The ABCNews.com headline burst across the screen as if to announce some vital, breaking news story:
“Donald Trump’s Sons Photographed with Dead Animals in Africa.”
Wow. This is headline news?
Accompanying the story was a photo of Donald Trump Jr. posed with a fine Cape buffalo any hunter would be proud of. The popup caption read: “Trump’s sons with mutilated animals.” (Actually, there were NO signs of “mutilation.”)
That was one of the milder headlines—others used terms like “Animal Butchery.”
Mainstream media, PETA and The Huffington Post are all taking turns in a feeding frenzy of personal attacks on Donald Trump Jr. and his brother, Eric, over a safari they took two summers ago in Zimbabwe, and photos from the trip that have surfaced online. The pair killed an elephant, crocodile, kudu, civet, waterbuck, leopard and Cape buffalo.
Granted, the name Trump might draw some media attention no matter what you do, but the firestorm of attacks the brothers are drawing is hardly journalism. It is simply more proof of mainstream media’s eagerness to give animal rights’ groups the headlines they crave. These groups contribute absolutely nothing for wildlife management, here or in Africa, yet multiple new sources have picked up their statements maligning the Trumps.
PETA, for example, said, “Like all animals, elephants, buffalo, and crocodiles deserve better than to be killed and hacked apart for two young millionaires’ grisly photo opportunity.” The “hacked apart” reference seems directed at a photo of Donald Jr. holding an elephant’s tail and a knife. Donald says it was actually local villagers who did the cutting, following a tradition that dates back to ivory hunters of a century ago—but what does it matter, anyway? Is it really any different than a kid plucking tail feathers from his first pheasant? We take tails, feathers, horns, hides and antlers as a matter of respect and reverence, and for the memories they give us. Anti-hunters malign all of these objects as “trophies” and seem incapable of understanding how profoundly meaningful they are.
Indeed, The Huffington Post used the term “trophy” or “trophy hunting” as if there is something wrong with it no less than four times, along with the words “killing spree in Zimbabwe” in the headline of their story. And, as has become usual with anti-hunting groups, they took a perfectly legal and legitimate hunt and did their best to link it with poaching, stating, in one example: “According to Time magazine’s reports, ‘Killing Fields,’ Asian poachers and smugglers have posed as trophy hunters to access Africa’s rare rhino horn.”
In truth, neither The Huffington Post nor PETA nor mainstream media do anything about poaching in Africa—but hunters do.
In a phone conversation with Eric Trump, he pointed out that most poaching in Zimbabwe is done by people trying to feed their families. “They essentially live on cornmeal and very little of it,” Eric said. “They’re totally malnourished. If you shoot a buffalo, the whole village comes out, and they celebrate and they take every morsel.” The meat provided by legitimate hunters reduces the need for locals to take game illegally—something the media and animal rights’ groups have failed to mention.
NRA Board Member Todd Rathner, who has run African safaris for years (www.TJSafari.com), explained something else the media and antis left out. The economy in Zimbabwe is a disaster. Inflation is at unprecedented highs and, according to Rathner, “It takes a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread. The only income Zimbabwe has right now is from sport hunting.
“A percentage of the fees that hunters pay their PH and outfitters goes into the local communities,” Rathner said. “The outfitter has to pay for the hunting rights, and in Zimbabwe, it can be as much as 50 percent. That money is being used in many areas to build schools, improve housing and create community centers.
“When you monetize the game in a country where people can’t afford to feed themselves,” Rather continued, “then the locals have an incentive to protect the game herds. If they banned hunting, then people would be forced to go out and kill animals to feed their families.”
Another false notion PETA and others want perpetuated is that much African game, particularly elephants, are endangered. In fact, there are so many elephants in Botswana the military has to cull them. In Zimbabwe, the country has about 100,000 elephants, yet the carrying capacity is estimated to support only 40,000. Habitat destruction is widespread and managed hunting is critical to the survival of the species.
Despite the public attacks, Donald Jr. and Eric—both NRA life members—have stood their ground admirably and represented hunting well. “We are hunters,” Eric told us with pride. “We are outdoorsmen.” Eric particularly bridled at accusations that his hunt was “canned” or took place in pens. “The area we hunted was twice as big as Rhode Island,” he said. “There was no possibility of a fence.” Donald stated, “I’m a hunter, and for that I make no apologies. The villagers were so happy for the meat, which they don’t often get to eat.” He added on Twitter, “And btw, I bet the money I spend on license fees that goes back to the animals is a lot more than the antis give for sure.”
Editor’s Note: The Trump’s safari was booked with Hunting Legends Africa. Visit: www.huntinglegends.com.