An Open Letter to IOL by John Nash

Dear IOL
Your article, “UK hunt club slammed for trophy-hunting safari auction in South Africa”. by Shaun Smillie (October 29) contained a number of misleading statements.

You describe the Avon Vale Hunt as “A fox hunting club in the United Kingdom”.  Fox hunting with hounds has been illegal in the UK for a number of years.  The Avon Vale Hunt preserves and celebrates the tradition of hunting with hounds by trail hunting – exercising riders and dogs by following an artificial scent laid down earlier by a human being.  It is a perfectly legal pastime.  It follows that the statement, “are dedicated to stopping the Avon Vale huntsmen and women when they head out with horses and hounds in pursuit of foxes” is false news.

Of course, you cannot ban the hunting of UK foxes because they are an agricultural and urban pest.  Every day we kill 1000 foxes in the UK – 2000 a week are shot, 80 a day are snared, Lord knows how many are poisoned or gassed with vehicle exhaust because hunting with dogs is banned, and, ironically another 300 are run over EVERY DAY, many by animal lovers in the their cars.  Banning the hunting of foxes with hounds merely turned a much-admired quarry – about 20,000 were once taken by foxhounds – into a common agricultural pest.

The ban has not helped fox welfare because it was not about fox welfare.  Hunting with dogs merely replaced the predators of foxes that we removed centuries ago.  Hunted by hounds, the best foxes tend to escape and the worst get caught and removed from the genetic pool.  The average fox was killed in 15 seconds when caught by foxhounds, making shooting, snaring and poisoning with blood thinning agents far, far, more slow and cruel.

However, an imaginary class war of hatred is aimed at the hunt, evidenced by your article unnecessarily repeating the emphasis on “exclusive club”, “millionaires” and “£1500 membership fees”, betraying its left-wing origins.   Descriptions like these apply to all sorts of UK and SA clubs, such as flying, golf, polo or yachting clubs.

This press release originated from animal rights organisations in the UK.  Animal rights are an interesting philosophical pastime, but they don’t exist in reality.  If animals had rights, perhaps you could explain the rights of a mouse being tortured to death by a cat, or those of an impala being disembowelled alive by a lion or hyena.  They obviously have no rights.  To give the mouse or impala “rights”, you would have to take them away from the cat or lion, depriving them of the right to live and eat.  Animal rights are nonsense.  They do not exist in nature.  However, they are an extremely lucrative way of making money for dishonest and deceptive charities and NGO’s – who keep up a tirade against hunting to keep funds rolling in.  Two organisations in the original press release are PETA (income $70 million) and the Born Free Foundation (income £4 million).  The story and obligatory trophy hunter photo also helped the UK Daily Mirror to attract eyeballs.

The Avon Vale Hunt auctioned a hunting holiday in South Africa with an estimated value of £5000.  The price includes everything from being greeted at the airport on arrival to being assisted on departure.  The hunt will be for a springbok, a gemsbok, an impala and a warthog.  As a South African organisation, you know that these species will be hunted on private land, are privately owned and are, in effect, a farm harvest.  That harvest, by means of stock sales, hunting and meat, provides the income that supports 40 million acres of private reserves in SA, many formerly cattle ranches with no wildlife.

Over a million animals are shot in SA every year, providing (pre-covid) some 50,000 tons of meat and a few trophies, although trophy animals are all eaten, too.  Raising wild animals as a crop on almost natural habitat is an excellent use for the dry and poor soils of SA because trophies and venison are low input, low water and low-carbon, while providing (pre-covid) some 100,000 jobs – 17, 000 of them in trophy hunting.  Banning trophy hunting will not save a single animal because they will still be harvested, so the claims of animal rights campaigners are spurious.

Trophy hunting sells a product that would normally be thrown away or rendered into glue.  It is therefore very welcome extra farm income.  A ban might bring something tragically bad for wildlife – without the income from trophy hunting, a lot of those private reserves would become uneconomic and simply revert to cattle.  Where that happens, all the megafauna would be shot because they compete for food and water, or because they are vectors of cattle disease.  If dry land crops replaced the hunting, then all of the animals and trees would be bulldozed to make way for the plough.

If you consider that those 40 million acres are all self-supporting, twice as much and extra to the National Parks like the Kruger, and they cost the government nothing – in fact they are taxpayers – plus the fact that those forty million acres support trillions of non-hunted animals, birds, insects, reptiles, plants and trees, then you should consider what you are putting at risk with a spurious ban.  South Africa can be very proud of its private hunting reserves, upon which the numbers of wild animals are rising every year.  Compared to the destruction of the forests of the Amazon or the Far east, it is a shining example to the rest of Africa.

Your optimism that “Even the new British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has vowed to ban live animal exports and trophy-hunting imports” may be a little premature.  It is a sop to the Twitterati, whose emotional dreams are stoked by the crafty NGO’s and charities mentioned earlier.  The Bill referred to craftily stuck trophy imports on to a raft of farm animal welfare proposals, and was introduced by the Conservative Government a while ago on the advice of the animal rights campaigners, Boris Johnson’s animal rights wife, and their effective publicity campaigns in the gutter press.  However, when the matter is debated by adults in the cold light of the facts from CITES and other fact based organisations, it soon becomes apparent that such a ban will actually harm the animals concerned and the South African economy

There is no alternative to hunting.

Only two of SA’s National Parks make any money – the rest have to be subsidised.  There are not enough eco-tourists to go round now, so where will the extra come from to support 40 million more acres?  The claim that ecotourism is a realistic alternative is nonsense.  Besides, eco-tourists want the big five, lots of different species, good roads, pools, health care and interesting scenery – they won’t go to remote, dry, dusty, Skilpad-vrek-van-dors-fontein to look for a handful of elusive animals, just the way hunters like it.

It is self-evident that the statement, “Global animal rights organisation World Animal Protection (WAP) recently published research in which they surveyed close to 11000 people and found that 7 out of 10 South African citizens said that their country “would be a more attractive tourist destination if they banned trophy hunting” is a farce conducted by WAP (income £32 million annually).   Taken out of context, of course they would.  But try the question, “Do you want to destroy 4 million acres of wild animals and plants that have been conserved by SA farmers?” and then note the answer.
This begs the question – why are you giving the oxygen of publicity to a hate-filled, demonstrably deceptive news article that will damage South Africa’s reputation and economy?  You should be ashamed of yourselves. South Africa has enough problems.

John Nash

John Nash grew up in West Cornwall and was a £10 pom to Johannesburg in the early 1960’s. He started well in construction project management, mainly high-rise buildings but it wasn’t really Africa, so he went bush, prospecting and trading around the murkier bits of the bottom half of the continent. Now retired back in Cornwall among all the other evil old pirates. His interests are still sustainable resources, wildlife management and the utilitarian needs of rural Africa.

One Comment

  1. Some interesting statistics to add to what John has said is that in 1975 South Africa’s ungulate herd was about 500 000 animals. The national herd is now between 18 – 22 million. South Africa has a long-standing hunting tradition of which we are proud. There is also a groundswell sentiment amongst Africans, across the continent, who want to benefit from their wildlife. Animals rights groups must learn to live with this fact. Africa can’t afford the luxury of a western sentient conservation ethic that will contribute nothing to conserving the continent’s wildlife.

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