The world has rightfully expressed scorn and outrage the last few days over the murder of Cecil the Lion. Celebrities as diverse as Sir Roger Moore and Speaker Newt Gingrich have expressed anger about the unsporting killing of a captive and virtually domesticated animal. If you think this only happens in Africa or some third world country, you are unfortunately wrong.
“Canned Hunts” are the most cowardly and unsporting action imaginable. Here in Florida sadly, it is big business which attracts big money. Florida permits Canned Hunts thanks to our Republican legislature even though the practice has been banned in the neighboring and equally (if not more) conservative states of Alabama and Georgia. Both states banned the practice when Democrats still controlled the legislature (with a Republican Governor Bob Riley signing the law in Alabama) in the 2000’s. But despite some shocking reports from CNN and a strongly worded editorial from The St Petersburg Times, the Republican-led legislature and Governor Jeb Bush failed to act.
This barbaric practice involves confining an animal, often times raising it similarly to a pet, luring it towards food and blowing its head off. Often times the animals are raised in captivity in order to be a sitting duck target for trophy hunters (who must be distinguished from actual sport hunters) or are trapped and fenced in a hunting ground. Large sums of money are charged by the owners of the ground to lead “hunters” to the virtually captive and often unsuspecting animal and the to bag the kill.
One such canned hunting facility in Martin County was reported on in 2009. Even after the public criticism the County Commission approved the authorization of the impacted land for canned hunts. Several other such hunting grounds are able to openly advertise services on the web thanks to lawmakers indifference to this issue. Rumors have even been abound for many years that several Florida politicians themselves have used facilities of this type though no hard evidence could be found. To see the large number of facilities operating canned hunts simply type “trophy hunting in Florida” into your search engine.
It should be noted that many zoos around the country sell surplus animals or older creatures to canned hunting facilities, rather than humanely euthanizing the impacted animal. According to a report in the 1990’s Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa and Busch Gardens also in Tampa sold surplus animals to canned hunting grounds. I recall seeing a list in the mid 2000’s that listed more Florida zoological parks as sellers to trophy hunting grounds, but cannot find that list online any longer.
Pressure must come from animal lovers and progressive individuals throughout the state to force our legislature to outlaw this barbaric practice. Otherwise Cecil the Lion will be a one week story of a beautiful creature who died in vain.