Court Says Delta Can Ban Hunting Trophies in Hold

Pity the plight of Corey Knowlton, who shot an endangered black rhino and then was incensed to find that Delta Air Lines wouldn’t ship the spoils of his hunt home to Texas for him. So what’s a poor (actually, quite wealthy) trophy hunter to do? Sue the airline, naturally—which is what Knowlton did.

Knowlton was joined in his suit and spluttering outrage by the Dallas and Houston Safari Clubs, Conservation Force, Campfire Association, and the Tanzania Hunting Operations Association. He claimed that “Delta’s embargo threatens the tourist safari hunting industry’s entire user-pay, sustainable use-based conservation paradigm.” (Here’s another threat to this paradigm: its utter ineffectiveness in promoting actual conservation. See page 14 for a critique of “sustainable use” wildlife management.)

The background: In January 2014, Knowlton paid $350,000 at a Dallas Safari Club auction for the right to kill a black rhino. Despite widespread protest, Knowlton eventually got his wish in May 2015 in Namibia. Not long afterwards, however, fellow American trophy hunter Walter Palmer killed the famed lion “Cecil” in Zimbabwe and, in the ensuing fury, Delta announced an immediate ban on shipments of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight. Dozens of other airlines around the globe also quit accepting hunting trophies of Africa’s so-called “Big Five.”

Alas (read: hallelujah), Knowlton and his trophy-hunting allies were denied relief: In March 2017, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shot a hole in their suit, ruling that Delta is under no legal obligation under federal or state law to carry hunting trophies. Of course, this won’t bar Knowlton and his kind from trophy hunting. But by making it harder for them to erect monuments to their malignancy back home, it may reduce the incentives to pursue this ethically challenged and emotionally stunted hobby afar.