This article, reprinted with permission from The Fund for Animals' website, explains the activity referred to as 'canned hunting.'
Hunting Fact Sheet #4 4/25/2000
The Fund for Animals Hunting Fact Sheet #4
Canned Hunts: The Other Side of the Fence
A hunter paid a $275 bounty for the head of a black Hawaiian ram. After a guide drove the ram directly into the path of his client, the hunter shot the trapped animal with an arrow at point-blank range. The wounded ram, with an arrow sticking out of his hindquarters, backed up against the fence that forced him to stay close to his killers. A shot to the head might have meant a quick kill, but would have spoiled the eventual trophy. So the hunter repeatedly took aim at the ram's body, and the animal writhed in pain for four minutes before dying.1
The Fund for Animals is dedicated to ending atrocious hunts such as the one described above. For example, due to The Fund and the Texas Humane Legislative Network's efforts, the Texas legislature banned shooting bears, lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, and other large mammals on fenced-in preserves. No bill to restrict hunting of any kind -- no matter how indefensible a hunt -- had ever made its way through the Texas legislature before this historic achievement.
WHAT IS A CANNED HUNT?
From Asian sheep to African lions to European boars, exotic and native animals are shot for trophies at thousands of "canned" hunting preserves scattered across the U.S. A canned hunt takes place on a fenced piece of private property where a hunter can pay a fee to shoot a captive animal. Nearly any animal is unfair game, receiving not only a prison sentence on a fenced-in preserve, but also a firing squad. Prices for a hunt may range from several hundred to several thousand dollars per kill. The Renegade Ranch in Michigan, for example, charges $350 and up for a Corsican ram, $450 for a Russian boar, $750 and up for a blackbuck antelope, $3,000 for a buffalo, and $5,500 for a trophy elk. According to its brochure, "Many exotic animals not listed are available upon request."2 Some shooting preserves charge up to $20,000 for a rhinoceros. Either bred in captivity, purchased from animal dealers, or retired from zoos and circuses (though many of these establishments such as Ringling Bros. adamantly oppose the canned hunt industry), these tame animals do not even run when approached by weapon-wielding hunters. Shooting preserves offer guaranteed trophies and advertise as "No Kill, No Pay." The animals are so tame, in fact, that one hunter stated, "Before being harvested, African lions raised as pets would amble over and lick your hand."3 There may be as much so-called sport in shooting caged animals at the local zoo.
THE ZOO CONNECTION
Many zoos -- even the nation's most prestigious -- sell their "surplus" animals either directly to canned hunting preserves or to middlemen and dealers who later sell to the hunts. Because baby animals are popular, zoos continue to breed their animals. But space is limited, and for every baby born an adult animal must leave. Zoos generally claim they do not know what happens to the animals they sell. The official guidelines of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), the organization that certifies zoos, state, "The AZA strongly opposes the sale, trade, or transfer of animals from zoos and aquariums to organizations or individuals which allow the hunting of animals directly from or bred at zoos or aquariums." But the policy is meaningless since all shooting preserves or dealer middlemen can claim their clients do not hunt animals "directly from or bred at zoos," but rather hunt the offspring of those animals. Moreover, there are more than 2,250 animal exhibits in the US and only 196 belong to the AZA.4 The thousands of petting zoos, roadside zoos, and smaller exhibitors have no reason to adhere to the AZA's suggestions.
Many animals available at canned hunts are victims of the pet trade. Individuals buy exotic animals such as lions, tigers, and monkeys as babies. When these animals mature to full size and exhibit non-domesticated behavior, they no longer seem cute and cuddly. Many people attempt to control these animals by caging, beating, or chaining them, or by removing the teeth and/or claws. These conditions are not only unhealthy but also inhumane which, at times, provoke the animal to strike out. As a result of loss of interest or a safety issue, many sell the animals either directly to canned hunts or indirectly through animal brokers. The animal's fate is the same. A lucky few end up at sanctuaries, but there are not nearly enough responsible, safe homes.
Animals kept in concentrated numbers increase the likelihood of disease transmission. As canned hunts have proliferated in states, concerns about diseases have grown. Diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, and chronic wasting disease (similar to Mad Cow Disease) have been diagnosed in native and captive animals. For example, Montana game ranchers faced the possible spread of tuberculosis in 1991 when an elk on a game ranch tested positive (27 other elk showed signs of exposure).5 Wildlife officials worried that the neighboring Yellowstone free-ranging herd of elk would become infected as well. Though disease is a natural element in nature, the introduction of a disease into a wild population as a result of the escape of an animal from a shooting gallery poses an unacceptable risk to our free-roaming wildlife.
As available public land for hunting dwindles, the establishment of private canned hunt operations increases. Therefore, with hunter education instructors and outdoor columnists talking more and more about "hunting ethics," canned hunts have become a topic of heated debate. Outdoor writer Ted Kerasote, an impassioned defender of hunting, criticizes canned hunts since they are transforming hunting "into this caged, paid affair and it bears no resemblance to what hunting is, was, and could be. Like so many things in our world, people want to buy the product (the trophy) rather than experience the process (meeting the animal on its own terrain)."6 For professionals without the time or inclination to wait in the bush or for the novice hunters who lack the expertise but want a trophy for the wall, canned hunts guarantee a kill but further tarnish the image of hunting. If even hunters speak out against this unsporting slaughter, why have canned hunts not been eliminated? Because powerful hunting lobbyist groups such as the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International -- which erroneously claim to represent the interests of all hunters -- fight tooth and nail against any measure that would restrict any type of hunting, no matter how repugnant.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
While many states prohibit canned hunts, states that allow canned hunts can purchase exotic animals from any state. Federal legislation is needed to stop the interstate commerce in animals for the purpose of shooting them on fenced-in preserves. Ask your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators to support anti-canned hunt legislation. Please contact The Fund for Animals for updates on federal and state legislation or to order a copy of the comprehensive report on the canned hunt industry, Canned Hunts: Unfair at Any Price. For more information, visit www.fund.org. The following states have banned canned hunts: California, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming
1. "To Love or Kill: Man vs. Animal," America Undercover, Home Box Office, April 1996.
2. The Renegade Ranch. "Price Info." www.rhinotec.com/renegade . (Accessed 29 August 2001).
3. Williams, Ted. "Canned Hunts." Audubon January/February 1992.
4. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association. www.aza.org.2000/about/welcome. (Accessed 29 August 2001).
5. Associated Press. "Elk Have TB: Tests at Corwin Springs Game Farm Show Positive Results." The Montana Standard15 April 1991.
6. Masterson, Robert. "The Trophy Hunters' Loophole." The Westchester Conty Weekly 29 July 1999.