Big-game hunters defend kills, say they won’t back down after receiving backlash for posting photos

The woman who sparked a social media outcry and a government investigation after posting an image of a goat she claims to have killed in Scotland is not backing down from her online critics, saying that she will “never apologize for being a hunter."

Larysa Switlyk’s comments come after she went off the grid for two weeks for a remote “hunting adventure” in the wake of the late October uproar. Her post last month, in which she said she killed a wild goat on Scotland’s Isle of Islay with a “perfect 200 yard shot”, prompted the country’s government to announce that it would conduct a review into how it regulates hunting.

"I will never apologize for being a hunter and I definitely don’t regret posting my hunting photos online," Switlyk told Fox News. "People do not need to follow me on social media if they don’t want to see them. It’s really that simple.

"It’s also immensely satisfying and a privilege to get your food this way," she added. "Whether this gets your goat or not, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Even though violence and name-calling seems to be the way our society is going, it’s not the way I choose to hold a discussion."

Some Twitter users responded to similar remarks she recently made on Twitter by urging her not to come back to Scotland ever again.

“It won't hurt your feelings because you don't have any,” one said. “You are a classic psychopath.”

A Scottish government spokesperson told Fox News that its review of Switlyk’s images and others like it, which according to its leader will “consider whether changes to the law are required” – is still ongoing, and there is no timetable for its completion.

Switlyk, following the Scotland hunt, has launched a T-shirt line with phrases like “Don’t Let Me Get Your Goat” and “Barbaric Hunter” and claims that a portion of proceeds will go towards conservation efforts for Capra species, which include wild goats.

"When I got back on the grid I was in shocked at how out of hand just posting a photo on social media got," she told Fox News. "They had advertised my address and while I was gone, people showed up at my door, looking for me. This is just beyond the pale."

The backlash Switlyk received for posting the photos is a familiar one for hunters who have chosen to have – or have had – their exploits shared on the Internet.

One of the most notable incidents in recent years was the killing of Cecil the lion by American dentist and trophy hunter Walter Palmer in 2015.

Another case led a hunter to quit his job amid pressure from colleagues. Blake Fischer, a former Idaho Fish and Game commissioner, left his post in mid-October after an image surfaced purportedly showing him standing over a family of baboons killed during a hunting trip to Namibia.

The Trump brothers, Don Jr. and Eric have also routinely been criticized for old photos of them hunting in Africa which included them posing with a dead leopard.

Fischer declined to comment for this article, but one hunter who did says some of the criticism has gone too far.

Tess Thompson Talley, who came under fire this summer after images surfaced of her posting with an African giraffe kill, told Fox News: “First of all I would like to say that I fully understand people who are against hunting.

"It is certainly their right to not agree with it, even speak out against it. However, for anyone to threaten bodily harm or even death against anyone is wrong.”

Talley says images of kills that are posted online are “not done to rub it in the face of non-hunters, vegetarians and vegans.

“This is a way of honoring the animals who have given their lives for hunters to be able to provide clean, healthy protein for themselves, their family and friends,” she said.

“Nobody has the right to threaten people for something that is legal, ethical and ultimately (in my opinion) helps the populations of wildlife to remain healthy and numerous, just because they don’t believe in it,” Talley added.

Her statements were echoed by Oliva Nalos Opre, a big game hunter and former beauty queen who has faced backlash after making the argument in a television interview that funds generated from trophy hunts help with anti-poaching and conservation efforts.

“Hunters need to be cognizant that photos of their hunting memories may be interpreted negatively by those who have lost touch with Mother Nature and our need to provide healthy meat to our families utilizing one of the greatest tools for science-based wildlife conservation — legal, well-regulated hunting,” Opre told Fox News. “Hunters must show through their photos the respect we have for nature and its bounty.”

Olivia Nalos Opre is one of the many hunters who have been criticized for posting photos of their adventures online. (Courtesy Olivia Nalos Opre)

Animal rights organizations that spoke to Fox News, however, called the hunting for conservation argument a "ruse" -- and said "much of the money goes to trophy hunting operations, outfitters, and government agencies, some of which are corrupt.

"PETA welcomes trophy hunters to air the bloodlust behind their killing sprees on social media, as it gives away who they really are: insecure, callous, undesirable people who try to hide their sadism behind a phony notion of "conservation," with the emphasis on con," a PETA spokesperson said. "Reducing magnificent wild animals minding their own business to corpses, gloating over the kills, and then claiming that it's all for "conservation" is like killing some humans to try to solve homelessness — it's nasty, completely unethical, and transparently absurd."

Cecil the Lion rests near Kennedy One Water Point in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, in 2013. The killing of the lion by an American two years later caused an international outcry. (AP)

Priscilla Feral, president of the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals group, told Fox News that "when trophy hunters pose for photographs next to their oryx antelope, lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, or other animals, their motivation is ego, not conservation.

"Shooting animals either on a hunting ranch or in the wild doesn't define conservation," she added.

A recent National Geographic article also quotes an American biologist as saying that the money raised from exotic big game hunts falls far short of what is needed to sustain the environments they take place in.

The debate over trophy hunting is not expected to go away any time soon. And it seems the criticism facing hunters who post their images of their kills online is here to stay as well.