WASHINGTON — Cecil the lion was one of the best known animals at a national park in Zimbabwe, but became an international symbol for the opposition to big game hunting in 2015 when he was killed by a Minnesota dentist.
As public opinion moves against so-called “trophy” hunting, the new documentary “Trophy,” which debuts on CNN on Sunday night, tries to show that the issue is far more complex than just banning the practice outright or prohibiting the importation of such species.
Filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau follows hunters, farmers, anti-poaching activists and conservationists to try to capture multiple points of view on the practice. One of the more prominent figures profiled is John Hume, a rhino farmer who advocates a legal trade of rhino horns as a way of preventing poaching. Other hunters and safari operators argue that the money raised from pricey expeditions helps preserve the population.
“I wanted to put aside that initial anger and the fact it might not be my cup of tea, trophy hunting, and to say, ‘Is this really potentially a useful tool? Is it nonsense? Is it a little more gray than I thought?” Schwarz tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM.
Clusiau said that another factor is the local populations. “Unless you give the locals an economic incentive to look after the wildlife, they are not going to take it to the value that it has.”
President Donald Trump is in the midst of reviewing whether to allow the importation of elephant tusks and other “trophies” from Zambia and Zimbabwe. After reports that U.S. Fish and Wildlife was looking to lift the ban, there was a backlash, and Trump said he was putting a decision on hold. Although his sons have been big game hunters, and pictures of them with their kills have been widely distributed, Trump himself has called the practice a “horror show.”
“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs on Thursdays from 2-3 p.m. ET/11-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.