Canned hunts kill element of fair chase
For years, Pennsylvania law makers have been mulling legislation to ban canned hunts — ranches where wealthy shooters take aim at fenced animals — and join nearly two dozen other states that have forbidden the unethical practice.
Previously, policymaker attempts to ban canned hunts in Pennsylvania have been unsuccessful, but next month the House Game and Fisheries Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 2289.
In a unique alliance, conservation groups, hunters and animal protection organizations have openly agreed in their opposition to these hunts.
Canned hunts are commercial enterprises conducted on private land under circumstances that generally guarantee a kill. By offering “no kill, no pay” opportunities, canned hunts violate a fundamental principle of hunting — fair chase.
Jim Posewitz, founder of Orion: The Hunter’s Institute and former biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, describes fair chase as “a balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.”
Using techniques developed for cattle ranching, some canned hunt operators breed boar, deer, elk and other big game animals, hand-rear them so they have no fear of people, and release them into a fenced enclosure so affluent clients can pay thousands of dollars to kill the animals. Other canned hunts buy exotic animals — such as lions, mountain sheep or zebras — from wild animal dealers.
Frequently, exotics killed at canned hunts originally came from the breeding programs of zoos and circuses. From infancy, humans have tended and fed them, and they have little fear of us. And if the client doesn’t fancy a couple of hours trudging through the woods, that’s not a problem. The guide will simply take him in a truck to a blind near a feeding station where the animals are accustomed to being fed at the same time every day. When the unsuspecting animal comes to eat, the client gets an easy shot at close range — no hiking, no waiting, no inconvenience.
Pennsylvanians can take a look for themselves. Simply visit www.happyhollowhunts.com to see the menu of animals ready to be shot in Pennsylvania.
Clearly, canned hunt operators are not selling a hunting trip, but the chance to simply kill a specific animal. It is lazy, cowardly and unsportsmanlike.
People who shoot cows in a fenced pasture are prosecuted for animal cruelty. People who shoot tame animals in a fenced pasture are guilty of the same crime.
State Rep. Thomas Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks, introduced a bill to ban canned hunts in 2004 that stalled until early this year. The bill is now in the proper committee with a reasonable chance of getting out for a full vote.
Following the introduction of his bill, Corrigan said in a news release that, “Canned hunts, in which confined animals are killed for a trophy, go against the long-established hunting tradition of fair chase. These hunts are unsporting, cruel and tarnish the image of all hunters.”
The Humane Society of the United States agrees, and so do many hunters. The Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club, which maintain trophy records for big game hunting, will not consider animals shot at canned hunts for inclusion on their record lists.
By outlawing canned hunting, Pennsylvania could join other nearby states, such as Connecticut and Maryland, that have recognized the unethical nature of canned hunting and banned the egregious practice. Corrigan’s bill deserves support from animal protection advocates, hunters, conservationists and environmentalists.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, Founder of Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, FL 33625 MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org