End the slaughter of lions and elephants, says U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan

Jun 23, 2019 | News

By Mark Young, The Bradenton Herald

If U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s amendment to a sweeping government spending bill is successful, it may help to protect endangered African lions and elephants.

According to a press release issued Friday by Buchanan’s office, the bill would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from issuing importation permits from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The three African nations encourage trophy hunting, putting tourism dollars before the lives of the animals.

“These magnificent creatures are on the verge of extinction,” Buchanan said in a prepared statement. “The last thing we should be doing is making it easy to slaughter these animals and bring their stuffed heads back into the U.S. as trophies. Once a species is gone, it’s gone forever.”

“The House today took an important step towards banning the import of elephant and lion trophies,” Buchanan said. “The taxpayers should not have to pay a single dollar to enable this activity. Protecting animals at home and abroad is an overwhelmingly bipartisan cause.”

It is estimated that an elephant is killed every 18 minutes, or over 30,000 a year are slaughtered for their tusks.

The ban was initially put in place in 2016, but the U.S. Interior Department “quietly” overturned the ban in October of 2017, according to Buchanan who said he then urged President Donald Trump to reject lifting of the ban. Though the ban was overturned, Trump put the Interior Department’s decision on hold.

Trump has, “indicated he intends to uphold the ban,” Buchanan said after his discussion with the president in late 2017.

A 2015 Marist College Institute for Public Opinion poll showed most Americans — 56 percent — oppose all sport hunting activities, and find big game hunting “to be especially distasteful.”

Animal advocacy groups were quick to chime in on the passage.

“As the United States is the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, our efforts to alleviate the additional pressure trophy hunting put on these species is critical,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Amundson said the three African nations don’t have to worry about losing tourism because Americans already spend more on safari viewing trips than those who pay to hunt big game.

The bill is expected to pass the House next week with Buchanan’s amendment intact and will head to the floor of the U.S. Senate from there.