Killing for conservation is not the ethos you would expect from a group called the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC). However, that seems to be exactly what this new advisory committee has been set up to promote.
Created by the Trump administration late last year, the council will advise the Department of the Interior on the promotion of international trophy hunting. Elephants, lions, rhinos – species already at risk from poaching, habitat loss, and climate change – will be put between the crosshairs of a hunter’s scope if this council has its way.
Appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the council members met for the first time this past Friday. Under Zinke’s leadership, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has already made moves to undo Obama-era bans on bringing elephant and lion trophies into the U.S. Part of the committee’s stated purpose is to make “efforts to increase awareness of the conservation and economic benefits of United States citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”
Based on social media posts, the Associated press predicts each member of the 16 person council will be in favor of big game hunting as a method of conservation. The committee contains not a single voice against trophy hunting.
Hunting in order to protect a species is not a widely held belief by most conservationists. Most of the animals hunted for trophies are already endangered or at risk. For trophy hunting especially, the strongest animals are targeted, weakening a population overall. Each and every one should be allowed to live out a life as protected from human interference as possible. Combating the problem of poaching by encouraging wealthy hunters to kill an animal for the display of body parts is hypocritical and weakens the arguments to protect these animals.
The Chicago Tribune created a brief profile for each of the members. Many are associated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the trophy hunting group Safari Club International (SCI). The infamous killing of Cecil the lion was carried out by dentist Walter Palmer, member of SCI. One of the members is a lobbyist for hunters. Another co-owns a private hunting preserve with Donald Trump’s adult sons. Donald Trump Jr. is known for his big game hunting and has drawn the ire of animal conservation groups worldwide over publicized photos of him with his trophies.
Though advisory committees such as these are supposed to bring a balanced view of issues, the IWCC clearly does not. Created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the group is mandated to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented” and “not be inappropriately influenced by . . . any special interest.” Comments protesting the council as biased have been submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service by animal conservation groups and scientists. Lawsuits will inevitably follow.