The Scottish government said it was reviewing its animal culling laws after a photograph of an American hunter posing with the carcass of a black-faced goat with magnificent horns during a hunting trip to Scotland set off a furor on social media this week.
The hunter, Larysa Switlyk, whose Twitter account says she’s from Florida and is the host of a show called “Larysa Unleashed” on the Canadian channel Wild TV, posted the image of the dead goat on her Instagram account.
“Beautiful wild goat here on the Island of Islay in Scotland,” Switlyk, who describes herself on Twitter as “not your typical CPA, professional huntress and angler,” wrote “Such a fun hunt!!”
Switlyk also wrote: “Made a perfect 200 yard shot and dropped him with the gunwerks and nightforce-optics ! (Good thing too because he could have ran off the cliff into the water).”
She also posted on Twitter images of other dead animals shot during the hunt: including a ram and a red stag. She appeared to have enjoyed eating the stag, publishing an image of cuts of meat with vegetables and writing: “Nothing Better than enjoying what you hunt !! Fresh Red Stag from our hunt in the highlands of Scotland !!”
Hunting, or rather the display of animal trophies, has become a reviled activity in some corners of social media, as well-heeled individuals, including the older sons of President Donald Trump, proudly display their trophies for the world to see on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The killing of Cecil the lion by a US dentist, Dr. Walter J. Palmer, in Zimbabwe in 2015 sparked an international outcry and drew new scrutiny to the practice of paying to kill big game.
Two years later, the lion’s son Xanda was killed in a trophy hunt near the same park.
Since then, photograph after photograph of white hunters posing triumphantly with the bodies of animals such as giraffes and a family of baboons has stirred global condemnation. In the latter case, the Idaho fish and game commissioner seen grinning with an array of carcasses from an African hunting trip resigned.
While many defenders of hunting see it as an honorable, skilled and bonding experience, others denounce it as unnecessary waste in the modern age and detrimental to the environment and to the animals who roam in the wild.
But the issue is more complex than a clash of cultures. Some countries like Zimbabwe encourage big-game hunting as a source of income and others allow the activity to keep down herd populations through managed hunting trips and as a way to pay for the upkeep of game reserves.
Researchers warned Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that 90 percent of nearly 300 protected areas on the African continent faced funding shortfalls and that some could vanish.
Some studies have shown that hunting can be devastating to endangered populations. A study published in 2010 by Craig Packer, director of the Lion Center at the University of Minnesota, found that sport hunting directly contributed to the decline of lions in most of Tanzania’s hunting areas. He found that over a 12-year period, 40 percent of the areas had been abandoned because of declines in trophy species.
This year, the United States moved to allow hunters to import big-game trophies, including elephant tusks and lion hides, acquired in certain African countries, overturning an Obama-era ban.
But to conservationists and animal lovers, there is simply no excuse for hunting. Sarah Moyes, a spokeswoman for OneKind, an organization dedicated to ending cruelty to Scotland’s animals, said in an email: “It’s utterly shocking to see these images of Larysa Switlyk and other hunters posing for photos with the wild animals they killed on a recent trip to Scotland.”
She added, “This is not the kind of tourism we should be encouraging in Scotland, let alone allowing to happen in the 21st century.” Among those who recoiled at the images that Switlyk posted was Judy Murray, the mother of Scottish tennis star Andy Murray. Writing on Twitter, she branded the hunt “disgraceful”: ” ‘A unique hunt?’ Disgraceful. It’s a goat. And it’s in Scotland. On a beautiful island. Stop this pls @scotgov.”
Michael Russell, a member of the Scottish Parliament, said Wednesday that he would raise the issue “as a matter of urgency” with the environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham.
“If this is actually happening on #Isla, and laid on by some sort of tour company, I would want to see it stopped immediately,” he wrote on Twitter.
In response to the concerns, Cunningham vowed to look into clarifying or changing the law, writing on Twitter, “We fully understand why so many people find these images of hunted animals being held up as trophies so upsetting.”
She also noted that “responsible” culling of animals for land management is a “necessary” part of sustainable land management and is not illegal.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also wrote on Twitter that the government would “review the current situation and consider whether changes to the law are required.”
It seemed likely that Switlyk, who wrote that she had been in Scotland more than a month ago, was well aware of the outrage unfolding because of her photographs.
In posts on social media Wednesday, Switlyk wrote: “I’m headed out on a bush plane for my next hunting adventure and will be out of service for 2 weeks. Nothing better than disconnecting from this social media driven world and connecting back with nature. Hopefully that will give enough time for all the ignorant people out there sending me death threats to get educated on hunting and conservation.”