryan Zinke is a trophy hunter, and promotes a hunting and killing paradigm throughout the agencies he oversees. In addition, the FWS is staffed with hunters as are all the state wildlife agencies board of directors and staff throughout the country. The problem is that while the FWS and the state wildlife agencies are supposed to be wildlife protection and conservation agencies, in reality, they are federal and state agencies that promote and run a blood “sport” trophy hunting business for a small minority (3.52%) and diminishing number of Americans who hunt under the guise of conservation.

    The only difference between the Safari Club International (SCI) trophy hunters and traditional deer trophy hunters is that SCI hunters are typically more affluent and can afford to spend thousands of dollars to kill elephants and lions. The deer typically suffer as much or even more than Cecil the lion did. Bow Hunting is extremely inhumane. Twenty-two published scientific surveys and studies indicate that the average wounding rate for bow hunting is over 50 percent. More than one out of every two deer shot is never retrieved, but dies a slow tortuous death from blood loss and infection. So there shouldn’t be any distinction between SCI trophy hunters and traditional deer trophy hunters. All wildlife are sentient beings that have complex social, emotional, and intellectual lives, and experience fear, pain, and suffer. HSUS needs to be the voice and advocate for all wildlife.

    The “ethical hunting” principle of “fair chase” is a total ruse. There is no “fair chase” involved in today’s modern hunting. What fair chance does an unsuspecting deer have when a .30-06 can blow a deer’s heart out from 300 yards, or when a hunter shoots down at an unsuspecting deer from a tree stand that he’s been baiting and taking trail cam pics of all year. The deer don’t have a fair chance of escape. There is no “fair chase” involved. In addition, how can hunters consider themselves “ethical” when they “hunt” in residential parks and back yards where the deer are so tame they walk right up to them to be killed at point blank range. “Fair chase” is just a ruse to fool the uninformed public that hunting should be considered a recreational “sport”.

    There’s also a systemic directive from the Sec. of the Interior down through the FWS, National Park Service (NPS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opposed to PZP immunocontraception and non-lethal population management. They don’t want any successful implementations of PZP that can be referenced so to protect their hunting paradigm, and their hunter constituents recreational and trophy hunting opportunities in urban and suburban communities, campus settings, and national parks.

    This war on wildlife is supported by special interests like the NRA, the gun and ammunition manufacturers, hunting PACs, and the agencies themselves for self preservation.

    How can HSUS stop this war on wildlife? This fight is all about political power, and having the power to negotiate the appointment of a Secretary of the Interior that will advocate for true wildlife protection and conservation reforms, to remove pro-kill politicians at the federal and state levels and replacing them with wildlife protection candidates, and the democratization of the state wildlife agencies board of directors (getting non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife advocate stakeholders appointed to these boards). The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) needs to build a political voting bloc that can strike fear into existing politicians, and that can dictate humane legislation with a hammer. The NRA has 5 million members, and HSUS has 12 million members. This objective is very achievable. HSLF needs to be given the mandate and resources necessary to aggressively build a powerful voting bloc that can surpass the power of the NRA. I hope this mandate will be one of the priorities of HSUS’ new leadership moving forward.

    • LA says:

      Amen brother. Count me in. As a member of the HSUS, use my donations and my vote to help shout down & shut down bloodthirsty killers like SCI & the NRA. We have to band together & show that there are more us than them, we are paying attention and we vote.

    • Joseph Collins says:

      Thank you, Mr. Nagle. So well said. Everyone in the country should read this. Now that the Parkland, Florida students and their parents have started an aggressive movement against the NRA, hopefully it will continue to grow and progress will be made; progress that translates into better gun control and ending gun violence against both citizens and wildlife. It”ll be a tough battle, for sure, but I think it’s achievable, over time. And I agree with you 100% about the concept of “fair chase” being nonsense. They only “fair chase” that ever happens in the world is between two wild animals, predator and prey.

  3. Barbara Metzler says:

    HSUS NEEDS to PROTECT all WILDLIFE from all killers. Please do so !!!!!

  4. Billita Jacobsen says:

    As a member of the HSUS, I agree 100% with George Nagle’s comments. There is no such thing as ethical hunting and it’s time for HSUS to use its huge membership numbers to change the blood-stained status quo. We have the political power, let’s use it. The truth is coming out about the NRA and Safari Club. It’s time to speak truth to power and change this tide. I’ve seen the situation for animals go from bad to worse–with horse slaughter being openly promoted and the trapping and hunting of bobcats and river otters being rubber stamped by agencies that care nothing about wildlife. I believe you can do it, HSUS. YOU can be the change we need. I want to join a movement that fights for wildlife, please start one that goes all in for the animals. While what you are doing is commendable, it clearly is not enough.

