One canned hunt ranch owner in New York likens killing penned animals for pleasure to a golf outing. "You hunt hard all day, then have a nice lunch." The truth is not so benign, and has created strange bedfellows animal activists and "fair-chase" hunters who collectively declare that canned hunting is slaughter.
The gods of compassion must have been sleeping when canned hunting was invented. Animals, especially exotics, are staked, hobbled, caged or fenced to provide targets for hunters. (A "guaranteed kill" of a Cape Buffalo or a Rocky Mountain big horn sheep can be had for $5,000, meat, hide and trophy head thrown in.) One fair-chase hunter characterized it as "shooting fish in a barrel." UAN goes further. Pay-to-kill is brutal and cowardly, pot shots taken at hand-raised animals that have lost their fear of humans and have absolutely no chance. Theyre shot, often repeatedly, with gun or bow and arrow; theyre knifed and even speared. Speared? And I thought Neanderthals were extinct!
New Jersey, Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, California, Nevada and Wyoming have shot down canned hunts, some with strong laws, some with weak ones meant merely to appease animal activists, but most states allow them. Texas is by far the worst offender with 637 hunting ranches (as of 1995) where its a $100 million business. Among the trophy-hungry participants youll find the names of President Bill Clinton, former President George Bush and ex-Massachusetts Governor William Weld. Shame on them.
Where do these rhinos, water buffaloes, American bison, fallow deer, black bears, tigers and lions come from? All too often from zoos. The San Jose (California) Mercury News published an expos earlier this year after a two-year investigation, documenting how Americas zoos intentionally breed surplus animals and then auction them to the highest bidders - roadside zoos, canned hunt ranches or game farms where theyre slaughtered. Zoos, which have for years boasted of their breeding to save endangered species, now lay exposed as sellers of these animals for profit.
Some states try to stop canned hunts. Louisiana legislators recently worked to ban the sale of zoo animals for canned hunts after an earlier bill to ban canned hunts outright was defeated, but this later effort went down to defeat. A New York bill was so watered-down with compromises when signed that it will only stop the killing on ranches under 10 acres. Theres no evidence that there are any canned hunt ranches that small in New York state!
What is obviously needed is a federal law; and happily such legislation has been introduced. The Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act of 1999 (H.R. 1202), introduced by Representatives George Brown and Porter Goss, makes it illegal to transport or possess in interstate or foreign commerce a confined exotic mammal for the purpose of killing or injuring that animal for entertainment or as a trophy. A companion Senate bill (S. 1345) also has been introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg with the penalty of $100,000 fine or one year in jail. As of April 2001, both bills had been referred to legislative committees and were awaiting votes.
Blood sports are anathema to most life-loving people, all the more so when the very idea of "sport" and fair play are removed and only the blood remains.