At Least One Reader Offended By Safari Photos

Sam Spicer has entire rooms dedicated to prizes from his hunting expeditions. (Staff photo: Chris McGathey)

With the Dallas Safari Club hosting its Journeys Convention and Sporting Expo this weekend, we thought it would be a good time to talk to a few of the club’s members. Karley Osborn’s cover story mentions “the club’s three-pronged mission statement: conservation, education, and protecting hunters’ rights.”

Under this banner, club members have invested millions in efforts ranging from the restoration of bighorn sheep in Texas, to studies of aging lions in Zambia, to outdoor education programs that teach teenagers how to cook with a Dutch oven, fly fish, and shoot archery.

But reader Douglas Westmoreland couldn’t bear the photos by Chris McGathey. He writes:

With almost half of animals in the world to be extinct within the next 100 years, I find it appalling that you run a cover story about a man “surrounded by stuffed trophies from his various hunts.” Really? Hunting a defenseless giraffe must have been thrilling. Ivory tusk trophies in his living room from butchered elephants? Disgusting. Sam Spicer has an extremely myopic view of animal conservation and it is revolting to see his slaughtered trophies on the cover of the Park Cities People.

Anybody else have any thoughts on this?

By Dan Koller Jan. 4, 2013 | 12:08 pm | 24 Comments | Comments RSS
  • 1Zima2Many

    I’m a casual hunter (ducks and dove mainly). I don’t always eat what I kill, but I try to, and when I don’t, I try to at least give the meat away so that I’m not just killing for sport. I’m guessing this Spicer guy didn’t eat giraffe jerky or smoked lion after he killed them. Pretty sick and twisted if you ask me.

  • hp parent

    Douglas Westmoreland is certainly entitled to his opinion. Big game hunters usually work with outfitters who are very familiar with game management and wouldn’t let a hunter kill an endangered animal. Hunting has been around since the dawn of time and it is defintiely part of the southern culture. It doesn’t bother me a bit

  • Chase

    Incredibly ignorant rant from the “offended”

  • The Pooh

    I have never been squeemish about hunting. Shot my fair share of ducks and deer. It was the giraffe and elephant ivory in that photo that made me think twice about this man and his organization. Killing such animals just seems excessive and unnecesary.

  • A. B.

    I was disturbed by the giraffe (I mean, really!) and was wondering how many letters/emails you would receive in response. Please post a running tally.

  • Edward

    But without big game hunting, what would all these “sportsmen” do with their assault rifles?

  • Eric

    I’m not a big game hunter. But I have investigated the state of hunting on the African continent and the facts are that without the hunting sports, animals likes the elephant would have been wiped out by aboriginal poachers decades ago.
    Poaching is still a very serious problem in most of Africa and poachers are not sportsman – they shoot everything they can and harvest only what the (mostly Asian) market demands leaving hides and meat to rot.
    The Professional Hunters (guides) in conjunction with the national and local authorities, funded by sportsmen and sportswomen the world over, are what stand between many of these animals and poaching to extermination.
    Safari hunting, conducted under the eyes of PH’s harvest a small fraction of these animal populations. If you don’t like that arrangement, feel free to come up with a better one that works. The facts today are that safari hunting has done more to preserve these animals than anything else, up to and including a total ban on hunting.

  • Z

    I’ve killed and eaten deer and birds. But trophy hunting seems like a form of mental illness to me. Count me and my spouse among the subscribers scratching our heads when we saw the front page, and throwing it away before our kindergartner to see it and ask us why anyone would kill a giraffe.

  • Bibliomaniac

    The picture reminded me of Fair Park’s Museum of Natural History back in the 80’s. (It improved greatly even before the Perot replaced it.)

  • The Pooh

    There are marine sanctuaries around the world that do a great job of protecting reefs and marine life while still allowing people to visit and enjoy them. Governments everywhere do this without feeling the need to allow small, elite groups of white guys to pay tons of money to go in and shoot the animals when they get the itch to kill something big. The current system is kind of like saying we’ll take care of the homeless as long as we can use one of them for a punching bag now and then when we feel like it.

