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What is a Canned Hunt?

Unlike hunting in the wild, a canned hunt consists of confining an animal in a fenced area in which the animal has no chance of escape for the sole purpose of killing it for recreation and entertainment; the canned hunter is guaranteed a trophy. In recent years, canned hunts include killing caged or confined animals via internet remote controlled triggering devices. The animals used in canned hunts are bred in captivity specifically for this purpose; canned hunts however do include non-native exotic animals that are obtained from private breeders, dealers or exotic animal auctions.

The practice of canned hunting is wrought with legal, moral and ethical issues. There is no conservation or scientific value in canned hunting. From a traditional hunting perspective it lacks “fair chase,” and is not recognized by most hunting organizations, though some groups approve of the practice and will accept trophies attained through a canned hunt in their statistics.

WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society is of the view that canned hunting is an outdated, cruel blood sport that lacks ethical sportsmanship and does not foster conservation of endangered species in the wild. It reflects poorly on our culture and should be considered a crime against society, humanity and nature. To shoot a confined, trapped animal and call it recreational hunting and conservation is simply ludicrous; this is not science, this is not conservation, this is not species survival.

Currently 18 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah) and the District of Columbia ban canned hunting of all exotic animals, specific wild animals including big cats native or non-native and/or zoo and circus animals.

There is no federal law banning the practice of canned hunts.

Captive Male Lion

WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society petitioned several U.S. Representatives to support our draft legislation and introduce a bill that would amend Title 18 of the United States Code, making it a federal crime under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to conduct or otherwise engage in caged, confined or canned hunts of any native or non-native wildcat bred in captivity or taken from the wild. Since 1994, similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives however, none of the bills ever made it past the congressional committee review process.

We petitioned Kevin Shea, Administrator of the Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Daniel Ashe, Director of the Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service to review the regulations under the AWA and ESA to support our proposed legislative amendment; and sought the advisory support of the former Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council.

On March 23 and October 27, 2016 our CEO attended the Wildlife Hunting and Heritage Conservation Council Meetings regarding our submission to Council in support of our initiative:
WCCLAS Letter to Council
WCCLAS Comments presented to Council

At the state level, we petitioned state legislatures that do not specifically ban canned hunting of big cats or the laws are silent to consider our draft legislation and implement measures that will prohibit canned hunting of big cats.

WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society takes the position that wildcats native or non-native are recognized as endangered or threatened under the ESA or under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Permits and/or licenses are required under the federal law with respect to breeding and trade of native and non-native endangered species. As such, these big cats should never be bred, offered for sale, auctioned, sold, purchased, donated or otherwise transferred to a canned hunting facility or game preserve, since the premise for obtaining permits and/or licenses for breeding or for other commercial activities is solely “to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”


Did You Know?

African lions are bred in captivity solely for canned hunting operations in South Africa.

Chris Mercer, founder and director of the South African NGO, Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), answers frequently asked questions and provides in-depth information regarding the canned hunting industry in South Africa: CACH

On behalf of CACH, WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society served as the host organizer for the Global March for Lions that took place in Washington, DC on 03.15.2014 ~ a phenomenal and historic event to ban canned hunting in South Africa. To gain a better understanding of this issue through a philosophical perspective, we recommend: Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa, by Richard Hargreaves, Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III

Global March for Lions ~ Trailer Documentary Short



January 2017: South African National Biodiversity Institute recommends allowing the export of 800 captive-bred lion skeletons

The DEA opened a two week public comment period which ends on 2 February, 2017, to collect input on the recommended quota. For more information and to submit comments see: Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa: African Lion Export Quota

See also: South Africa NGOs Response to DEA’s Proposed Captive Lion Bone Export Quota



A new documentary film unlocking the gates on the canned hunting industry.


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