Major airlines ban shipment of hunting trophies. Will it help?

By Jo Singer

This past June, a beloved and highly popular lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe was brutally and illegally slain by Walter Palmer, D.D.S. It will be a long time before animal lovers will forget the huge impact that the murder of this majestic lion made on the public.

African lion
African lion – photo by Flickr User: Brian Snelson
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Following the news of Cecil’s untimely demise the outcry from people all over the world concerning this tragic event grew to a fever pitch. The outrage of more than one million people expressing their anger prompted them to sign petitions calling for justice for Cecil. However, this horrendous event also brought how cruel and inhumane trophy hunting truly is.

What is trophy hunting? It is the selective hunting of wild game animals and the retention of a trophy in the form of a part of the animal. Thousands of wild exotic animals (mostly in Africa) are slain each year. Trophy hunters are willing to pay exorbitant funds, up to $125,000 to cash-poor governments to obtain permits allowing them to choose the types of species they wish to kill.

According to a study done in 2008 sponsored by the International Council or Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), trophy hunting tourism in seven Southern African Development Communities generated revenue of approximately $190 million U.S. dollars. That’s a lot of cash!

Trophy hunting has both strong supporters and those that oppose this type of “sport”. This debate is based on the question of its morality and whether or not the amount of revenue that is generated from trophy hunters benefits the local economy and if it is truly a legitimate form of game animal conservation.

Nonetheless, in an opinion piece written by Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) he states that:

“despite the wild claims that trophy hunting brings millions of dollars in revenue to local people in otherwise poor communities, there is no proof of this.”

Flocken goes on to say that pro-hunting organizations such as CIC report that just 3 percent of the revenue collected from trophy hunting ever reaches the communities that are affected by hunting. Instead, the “lion’s share” (pardon the expression) goes to the national governments or foreign-bases outfitters.

Most of the money that does reach these countries from hunting fees is dwarfed by the revenues collected from the many tourists who travel to these countries just to enjoy watching the wildlife. This means that if these animals continue disappearing from Africa, the crucial dollars that these countries receive will be horrendously reduced.

It may be possible that Cecil’s unnecessary demise was not altogether in vain. Within a few weeks following the illegal killing of Cecil, three major carriers; United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta announced they would no longer transport trophy game remains and banned their shipment. However the carriers gave no “official” reasons for their decisions. As of May, Delta had no plans to discontinue these shipments.

According to the Guardian, Delta flies to several cities in Africa. The airline received an online petition to ban these shipments. United Airlines and American Airlines fly to fewer sub-Saharan cities than does Delta. In a tweet, United said that their decision was “effective immediately”. Charles Hobart, a United spokesman said “We felt it made sense to do so”.

“Delta refused responding to questions from journalists about why the carrier had made its decision, and would not reveal how many hunting trophies they had recently shipped. In a statement Delta said, “Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies as freight.”

Hopefully all carriers will follow suit making it very difficult for trophy game hunters to bring home their “prizes”, making it less appealing for them to continue this wanton slaughter.

As for Europe, imports of lion trophies have required a licence since February. The practice has been banned from three west African countries because of their endangered lion populations. A ban on imports of trophies from hunts into Europe is being discussed by European Union (EU) officials. There is a politically dimension to trophy hunting. European governments want to keep African countries “on side” meaning remain on friendly terms. As some African countries support trophy hunting, a ban on imports to Europe may undermine businesses involved in hunting and strain relations.

Is it possible that that these bans may actually help to lessen the allure of big-game trophy hunting? Many people believe it will because big game hunters like their trophies. It is in their psyche to flaunt their kills and advertise their prowess. Walter Palmer is a paradigm example. He had creepy trophies in his dental clinic, all over the walls! Please share your opinions in a comment?

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Hopefully all carriers will follow suit making it very difficult for trophy game hunters to bring home their “prizes”, making it less appealing for them to continue this wanton slaughter.

Unfortunately FedEx has no plans to discontinue shipping the remains of animals killed by trophy hunters and clearly state “Taxidermy-finished hunting trophies or completely processed (dried) specimens of whole animals or parts of animals are acceptable for shipment into the U.S.” – FedEx Petition FedEx to stop this service immediately.

Sign the Network for Animals petition.

1 thought on “Major airlines ban shipment of hunting trophies. Will it help?”

  1. I am delighted that these airlines are taking firm action against these trophy killers, however, I do agree with Sandra in that they may charter private airlines to do the dirty work. No matter how much people oppose these killings the fact remains that money talks. Sad but true.


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