What is trophy hunting?

Hunting is a craft. A craft that appeared many thousands of years ago for obvious reasons. Survival. For humanity to progress today, it is necessary to use wit, intelligence, and strength. Killing an animal was not considered inhumane. It was a matter of necessity. It was a matter of “either you or you.” If a hunter managed to kill his prey, it was like a gift to him. After you brought your prey, you not only received food. Fur was used to make huts and clothes to keep you warm. Bones or fangs were used to make tools or weapons. And it was hazardous. The man was in an unequal battle with those who naturally have speed, strength, claws, or fangs to tear apart their victim. However, despite the enormous losses, we see ourselves as a winner in this fight; we have made significant progress and go hunting prepared with a rifle, night vision technology, and other additional devices that facilitate the process.

As a legacy from those times, we keep trophies after a successful hunt. Each can tell a fascinating story because they remind you of the moments you dissolve into nature. But it’s wrong to treat trophies as just another toy. It is equally important to understand that it is a tribute to the memory and respect for the animal. 

What is trophy hunting?

Each of us can interpret the term “trophy” in different ways. Imagine you went hunting for a white-tailed deer for the first time, kept the antlers on the wall, or made a knife with a bone in the handle to commemorate this event. This is very important to you, and everyone who compliments you on your achievements will be able to remember how this fascinating story happened. This is your trophy. And you can have and create a personal collection gradually. However, no matter how cruel it may sound, it will not be of extraordinary value. 

The philosophy of trophy hunting is inextricably linked to two aspects. First, it is a specific hunt for adults with outstanding features (horns, tusks) approaching (or have already reached) the end of their productive age. That is, the result of such hunting is not just an exclusive trophy but also the absence of a threat to the population of this species. Secondly, recreational hunting: hunting such an animal requires considerable effort in tracking it, with much training and endurance of not only the hunter but also a hunting specialist who must constantly monitor specific groups of animals and can assess whether the removal of a particular individual will be harmful to the population.

Despite this, the fate of trophy hunters is more challenging than it might seem at first glance. A hunter has to go through many commissions and get permission to hunt a specific animal in a particular place. And getting these papers is not cheap. That’s why the popularity of this type of hunting is naturally declining. But some hunters are willing to make significant expenditures because most of the proceeds from trophy hunting are returned to protecting and preserving wild animals. If you hunt one animal, you finance the conservation of dozens or even hundreds of others.

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In the last century, international exhibitions and trophy competitions began to popularize hunting culture and for hunters to demonstrate their achievements to their colleagues. The first international hunting exhibition was held in 1910, and since then, the collection of hunting industry achievements has become increasingly popular. The owners of the most outstanding trophies are awarded medals and certificates, as their acquisition is complex. Specialized exhibitions also evaluate trophies by international criteria. For example, according to the CIC system, horns and tusks are evaluated for typicality, beauty, symmetry, etc.

What about the morality of taking animal trophies?

The issue of morality in such a matter as hunting is debatable and has long been a problem for humanity. And it is pretty logical. When trophies were treated as a source of pride, they were long gone. But this does not mean that it has disappeared completely. To be able to play this sport, you need to pass more than one commission and pay a decent amount of money to be eligible to win trophies. 

In this discussion, it is essential to note that trophy hunting is not the same as canned hunting. Canned hunting is an illegal enterprise where animals are artificially raised in pens, and people with guns can shoot at easy targets. There is no respect for the craft or animals in general. 

If trophy hunters have remained in our time, it is because they understand the culture of their activity. Trophy hunting can be compared to jewelry work – it is just as complex and filigree. A worthy trophy for a hunter is like a diamond for a jeweler: first, among many diamonds, you need to find only one – the one that is special in size and purity – and then shape it in a way that best demonstrates its beauty. But for every action, there is an opposition. We mentioned that in the past, the product that could be obtained from hunting and killing an animal was a necessity. And in the urban world, this need is disappearing as artificial alternatives emerge. Unions of people who are critical of this and influence this issue at the legislative level are spreading and growing worldwide. 

