About 40 animal-rights protesters demonstrated outside of the annual Safari Club International convention at a hotel in Brooklyn Park Saturday afternoon.
The protesters, from Minnesota-based Animal Rights Coalition and Minnesota Animal Liberation, held signs displaying slogans such as “Killing Isn’t Conservation” and alluding to the event’s connection to Walter Palmer, the Minneapolis dentist whose killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe stirred international controversy last summer. The Minnesota SCI is not connected to Palmer, according to President Ryan Burt, who said he “respects the First Amendment right to protest.”
A law enforcement officer stood by, but there were no arrests.
The protesters’ objective is “primarily raising awareness around trophy hunting,” said Chelsea Hassler, program director of the Animal Rights Coalition. Another organizer, Kim Socha of Minnesota Animal Liberation, called trophy hunting an “egregious cruelty” rooted in luxury, indulgence and killing for fun. After Cecil’s death last summer, “there was a lot of uproar,” Hassler said, which has since “died down, as these things do.” The demonstrators, who stood along the road adjacent to the hotel between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., argued with some attending hunters. Hassler said a couple of vehicles passing by drove up onto the curb to intimidate them.
The two-day convention at the Marriott Minneapolis Northwest hosted about 70 exhibitors from North America, Europe and Africa, according to Burt. In its 41st year, the event includes gun raffles and silent auctions and generates revenue for education on conservation, advocacy efforts for the protection of hunting and humanitarian relief for marginalized groups, including disabled people. It also contributes resources like food to less developed nations, according to the organization.
“If they really cared about wildlife, we’d welcome them to work with us,” Burt said of the demonstrators. The organization raises revenue through hunting licenses and permits that it then donates to conservation and wildlife protection groups, Burt said. “Hunting plays a vital role in Minnesota, North America and throughout the world,” he said.
The Marriott Hotel, which protesters criticized for hosting the event, does not endorse or support any particular group, according to general manager Bob Schrader. The hotel is a “hospitality company,” rents to the public and provides event spaces, Schrader said.