Conservationists who have a visceral emotional reaction to words like “carbon emissions” and “TransCanada” and “Rick Perry” rarely find themselves closely allied with President Trump’s opinions on the proper stewardship of the planet.
Trump has consistently dismantled Obama-era environmental protections, using the common refrain that his administration desires to “better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need of creating jobs for hard-working American families.”
So, some who’ve criticized Trump might have done a double take when they read one of his tweets Friday morning. The message effectively put the brakes on a new administration policy that would allow American hunters to bring pieces of recently slaughtered African elephants back to the United States:
But Trump’s opposition to big-game hunting isn’t new.
Just ask Cher.
In 2012, an outraged Queen of Comebacks tweeted a story with a picture of Donald Trump Jr., a belt of ammunition around his hips, posing with slain animals: an elephant, a leopard and a water buffalo, among others.
Cher’s point was clear from the Gothamist headline: “Photos: Donald Trump’s Sons Awesome At Killing Elephants And Other Wildlife.”
But the elder Trump took to Twitter to set the record straight:
The younger Trump, on the other hand, has consistently defended his hunting from occasionally profane critics, saying he’s not going to let fear of the “PETA crazies” stop him from posting hunting pictures.
So maybe Cher wasn’t totally surprised by the Trump family’s divide on the moral quandary of taking the life of a large and possibly endangered mammal for sport.
The president’s tweet led to the quick — and likely fleeting — redrawing of a few battle lines. It was also part of a quick-moving flurry of activity regarding African elephants this week.
As The Washington Post wrote, on Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to end a 2014 ban on big-game trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Its justification was that killing elephants and bringing pieces of their corpses back to the United States to grace hunters’ dens would help the species. Coincidentally, helping the species is the only way that hunters can legally bring elephant “trophies” back to the United States.
The ruling, and its justification, angered environmentalists and elephant lovers.
In a tweet, Fox News host Laura Ingraham expressed her dismay, writing, “I don’t understand how this move by @realDonaldTrump Admin will not INCREASE the gruesome poaching of elephants. Stay tuned.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) suggested that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s move could pump money into a corrupt and unstable regime in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe is under house arrest after a military coup.
“In this moment of turmoil, I have zero confidence that the regime, which for years has promoted corruption at the highest levels, is properly managing and regulating conservation programs,” Royce said. “Furthermore, I am not convinced that elephant populations in the area warrant overconcentration measures.”
It was unclear if Trump had heard the words of elephant lovers or his fellow Republicans, but he thumbed out the tweet saying the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision was on hold.
His tweet had environmentalists thanking the president.
Trump’s stance on hunting is more closely allied with that of Democrats. As The Post wrote last year, “Animal welfare remains an issue more heartily embraced by Democrats, however, who tend to be less tight with farming and gun-rights groups that are often at odds with animal- and wildlife-protection organizations.”
In fact, The Post wrote, Trump may be quite familiar with one former senator who twice earned a 100 percent rating on the Humane Society’s “Humane Scorecard,” which analyzes politicians’ voting records on animal protection legislation.
“The organization praised [Hillary Clinton] for co-sponsoring bills to crack down on puppy mills, speaking out against slaughtering sick cows for use in school lunches and, as secretary of state, for launching a campaign against the illegal ivory trade,” the article said. “As first lady, it noted, she also took Socks the cat on visits to schools and hospitals.”