WASHINGTON - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today called on Texas Governor George W. Bush to decline an award he is scheduled to receive from an international trophy hunting industry organization which promotes competitive hunting of the world's rarest wildlife and which has had a series of prominent members charged with illegal or unethical hunting conduct.

A recent issue of Safari Times, the monthly newsletter for the 32,000 members of the Tucson, Ariz.-based Safari Club International (SCI), announced that Governor Bush would receive the organization's "Governor of the Year" award at a ceremony in Reno, Nev. on February 5. Former President George Bush is scheduled to appear at the convention and be involved in the awards ceremony, according to Safari Times. The convention attracts more than 10,000 trophy hunters, who book hunts with more than 1,000 exhibitors who sell guided hunts for large mammals across the globe, including species threatened with extinction. The group is also noted for its extreme opposition to gun-control legislation.

"Governor George W. Bush may not be aware that he is being feted by an organization that promotes competitive killing of rare wildlife throughout the world," states Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president at The Humane Society of the United States. "To be a highly decorated member of the Safari Club International, a trophy hunter has to kill more than 322 different species of mammals, including African elephants, rhinos, leopards, Nile crocodiles and other threatened species. Many compassionate Americans would be horrified to learn of his association with such an organization."

Last year, The New York Times reported on a highly questionable safari hunt in Mozambique involving the then-president of SCI, an immediate past president and a prominent member and donor. The SCI hunting party went on a killing spree, according to a game reserve manager where the safari occurred. Among the animals killed were three enormous bull elephants, even though Mozambique law banned the hunting of elephants at the time.

SCI acts as the de facto trade association for the international trophy hunting industry. It has 29 hunting achievement awards, in which an individual hunter must kill a prescribed number of species in order to win the award. Awards include "Cats of the World" (which requires killing six of the big cats, including lions, leopards and mountain lions), "Bears of the World" (requiring the killing of four different bear species, including a polar bear, grizzly bear and Eurasian brown bear), and the Africa Big Five (requiring the killing of an African elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo). The Africa Big Five award lists two species "threatened" with extinction under the provisions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

"It is unconscionable that any organization would promote the recreational killing of these very rare animals just for the purpose of garnering a trophy and winning an award," says Pacelle. "By no standard of hunting ethics can these competitive killing sprees be justified."

SCI also promotes the shooting of exotic mammals in fenced areas in the United States &emdash; commonly know as "canned hunts." SCI has a hunting achievement award, "Introduced Trophy Game Animals of North America," that requires hunters go to "canned hunting" operations to secure some of the trophies. "Surely, the average hunter, to say nothing of the average American, would find the practice of 'canned hunting' reprehensible," concludes Pacelle.

Peter Hart Research conducted a national poll in May 1999 revealing that 83 percent of Americans oppose killing wild animals for trophies.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with 7.3 million members and constituents. A 501(c)(3) organization, it is forbidden from endorsing candidates for public office.

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