What 60 Minutes' Love Letter to TX Canned Hunts Got Wrong

simitar oryx hunting

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…

Feral: Right…

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.

buffalo Where to SEE BUFFALO, Bison and Wisent
deer Where to SEE DEER (and anteloope and reindeer)


* 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.”


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2 comments to What 60 Minutes’ Love Letter to TX Canned Hunts Got Wrong

  • The Truth

    The comment from Texas Consevationist is Right on. I know several ranchers who have chosen to no longer endure the cost of keeping oryx on their ranch. Ranchers who had several hundred oryx now have none. The recent law passed to protect the oryx had the opposite result. Hunters are consevationist and do a great job at preseving and protecting the health of the animals we hunt. I am amazed at how ignorant these animal rights activist are. Do your research on the Humane Society of the US HSUS. Less than one percent of all donations go to local shelters. Just google it and you will see.

  • Texas conservationist

    You have not done your research before shooting off your mouth. I live in Texas and knew a lot of ranch owners that previously kept Simitar horned oryx. All of the ranchers I knew, protected the species which live up to 20 years and loved to show them off to visitors. Most of these ranches also kept cattle. The way cattle ranches work is they sell the calves every year. If a cow fails to produce a calf, they sell her too. Due to the primary meat eating society we live in, like it or not, there is a huge demand for beef. The cattle are there to make money off this demand not because they are pets and yes they are fenced in. But if they could no longer sell the calves, they would not be worth the time and expense of keeping and would all be eliminated. The ranch owners I personally knew were protecting the Oryx but knew the day would come when they would reach carrying capacity. Just like cattle, they were all on ranches with one male servicing several females and the females were all dropping offspring annually. Therefore, every year there were more than the year before and at some point, they knew they would have to reduce the numbers by either selling them, harvesting them, or letting down the fence so they could get out. Like it or not, they would have to keep the numbers in check just like the millions of pets that have to be killed every year that end up in pounds. I didn’t personally know one ranch owner who was removing the Oryx “yet”. However, when the law changed, the ranchers knew that when the day came to remove the overpopulated specimens, they could not just reduce them as necessary. Instead they would have to convince someone to requests a permit and have all their personal information posted for the “crazy animal person” you spoke of above to see. When the first permit was applied for to remove the overpopulated wolves, “crazy animal person”s picketed the applicant’s home and made death threats. What wound up happening on the ranches I was familiar with after the “crazy animal person” successfully removed the exemption for the “captive bred” Oryx, was the ranchers all removed the animals before the April deadline. Even my boy was allowed to shoot one that remained on a ranch the day before the April deadline which I must say is really tasty. He wanted to have the beautiful cape mounted as a reminder of the great animals that once roamed in Texas knowing there is now a very good chance they will be extinct someday soon(as they would have been today if it weren’t for Texas ranches)(again do your research and you’ll see that all the zoos sent their stock to Texas which initiated an extremely successful breeding program which is why Texas “had” more Oryx than anywhere in the world). With all the money the “crazy animal people” contributed to Ms. Feral, the Oryx have been wiped out down here in Texas. We used to have over 18,000 registered Oryx in Texas(none of the rancher’s I knew were part of the registry system so the numbers were actually much higher) and we knew the animal could never go extinct because of the guaranteed restocking opportunity. Now I’m not so sure if the bare foot stick wielding patrolmen can protect them from extinction overseas. I don’t personally know of any Texas ranches today that have Oryx. You “crazy animal person”s were able to cause the death of thousands of Oryx and somehow tell yourself you were helping protect them. Hope you’re all proud of your work and donations.