Laura Logan thanked hunters on 60 Minutes for saving endangered species by paying thousands of dollars to shoot them on canned hunts in Texas.* She gulped down the game ranchers’ argument that they are the only ones keeping animals like the scimitar-horned oryx, which is listed by the IUCN Red List as extinct in the wild, from disappearing from the planet.
That will surely come as a surprise to the other 199 institutions around the world that have been carefully breeding Oryx dammah since the 1960s.
Logan walks five miles to make critics of canned hunts look insane. But even then she doesn’t deliver. She lays a trap for Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals, asking if it would be better if they were extinct than hunted. Feral doesn’t fall for it.
Logan; So, if the animals exist only to be hunted…
Logan: …you would rather they not exist at all?
Feral: Not in Texas, no.
She sidesteps the obvious ploy and says she’d just rather not see them in Texas. Not insane. If I said I’d rather not have the scimitar-horned oryx in my living room, does that mean I’m getting in the way of real conservation? No. Having a scimitar-horned oryx on my sofa or on a hunting ranch in Texas is completely irrelevant to its conservation. If hunting the oryx were really the only way for the species to survive, of course I’d support it. But it has nothing to do with species survival.
Logan lets the hunters conflate surviving and living in Texas. On the show and in online comments, they practically shout Gotcha! I just bagged a crazy animal person!
Logan lets hunters claim that they have the numbers on their side. They say the number or oryx will be cut in half –in Texas–by a new law that makes them illegal to hunt.
But just the raw numbers of oryx aren’t as important as the number in the international studbook. Texas ranchers thousands of oryx (how many nobody says). Only 110 are part of the international effort to save the species. They make up less than 10% of the studbook, a directory of breeding animals biologists keep to save the species. (Typically, individuals aren’t listed if they were too much like ones already in there or genetics are unknown.) The Texas population is so insignificant that the IUCN barely mentions them in its species assessment. There’s another 4,000 in private hands in the United Arab Emirates, where the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort (AWPR) is actually working with biologists, hosting conferences to figure out how to save the species. This giant family zoo in the desert, founded by Sheikh Zayed, who founded the country, is the real unsung hero in oryx conservation.
It’s amazing to see CBS News just take up the hunting ranches’ fight. In Australia, where hunters are doing the same thing, reporters are at least asking questions about ethical hunting. “For me, to see these beautiful animals shot by these madmen is a tragedy. They are extinct in the wild. It’s like shooting a Sumatran tiger or a white rhino. It’s disgusting,” said tycoon Warren Anderson, who bred them.
Logan doesn’t even bother to question the canned hunting ranch assertion that they employ 14,000 people in Texas or the bizarre claim that “Texas has more exotic wildlife than any other place on earth.” First off, that’s not something to be proud of. Second, it’s unprovable and vague propaganda. Are we talking individual animals? Species? The hunted animals are on fenced, ranches, not running wild. So then do farm animals count, too? Or pets? If we’re talking individual animals, then the number or starlings and sparrows alone in New York or many states would eclipse Texas’ antelope numbers.
Here are some other numbers Logan doesn’t bother to bring up. Wildlife watchers spend more more than hunters. Even in Texas. According to the last Fish and Wildlife Survey, animal tourists spent $2.9 billion wildlife watchers (table 69) compared to just $2.2 billion by hunters (table 59).
Again, animal lovers are happy to talk about the real numbers.
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* Think I’m exaggerating? Logan actually said: “How did thousands of Texas ranches become home to the largest population of exotic animals on earth? It’s thanks to trophy hunters like Paul, who come here in the thousands to hunt these animals every year, sold on the idea of an African hunting experience in Texas.”