Killing For Fun: How Trophy Hunters Are Really Hurting Us All

A petition has been mounted against a teenage trophy hunter from Texas after she posted graphic images onto Facebook posing with animals she shot in Africa. Like many who participate in the cruel sport, she sees nothing wrong with killing for fun. But the hunting is not just hurting the animals themselves, it's hurting us all.

As some hunters will rightly point out, humans have been taking the lives of animals since the dawn of our existence, and it is, therefore, natural. But paired with that instinct, rooted just as deep, is another quality that's uniquely human: a tendency to feel respect for the things we kill.

In fact, this played such a key role in our earliest predecessors' relationship with animals that they were inspired to immortalize them, creating the very first examples of art.

Having respect for other animals is a remarkable trait for a predator, but it's no accident of evolution. Given the advantage of our heightened intellect and ability to kill with astonishing skill and efficiency, it's likely that feeling empathy is instilled within us as a natural preventative to ensure that we don't do so needlessly.

It is in our nature to hunt. But there's nothing natural about killing for fun.

For well over a century, trophy hunters from the U.S. and Europe have been shelling out money for the chance to shoot Africa's most iconic wildlife, like lions, elephants, and rhinos, posing gleefully next to the corpses. Some argue that the revenue generated by the trophy hunting industry is helping to fund conservation. While that might be true in theory, what's more devastating is that it also perpetuates a practice that's unsustainable on a whole and is just plain wrong.

In the last five decades alone, lions have declined from over 100,000 across the continent to as few as 25,000. Still, trophy hunters kill roughly 600 of these animals every year, compounding lions' other threats, like habitat loss and retaliatory killing by villagers, prompting many conservationists to argue that lions should be listed as an endangered species.

Other endangered animals, such as rhinos and elephants, both popular trophy game, are faring even worse -- with some predicting that the latter could go extinct in a little over a decade.

As Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare points out, the economic boom from foreign trophy hunters is small compared to those paying to see wildlife alive on safaris.

"The money that does come into Africa from hunting pales in comparison to the billions and billions generated from tourists who come just to watch wildlife," write Flocken. "If lions and other animals continue to disappear from Africa, this vital source of income -- non-consumptive tourism -- will end, adversely impacting people all over Africa."

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the glorification of killing of animals simply for fun sets an offensive and untenable precedent with how we relate with the other creatures. When life is given so little value that it can be taken needlessly, or worse, for an individual's own pleasure, it dims the outlook of our collective future by suggesting that it's okay not to care that the world is growing emptier by the day.

Trophy hunting advocates tout the activity as a key form of conservation -- but in reality, it merely contributes to the gradual decimation of endangered species around the world. Join us in pledging never to support big game hunting of any form, and to stand with governments that ban the sale of imported animal "trophies."