Aryanna Gourdin, a 12-year-old from Utah, has earned the ire of animal rights activists around the world for boasting of her numerous kills.
While most 12-year-old girls are more focused on school and their latest crush, Aryanna Gourdin of Utah is most interested in killing wild game for sport. Gourdin, despite her young age, has become a controversial figure due to her penchant for trophy hunting. The pre-teen, who has been hunting with her family since she was 7, shares images of her often gory kills on her Facebook page, which often feature captions glorifying their deaths despite her assertion that she deeply “loves” animals. One of the images that helped ensure her notoriety features her standing alongside a dead giraffe she had killed moments before. Another shows her cradling the giraffe’s heart like a trophy. Her actions and unapologetic attitude towards her hunting pastime have incensed animal lovers around the world. Some have called her a “murderer”, “evil” and “disgusting”, while others have even sent her death threats.
“I’m a hunter and no matter what people say to me I’m never going to stop. It’s something that I cherish and I enjoy and I want other people to see what I’ve been able to experience. I want other women and youth to get into the hunting experiences. It’s just awesome.”
She then added, “We love animals too. It’s just, we also love hunting. I would never back down from hunting.”
Aryanna went on to attempt to justify the killing of the giraffe that caused so much controversy. She argued that the animal was an “old bull” and killing it freed up resources other animal needed, also adding that the meat from the kill was given to local villages and orphanages. Despite Gourdin’s attempts to justify the killing, the Humane Society labeled it “senseless.” International Trade Policy Specialist Masha Kalinina added that “When we allow children to participate in trophy hunting, instead of teaching them to respect creatures we are teaching them that it’s okay to kill for kicks and that animals are worth more dead than alive.”
The outcry over Gourdin’s behavior has also led to increased scrutiny of her parents with many calling for their investigation by child services. Her father, Eli Gourdin, has defended their family’s hunting, saying that ““I don’t tell anyone else how to raise their children. They don’t understand the conservation aspect of it. We’re proud to be hunters and we’ll never apologise for being a hunter.” Though Mr. Gourdin and his wife have evaded any legal action regarding how they raise their daughter, he has previously pled guilty to 16 wildlife-related offenses and was once convicted of running a meth lab.
Regardless of whether Aryanna Gourdin or her family continue to hunt or not, trophy hunting in Africa will likely continue to exist as long as the killing of big game remains legal there. Every year, thousands of American journey to Africa to kill some of Africa’s most well-known animals, ranging from lion and leopards to elephants and water buffalos. The revenue from these trips generate more than $300 million annually. American hunters, upon their return, often import their kills back to the US, doing so for nearly 32,500 lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalos, and leopards between 2005 and 2014. Though Aryanna’s behavior is certainly more provocative because of her age, trophy hunting and the senseless killing it causes is a much larger problem than just one person.
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