WAN In-Depth About The Shockumentary “Trophy” That Aired On CNN Last Night

Photos From Trophy Facebook Page

Some of the shocking images are difficult to watch, others should have never aired because the scenarios which played out in the film should not have been allowed to occur in the first place.

Horrifically, the controversial documentary Trophy, which debuted on CNN last night, contained all of the above.

An American hunter talking about how God created animals for us to have dominion over, crying tears of joy after killing an unsuspecting lion and countless other endangered species including an elephant was sickening.

A live blindfolded rhino having his horns sawed off for profit.

A woman laughing at the Safari Club International annual convention as she contemplated killing a crocodile not only for the thrill but because she wants new shoes, a handbag, and a belt.

A hunter cheered on by his group after shooting an elephant who lies nearby moaning in pain and dying. So painful to watch that it is shocking that a so-called “documentary” like this was allowed to air on CNN.

The horrific photo-ops of boastful hunters next to their fallen prey was out of a horror film.

These are among the haunting images of Trophy.

What was not included in the traumatic two hours of footage, was equally distressing, as it portrayed a nearly one-sided view of the value of big-game hunting, breeding and its so-called role in wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa.

Hailed as a “critically-acclaimed” documentary by CNN, Trophy has also been described as a “shockumentary” by a highly-respected coalition of animal welfare and conservation leaders, and we whole heartedly agree.

As recently as Friday, our partner in the true conservation of endangered species, Born Free Foundation, and a coalition of 28 conservation leaders, including member organizations of the Species Survival Network, representing millions of concerned citizens worldwide, urged the network to reconsider airing Trophy.

In a letter to Jeff Zucker, President, and Michael Bass, Executive VP of Programming at (CNN), the groups argued that the film fails to offer “the network’s millions of viewers an opportunity to see and hear the counterviews to trophy hunting presented with the same degree of prominence and exposure.”

“Among the concerns cited in the letter, the coalition contends that the filmmakers: ‘deliver a film that is almost devoid of facts;’ that ‘articulates assumptions that go unchallenged;’ and ‘fails to offer the viewer the opportunity to make any kind of informed decision,’ stated Will Travers OBE, President of Born Free, who appears briefly in the documentary.

According to Travers, instead of exploring the topics of trophy hunting and conservation in a thorough, balanced and objective way, the film does a disservice to the subject by presenting a perspective that is “inaccurate, misleading and self-serving.”

As per the letter, the film’s many assertions are presented as truth or a statement of fact when, in reality, they are “controversial, contestable and confusing.”

Among the examples of inaccuracies or misinformation in the film noted in the letter included:

Hunting clubs and organizations like Safari Club International (SCI) like to argue that the money spent by hunters engaged in legal, recreational trophy hunting make important contributions to African economies and also fund conservation efforts. However, the film presents no analysis or assessment of this assertion.

Rather, in 2013, independent research by analysts such as Economists at Large concluded that a mere 3% of the revenue generated by trophy hunting ends up supporting local communities.

Kenya alone generates between roughly five to six times the total revenue generated by trophy hunting from across all of Africa from its sustainable and non-consumptive approach to wildlife conservation (i.e., eco-tourism).

One of the most confusing and dangerous assertions in the film is the so-called “conservation recipe” put forward by South African John Hume, a private rhino breeder with a herd of more than 1,500 rhinos in which he says he breeds to save the species from extinction. Really?

Hume’s ill-conceived plan is to cultivate as many rhino as he can, cut off their horns and sell them on the world market. Trophy presents this notion with no risk analysis, no alternative vision, and no understanding of what would happen to the world’s only 30,000 remaining rhinos, already struggling to survive, if his plan was put into action.

Conservation trade experts contend that his “recipe” would create a legal market for rhino horn to be sold to hundreds of millions of potential customers in the Far East and, based on bitter experience with other wildlife products such as ivory and tiger body parts would, without a doubt, establish not only a cover for the illegal black market trade, but create a parallel market to which illegal rhino horn could be laundered, causing a wildlife crime law-enforcement nightmare.

This analysis, according to the letter, is entirely absent from the film and, therefore, unavailable for the consideration of CNN’s viewers.

Hume and the filmmakers also seem to ignore or be unaware of the lessons of the past. In 2008, the international community, despite the pleas of the Born Free Foundation and other expert non-profits, approved a one-time sale of more than 100 tons of ivory from South Africa and several other countries to Japan and China.

Far from satisfying demand, as the architects of this deal had hoped, it fueled a dramatic and deadly explosion in poaching and the illegal ivory trade.

From 2009 to 2014, Tanzania, a country that permits trophy hunting of elephants and until that point, an African elephant stronghold, lost an average of 1,000 elephants per month, every month, for five years, which translates into 60,000 elephants that should not have been lost.

The poaching epidemic continues to this day, with 20,000 elephants poached each year, tons of ivory seized and wildlife rangers, the first line of defense for elephants and rhino, being injured or losing their lives on almost a daily basis. In fact, more than 1,000 of these conservation guardians have been murdered in the line of duty in the last decade.

Noting that these are but a few examples of significant problems with the documentary, the coalition further urged CNN executives to consider commissioning a further documentary which provides viewers with the critical counterpoints, analysis, and facts which Trophy lacks.

While Travers expressed the coalition’s appreciation to CNN for giving primetime coverage to important issues such as trophy hunting, specific to Trophy, it warned that viewers will be left with a one-sided, misleading, and inaccurate view of the claimed relationship between trophy hunting and conservation.

“I am therefore requesting an urgent meeting with Mr. Zucker and Mr. Bass to discuss the matter on behalf of the coalition’s many thousands of members, and the concerned citizens and CNN viewers who no doubt will share the same views,” concluded Travers.

Travers spoke to WAN’s Katie Cleary after the Born Free Gala In London this past year and Cleary was shocked to learn that Trophy seemed to be very misleading to the public with really no other viewpoint but that of the Trophy Hunters who seemingly hunt to fulfill some kind of sick high they get from killing an endangered species.

“When I watched the film last night on CNN, my concern was met with anger,” said Cleary, President of Peace 4 Animals & WAN, “that Travers and other activists only had a very brief chance to give their side of the story for the animals’ sake, and seem to be edited out of the shockumentary almost entirely without giving the audience an accurate viewpoint of the real conservationists who are fighting every day to save these species from extinction.”

Cleary went on to say, “The time is critical, we have another five years left before we may lose the big 5 in Africa to poaching and trophy hunting altogether, we must act now the try and save these species before it’s too late. The real people who are working hard to save these animals are those on the front lines of the fight, the anti-poaching units on the ground in Africa, and the animal welfare organizations fighting behind them. We must put our efforts toward supporting them, not the people who kill these animals for so-called “sport” or profit.

Trophy was directed by Shaul Schwarz and co-directed by Christina Clusiau.

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