  5. Silvie Pomicter says:

    The USDA, SCI, and NRA are corrupt animal killing organizations. I live in Pennsylvania, one of the largest hunting/trapping states in the U.S. Our fight is like David and Goliath…..the never ending newspaper articles, tv news featuring how hunting saves wildlife, helps feed the homeless, etc.

    We need more of a voice for all wildlife. We can’t do it alone. Grassroots activists are fighting wealthy, special interest groups..

    • TonyaT Oberg says:

      I live in MT and FWS, wildlife Services, and BLM are disgusting here. In 2007 They wanted to delisting the grizzly shouting they had done a remarkable job restoring it, lucky the judge said no…that was 12 years ago…and in 12 years their numbers have only grown by 200..we now have 800-900 in all the U .S.

  6. James S. says:

    I grew up hunting and fishing and can tell you that there isn’t much difference between what SCI is doing and so called traditional hunting.

    It’s true that people used to hunt to survive but even when I was growing up in the 70s hunting was pure sport and we hunted for the biggest buck. Sure we ate the animals we killed but no one I knew hunted to survive. I guess it probably does not make much difference to the animal if they’re used as food or trophy. I am now vegetarian by the way after many years of thinking about my actions when I was young.

    My wife and I support all efforts to stop trophy hunting but hope that HSUS will do more to oppose the trophy hunting of deer, black bears and other animals that got thrown under when Mr. Pacelle was in charge. I remember hearing him talk about how SCI trophy hunters are different from the “hunter in West Virginia trying to feed his family.” I don’t think Mr. Pacelle ever spent time with any hunters in WV because if he did, he would’ve known that it is all about killing the biggest animal for bragging rights and trophy. And killing natural predators like bear and coyote is all about eliminating competition. Spend five minutes at any rod and gun club or reading Field & Stream, and you will know that the difference between Walter Palmer and the traditional hunter is money. As another person on this thread mentioned too.

    Cecil suffering for ten hours is very tragic but is not much different than what millions of deer suffer here. We post our land now but have still had wounded animals come on our property. My wife actually suffers from depression during deer season, three months long here and then longer for other animals. When you live in the city it is easy to think of hunting as somehow more humane than factory farms, but most people don’t get that these animals are moving targets and good shots are rare. I can say from experience that most hunted animals suffer badly and I hope that with Mr. Pacelle gone HSUS will begin to address the problems of hunting culture not only in Africa but on our own soil as well.

    Thank you to Kitty for what she is doing so far. We are hopeful about a positive new direction for HSUS when it comes to wildlife.

    • John K. says:

      James S. I totally agree with everything that you said. I was one of the 250,000 members of The Fund for Animals, that was founded by Cleveland Amory, who was a passionate voice for wildlife. When the Fund was merged with HSUS I had expected that the mission of the Fund would continue and be an even stronger voice for wildlife, with a PAC, more funds, and more members. Cleveland had mentored Wayne Pacelle, and so assumed that Wayne was committed to carry on this strong wildlife advocacy. So I was severely disappointed and disillusioned when that turned out not to be the case. So I am also hopeful, that with new leadership, that there will be a positive new direction for HSUS when it comes to wildlife, and I’m pretty sure that there are 250,000+ other wildlife advocates that feel the same way.

  7. Edward Schmitt says:

    It seems to be even worse than what has been discussed. SCI seems to derive most of its funding from the oil companies. The goal seems to be to have a grass roots following that will oppose any rules about the use of federal land. They want lots of people to object to any restrictions placed on anyone who wants to exploit any federal land.
    Hence the SCI lawsuit to try to exterminate wolves and bears from Alaska. They think the federal government should not be able to manage wildlife refuges and parks for natural diversity but rather to try to maximize the human kill of moose and caribou.
    How can a “fair chase” hunting club support gassing wolves in their dens and baiting brown bears?
    I agree that it would be wonderful if our membership would be as vocal and effective as the minority on the other side.

