TORONTO—Tensions between animal rights activists and big-game hunters are set to boil over thanks to a trophy hunting conference scheduled for Toronto next month.
Several animal rights groups are planning to protest the African Hunting Events show at a suburban Holiday Inn in mid-January.
Camille Labchuk, a lawyer with Animal Justice, has started an online petition demanding the hotel cancel the event.
She said it’s hard to believe such events still exist amid the uproar following the hunting and killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by an American hunter earlier this year.
“It’s shocking to us that just mere months after the global outrage sparked by Cecil the lion’s death that the Holiday Inn would agree to book an event that celebrates the trophy hunting of countless animals just like Cecil,” she says.
But an event organizer said activists are uneducated about hunting in Africa.
Birgit Johnstone, a director with African Events Canada that is organizing the two-day show along with others in Calgary and Saskatoon and Orlando, Fla., said hunters support local African communities and fight poachers.
About 20 groups have signed up as exhibitors, and Johnstone expects more than 200 people will attend the two-day event that has been taking place since 2009.
Johnstone said the show isn’t just for hunting African animals.
“People can come and find out anything they want to know with regards to going on a safari to Africa, be it photographic, shopping, fishing, hunting, anything like that,” she said.
Several of the companies that are slated to attend the event offer a slew of animals to hunt, including lions, leopards, elephants and hippopotamuses.
Some of the outfits show photographs of hunters with their kills that range from giraffes to wildebeests and zebras. One website shows videos of animals in a game farm being shot with arrows.
“It’s very much controlled by the government; it’s very much legal and above board,” Johnstone said. “You know hunting is not for everybody—not everybody wants to pull the trigger, myself included.”
The petition cites a passage on the website of InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns the Holiday Inn hotel chain.
“We always do what we believe is right and have the courage and conviction to put it into practice, even when it might be easier not to. We are honest and straightforward and see our decisions through.”
The petition states: “By refusing to play any role in the international trophy hunting industry, Holiday Inn can demonstrate the strong leadership that has made them a respected and successful hotel chain.”
InterContinental Hotels Group did not respond to repeated requests for comment.