A lion hunter who killed an elephant in Africa seven months ago has become the center of a campaign by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to pass an anti-trophy-hunting bill in California.
The bill would prohibit the importation and possession of animal parts from a list of endangered and threatened African species, including elephants, lions and rhinos. The bill has already passed the state Senate and is expected to pass the Assembly and be signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“It’s time to wake up and realize that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction event,” said Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), who wrote the bill, according to the LA Times.
To stoke public sentiment and ensure the bill’s passage, PETA has released a video of Los Angeles native Aaron Raby shooting and killing an elephant in South Africa. Raby shoots the elephant four times, and the text overlay claims, “It is unknown how many more shots or how long it took for this elephant to die.”
Raby expressed frustration and confusion in an interview with the LA Times about PETA’s attacks.
“I don’t understand why this is anybody’s business but my own,” Raby said. “What I did is legal. I didn’t break a law. They’re going to place a ban because a bunch of … crybabies that don’t like hunting.”
“We’re not all bloodthirsty, psycho machines that people make us out to be,” he said. “I promise you, I can read an animal better than someone who is against hunting. They say they like animals, but they don’t know anything about them.”
Raby, who paid about $40,000 to kill the elephant and have the head mounted, argues that the African villages who host American hunters rely on that income.
He also pointed out that many of the game ranches frequented by trophy hunters would be converted into farmland if hunting was banned. The animals who live there, including threatened animals like lions and elephants, would damage crops and be exterminated.
“We pay a lot of money to hunt these animals,” Raby said. “If we didn’t hunt, that land would be converted into cattle ranches and there’d be poaching. They don’t want lions killing their cattle or elephants destroying their crops.”
A number of scientific studies have backed Raby’s argument. Nearly 130 scientists signed a letter published last year in Science titled “Trophy hunting bans imperil biodiversity.”
In another study published in June, researchers from Rhodes University in South Africa conducted interviews with landowners currently operating trophy hunting businesses. A majority (91%) of landowners reported that the economic viability of their private land and the biodiversity on it would be lost following a hunting ban.
PETA has asked South African officials to investigate Raby’s hunt, in particular the prolonged death of the elephant, according to the LA Times.