  • Z

    It’s actually a bit more like saying, “We’ll take care of the homeless as long as we can mount a few of their heads on our walls.” Truth is, I appreciate the comments about how regulated safari hunting may be helping protect animal populations at large, because I was completely unaware of that. But such explanations add no insight whatsoever into the larger question that I thought was being presented (vis-a-vis being “disturbed” by the photographs): namely, what in the world is going through the mind of a person who mounts a disembodied giraffe head and neck in his home? Does he think it’s educational? Cool? Wacky? A combination of these? Certainly it’s a bit over the top just to be serving as a memento. No, the fellow who goes to the trouble and expense to put that sort of gigantic thing in his home for all to see is surely looking to spark a reaction. Outrage? Disgust? Admiration? Applause? It baffles me. Does he simply want an unavoidable excuse to retell the gallant tale of how he somehow managed to kill this huge, lissome, vegetarian animal with a high-powered rifle and high-powered scope? His sad menagerie doesn’t remind me of any natural history museum so much as it reminds me of Vonnegut’s “Happy Birthday, Wanda June.”

  • Parkie

    I saw the headline and photos and agree that It was disturbing. I do think, however, it reflects the community’s attitude that hunting is A-ok. Many women still wear their fur coats to the grocery store.

  • Bibliomaniac

    @The Pooh. “Save them to shoot them” animal lovers.

    I never heard of homes with trophy rooms till I moved here.

  • CLS

    Terribly sad that such majestic animals are killed for so-called sport. This is not a sport. Call it killing. Disturbing . . . and there 35,000 in his group. Also, killing to conserve sounds like a coverup.

  • Eric

    Trophy rooms have existed in this country for quite a long while – a photo of GA Custer’s “den” in 1867 shows animal mounts he made himself. You would have to be quite young or have a narrow world experience not to have seen a trophy room (at least in photographs) until moving here.
    And hunting is “A-ok” in Texas. It is legal and protected by law in this state. It has been practiced for long before there was Simon David and yankee carpetbaggers. Why do some people feel that animals harvested in processing plants are somehow superior to animals harvested afield? Or maybe they think the Simon David chickens and hamburgers come from the back room?
    Or maybe since they never have to get blood on their hands they hold a superior moral place in society?
    Game animals are a resource. So far, harvesting rules, enforced by authority, and the support of sportsmen and women, have done more to conserve game animals than any other system. Again, if you have a better system, let’s hear it.
    Marine sanctuaries don’t have as severe a poaching problem that land game animals suffer from. It’s a poor comparison. Poor countries in Africa fund their game management and anti-poaching efforts through regulated and limited sports shooting. It simply is not true that this takes place “everywhere” without the money and self interest of hunting. Nearly every state in the US funds its game management enforcement from the monies collected from hunting licenses. Keep in mind that the most deadly animal in North America (now that we have eliminated most predators) is the white-tail deer. More people are killed by deer collisions each year than by any other animal. Of course you can re-introduce wolves (which were plentiful in North Texas along with the buffalo) to thin out the deer herds but you cannot have your wolves and your cats and dogs and little children all at the same time. Deer hunting now substitutes for wolves for game management.
    Fur coats are warm. If it is cold, and you need to go to the grocery store (for that meat that grows on trees in the back room) and own a fur coat, why wouldn’t you wear it? Fur coats are also usually stunningly beautiful.

  • XT

    @ Z,

    Great post. Understand the “benefit” of regulated safari hunting, but don’t understand a person that would kill a giraffe. I have no problem with hunting, this just seems strange.

  • RichardC

    “At least one reader”.

    Allow me to add a little bit of insight, as someone who just returned to the office after working at the 32nd DSC Convention for the last week, has hunted in Africa several times, is a past president of DSC and knows Sam Spicer as a friend.

    You are correct – Sam most likely did not eat one bite of the meat from his lion or giraffe. But someone else did. Nothing went to waste. In fact, the extent to which game animals are utilized in Africa puts to shame what happens here at home. I have personally witnessed near fights over how fairly the upper chamber of an eland stomach was divided. Within 24 hours after Sam’s elephant was a killed, no trace of it remained. Every ounce of the meat was distributed (at no cost) and consumed by people who needed it a lot more than Sam did.

