“Canned hunts are cruel and unsportsmanlike. The practice of killing tame, exotic animals within the confines of an enclosure where the animals have no chance of escape is contrary to the principles of fair chase, sportsmanship and common decency. Captive hunts are out of step with common principles governing responsible hunting and should be banned.” (Congressman Steve Cohen)
“Canned hunting is not a real sport. It is abhorrent and cruel, and there is really no hunting involved.” (Congressman Brad Sherman)
The HSUS has recently endorsed a new House bill aimed at curtailing the canned hunting industry (Fred’s Death). The bill, Sportsmanship in Hunting Act of 2011, only applies to the interstate (federal jurisdiction) trade of an “exotic animal” (a mammal “not indigenous to the United States”) “for the purposes of allowing the killing or injuring of that animal for entertainment or for the collection of a trophy.” It would also criminalize (up to five years) computer-assisted remote hunting (shooting animals with your mouse), which is not currently a problem.
There are roughly 1,000 American ranches, or preserves, offering captive exotics (or simple whitetails and pheasants) for sacrifice. Here, you can enjoy the charms of a rustic lodge, home cooking, beautiful scenery (including many of the vanquished), and the exhilaration of the impending track and kill. When successful, and you will be successful, your pride must be preserved for posterity. The process is sad: Securely enclosed (zero chance for escape), the typically docile, tame, and trusting animals are destroyed for racks and photo ops. Logic dictates that not everyone gets off a clean kill-shot, especially those who frequent these ranches, so their practice often come at the expense of an animal’s protracted death.
Still, the politicians’ quotes merit a closer look. The American hunting experience is steeped in a tradition of airy rhetoric: honorable sportsmanship, respect for the animal, communion with nature, bonding with forebears, and rite of passage. These “common principles” are so ingrained that arguments to the contrary are viewed as heresy promulgated by the ignorant. But how exactly is hunting a sport (Man vs Mallard)? What, do tell, constitutes a “fair chase”? Are the decidedly benign deer and duck (who would not be protected by this law) worthy adversaries? Sport implies competition (nonlethal, of course) between willing rivals. Someone, then, should inform these creatures that they’re in a game.
Well-meaning as this bill may be (Rep. Cohen, owing to his initiatives on crush videos and horse transport, was honored by the HSUS earlier this year), it is irrational to protect some species from this brand of cruelty, but not others. Also, the “fair chase” argument, along with humane culling and ecological balancing, is specious. It is what hunters tell themselves to justify their pursuit of pleasure. In short, all human hunting of animals is, by definition, unsportsmanlike. It’s high time for hunters to get over themselves.