    • Joseph Collins says:

      I think our side is very vocal. But the advocates for hunting and wildlife cruelty just seem to have more money and, because of that money, greater influence over Washington and legislation. We certainly beat them in sheer numbers. We just need to find a way to bring in more money, and thereby influence, to our side.

  8. Anne Barton says:

    Thank you for exposing and combating this corrupt assault on our wildlife. The Safari club is indeed despicable in its promotion of trophy hunting, supported for the amusement of a special interest group and its failure to even acknowledge the agony that this sport causes its victims. And the presence of a member of this organization among the top executives of one of our Agencies supposedly devoted to the protction of wildlife is horrifying.
    But we need to go beyond the Safari Club to combat this cruelty to wildlife for the sake of human sport and amusement. HSUS has shown support for our native wildlife suffering from unnecessary and cruel violence in, for example, its leadership in developing and promoting non-lethal alternatives to deal with human/wildlife conflict. I hope HSUS will continue and expand its defense of our native wildlife as well as those targeted by the Safari Club and teach the public that all wildlife suffers from this selfish violence as it did in the case of Cecil.

  9. Sue Garvey says:

    This is beyond rotten.

  10. Deedee D. says:

    I also would like more funding and more advocacy go toward saving wildlife and pointing out the perpetrators. And we still have killing contests. We still have trapping. We still have furriers.

    We have never gone to far backward and had such anti-animal legislation in my adult life or even perhaps ever than we have now with this regime. I really thing HSUS/HSLF need to make a fact sheet with every piece of pro-animal legislation that this “administration” has rolled back since the person who is currently “president” took office. We need this information not only in a fact sheet but also as a boilerplate, too, on HSUS’ and HSLF’s blogs, etc. And we need it to be promoted prior to voting periods.

  11. Deedee D. says:

    P.S. Forgive my typos. Was typing too fast. I wish we had a few minutes to go back and edit our comments.

  12. Jon Way says:

    All state (and federal) wildlife depts are the same hyper pro hunting ideologically driven so called science based Depts which is BS. My career was destroyed for speaking up and defending predators in Massachusetts esp the eastern coyote/coywolf:

    This happens everywhere. They are indeed rotten and desperately need to be reformed. Now!

  13. Zelda Penzel says:

    As a longtime member and supporter of HSUS, I believe that most would agree that the influence and financial support of 12 million HSUS members has not really been put to good use! Instead, incrementalism, and catering to and/ or compromising with animal exploiters, became the hallmark of the largest animal advocacy organization in the US, if not the world.

    Funds and programs have not been effectively used to influence, whittle down and oppose powerful but actually relatively small/minority groups like the SCI and the NRA. Millions of innocent animals are slaughtered for “sport”, as we allow the hunting industry to control the dialogue. We are hopeful for significant changes at HSUS, with the departure of Pacelle, and hope there will be a shift in philosophy and policies, as we see the tide turning right before our eyes: young people and the public in general, taking a more active political role, veganism growing and expanding in leaps and bounds, the internet and social media becoming a powerful medium for communicating and informing people everywhere, about injustices, corruption, and the demands for ending violence against animals and people alike. It’s time for HSUS to get on the bandwagon!

    Gun violence begins with the right to kill innocent animals, who are living, breathing, sentient beings – just like us! Better, smarter, more humane means of co-existing with wildlife are available and we are all diminished when cruelty is normalized. This needs to be the clarion call!

    “There’s no such thing as an ethical hunter! Forget hunters’ feeble rationalizations and trust your gut feelings: Making Sport of Killing Is Not Healthy Human Behavior”.

    “Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is, and do something about it – whether the victim is human or animal – we cannot expect things to be much better in this world…We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.”
    ~Rachel Carson

  14. Valerie Will says:

    As an advocate that has worked for years on the issues involving hunting, I have had to not only battle the hunters. Too many non-hunters do not understand how wildlife is manipulated for the benefit of recreational killers. They swallow the myths about hunting being needed to keep deer from starving, that hunting is done to feed families etc. It would be wonderful if HSUS would work to educate the public regarding the truth about “conservation.” SCI in this area is very strong. We have one of the most successful chapters and also the most hunting licenses in NYS are sold in WNY. Love to have HSUS help us reach out to the public about hunting issues.

  15. Brenna Angelillo says:

    HSUS, please continue to focus on wildlife protection. As you know, powerful, well-funded organizations like SCI and the NRA, and even our own President, are working hard to keep massacring wildlife. Their greed and inhumanity have no limits.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.