Canned Hunting: a more humane alternative to factory-farming?


A still image from the YouTube clip mentioned below.

Recently, on Truth About Pet Food, Susan Thixton launched an investigation into the sources behind Orijen and Acana brands. One of the suppliers of Champion Petfoods happened to be Hog Wild Specialties of Mayerthorpe, Alberta in Canada. It was noticed on the website the company offers a hunting package.

Much of the controversy is over the concept of “hunting preserve”, “fenced hunting” or “canned hunting” which is a heavily debated topic in the American hunting community and most of it is centered around the ethic of privatization of native wildlife, size of enclosure and topic of baiting with feeders.[1] The debate can become so heated, some hunting clubs already took on a strong stance. Even then, there is lots of grey area behind this and sometimes hunting preserve can make sense.[2] So, the issue is not as cut and dry as it may seem.

In addition to the prejudice against trophy-hunting and canned hunts (or “canned-shooting”), many of these operations are now under attack for introducing invasive species to the surrounding area. Now joining Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the war against boars, Alberta is following suit with British Columbia in tow.[3][4] There is a severe and inevitable ecological consequence for keeping common non-native game species which have potential to be naturalized.

Champion Petfoods has long been celebrated for being local, natural, humane and ethical kibble-brand. Regional Red dog food and Wild Boar dog treats contain wild-boar and are often seen as a healthier, more ethical alternative to factory-farmed pork and beef. Now, in most parts of Canada, it is illegal to sell wild-meat.  So, commercially-sold elk, venison, bison, pheasant and boar on the plate are all sourced from game farms. It does not involve a mental acrobat to figure out some of these game farms also sell their products to the highest bidders who pay for the privilege to shoot an animal with guaranteed success. After all, hunting preserve is built on the already existing commercial infrastructure livestock farming is based on.

Most of the objections surrounding the use of wild-boar in dog food is the ethical treatment of the animals. However, the ethic of “humane kill” and ethic of “fair chase” are not one and the same. It would be a mistake to conflate the two. Oftentimes they are in conflict with each others.

In the context of this controversy of using farm-raised boar, let us take a look at the principles of animal welfare. One common indicator is the Five Freedoms developed in 1979 by the UK Government’s Animal Welfare Council: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.[5] Many other definitions of animal-welfare follow more or less along the same line.

So let us compare factory-farming to hunting preserves. How are hunting preserves any less humane than factory farming? The animals are allowed to free-roam within the enclosure; and if one search for videos on YouTube, the animals appear to be calm and are not threatened or stressed by the presence of humans. There is no suffering and the animals are killed humanely with a rifle on their own browsing-grounds. Based on the evidence provided by images and videos, one can conclude the hunting preserve meets the five principles of farm-animal welfare. One cannot say the same for a majority of cattle and hogs in feed-lots or slaughter-houses in North America. The ethical treatments of animals on a hunting preserve is non-sequitur.

A public relations stunt by Bonnie at customer service was released:

On March 24th, 2014, Susan Thixton made an inquiry with our Customer Care team asking for additional information on one of our local suppliers of wild boar.  Our team promptly responded to Susan and requested she allow us time to thoroughly investigate her questions to ensure she receive an accurate response. We expected and understood that we would be allowed the time needed to provide a complete response, and regret that time taken has caused concern.

We value the trust of all pet lovers, including Susan. We respect much of the work Susan does in helping ensure pet food makers are honest and transparent.  We regularly respond to her inquiries, support the First Alert program, and are working on her Pledge to Quality and Origin.

We’re also committed to using local ingredients that are sustainably and ethically raised. Hog Wild Specialities supplies us with fresh Wild Boar that is raised on open pastures in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.  Susan’s concerns were regarding ‘canned hunting’, or hunting animals in a confined space, such as in a fenced-in area.  While Champion does not endorse hunting of any kind, Hog Wild Specialties does operate a separate business that offers hunting, which is run on 25 acres of land. Champion is working with Hog Wild to better understand their hunting operations.

It is also important to note that Champion does not utilize any meat from any hunted animals. All animal ingredients featured in ORIJEN and ACANA are processed exclusively in federally licenced facilities regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, all are from animals passed fit for human consumption.

