In 2012, SCI Italian Chapter member Luciano Ponzetto, DOTT, had a very successful lion hunt in Tanzania. Luciano is a veterinarian with an office located in Turin, Italy. For many years, Luciano also provided veterinarian services on a discounted fee basis to a local Turin shelter for homeless animals. He has been a member of the Italian Chapter for 14 years.
Each year at the Italian Chapter’s Annual General Membership meeting and Convention, the Chapter, like most SCI Chapters, sponsors awards that are given for the best trophies taken by its members on their safaris in different regions of the world.
The Chapter’s awards feature a lovely silver plate engraved with the winning trophy’s vital statistics. They are handed out by the Chapter President at an awards ceremony on Saturday afternoon of the Convention.
Luciano entered his lion in the African trophy category for the 2015 Convention held in May 2015 in Cesenatico, Italy. His lion trophy won the third place prize for African trophies that year. Pictures of Luciano and his lion trophy taken in Tanzania were later, in early November of 2015, like all the other trophy winners of the 2015 Chapter Trophy Award competition, posted on the Chapter’s website.
Unfortunately, a group of animal protectionists and anti-hunters saw Luciano’s picture and started an anti-hunting campaign against him. The campaign was similar to the public blogging and news campaign on Facebook and other Internet websites that took place against Dr. Palmer because of his legal hunting of the Zimbabwean lion named Cecil.
Luciano’s picture and an anti-hunting article about him were featured on Nov. 4, 2015 on the front page of the national Italian newspaper, La Stampa, and the picture and article ran in this newspaper for another six consecutive days thereafter. Another Luciano picture and article also appeared in the Nov. 5, 2015 edition of the English newspaper, The Times, which is distributed all around the world and also online. (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/wildlife/article4604878.ece#).
The anti-hunting group’s goals were to have the Turin animal shelter cease to utilize Luciano’s services, arguing that a veterinarian who hunts and kills animals should not be helping the shelter, and to drive clients away from his veterinarian practice. In addition they wanted to bring public opprobrium down on him and to embarrass him and the Italian Chapter in the public esteem. To further these goals, on Nov. 7, 2015, 20 to 30 protesters picketed the Italian Chapter’s office in Biella, Italy. No damage was caused to the office, due to a heavy and effective police presence on that day.
The Chapter’s members, and its officers and directors were outraged by this campaign against Luciano and the Italian Chapter. On Nov. 13, 2015, the Chapter Board of Directors met and took decisive action to protect Luciano and any Chapter member who might in the future be similarly attacked by anti-hunting and animal protectionist groups. The Board voted to set aside three percent (3%) of its annual members’ Chapter dues in a non-lapsing fund. The purpose of the fund would be to provide legal assistance and other appropriate assistance to Luciano and any other Chapter member so attacked in the future for legal hunting activities.
Luciano immediately hired a Milan lawyer, named Paolo Righi. Paolo filed suits against 400 people identified in the campaign against Luciano. At the time this article was written, two of the people sued had settled the cases against them by paying damages of $1,500 each. Court proceedings are still pending against the others who hired lawyers to help them decide whether to settle or to contest the charges against them.
The SCI Italian Chapter acted quickly and decisively to protect Luciano and its members’ freedom to hunt. The Chapter’s courage to act immediately and effectively is an example for SCI and all its Chapters to applaud, to copy and to emulate. Kudos and congratulations to them for being the vanguard in protecting the worldwide freedom to hunt.–John R. Monson, SCI/SCIF Past President and SCI Italian Chapter Member, Uberto d’Entreves, SCI International Director and SCI Italian Chapter Member, Tiziano Terzi, SCI Italian Chapter President