The documentary Trophy, directed by Shaul Schwartz and Christina Clusiau, takes a vastly comprehensive look at hunting industries, breeding and wildlife conservation efforts, and anti-poaching approaches within Africa and the U.S. The film debates whether trophy hunting successfully sustains the growth of African habitat and the species that live within it. By examining the trophy hunting dispute itself, a few individuals involved in it, and the surrounding African communities and their economies, Trophy attempts to depict a thorough picture of the wildlife conservation efforts endeavored by African and U.S. governments and concerned patrons respectively. By the end of the documentary, however, it is evident that the issue is not so black and white, but rather grey with complex contributing factors that must all be considered.
Whether animal life used as forms of commodity ultimately benefits their species’ preservation is a reoccurring theme throughout the film. John Hume, a South African rhino breeder, saws off the horns of his rhinos every two years to protect the rhino from potential poachers. He reveals that the procedure is painless and less dangerous than a human getting his or her wisdom teeth removed. He therefore poses the question on whether wearing their horns or saving their lives is more important in repopulating the rhinoceros’ dying species. Hume also highlights the similarities between the multibillion-dollar meat, dairy, and egg industries with his personal rhino saving “recipe.” Both farming approaches harvest animal products for profit. A large portion of that profit is then redistributed into expanding the production system in order to further continue the lives and existence of various domesticated animals. If, therefore, the only way to save these vulnerable species from extinction is to domesticate them like free-ranging livestock, then this approach should be perused.
Additionally, Trophy covers the stories of Chris Moore, an African wildlife control officer and Anti-poacher, Phillip Glass, a Texas sheep breeder, and Christo Gomes, a hunting outfitter, to portray the most encompassing perspectives on what is occurring in the African big-game hunting industry today. Due to the documentary’s occasional graphic videography, on the surface level it may initially seem unprincipled to make a profit on an individual animal whose species as a whole is trying to be conserved, however evidence proves otherwise. As the environmentalist in the documentary pointed out, recent generations have begun to think in terms of saving “Bambi,” or one singular deer for example, rather than acknowledging what is best for the entire species as a whole. The danger in thinking within these terms threatens animal populations and ecosystems collectively.
Due to unregulated hunting and poaching, climate change, pollution, deforestation, increasing human populations, and many other human related factors, it is important to note that there is not one answer to the solution. Everyone, hunters and anti-hunting activists, have the same goal – to save animals from extinction. But it is how we approach the various challenges to the solution that differ. Although our viewpoints and passions to preserve life vary, it will take the world as one large, united community to join forces and fight animal extinction together.