We value your trust and we’re dedicated to upholding the highest standards of authenticity. If you have any questions regarding any of our ingredients suppliers, please feel free to write back.
Kind regards,
Customer Care Leader
Champion Petfoods LP

According to the company, Hog Wild Specialties has two separate facilities: a game farm and a hunting preserve. It is asserted the meat sourced for Orijen and Acana are not from the preserve, but rather from the game farm which is a separate meat production line. It is not exactly clear if they condemn hunting, or they just don’t publicly endorse it. The other murky issue is Champion Petfoods defined the hunting preserve in question as being 25-acre, but the land-usage of the game farm is never clarified. Amending the statement would put the customers’ concerns at rest.

With a bit of Google Kung Fu, it does not take much to find out the game farm is a quarter- section, or ¼ of a square mile.[6] That is 160 acres or 0.65km2. The controversy is overblown if the game farm is being kept separate from the preserve. Hunted meat is part of the package which goes home with the person who paid for it.

People who are concerned about the sources behind their kibbles are tackling the wrong issue. Instead, the focus should be on the environmental or ecological consequences of keeping wild-boar in Alberta. Now, this blogger has long been advocate of replacing non-native domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs and others with native game animals which can be farmed such as white-tailed deer, reindeer, bison and elk appropriate to the region of the ranch. Since most people find game-meat a bit too strong for their liking, it is unlikely the market-demand would opt for a more sustainable method over our current preference of today’s selection of meat. Nevertheless, this is an issue which should be explored more deeply.

The ethical implication of using humanely-shot boar should never be a question. Husbandry of free-range animals, even if penned in a 25-acre enclosure, is far much more humane than the agricultural-industrial complex. The issue probably would be less controversial if the boars are not being commercially sold to thrill-seekers and are instead harvested with mobile processing facilities on free-range game ranches for stress-free meat. In the overall picture of ethical kill, however, it does not make a difference if the animal was processed on a game farm or on a hunting preserve.

  1. Jim Tantillo (2012, July 8). Fair Chase Hunting: Canned Hunts, Fair Chase, and the Sorites Paradox. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from^
  2. Fieldsports Channel (2014, Janurary 22). Why shooting rare animals can make sense [Video file]. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from^
  3. Canadian Broadcasting Company (May, 6 2013). The Current – Boar Wars: Controlling the wild boar population [Video file].^
  4. (2014, March 20). Feral pigs: B.C. allows hunting ‘anywhere and at any time’ CBC News. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from^
  5. Five Freedoms (2009, April 16). Retrieved April 5, 2014 from Farm Animal Welfare Council:^
  6. Liane Faulder (2011, October 18). Going Hog Wild Edmonton Journal. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from^
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  1. Why waste perfectly good meat from canned hunts? I agree that it is both a humane death and a no less ethical than a farm situation.


    • People don’t realize how stressful for the animal to be transported to the slaughter-house, or being confined for a bolt-gun to work effectively. As much as Temple Grandin improved animal-welfare in the slaughter-houses, she was limited by the economic feasibility of keeping the production costs low.

      There is virtually no difference between harvesting free-ranging animals using salaried professional shooters like at Broken Arrow Ranch and recreational shooters who pay someone for the same opportunity at Hog Wild Specialties which operates under the same premise. I am willing to bet most ethical omnivores and mindful carnivores would not mind their meat procured from ranches like Broken Arrow.

      The only controversial ethic here is something which is not within the realm of dog-food production because as soon as the pen is taken away, the meat cannot be bought or sold. Yes, certain freshwater fish and wild-caught fur can be sold commercially, but the sale of wild-meat is a political land-mine which haven’t been contested in court. Hunters’ ethics and harvesting wild-game are entirely different subjects than food-production.

      Even then, one cannot even compare privatization of wapiti or white-tailed deer to boar because the wild boar was intentionally imported from eastern Europe for the purpose of livestock-raising to cash on a specific niche. Yes, our native wildlife falls under the public trust doctrine and everyone has an equal say in management of them; but Russian boars are not part of philosophy and they probably won’t be until people accept them as a naturalized species instead of being an invasive species.

      Commercial exploitation have its issues (which are worthy of other blog-posts in the future); but how fair-chase ethics affect kibble-production is not one of them.

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