Last week, New York Times contributor Richard Conniff penned an op-ed for the newspaper titled, "A Trophy Hunt That's Good for Rhinos" -- a resounding show of approval for the controversial black rhino hunt auction by the Dallas Safari Club to hunter Corey Knowlton for $350,000. Conniff argued that Namibia has an excellent track record with rhino conservation, and that the money gained by the auction goes directly to anti-poaching measures, saying, "so far nothing else matches trophy hunting for paying the bills."
Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, responded to Conniff's claims in a letter to the editor of NYT, saying, "We don't need this sort of pay-to-slay program for endangered mammals."
Unfortunately, when it comes to animals, there are far too many people around who will pay a high price to do something harmful to them. That's the case with the $350,000 payment by a trophy hunter intent on shooting a black rhino. But no amount of money can offset killing a black rhino, a critically endangered species, facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The American public does not support the Orwellian idea of killing endangered species to save them -- even if it comes with a big cash payment.
Pacelle's position is bolstered by Mark Bekoff, a former professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who wrote a piece for The Dodo titled, "Is Killing A Rhino For $350K Really Good For Other Rhinos?" In it, Bekoff argues that it is not okay to kill one rhino in order to save another.
We must revise some of the ways in which we attempt to coexist with other animals. Some of these methods center on heinous ways of killing them "in the name of conservation" or "to foster coexistence." Compassionate conservation stresses that the life of every individual matters and trading off an individual for the good of their own or another species is not an acceptable way to save species. And, there doesn't seem to be much evidence that it works in any significant way.
Bekoff also points out one glaring contradiction of the auction -- simply that hunters claim they can save an animal by killing it. "When people say they kill animals because they love them this makes me feel very uneasy," he writes. "I'm glad they don't love me."