Several weeks ago I submitted a report on this subject from the TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE (South Africa) (TGA) for which I received an acknowledgement from you – and for which I again thank you.
Yesterday, however, I received the attached brilliant submission to you from Stephen Palos, CEO of the Confederation of Hunting Associations of South Africa (CHASA) – and I have to admit that I couldn’t have done better no matter how hard I tried. Mr. Palos repeatedly hit the nail on the head when he was explaining the South African situation – indeed, the southern African situation – on this subject, to you. So I will not try to justify his submission lest I detract from its impact. Suffice it to say that I commend his report to the British government and to the British people in the strongest possible terms.
There are major differences between the wildlife cultures of most nations in the world today, each one reflecting each country’s ‘national preference attitude’ to their own wildlife and to their own beliefs and desires with regard to how it should be managed. The American wildlife culture, for example, is what the Americans themselves call ‘anti-market hunting’ because, in America wild game (wild game-animals and wild game-birds) cannot be bought or sold. It is illegal to make a single cent from a legally hunted white-tailed deer, for example, anywhere in America (except in Texas – where different rules apply). This is why you cannot buy any kind of indigenous-game meal in America – like venison or goose – even in the poshest of posh restaurants. Even the ‘use’, by a member of the public, of a road-kill grey squirrel is forbidden.
South Africa’s wildlife culture is different. It cannot be described as anything but ‘wholly commercial’. The South African wildlife culture, therefore, is the anti-thesis of the American wildlife culture – never-the-less it is still just as legal. And it has been hugely successful. As Mr. Palos has explained. Even though the South African wildlife culture has been in operation for less than 30 years South Africa’s wildlife stocks (because of its new and commercial wildlife culture) have increased 40-fold. South Africa’s commercial wild culture came into operation in 1991 (when the Game Theft Act of 1991 was promulgated). It has been criticised by many because of its commercial orientation. But it works for South Africa. Indeed, it has been HUGELY successful.
Great Britain’s wildlife culture fits ‘somewhere’ between the American and the South African wildlife cultures. In the U.K., every year, the carcasses of millions of captive-bred-and-released but ‘hunted’ pheasants and partridges – and a great many hunted wild pheasants, wild Red Grouse and wild Grey Partridges – and wild rabbits – are sold to the general public every year. And it is all legal. Furthermore, this style of British ‘wildlife culture’ has been accepted by the British general public as ‘normal’. Never-the-less, these British wildlife management practices have also been criticised by the same people that are opposing hunting practices in South Africa today. Both country’s wildlife cultures have been opposed by the international animal rights brigade whose purpose in life is to abolish all animal ‘uses’ by man (including hunting, making money out of wildlife, and the keeping of pets).
Most people around the world, it seems, do not understand why wildlife in South Africa (or anywhere else) should be a commercial commodity. But it is! And because it is, wildlife throughout southern Africa is prospering like it has never done before. And there are very good reasons why that should be so – but those reasons, seemingly, are not acceptable to most people in the West. This is so, probably, because of the American wildlife cultural belief (that wildlife, morally, should have no commercial value whatsoever) appeals to Western nature-loving people; and they want to see that same ‘ethic’ applying all over the world. But it doesn’t – because every country in the world practices its own unique wildlife culture (for its own very good reasons). And that fact includes Great Britain. Nevertheless, it is most desirable that the different nations of the world should start to understand and to honour the wildlife cultural differences that exist between nations. THAT is how it should be. But that is how it isn’t. And Great Britain, it seems, is one of those Western states that is right now contemplating NOT honouring South Africa’s wildlife culture; a wildlife culture that has evolved as a consequence of South Africa’s unique historical circumstances; and a wildlife culture which best suits South African conditions in the modern day and age.
Wildlife management (a.k.a. conservation) is a science. It deals with ‘the truth’. It deals with ‘facts’. It rejects ‘emotional and personal preference opinions’. Wildlife management is concerned with maintaining natural ecosystems (even those 10 000 ecosystems comprising South Africa’s individual game ranches) in states of ecological balance. It manages the well-being of different species-populations collectively – sanctuary by sanctuary; and it applies consideration of a species’ viability individually. It particularly deals with the critical balance that exists between the soil, the plants, and the animals. Wildlife management decisions, therefore, cannot be obtained from any kind of public referendum – of which, unfortunately, this ‘consultation’ is a good example.
I trust that this second submission will provide you with some greater insight into the machinations of that which we all call ‘conservation’.
With kind regards
Ron Thomson CEO – TGA