    As in the general population, many commenters on this thread are not hunters, but are not anti-hunting either. Some are repulsed by hunting (again, as is true in the general population). Some will never accept the valuable role that hunting plays in wildlife management. Members of the DSC and most hunters understand that. We know that we will not convert many people to hunting – but we will seize the opportunity to inform people of the indisputable benefits and we will hope that some will leave with a better understanding, if not an appreciation, for what we do and why we do it. We have an outdoor education curriculum (primarily in Texas schools) that currently serves 15,000 students a semester.

    Last year alone, DSC awarded over $1,000,000.00 in grants for conservation projects around the world. That money was raised at our 2012 Convention. We have been heavily involved in funding anti-poaching efforts in southern Africa for years and recently paid for the construction of 6 water wells in Zambia to allow game officers to live in much closer proximity to areas hit hard by poaching (and hopefully be able to respond much faster when poachers are spotted). DSC has become one of, if not the most respected voices in hunting and conservation in the world. Funds raised through Pittman Robertson excise taxes on the sale of hunting equipment helped fund wildlife restoration projects across the US. The proceeds from the sale of Federal Duck stamps (more than $750 million dollars through 2009), have been used to restore riparian habitat that benefits ducks as well as every other animal that lives in that habitat. Ducks Unlimited has saved and/or restored millions of acres of wetland and nesting habitat through the tens of millions of dollars they have raised. Locally, the Quail Coalition is doing everything humanly possible to study the decline in quail population. If the cause of the unexplained decline in quail populations is discovered, you can thank many of my PC friends who have raised millions of dollars to fund the effort. I could go on about other hunting based organizations – Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Texas Bighorn Society – all are out there raising and spending millions to preserve and protect wildlife and wild places. Hunters know who is at the forefront in protecting wildlife and wild places. The North American Model of Conservation, which is based on sustainable use hunting, is the most successful conservation model ever developed and has been copied and applied around the world. We want everyone to be able to enjoy wildlife and wild places whether you hunt or not. The continued application of North American Model will be the only way to insure that will happen.

    In 1975 Kenya and Tanzania were closed to hunting. Tanzania quickly realized the error of its decision and reinstated hunting after a few years. Today Tanzania is considered the jewel of Africa fdrom a standpoint of wildlife. Kenya is a pitiful wildlife disaster and will never recover. Botswana will soon ban most hunting and will limit elephant hunting. The Botswana elephant population, already several times greater than biologists recommend, will plummet when the hunting dollars no longer support the drilling and maintenance of bore holes where they do not already exist. Eco-tourism will never replace the dollars lost by banning hunting, in Botswana or anywhere. No animal, anywhere, ever, has become extinct as a result of regulated hunting. If you don’t believe me, pay close attention towhat will happen in Botswana over the next five to seven years. It should, and will, disgust you if you really care about elephants and every other animal that thrives in elephant habitat.

    So, if you are offended by pictures of trophy rooms, that’s ok (if you believe trophy rooms are new or a Dallas phenomena, you are terribly mis-informed). You have a right to be offended at whatever you find distasteful. If you abhor the idea of shooting an animal, that too is your right. If you see no reason to hunt and kill certain animals, like elephant, lion or leopard, that’s ok. But understand that the animals you see – the whitetails and Rio Grande turkeys in Texas (whose populations in Texas were nearly non-existent 110 years ago before regulated hunting was approved and hunters stepped up), the elk in Colorado, the lions and elephants in Southern and Eastern Africa – are there and thriving (all over – not just in the national parks) because hunters have paid for and paved the way. And we will continue to do so, with minimal, or even non-existent, help from those who detest us but claim that their love of wildlife and wild places far exceeds ours. For those in the vast middle – those who neither hunt nor detest hunters – I hope you will consider these matters in light of these comments and for those commenters who already have become a little more aware and open minded, thank you.

  • jbw

    @RichardC, I am one of those dreaded, bleeding heart, non-hunting liberals so despised around here, but I wanted to thank you for a cogent, thoughtful & polite comment. Happy New Year.

  • The Pooh

    RichardC- What is stopping you from doing these things without killing the animals?

  • hp parent

    Yes, some people find hunting offensive, but is it more offensive than a what is happening with our youth today? Steubenville anyone? There are so many things in this world to worry about, I seriously think big game hunting is low on the list. How about the kids who videotape sexual assault, kids who OD on heroin, kids who go into a school and slaughter five year olds. Let’s get passionate about changing modern society and agree to disagree on a sport that’s been around since the beginning of time.

