On Wednesday, The Raw Story reported that a National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyist walked up to an elephant and shot it twice in the face on the NBC Sports Network show Under Wild Skies. Now gun lobbyist Tony Makris is calling his critics “animal racists.”
Makris incited an uproar of protests after he shot an elephant and then enjoyed a glass of champagne with other hunters while watching the sunset. “To hunt an elephant and harvest an elephant and to bring the ivory back to camp is a very, very special occasion,” one hunter commented at the end of the TV show.
By Friday, nearly 50,000 people had responded to the episode of Under Wild Skies, asking NBC to cancel the NRA-sponsored show, Raw Story reports.
In an interview with NRA host of Cam&Co, Cam Edwards, on Thursday, Makris defended his actions on the show and criticized animal rights activists. “I hunt all things,” Makris commented, alleging that activists were only upset about the senseless shooting of an elephant because they consider elephants to be superior to other animals.
“And they go, ‘They’re so big and kind and gentle and smart,’” he said. Makris then listed other animals such as birds, deer, and rabbits, saying that his critics would be fine with the killing of other animals for entertainment, just not an elephant. It’s “a very unique form of animal racism,” he said.
“And I went, ‘You know, Hitler would have said the same thing,’” he continued.
Aside from the tiresome and inappropriate fascination conservatives seem to have with likening things to Hitler and Nazism, Makris is evading the most important issue with killing an elephant for sport and for ratings on a television show.
Elephant poaching is pushing the species to the brink of extinction. Elephants are poached for their ivory tusks, leaving countless elephant carcasses stripped of their tusks and senselessly wasting away so that poachers can profit.
The majority of ivory is illegally smuggled into Asia to make trinkets. Elephant populations around the world are being decimated by poachers because of their ivory tusks.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains.” In 2011, ivory weighing more than 23 metric tons was confiscated in the 13 largest seizures of illegal ivory in history. That amount of ivory adds up to 2,500 elephants, the WWF reports.
Experts at TRAFFIC, the world wildlife trade monitoring network, estimate the value of illegal wildlife trade to be hundreds of millions of dollars.
In March, NPR reported that a new study of Central African forest elephants found their numbers declined by 62 percent from 2002 to 2011. While African forest elephants have been threatened for some time, scientists report that half of the population has been lost in the last decade.
As a result of a growing population of Chinese workers in Africa, which makes the ivory trade easier, the price of ivory has increased tenfold over the past 5 to 7 years.
“We can see from seizures of ivory, and we can see from the number of carcasses that are starting to lie around in the forest, that elephants are in deeper and deeper trouble,” Fiona Maisels, part of the team that conducted the study, told NPR.
Ivory poaching was banned in Africa in 1989, but, recently, the numbers have exploded. 25,000 African elephants are being killed each year, according to NPR.
The situation has become so dire that Hillary Clinton and several conservation groups, including the Wildlife Conservation Society and the WWF, have banned together to prevent the killing and trafficking of African elephants.
On Thursday, Clinton discussed plans for an $80 million effort to prevent poaching and trafficking of elephants, the Associated Press reports. Leaders of six African countries: Uganda, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Malawi, Ivory Coast, and Tanzania, along with officials representing other African countries, joined Clinton at an event on Thursday, pledging their support and cooperation for the initiative.
“It is time for the global community to act decisively against this plague,” Ali Bongo, the president of Gabon, said.
In the midst of a long-time and now severely-escalated threat to elephant populations across the globe, the NRA is sponsoring a show featuring a lobbyist killing an elephant purely for sport, entertainment, and profit.
The sheer idiocy of Makris’ statements about Hitler and “animal racism” serve to make the gun lobbyist and his actions just that much more deplorable.
UPDATE: As of Monday, September 30, 2013
NBC Sports Network announced its decision to cancel the NRA-sponsored TV series, Under Wild Skies, after host Tony Makris compared his critics to Hitler.
Last week, the show featured Makris on a hunting expedition in Botswana where he shot an elephant twice in the face from about 20 feet away, not killing it, and proceeded to follow the fleeing animal to shoot it again, this time, ending its life.
Afterwards, the hunting party sipped champagne and one hunter commented on the pleasure of shooting an elephant and bringing its ivory back to harvest.
The show immediately incited a great deal of controversy, given that elephant populations worldwide are currently threatened and greatly declining. In Botswana, extreme declines led to the decision that hunting elephants will become completely illegal. The all-out ban doesn’t go into effect for another 3 months, however.
Ignoring the fact that ivory poaching is pushing the species to the brink of extinction, Makris defended his actions and likened his critics to Hitler. Makris argued that the only reason shooting an elephant created controversy, as opposed to shooting another animal, is because animal activists think elephants are “kind and smart.”
He called this idea a “unique form of animal racism” and said it was exactly how Hitler would have responded.
Fortunately, NBC Sports did not take Makris’ Hitler comment lightly, rightly calling it “outrageous and unacceptable.”
An NBC spokesman told Deadspin that the show would “no longer air on NBC Sports Network due to the program’s close association with its host, whose recent comments comparing his critics to Hitler are outrageous and unacceptable.”