On March 20, 2017, a federal appellate court ruled that Delta Airlines can legally refuse to ship trophies of the Big Five as freight. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a previous ruling by a Texas district court upholding Delta’s 2015 decision not to ship lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies as cargo on their flights.
The lawsuit was brought by Conservation Force, Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club, Corey Knowlton, Campfire Association and the Tanzania Hunting Operators Association.
The appellate court acknowledged that Delta’s policy was based on public perception rather than science. The Court held that Delta violated no federal law in refusing to ship the Big Five, “even if the justification for that decision is the avoidance of adverse publicity.”
Although the ruling frustrates international hunters who legally hunt the five African species and wish to ship their trophies on Delta Airlines, hunters continue to have other choices to get their trophies home. Fortunately, some other airlines and shipping companies have never imposed such bans and others have reversed ill-advised bans on the shipment of trophies as freight. SCI members are encouraged to take into account Delta’s trophy ban when deciding whether to fly on Delta.