Lifting the Elephant Trophy Ban: Unethical and Not Saving Anyone

By: Samantha Mintz-Agnello

As of Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the Trump administration has made plans to lift the 2014 ban, made during the Obama administration, on the import of “trophy” elephants. The potential lift on this ban would mean that elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia could be brought into the United States. The ban was initially put in place because elephants are a threatened species, and hunting them was only making their survival decline. There is little evidence to support the claim that lifting the ban stimulates economic growth and leads to political unity. Given the controversy of this issue, the opposite can be argued: lifting the elephant trophy ban is wrong and is harmful to these nations.

On Friday, November 17, 2017,  just two days after the announcement to lift the ban, Trump stated that he would be keeping the ban. He also took to Twitter, as per usual, calling the situation a “horror show”. The indecisiveness of this position demonstrates the fickleness of the Trump administration. The administration went back on their word just two days after making the initial statement. This shows instability and lack of cohesion in Trump’s team. The conditions of the ban state that “elephants shot for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia cannot be imported by American hunters as trophies”.

The controversy over this ban puts the United States in a difficult situation with Zimbabwe and Zambia, as there has been a lot of debate over this issue. Animal rights advocate groups argue the ban should stay and killing these elephants is unethical. In their eyes, to overturn an act put in place to protect an animal on the endangered species list is wrong. My beliefs co-align with them. In my opinion, killing these poor, defenseless elephants for a profit is unethical. The fact that people are killing and hurting an already endangered species is unjust. By doing this, the hunters are not only killing defenseless animals but are breaking apart families. Hopefully, The Trump administration keeps the ban to stop these senseless murders.

There are a lot of flaws in the argument for lifting the ban. An argument against the ban is that it is bad for Zimbabwe and Zambia. Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, has spoken out against the ban. He stated, “What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it’s just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?”. He believes the hunting of elephants helps stimulate their economy. However, this ban happened nearly four years ago, and there has been no economic downturn since then. There is not enough evidence supporting the idea that killing these elephants has helped these countries become more sustainable. Also, referring to these nations as “poor Africans” is a huge generalization that does not reflect all of Africa.

Lifting the ban may not affect Zimbabwe as much people may believe, as the money does not always go where people think it is going. Because of corruption in Zimbabwe’s government and CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources), the revenue made from trophy hunting is not equally distributed. The money is not going to resources that need it, such as their rural councils, which have been heavily underfunded in the past, to support their citizens. Additionally, CAMPFIRE CEO Phindile Ncube has been dishonest about the allocation of the money. He claims it “goes to infrastructure and food programs for local communities”, however local villagers said they have not received any money. Therefore, the money is not truly helping citizens who it was intended for and need it the most. Furthermore, elephant hunting is not as prosperous as perceived, According to a 2014 report, sport hunting in the Chiredzi Rural District, where big bull elephants were killed, brought in insignificant profits. Therefore, trophy hunting will not have a huge economic impact on Zimbabwe.

Hunting groups argue that they are actually helping to protect endangered species. They believe  the revenue they make in hunting and safari fees is circulated back into the community, which incentives people to help save animals. However, the elephant population has drastically declined in the last ten years, making this argument invalid. Killing elephants will not help them survive, it’s as simple as that.

Regardless of how people stand on this issue, it has a large impact in the international arena. Other nations accusing Trump’s actions of hurting their economy paints the United States in a bad light. Furthermore, it could tarnish the US’s current relationship with Zimbabwe and Zambia. The lack of decisiveness on this issue is causing political turmoil; a final decision must be made to move forward.

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