An animal rights protest organized by a Toronto teen blocked traffic and attendees at an African trophy hunting show just north of the city Saturday.
About two dozen people joined 18-year-old Remington Latanville — founder of the group Ban African Trophy Hunting — outside of the venue in Concord. The protesters carried signs and yelled at people as they headed into the show.
Latanville argues that public shaming is warranted.
"I think it's just so selfish and wrong of these people to be killing innocent beautiful animals just for trophies," she told CBC News.
The Africa Show, run by African Events Canada, connects safari operators with potential customers, who could then travel to African countries like Mozambique or South Africa and pay to hunt exotic animals.
Vendors can charge thousands of dollars to kill a single animal.
To kill an elephant, for example, can cost up to $50,000. The entire African big game hunting industry is estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion, with a portion of that money going toward conservation efforts.
One tour operator from the eastern cape of South Africa said in an interview that trophy hunters are only targeting specific animals — old males past their breeding years — and that placing dollar values on animals has contributed immensely to conservation programs across the continent.
In many parts of Africa, big game hunting has support from both hunters and local governments.
Similar trophy hunting exhibitions have sparked criticism throughout North America.
The debate reached fever pitch last summer after it was revealed Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, had shot and killed a protected and beloved lion just outside a national park in Zimbabwe.
Palmer was forced to temporarily close his dental practice and go into hiding after repeated threats on social media.
Social media campaign
The protest group almost forced the cancellation of Saturday's show by targeting the venues that agreed to host it.
The first two venues organizers booked backed out under pressure from animal rights activists, including a Holiday Inn hotel near Toronto's Pearson airport that said it was worried for the safety of its other guests.
"They were personally attacking them and verbally abusing them on social media," said Birgit Johnstone, owner of African Events Canada, adding this was the first year her company had run into this kind of opposition since it started hosting events in 2009.
Latanville's protest was boosted by support from Direct Action Everywhere, a global animal rights network.
Member Tom Tkach said the group brought about half the protesters.
"When we hear of a group that's grassroots like this one, that's organizing, we'll come with signage," Tkach said.
"This is the kind of thing this young organizer hasn't done before so we are here to support her."
The show moves on to Saskatoon next weekend, then to Calgary and protests are already being planned in both cities.