Vicenza, a city in the north of Italy, will no longer play host to the country’s largest hunting fair: the HiT Show (Hunting Individual Protection Target Sports).
The Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), which organizes trade fairs and congresses across Italy, has announced that the HiT hunting exhibition will not be returning to its Vicenza calendar.
In a general post outlining updates for the year, it cited “environmental values” as a reason for not re-proposing the hunting fair.
According to the Humane Society International/Europe (HSI/Europe), HiT is Italy’s largest hunting show. It welcomes thousands of visitors every year. Plus, in the region of 500 exhibitors display a variety of weapons, hunting trophies, and other blood sports-related paraphernalia.
“I welcome the decision by IEG Italian Exhibition Group to no longer organize HiT Show, Italy’s largest hunting fair that had 40,000 visitors and hundreds of international exhibitors per year,” Martina Pluda, director for Italy at HSI/Europe, said in a statement.
Cause for celebration
The cancelation of the HiT Show is considered a “strong blow” to the trophy hunting sector. In addition, it serves as a clear sign that public opinion does not support the practice anymore.
According to a poll, conducted by HSI/Europe, 88 percent of Italians oppose trophy hunting wild animals. “Trophy hunters from the European Union kill thousands of wild animals worldwide, including endangered or threatened species, with Italy being a major trophy destination,” Pluda revealed.
Pluda notes that HSI/Europe has investigated previous HiT events where numerous exhibitors offered trophy hunting trips to slaughter protected species. The nonprofit called this “irresponsible” in the face of an increasing biodiversity crisis, as well as unethical.
HSI/Europe is also spearheading campaigns to ban the import of hunting trophies into EU countries. The hope is that such a move will lessen demand for hunting and in turn, save already vulnerable species from further decline. In Italy specifically, the group is seeking a blanket ban on the import, export, and re-export of hunting trophies from protected species. This is to include African elephants and black rhinos.
“With the submission of a bill on this issue we have taken the first step. I trust that the next government will want to work to achieve this goal together with us and the Italian people, once and for all,” Pluda said.
HSI/Europe has also launched a public petition to end imports, which has garnered more than 46,000 signatures since its creation.
The environmental cost of trophy hunting
The practice of trophy hunting is considered a threat to biodiversity, as hunters often prefer to kill exotic species. The rarer an animal, the more prestigious the kill, placing already protected or endangered animals at greater risk of extinction.
However, some factions claim that trophy hunting supports conservation efforts through population control and taxable income. They further claim that these can be used to support environmental initiatives.
The notion is widely questioned. Experts counter with concerns about how the destruction of impressive specimens places entire species at risk of being wiped out. This is due to populations being weakened, leaving them more vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis.
Robert Knell, a researcher at the Queen Mary University, London, previously said: “When environmental conditions change—a shift in seasonal rainfall or warmer temperatures—the risk of extinction increases dramatically, even with a healthy population of animals apparently unaffected by trophy hunting. But if they’re killed before they can spread their ‘good genes’ around, this reduces the overall fitness and resilience of that population.”
Trophy hunters frequently target the largest and fittest specimens of a species to guarantee the most aesthetically impressive trophies.
Calls for a global hunting trophy ban
In a bid to halt trophy hunting, 137 conservation and animal welfare groups launched a campaign earlier this year. Seeking to implement a total global ban on the import of associated trophies, they state that if hunters are unable to keep souvenirs of their kills, fewer will look to participate.
Previous attempts to leverage governmental support for such a move were predicated on ethical grounds. These went largely ignored. However, the latest campaign focuses on the environmental impact of allowing vulnerable animals to be killed, stuffed, and shipped globally.
Italy has previously been a significant importer of protected species trophies. HSI/Europe claims that between 2014 and 2020, the country brought in 437 artifacts from recognized protected species. Amongst them was a critically endangered black rhino keepsake.
Events such as the Vincenza HiT hunting exhibition offered a platform for such imports, but no longer. IEG did not respond to requests for further comment.