21 December 2010

They shoot pets, don't they?

From an article at Audubon Magazine about the increasing popularity of "canned hunts."
In most canned hunts tame or semi-tame game species, reared in captivity, are placed in enclosures of varying sizes, and the gate is opened for the client, who has been issued a guarantee of success. Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage. For example, Rachel, Bathsheba, Paul, John, and Matthew were pet African lions that would stroll over and lick their keepers’ hands before they were shot in Texas...

There have been major changes in canned hunts since I last wrote about them 19 years ago. For one thing, they’re vastly more popular... One of the club’s most prominent members is rock star Ted Nugent, who runs his own canned-hunt operation in Jackson, Michigan. Five of Nugent’s kills have made it into the club record book, including a feral boar he shot during a canned hunt in Texas and a bison he shot on, of all places, Alaska’s Kodiak Island, where they’re being raised to be crossed with cattle for “beefalo.” “Lunatic fringe” is how Nugent describes people who think canned hunts “degrade the heritage of American hunting.”

Another big change in canned hunting since 1992 has been the composition of its critics, which now include more fair-chase hunters. Because the general public has scant understanding of canned hunting, it frequently doesn’t differentiate it from real hunting. “If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state.

He reports that he was informed by a Denver taxidermist that half the elk coming in to be mounted had tattooed lips, which identify captives. Ingram also said he had reliable information that one canned-hunt customer had flown into Colorado and paid $40,000 to kill a Minnesota-raised bull that had been trucked in for the one-day shoot...

Not all product is shot. What’s considered “best” for canned-hunt production is sold to other breeders. Russell Bellar of Peru, Indiana, paid $100,000 for Xfactor, a yearling whitetail with a freakishly large rack. Some bucks are plied with antler-growing concoctions and as they age are kept on life support with meds and surgeries. Their function is to produce semen for other breeders who buy it for as much as $28,000 per standard unit, or “straw.” A prime buck might produce 500 straws a year. And there’s additional income from photographers who sell phony wildlife images to outdoor magazines and calendar publishers. Old, decrepit males with waning semen and antler potential are sold to canned-hunt operations as shooters...

Finally, there’s the disease issue. Game farms and the canned-hunting operations they supply are spreading bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis, chronic wasting disease (the wildlife version of mad cow), and brain worm (carried by white-tailed deer and fatal to ungulates that didn’t evolve with it, such as moose, elk, caribou, and pronghorn). So far the worst epidemics have been in Canada, but they apparently were touched off by animals imported from the United States...

So terse and tight is the prose of Montana’s fair-chase hunters that they were able to pack everything I’ve been trying to say in this column into a single sentence. Maybe you’ll read that sentence this month on one of their trucks, if you venture into Montana’s wild, beautiful deer and elk country, because MADCOW adopted it for a slogan during its ballot-initiative campaign. It goes like this: “Real Hunters Don’t Shoot Pets.”
More at the link, via The Daily Dish.

1 comment:

  1. Though I am a gun owner, I'm not a hunter. I don't mind the idea of hunting, in principle, but this turns my stomach. If you did this type of breeding and conditioning in preparation for food production in order to survive, I wouldn't be as queasy, but to call it "hunting" smacks of complete ignorance.

    I already have enough trouble with the notion of perching in trees above a well-baited game trail as a form of "hunting," so you can imagine my distaste at the thought of GPS tracking of "game" animals for the purpose of bagging a trophy animal.

    Hey, let's start a new racetrack where we'll breed drivers to drive slowly and move out of paying customers' way so that the customer can come in first place every time without any effort! We can even do a shortened race for those customers who are really, really short of time! Yeah!

    I'll get off of my soapbox now.


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