By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Trump Jr. did not even have a permit from Mongolian officials when he shot an argali sheep. The permit was offered to him afterwards, raising questions about whether he received special treatment from the Mongolian authorities. Photo by Conrad Savy/Creative Commons License
We’ve just learned that Donald Trump Jr.’s trophy hunting trip to Mongolia, where he hunted an argali sheep—an animal listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act—cost American taxpayers a whopping $77,000.
The revelation comes from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which dug into expenses Trump Jr. incurred for this controversial trip made last year. Following an initial Freedom of Information Act request, the group was provided with Secret Service protection costs alone—around $17,000 for the trip. It was only after an appeal that CREW received information of other expenses, including flight costs and a stop Trump Jr. made in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, where he met with the Mongolian president, putting total expenses for that trip at the much higher figure of $76,859.36.
Trump Jr. is an avid trophy hunter and his exploits targeting at-risk animals, including leopards and elephants, are well documented. While all trophy hunting—done purely for fun and the thrill of killing a majestic animal—is unethical and disturbing, what is more outrageous about the president’s son’s pursuit of his deadly pastime is that Americans now have to pay for it.
The trip to Mongolia last August was an ethical minefield from start to finish. ProPublica, which originally broke the story of that trip, reported Trump, Jr. did not even have a permit from Mongolian officials when he shot the animal – it was offered to him afterwards, raising questions about whether he received special treatment from the Mongolian authorities. Argali are prized as a national treasure in Mongolia, and the permitting system for hunting one, according to ProPublica, is based on money, connections and politics.
The hunt itself was conducted at night, with a laser-guided rifle.
Back home, Trump Jr. has established himself as a champion of trophy hunting interests, peddling his famous last name for more privileges and perks, always at taxpayer expense because he receives Secret Service protection on all his trips. In February, he was the guest of honor at the Safari Club International’s annual convention, where the lives of 860 animals, including lions, polar bears, zebras and buffalo, were auctioned off. This included winning bids totaling $340,000 by two hunters for an opportunity to stay on a yacht with and join Trump Jr. in hunting black-tailed deer and sea ducks in Alaska.
Trophy hunters are usually a privileged lot with pockets deep enough to influence policies that favor their bloodlust. But Trump Jr. is not just any trophy hunter. As the president’s son he has an unparalleled ability to potentially influence our government’s policies on the world’s most endangered animals. But just like the Trump administration—which has launched repeated attacks against the most at-risk wildlife in the world, including hacking at the Endangered Species Act to benefit trophy hunters and mining and oil-drilling interests—Trump Jr. has failed to use his power to do good.
We are not staying silent. We’re challenging the administration’s changes to the ESA in court, and we are in good company, with many animal protection and environmental organizations joining us. We have also petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to refuse a permit for Trump Jr. to import the trophy of that sheep. Argali from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Tajikistan are listed as threatened in the ESA, and import of a hunting trophy of an ESA-listed species can be authorized only if it furthers conservation. There is no evidence that this was the case here, or that recreational killing for trophies ever promotes conservation.
Being the president’s son may come with perks, like a retroactive permit from Mongolia to slay an argali and a red-carpet welcome from the world’s largest trophy hunting group; but it also comes with the scrutiny of his questionable spending of taxpayer resources by organizations like ProPublica and CREW, and opposition to his wildlife-killing activities from animal protection groups like ours. Americans do not want their money misused in a manner that will do permanent damage to the world’s most at-risk animals, and we will hold those who do so accountable, no matter how powerful and influential they are.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Published at Tue, 09 Jun 2020 18:16:38 +0000
By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Today, a quarter of all shark and related species are threatened with extinction. Photo by Burnsboxco/iStockphoto
It’s hard to imagine our oceans without the beautiful and diverse creatures who inhabit them. Sharks, whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and thousands of other marine animals who call the waters their home are not simply representative of the wonders of the natural world, they also play an integral role in keeping our ocean ecosystems healthy and in balance. At the same time, a flourishing marine environment, clean, mineral rich, and free from toxic pollution and other human-caused threats, essential in its own right, is also critical to the survival of countless species, including our own.
