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Strength from Weakness: How Legalizing Sport Hunting of Endangered Species Could Provide the Conservation Effort Its Greatest Weapon

By Patrick Tubridy Smith

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Famed author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “[o]ur strength grows out of our weaknesses”.1 Emerson’s belief that in recognizing weakness one becomes stronger echoes throughout human history. In the Book of Exodus, the Bible provides that during their first conversation, Moses confesses to God that he is an unskilled public speaker. 2 Moses’ lack of persuasive ability in the public forum was enough for God to appoint Aaron, Moses’ older
brother, as his nabi, or public speaker.4 Yet by the end of Moses’ life, perched on the banks of the Jordan River, Moses stood before his people and delivered three eloquent sermons surveying all that God had said and all that the Israelites had suffered.5 These sermons would serve as Moses final speeches before his death. During his forty years wandering the desert, Moses had turned his greatest weakness, the ability to speak in public, into one of his greatest strengths. And the repercussions of this change are still felt in today’s society. [A bit grandiose for a paper on hunting antelope]

American history is no stranger to this principal. American schoolchildren are taught that during the American Revolution, General George Washington defeated the British Army with a collection of farmers, lumberjacks and hunters. As history notes, Washington commanded an untrained civilian army, knowledgeable only in hunting techniques and local terrain conditions and using these perceived weaknesses to his advantage, he did so by devising a hit and run
strategy that the immobile British Army could not defeat.6 Like Moses, Washington took what the British Army perceived a weakness and turned it into strength. It is with the insight of such gifted? men that we approach a major issue: the preservation and propagation of the earth’s endangered species. Since life first crawled from the primordial ocean, vast numbers of species have become extinct. From dinosaurs to the dodo bird?, the earth has seen countless species disappear for a myriad of reasons. Chief among them is the existence of human beings. The earth is currently in the midst of the sixth great extinction event. Human beings have hastened the departure of other species in a number of ways: destruction of habitats through domestication, pollution of ecologically fragile areas, and global warming.9 But these causes emerged well after the first action to threaten the existence of other species; hunting.

Hunting for one’s food predates the advent of man. During the Mesozoic Era, carnivorous dinosaurs hunted the jungles of Pangaea for their meals.11 Paleogenic mammals evolved into packs of hunters.12 Humans later made spears from sharpened tree branches as a form of protection and sustenance as evolution took root. In the modern world, hunting has become more of a sport than a means of life. The invention of the rifle has transformed hunting’s chief
purpose from a family’s weekly nourishment to a trophy piece on the wall of a hobbyist’s den. Sport hunting has been a contributing factor to the recent extinction of a number of species. Since 1939, sport hunting has become a 5.6 billion dollar industry.14 Sport hunters contribute to preservation efforts through taxes and permit fees.15 In Texas, sport hunting generates $1.75 billion dollars in sales annually and employs 14,000 people.16 Sport hunting ranches import
exotic animals from throughout the world to roam the vast Texas wilderness.17 Amongst those alien beasts hunted for sport are three species of African antelope; the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, and addax.18 Apart from their notable horns, these antelope are note-worthy in another fashion. They are the only species deemed endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that can be legally hunted without a permit in the United States.19 Due to the antelope’s popularity with sport hunters, Texas ranchers can charge lofty price tags for hunting? such trophy animals.20 The economic incentive provided by sport hunting has led to a massive undertaking by sport hunt ranchers to breed the three species of antelope. Using the profits generated from trophy seeking hunters, Texas ranchers have exponentially increased the populations of these endangered species.21 In short, the economic incentive of breeding these
animals for commercial hunting purposes has been massively successful in taking appropriate steps towards conserving endangered and threatened species.

Recognizing the per se rejection of sport hunting by animal rights activists, this paper proposes that through the commercialization of endangered species sport hunting, what was once a catalyst in adoption of the Endangered Species Act could be transformed into one of its greatest strengths. The success of sport hunting in Texas provides proof that a state regulated endangered species hunting industry could provide a powerful tool in the fight to maintain populations of
endangered species. The first part of the paper addresses legislation concerning endangered species and sport hunting. A brief summation of the Endangered Species Act is followed by a detailed discussion of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Regulation 17.21(h). Regulation 17.21(h) is the provision adopted in 2005 which allows sport hunting of the three endangered antelopes. The next section analyzes the judicial and administrative decisions involved in the regulation and the current predicament of breeders specializing in these captive-bred endangered species. The followin?g section addresses the current permit process’ shortcomings regarding sport hunting of endangered species. The paper then offers a number of reasons why expanding the legality of hunting captive bred endangered species within the United States would greatly benefit the intentions of the Endangered Species Act. Finally, possible resolutions are debated and a final legislative solution is offered. 


Katie Carroll

Date 2013
Publication Title Law School Student Scholarship
Publisher Seton Hall Law
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Conservation
  4. Endangered species
  5. Hunting
  6. Law and legal issues
  7. Laws and regulations
  8. Nature
  9. Wild animals
  10. wildlife
  11. wildlife management