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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 6 May 2003 Issue

Canned Hunts, The Cowards Game

Canned hunting is the killing of an animal in an enclosure to obtain a trophy. The animals are sometimes tame exotic mammals; some, in fact, have been sold by petting zoos to the canned hunting operation. These animals do not know to run from humans.

Many groups that support hunting scorn canned hunting for its unsportsmanlike practice; patrons are guaranteed a kill. Several states now ban canned hunting operations, but the practice is spreading.

Spreading Like a Disease From Maine to Arkansas and Indiana to Texas, canned hunting operations are sprouting up all over. The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are more than 1,000 canned hunt operations in at least 25 different states. They are most common in Texas, but they are found throughout the continental United States and Hawaii. Safari Club International (SCI) has done its part to promote canned hunting by creating a hunting achievement award, "Introduced Trophy Game Animals of North America," which may support the operation of canned hunts.

Big Business

The sale of exotic mammals to canned hunts is big business for private breeders, animal dealers, and disreputable zoos. The overbreeding of captive exotic animals exacerbates the problem. The indiscriminate breeding produces surplus animals, which are then sold, traded, or otherwise disposed of to exhibitors, circuses, animal dealers, game ranches, or individuals. Hunt operators can purchase animals directly through dealers or at auctions. Until those who own exotic animals stop their irresponsible breeding, there will be a steady supply of victims for canned hunting operators.

The Victims

Clients pay large sums of money to participate in canned hunts, which take place in a confined area from which the animal cannot escape. The victims are exotic (non-indigenous) animals, including several varieties of goats and sheep; numerous species of Asian and African antelope; deer, cattle, and swine; and bears, zebra, and sometimes even big cats.

Tame Targets

The killing of a confined or restrained wild animal is abuse for the sake of amusement. Unlike situations in which animals can use their natural and instinctual abilities to escape predation, a canned hunt affords animals no such opportunity. In fact, animals may be hand-reared, fed at regular times, and moved regularly among a system of corrals and paddocks. These practices lessen the natural fear and flight response elicited by human beings, and ensure the hunters an easy target. Animals may be set up for a kill as they gather at a regular feeding area or as they move toward a familiar vehicle or person. Once a pattern is established, even the most wary antelope can be manipulated effectively, guaranteeing a kill.


Most states allow canned hunting. Only California, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have laws prohibiting the hunting of exotic mammals in enclosures. Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission, responding to public disgust for canned hunting, recently passed a ban on the practice.

At this time, no federal law governs canned hunting. The Animal Welfare Act does not regulate game preserves, hunting preserves, or canned hunts. Although the Endangered Species Act protects species of animals listed as endangered or threatened, it does not prohibit private ownership of endangered animals and may even allow the hunting of endangered species. Federal legislation regarding canned hunts is anticipated in the near future.

Summary of The HSUS's Objections to Canned Hunts

Canned hunts are cruel and brutal activities.

Canned hunts occur in a confined area from which the animal has absolutely no chance of escape.

Not only is an animal used in canned hunting physically controlled by barriers or fences, but he/she has also been psychologically conditioned to behave as a target by a life in captivity.

Canned hunts provide private breeders, animal dealers, and disreputable zoos with a dumping ground for surplus animals and a financial justification for breeding. They exacerbate the problem of overbreeding of captive exotic animals.



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