Unfortunately, we have not treated the animals who inhabit the world’s oceans with the kindness and consideration they deserve. Many marine animals suffer needlessly because of human activities, including climate change, pollution and habitat loss, and some are teetering on the brink of extinction. Unless we act fast, some of them could be lost forever.
The Humane Society family of organizations has been fighting for a long time to save marine animals most at risk of disappearing, and over the years we have made progress in reducing some of the worst atrocities. Among many successes, we have worked with several nations and U.S. states to ban the sale of shark fins. We have pushed to expand the boundaries of the existing critical habitat of critically endangered right whales. We have helped protect nesting beaches of sea turtles in India and reduced the demand for sea turtle shell in Latin America and Asia. We have worked to bring down the demand for seal skin worldwide and sharply reduced the numbers of seals slaughtered in Canada.
We have been a strong influence at the International Whaling Commission, where we have battled to maintain a worldwide ban on commercial whaling and where we also assist with key projects to conserve dolphins and porpoises threatened by activities in their habitats, including noise, pollution and indiscriminate fishing. These include the Baltic and Iberian Harbour Porpoises of Europe and all surviving species of river dolphins found in the great river systems of Asia and Latin America.
But it will take time, and a great deal more effort, to undo the damage done over centuries of exploiting these animals and disregarding their welfare. World Oceans Day today—a day to reflect on the critical role oceans play in our lives—offers us an opportunity to look back on the progress made and renew our commitment to pushing even harder in coming months and years to save the wonderful animals who inhabit our oceans.
Here are some of the priority marine animal issues we are now working on, even as we continue to fight on many more fronts globally to help marine animals:
Right whales: There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the oceans. Whaling and modern threats like ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear have decimated their numbers, causing many of these animals to die slow, painful deaths. The number of right whales dying each year far exceeds the number of new calves born, meaning this species could go extinct within our lifetimes. We are working on two fronts to help conserve right whales:
The SAVE Right Whales Act, S. 2453 /H.R. 1568: This bill In Congress, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Representatives Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and John Rutherford, R-Fla, would provide financial assistance to aid the conservation of these whales. The bill passed committees in both chambers last year, and Humane Society Legislative Fund is championing its passage.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering a proposed rule that would restrict where, when and how fishermen can set their gear, potentially sparing the suffering—and the lives—of many right whales. We continue to urge the NMFS to move forward with this rule.
Sharks: Every year, tens of millions of sharks worldwide are killed for their fins, most often to be used for shark fin soup. Today, a quarter of all shark and related species are threatened with extinction. And although the act of finning—which involves hacking the fins off of live sharks and then throwing them back into the water to die of shock, blood loss or predation—is prohibited in U.S. waters, the domestic trade in shark fins continues to fuel the practice of finning in other countries that have no bans or limited restrictions. In Congress, Sens. Booker and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have introduced the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, S. 877. If enacted, it would prohibit the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins throughout the country. The bill would also end the U.S. role as a major transit hub for transnational shipments of shark fins. The U.S. House version of the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act passed that chamber last year by a wide margin and it now awaits a floor vote in the Senate. At the state level, 15 states and three U.S. territories have banned or limited the trade in shark fins.
Dolphins: A population of dolphins that lives along the Hawaiian Islands, known as false killer whales because of their resemblance to the large marine mammals, has been impacted in its habitat because of commercial fisheries. These animals are often injured or killed by hooks the commercial fishing industry sets out for other fish, and today there are just an estimated 150 false killer whales left along the Hawaiian Islands. Commercial fisheries are currently trying to reopen certain areas that were made off limits to them because of excessive fishery-related mortalities of false killer whales. The HSUS serves on a stakeholder advisory group appointed by the National Marine Fisheries Service that is looking into reducing such mortalities.
Your support is crucial, as always, in moving the needle forward for these animals. Please take a few moments today to contact your lawmakers in Congress to urge their support for the bills to save right whales and sharks. Our oceans would make no sense without these and other marine wildlife, so let’s work together to help these precious animals survive and thrive for generations to come.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Published at Mon, 08 Jun 2020 20:01:04 +0000