The owner of the reserve where an Alberta couple posed with a dead lion defended trophy hunting saying people’s outrage wasn’t justified and that it was a sign of “the times we’re living in.”

Reinier Linde runs Legelela Safaris, a trophy-hunting company in South Africa which offers people to chance to shoot and kill a wide collection of animals including rhinos, buffalos, crocodiles and lions.

In South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, the practice of trophy hunting is legal. Since the couple and Legelela Safaris each posted the photo on Facebook, they each have received international backlash and even death threats.

In a phone interview, Linde defended the practice of trophy hunting, telling CTVNews.ca that after an animal is killed “everything is used.” Therefore, he said, “trophy hunting is exactly the same as meat hunting. There’s no difference. The only difference is the trophy hunter keeps a souvenir.”

“People do not have a problem with going into a restaurant and having chicken, beef, burger or steak but they have a problem with somebody hunting?” he said, adding meat-eaters who criticized trophy hunting were hypocrites.

“It’s no different in (the) meat -- between dinner and a trophy,” he said. “Animals that bleed in a restaurant (have) exactly the same blood that’s in the animals that we hunt.”

However, the Legelela Safaris website does not mention any policy of using “everything” beyond the trophy of a hunted animal. It only says that “game meat that has been hunted can be cooked/braai on your request.”


HOW AN ALTA. COUPLE’S PHOTO WENT VIRAL

The U.K. tabloid The Daily Mail first reported on the couple in the photo and identified them as Darren and Carolyn Carter of Spruce Grove, Alta. The photo went viral after it was republished by the tabloid Daily Mirror, as part of their call to ban trophy hunting worldwide.

The photo was posted both on the couple’s Facebook page before it was removed. The Carters run Solitude Taxidermy, according to a website which was no longer online at the time of writing. The site had the slogan "bring your trophy back to life” and a brief description of the couple as “passionate conservationists and hunters.”

Karin Nelson from the group Voice for Animals, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting animals, called out the couple’s professed conservationist beliefs.

"You can't be conserving animals while killing them," Nelson told CTV News Edmonton, saying they showed a lack of compassion. "It just does not make sense."

CTVNews.ca hasn’t independently verified when the photo was taken, but last month, Solitude Taxidermy’s Twitter account tweeted that the couple was on safari in South Africa.

The most widely-shared photo of the couple only showed them posing with one lion, but the Twitter account Xpose Trophy Hunting circulated a set of three photos which appeared to show the same couple posing in front of three different lions.

The couple did not respond to CTVNews.ca’s repeated requests for comment.

A scan of the Carters’ remaining Facebook posts -- before they too were removed -- were filled with negative comments, criticisms and even death threats.


THE COUPLE AND OTHER HUNTERS RECEIVED DEATH DEATHS

The infamous photo had also been posted on Legelela Safaris’s Facebook page, but Linde said he had to take down the whole page after people in his pictures were bombarded with death threats.

“Why should I subject any of our hunters to people (whose) only way they can communicate is by swearing, cursing and wishing harm to their families,” he said. Linde claimed he’d never seen a hunter “wishing any harm on an anti-hunter.”

Despite her own outrage, Nelson also didn’t condone online bullying saying, "as angry as people can be, it's counterproductive to be threatening and violent.”

People being upset with trophy hunting is nothing new. The 2015 killing of Cecil the lion by a Minnesota dentist similarly sparked widespread outrage and backlash. And last month, a woman was widely criticized online for posing with a dead giraffe during a hunting trip.

In Canada, British Columbia ended its grizzly bear hunt in December 2017.