Baylor pulls safari trip from auction after outcry

Baylor pulls safari trip from auction after outcry

February 13th, 2015 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

This advertisement in a Baylor magazine states that the winning donor will have a chance to hunt lions, elephants and buffalo. However, Baylor later said that the advertisement was in error and that no rare species will be hunted as part of the promotion.

This advertisement in a Baylor magazine states that...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Baylor School on Thursday removed an African safari from its upcoming fundraising auction, after an online petition against the "cruel" hunting trip drew more than 85,000 signatures.

"It's no longer on the menu," school Headmaster Scott Wilson said at 6 p.m. "We put erroneous information out there."

The private Chattanooga college prep school advertised the safari in the January issue of "Baylor," the magazine it sends to parents and alumni. A blurb promised that the winning bidder of the seven-day hunting trip for two in South Africa's North West province "will have a chance to hunt animals big and small, including lions, elephants and buffalo, on over 50,000 acres of privately owned, unfenced, and unspoiled land."

POLL: Is a safari hunt an appropriate prize for a school fundraiser?

That left 2006 Baylor grad Megan Knauss "shocked" and "appalled" when she opened her copy of the magazine. She launched the online petition early this month.

"I find this auction item barbaric and really in conflict to Baylor's mission," said Knauss, who now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where she works for Born Free USA, a nonprofit wildlife rights organization.

The Baylor School initially issued a clarification: The hunt would be for farm-raised African plains game animals such as wildebeests and warthogs -- not rhinos, as shown in the magazine photo -- and that all the meat would be donated to local Africans.

"There is NOT a hunt for elephants or lions or any endangered species as stated in the magazine," states a Feb. 3 post on Baylor's Facebook page. "While we respect the various perspectives on this issue, we do feel it is important that the correct information is part of the conversation."

That didn't get Baylor a pass from Knauss, or from animal rights advocates who blasted the safari as "despicable" and "repugnant" on the school's Facebook post.

"Really, for me, the issue isn't so much that the hunt would include elephants and lions. It's hunting African wild animals in general," said Knauss, who became a vegan a few years ago. "There's nothing sporting about slaughtering animals with high-powered rifles."

Wilson declined to say who donated the safari to the auction, but he said the donor was OK with removing the trip from bidding.

"He's a great supporter of Baylor," Wilson said. "He's mortified that it would bring this kind of negative attention."

Asked if there was anything wrong with hunting, Wilson declined to comment.

"I would rather not engage in that conversation right now," he said. "I'm a bird hunter, myself. That's another conversation for another day."

Baylor's auction starts online Wednesday and culminates March 15 with "B Inspired," a $125-a-plate dinner. The school's fundraising goal for the auction, which is held every other year, is $582,000. More than $2.5 million has been raised at seven auctions since 2001, according to Baylor's website.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.