  • RichardC

    Thank you, jbw. My guess is that, aside from the one stated difference, hunters and non-hunters have a lot in common with regard to wildlife and wild places, and that that common ground will be the basis for conservation efforts in the future.

    Happy New Year to you as well.

  • RichardC

    The Pooh – I’m not sure I know where to begin to answer that question, but I’ll try.

    We like to hunt. Hunting most often, but not always, involves killing. If you like to hunt, you are committed to maintaining sustainable populations of game animals. By doing so, you benefit all non-game animals as well.

    We like to eat what we kill (or provide meat for others, as in Africa, where it is not possible to bring the meat home).

    We like the connection to our forefathers and a simpler, self sustaining way of way of life. We like the opportunity that hunting provides to teach our children about the outdoors and the only proven successful model of conservation. We want our children to be able to enjoy wild populations of animals, not just the semi-tame populations found in some safari parks.

    See my previous comments about Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana. Hunting based conservation works. The bio mass in Namibia is greater than it has ever been. Why? Because of game ranches and sound game management practices on those game ranches. If you have ever been to Namibia, you know, as is the case with Botswana, that only a very small portion of the country is suited for traditional photo safaris – the rest looks very much like south and west Texas (beautiful to someone like me, but worthless for game viewing).

    I have actually heard your question, in a different form, before – if you love animals as much as you claim, why don’t you just donate the money to some organization to protect them? What organization? Who can do a better job than we are doing? What system is in place with a proven record like the North American Model? The money that we raise primarily comes from the sale of donated hunts, hunting gear, hunting arms and excise taxes on the sale of hunting equipment? The cost of the boreholes drilled in Botswana to keep elephants from decimating and destroying habitat around limited water resources is paid from the large amounts that hunters pay to outfitters and governments for access, fees and permits? Why should it be up to hunters, who make up a small percentage of the US and worldwide population, to give up their passion when the vast majority of the population contributes next to nothing for the cause? What have the anti-hunting groups done to study decline quail populations? What have they contributed to the Texas Bighorn Society that is working to restore desert bighorn sheep in the mountains of west Texas? How much money have anti-hunters given to Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, DSC, etc.?

    As I said, I know what hunters do – I know that members of DSC and other hunters will contribute more to conservation in one year than most non-hunters will in ten or twenty years (or a lifetime).

    So tell me again why I should give up hunting? My actions insure the overall continuation of existence of the species I hunt, I help preserve wild places all over the world, I eat the most pure organic food that can be found, I fund anti-poaching campaigns that protect game animals and non-game animals alike, I help fund and support the Hunters for the Hungry program that provides game meat to food banks and other deserving organizations around the country, I help purchase wetland habitat that is home to far more non-game species than game species and I introduce future generations to the outdoors.

  • RichardC

    The Pooh – Sorry for the lengthy reply, but the topic is obviously important. One final comment – I will never be able to hunt Desert Bighorn sheep in West Texas, but I gladly support the efforts of the TBS to restore the population. I will never be able to hunt Black Rhino in Zambia, but I am happy to support anti-poaching efforts designed primarily to protect them. I will never be able to hunt lion in Zimbabwe, but I will gladly help fund scientific studies to insure that sound management practices are designed and implemented.

  • LisaM

    I am new to Dallas and America having immigrated from the African hunting playground that is referenced in your article. Is this really what first world living is about? Who knows maybe next weeks article Karley Osborn could be about the need for stripclubs in HP village. Seems almost as tastless and acceptable in the Big D. The problem is not hunting (as RichardC has described it is necessary and important on so many levels)its the article and the way it was written.

    Gloating about the size of toys and smug smiles in front of dead animals who didnt stand a chance is not want hunting is about and shouldnt be worthy of front page news. Can it really be called a sport when “hunting” is done on the back of a vehicle? I am amused. Sam Spicer and Safari Club, how about going on foot and leveling the playing field a little to give the defenseless creatures a chance?
    African countries are not as regulated when dollars are thrown at the problem and there is a HUGE problem with the population of Rhino’s and Elephants (to name a few) in some areas of Africa. If I was Sam Spicer I would be mortified by how I came across in the article and I would hope he isnt as shallow as he appears to be.

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