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Hunting isn’t about conservation, no matter what Kendall Jones says. It’s about killing.

Kendall Jones.

She is the 19-year-old cheerleader who – just a few months ago – became famous when photos of herself with the bodies of African animals she had hunted went viral. 

You might remember her as the publisher of photos like this:

And this:

The reaction to her photos was fierce. Some commenters were so offended by the images, they wrote that they wished Kendall would fight the big game on “equal footing” without a gun, or that she should have been “killed” in the place of the animals. Now, Jones has hit back at her critics.

In an interview with First for Hunters, Kendall Jones responded to these death threats, saying, “It’s rather concerning to see people condemn the taken life of an animal and in the next breath wish to see me dead. I just don’t see the logic in it.”

She also said that she didn’t understand why women specifically are the subject of such harsh criticism from animal rights organisations.

“I find it odd that only women have been targeted by these organisations,” Kendall revealed. “Why would these huge, powerful organisations go after me, a woman, a minority in the hunting community and attack me with their anti-hunting rhetoric? I am not the first to go on African safaris yet these groups attack me nonetheless.”

Jones also explained how hunting was linked to conservation – a statement which seems, on the surface, to make no sense at all.

“When I travel to Africa to hunt, I have to pay a tag fee for the specific species I plan to take. If the game population in that country cannot sustain a hunt, hunters will not be granted a tag. The money from these tag fees goes directly to the local communities to fund anti-poaching efforts, research and other conservation initiatives.”

Is canned hunting the best way to support conservation?

This kind of hunting is called ‘canned hunting’ – a legalised practice where lions (and some other large animals) are removed from the wild or bred in captivity, and kept in conservation parks and breeding programs. They are brought up among humans. They are bottle fed, and petted by children and tourists. When they are old enough, the lions are sold on to safari parks and – in many cases – hunting parks.

A hunter then pays between $5000 and $30,000 to enter the field with a shotgun, or a handgun, or a crossbow and engage with the animal. At the moment less than five per cent of hunting profits go to the government for wildlife conservation.

Because there are so many animals being bred to be hunted, numbers of the species are maintained – although the animals are not technically wild or free. [Click here for a more detailed discussion of canned hunting.]

Kendall argued that the hunting industry in rural areas in Africa also sustains the economy, where the land is often too dry for agriculture and there are not many other opportunities for eco-tourism. “The reality of it is photo-safaris, donations, and other means of revenue just don’t match up to the money conservation groups make from hunting,” Kendall said in her interview.

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She also explained how hunting could help feed the local community, referencing one instance of killing an elephant – a kill which she filmed and posted online.

“Yes, in that video I had hunted an elephant. That one hunt fed more than 100 families. If more people hunted and gave away meat like I did, hundreds or even thousands of people in Africa could be fed as a by-product of hunting.”

Kendall Jones isn’t wrong, in any of her sentiments. The money she pays to hunt, is helping increase the number of threatened species in Africa. By hunting, she is helping the local economy. When she donates her kills to the local community, she is feeding families. Everything she has done is legal.

This is a case of ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’. There’s no point in hating Kendall Jones as a person. She is not even the worst offender participating in a system that, at the moment, links hunting and conservation.

There’s no point in hating Kendall Jones as a person.

Of course, just because the current system is the status quo, doesn’t mean that it’s right. Or that other avenues of conservation shouldn’t be simultaneously pursued; or that people who find hunting morally reprehensibly should sit down and shut up.

If hunters-come-conservationists were willing to invest their money into animal breeding programs – whether or not they got to take home a trophy – the programs would still run.

If anti-poaching efforts were more strictly enforced and generously supported, then the hunting industry – protecting its own financial interests by combating poaching – wouldn’t be as necessary.

If systems were put in place to give people in rural communities better food security — then hunters might feel less inclined to advocate a system where a community’s nutrition relies on the sporting appetite of white tourists.

But more than anything else, if you hate what Kendall Jones is doing – hating her isn’t going to stop hunting.

She’s just a 19-year-old girl, and she’s not breaking any laws.

It’s the law that is broken.

If you think there must be a better way, visit the Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

If you would like to learn more about anti-poaching efforts, visit Born Free.

If you would like to support sustainable measures to feed the 842 million people in the world who are undernourished, you can visit the World Food Programme.

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