For example, in many countries, ideas have been spreading to replace trophy hunting with making photos. However, as the practice has shown, this option cannot generate approximately the same funds for wildlife conservation as those received by nature conservation institutions from hunting. In some cases, such a replacement is impossible due to the lack of proper infrastructure, the unstable political situation in countries, and the lack of a sufficient number of picturesque landscapes that could attract tourists. In addition, regulating the number and formation of a healthy population are necessary measures that can only be implemented with hunting. However, it may be hard to believe at times. However, history knows cases when the ecosystem suffered without any human intervention. Because we have to be honest, this interference has always existed, and humans are an integral part of the ecosystem.

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How can it be good?

There are many arguments to blame hunting in general. It is an immoral barbarism that many people in our time cannot reconcile and understand. But we propose to look at some points from the other side. We would like to emphasize that we do not justify the murder immediately. We are only trying to provide arguments why such phenomena still have a place in our world and are a normal process. 

Of course, you have the right to disagree with this. 

One of the most straightforward examples to consider is pests. Those small animals spoil your property or crops. Unfortunately, there is no place in the world for every rodent to live happily, and the population growth will only increase the number of your problems. Here’s a real-life example from Australia, when rabbits began to multiply rapidly. The animals brought to this territory quickly adapted to the environment and, in about ten years, became an actual natural disaster for humans and other animals. Rabbits in Australia massively ate plants that were used by the local fauna, as a result of which many representatives of the local fauna of Australia disappeared from the face of the earth. By massively eating young shoots of trees, these eared pests caused the disappearance of Australian forests because only empty, grass-covered spaces remained in their place after the death of adult trees.  And we must consider that there was no separate rabbit cemetery so the dead pairs would not cause diseases to other animals and humans. Therefore, exterminating a certain number of these rodents was a significant measure. 

Although this particular example is not directly related to trophy hunting, understanding how crucial human intervention and natural processes can sometimes be is worthy of attention. After all, humans are also part of the ecosystem. 

To dispel the widespread myth that trophy hunting leads to a decline in the number of wildlife species, experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have prepared convincing evidence of its essential positive impact on the restoration and protection of wildlife species, conservation of their habitats and security of the rights and livelihoods of local communities.

Trophy hunting programs encourage hunting grounds users to conserve and restore wildlife and generate revenues for wildlife conservation – habitat restoration (including the return of “wild” status to agricultural land) and animal protection. This involves increasing tolerance to wildlife, reducing conflicts between humans and nature, and regulating the number and formation of a healthy population – old males are removed, trying to compete with young individuals of reproductive age. 

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Here is another example of rhinos in Namibia and South Africa. Thanks to the introduction of trophy hunting programs for white rhinos in South Africa, their number has increased from 1800 in 1968 to 18400 today. This has significantly increased the number of animals transferred for resettlement to other countries. In 2004, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) approved quotas for limited hunting of black rhinos in Namibia and South Africa. Since then, the population has increased by 67%, from 2,300 to 3,900. Hunting has played a significant role in increasing the number of these species, as land users have received incentives to conserve animals, income to protect them from poachers, and help restore populations. The number of people is also increasing due to regulatory measures, such as removing males that can compete with or even kill calves or females.

There is another example from Pakistan. In this country, poaching of mouflon and marhur began to develop intensively. The purpose of this hunt was food. This irresponsible activity has significantly reduced the population of these mammals. To preserve them, a plan was developed: local community members gave up illegal hunting in exchange for being employed as wildlife guards. Their activities were financed by the proceeds from limited trophy hunting for foreign hunters. The development and, most importantly, the implementation of this population recovery plan led to new indicators. Only now were they not decreasing but increasing. Thanks to eliminating poaching, the animal was removed from the “endangered” list on the International Red List. However, this effect had a positive impact not only on animals but also on people as such activities required an increase in the number of jobs, contributing to the favorable economic situation of the state and the local community. More than 80 guards were hired, social projects (schools and medical facilities) were financed, and grazing areas were reduced.

Trophy hunting is carried out in most European countries, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and in some countries of Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. Understanding the conservation role of trophy hunting worldwide, IUCN has developed the Trophy Hunting Guidelines. The European Charter on Hunting and Biodiversity promotes biodiversity conservation through regulated hunting.

That is why we urge you not to condemn things that seem wrong at first glance immediately and to understand the issues meaningfully. After all, if it exists, there is a reason for it. It is a prevalent stereotype that people destroy everything. But such examples, on the contrary, prove that some take responsibility for the world they live in. And they show it even in such a seemingly incomprehensible and cruel way.