Animal Writes
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24 June 2001 Issue
Canned Hunts: Fair Chase or Foul Play?

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With so many controversial elements, the definition is often more elusive than the animals hunted.

What is a “canned hunt”? It depends who you ask.

To say that it’s an operation in which animals are shot in an enclosure doesn’t really answer the question. For example, if shooting an animal in a small pen is a canned hunt, what about on a hundred acres? Or a thousand?

Some claim that there are other considerations: Is the terrain flat grassland, or are there woods and other cover? Are the animals tame? Are they fed by humans? Are they healthy? Does the ranch allow baiting or the use of hounds? How are animals tracked? Do hunting stands oversee the area? Can the animals avoid being killed, or are they nothing more than target practice?

Hunters speak of “fair chase.” They say that the defining element in hunting is not the kill but the chase — tracking an animal for hours, or even days, in hopes of setting up the perfect shot. But canned hunts, which are condemned by pro- and anti-hunting groups alike, turn the notion of fair

chase upside-down: patrons are guaranteed a kill, making a mockery of sport hunting. For example, the Boone and Crockett Club, a hunting organization founded by Teddy Roosevelt, has called canned hunts “unfair” and “unsportsmanlike.” Other pro-hunting organizations label these operations nothing more than “canned shoots.”

The most obvious example of a canned hunt is the wanton slaughter of a “trophy” animal in a small enclosure. But if the enclosure is thousands of square acres, is that still a canned hunt? Maybe. Often the animals on hunting ranches are tame, having been hand-raised. Animals that instinctively would flee humans, instead approach them seemingly without concern. The same truck that brings the animals’ daily feed also brings the trophy-seekers. Fleeing animals are chased by trucks. Hounds corner exotic game or tree big cats. Drugged animals, too disoriented to run, are released on the premises. Animals are kicked out of cages for waiting patrons. Some refuse to budge and are shot nonetheless.

In short, there is no escape.

Go on to 50 Major U.S. Research Labs Hit With Massive USDA Complaint
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