Does Donald Trump Hunt? He Defended His Sons' Big Game Hunting
As the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump has been endorsed publicly by powerful gun lobby the National Rifle Association, and has been adamant about being a strong supporter of unrestricted Second Amendment rights, particularly as they relate to protection and self-defense. But does Donald Trump hunt, too? Trump's sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump were widely criticized when photos from a big game hunting trip in Zimbabwe surfaced online in 2012, and then again 2015, according to The Daily Mail. In the photos, the two men can be seen posing with a variety of dead animals, including a leopard, an elephant, a buffalo, and a waterbuck. According to South African hunting tour company, Hunting Legends (which its website describes as "[specializing] in big game hunts for the wealthy"), the Trump brothers' hunt was fully licensed and legal. But that, of course, didn't help the fact that seeing photos of the men proudly holding up dead endangered animals (and, in Donald Trump Jr.'s case, a elephant tail he had just sliced off), seemed entirely inhumane, and honestly, pretty stomach-churning.
When asked about the photos in 2015 during a press conference at his golf resort, Trump Turnberry, in Ayrshire, Scotland, the elder Trump admitted that he himself didn't like to hunt, but that his sons were "great marksman, great shots, they love it."
According to The Telegraph, Trump told the Scottish crowd,
As for his take on whether it's ethical to hunt endangered animals for fun like his sons did, even if it was legal? Trump steered clear of answering, saying, "I'm not necessarily in favor of that. I know nothing about that. That's up to other people."
But Donald Trump wasn't the only one willing to defend the hunting trip following public criticism. According to The Daily Mail, Donald Trump Jr. spoke out on Twitter following the photos' release, saying he wasn't ashamed of his actions. In a since-deleted tweet, Trump Jr. wrote, "Not a PR move I didn't give the pics but I have no shame about them either. I HUNT & EAT game". In a separate tweet, he explained, "I AM A HUNTER I don't hide from that."
In further tweets, Trump Jr. even argued that the trip was altruistic and benefitted the local residents:
@exclamation I can assure you it was not wasteful the villagers were so happy for the meat which they don't often get to eat. Very grateful— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 12, 2012
He then shot back against the so-called "PETA crazies":
@alisonheittman which would be what? I'm not going to run and hide because the peta crazies don't like me.— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 13, 2012
The Trumps weren't the only ones advocating that they'd done nothing wrong on their hunting trip though. In a 2012 Forbes op-ed, author and field editor of the NRA's American Hunter magazine Frank Miniter wrote that he interviewed Trump Jr. following the release of the photos, and that he and his brother had been unfairly portrayed by the media, and that the men's motives were misunderstood. According to Miniter, Trump Jr. said,
Eric Trump "enjoys hunting large exotic animals" and I'm done here, folks.— Jackson Pearce (@JacksonPearce) July 21, 2016
Trophy hunting's boon to conversation is one argument often raised in favor of legal hunting trips like the Trumps', but the benefits of these expensive hunting expeditions don't always play out as they are supposed to, according to National Geographic:
But regardless of where you stand on the merits of trophy hunting, Donald Trump himself seems to sit firmly in the middle. According to Miniter, Trump Jr. said that his father “really doesn’t understand why Eric and I hunt," but added that "he is open minded and so always allowed us to go hunting.”