If you are one of the millions of people who were outraged by these photos of Kendall Jones, then you probably shouldn't be one of the millions of people who visit zoos.
What does Kendall Jones and trophy hunting have to do with zoos? First, let's take a look at why this Barbie's barbarism outraged so many people and set off some serious ethical alarms.
Kendall Jones is a nineteen-year-old Texas cheerleader. She regularly travels to Africa to trophy hunt and kill big game. Some of the animals she has hunted are classified as endangered. The recent negative reaction to her photos has stemmed from her sadistic desire to playfully pose with the animals she kills.
This story has received international attention and has inspired petitions, death threats, and Facebook pages that adamantly support and oppose Kendall Jones.
From an ethical perspective, how should Christians feel about trophy hunting?
When talking about hunting we must first take into account "hunter ethics." This code of conduct can be found on countless hunting websites, and it is a personalized set of rules that every legitimate hunter lives by.
Ethical hunters respect nature and support conservation and stewardship. Fair chase is also a huge consideration. Fair chase means that the animal has a fair chance to escape and that the hunter does not have an unfair advantage over the animal.
From a Biblical perspective hunting could be deemed ethical because God gave mankind permission to eat meat. For hunting to be morally justifiable, however, the animal must not be made to suffer and all of the hunted animal must be used and not wasted. In this lies the unethicality of trophy hunting.
There are many trophy hunting tours in Africa that all come with a hefty price tag. African Sky tours offers hunting packages in South Africa with varied fees depending on how many animals you would like to kill.
Want to keep it simple and kill some zebras? That will cost you a mere $6,000. Want more carnage? Hunting a male lion will run you $30,000, or an elephant comes with a $35,000 price tag. If you want to get really sick with it, how about the 21 day tour during which you can kill a lion, an elephant, and a buffalo for close to $80,000?
The first ethical violation here is concerning fair chase. I have been on safari in South Africa. Our guide located a group of female lions and their cubs that we drove within ten feet of and observed for over 30 minutes. It was like we weren't even there, they just went about their business. Most animals in Africa are used to cars and people; giving trophy hunters an extremely unfair advantage over the animals.
The second ethical violation of trophy hunting is that the animal is almost always killed solely for sport. The animal does not feed or cloth anyone. All is wasted except for the animal's head, which may end up adorning a living room wall.
It is also important to consider that trophy hunters do not kill with head shots. Instead, the animal is killed with body shots so that the head remains in tact for display. This can result in an agonizing and sometimes very slow death for the animal. UNETHICAL.
Kendall Jones claims that the money spent on her trophy hunts supports animal conservation and helps local communities.
According to the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, hunting companies contribute less than 3% of their revenue to communities in hunting areas.
As far as the claim that killing an animal could somehow conserve their species: ludicrous. Even if an animal is not classified as endangered, trophy hunting has been proven to have a detrimental effect on wild populations.
The outrageous cost of this "sport" is also sickening when you think about all of the animals and people in Africa that the money could help.
So what does this all have to do with zoos in the United States? Unfortunately our zoos directly fuel the senseless hunting of animals for sport.
Zoos around the country know that baby animals are huge crowd pleasers, which majorly contributes to the over-breeding of animals. Overwhelmed with surplus animals, zoos are forced to get rid of them due to lack of staff, funding, and space.
Many zoos claim that their surplus animals do not end up in hunting ranches. The reality is that once an animal has been sold to a dealer, there is no way for the zoo to know where exactly the animal ends up. The majority of zoo surplus animals go to live exotic animal auctions where they are purchased by canned hunting ranches. Despite bans on these facilities in about half of the states, there are currently over 1,000 hunting ranches in the US.
Just like trophy hunting in Africa, these ranches offer hunters the opportunity to kill exotic and sometimes endangered animals for a fee. The Yo Ranch is one of the 500 hunting ranches in Texas, with their trophy rates listed right on their website. For $18,000+ you can hunt a kudu, a rare African antelope. The Yo Ranch also offers up scimitar-horned oryx, a breed of antelope that is practically extinct in its native Africa (the hunting of this endangered animal at Yo Ranch is currently under federal investigation).
The unfortunate reality is that this type of hunting is even worse than trophy hunting in Africa. These ranches do not require a hunting license or firearm experience, resulting in missed or multiple shots, and an agonizing death for the animal.
An undercover investigation of US hunting ranches by the Humane Society in 2011 revealed that many of the animals were so tame that you could walk right up to them; some you could even hug and pet. Many of the animals were bottle fed by humans and have no fear of people. Some ranch owners even admitted to drugging animals with tranquilizers before they are hunted. The concept of fair chase is non-existent at these facilities.
A curator at the Memphis zoo had this to say about surplus animals:
"There is no wild to return them to. Zoos should stop billing themselves as conservationists. They're not. They are producing animals nobody besides hunting ranches wants."
As Christians we should oppose the unnecessary killing or suffering of animals. The next time you consider a trip to the zoo, remember these images of Kendall Jones flaunting her brutal hobby to the detriment of God's creation.
Every time you purchase a ticket to a zoo, you are supporting trophy hunting and perpetuating the suffering of animals. Throw on a David Attenborough documentary instead. It'll be much more entertaining than a zoo, and it may just save an animal's life.