By John Nash
I sympathise with the TGA trying to explain sustainable hunting to the world using facts, when even the South Africa (SA) media itself has some of the the most idiotic, back-to-front mental contortionists – the most polite way of saying “liars”. Take this article “Ban on lion hunting and captive breeding – What is all the fuss about?” by Dominic Naidoo, in IOL on 7 May 2021, for example. When it comes to explaining wildlife management and hunting rationally, Mr Naidoo definitely Nai-doesn’t.
The High Level Panel referred to in the article was stacked with anti-hunters, tree huggers and others whose primary concerns are not the survival of wildlife, or even SA, but the feelings and emotions of their supporters or the survival of their piggy banks. Animal rights (AR) is about easy money and humans, not about animals. And, of course, with a concept based entirely on bovine ordure, it is an extremely profitable field, unchallenged by either reality or facts, let alone its claimed subject, the wildlife.
Mr Naidoo begins by playing the moronic race card, trying to tie “ethical hunting practices” to black empowerment. In places where subsistence hunting is carried out by “the empowered” in Africa, the hunting methods used are far from ethical, humane or sustainable. Hunger doesn’t have time for the finer metropolitan idealism of well-heeled journos scribbling nonsense in their crystal palaces. Unregulated black empowerment, like unregulated white, political, commercial or any other empowerment, brings cruelty and extinctions. With the obvious and welcome exceptions of the hunting countries of the SADC, the whole history of post colonial Africa has been one of the disappearance of the wildlife.
Clearly, Mr. N doesn’t understand that the SA wildlife industry now produces many, many thousands of tons of meat every year, buying, selling, protecting, breeding and harvesting animals like any other extensive ranching industry. Hunting in SA is largely part of this low-carbon, water frugal, conservation positive industry. If animals are going to be harvested, why not find well-heeled people to pay for the privilege?
Walk and stalk sustainable, regulated hunting of ranched or private reserve animals is no different from any other wild animals, and no less ethical. It certainly does less damage to the habitat than unending busloads of chattering eco-tourists and the infrastructure and water required to service their demands, welcome as their money is. Urban areas and poor people need both hunters’ and voyeurs’ fees.
Hunters provide ranchers with (caution – Marxists please look away now, an upsetting word follows) profit, the whole point of ranching in the first place. The days of Ryder Haggard hunting disappeared when Queen Victoria kicked the bucket, although the hunting organisations try to pretend otherwise. But that is just marketing, Mr Naidoo, marketing. You shouldn’t take it too literally. Most importantly, you shouldn’t use it as a weapon to damage South Africa’s sustainable hunting tourism. That is economic sabotage, an activity that runs counter to the spirit of Section 24 (b)iii of the South African Constitution, quite apart from being economic treason.
Of course, you could reduce hunting to “naturally occurring” animals (the process that just about wiped them all out by the 1950’s in the first place, Mr Naidoo), but then there would be huge numbers of jobs lost across the regulatory, animal management, support and after-hunt service industries, swapping regular jobs for hand to mouth opportunistic existence in the process. Farming is very different to cosy, shiny-bum office work, Mr N.
The idea of willy-nilly land reform may appeal to idealist journo’s and greedy redhats, but it didn’t go too well for the common rural folk of Zimbabwe and here is a bit from “Land reform in South Africa” in Wikipedia…
“As of 2016, the South African government has pumped more than R60 billion into land reform projects since 1994. Despite this investment, the land reform program has not stimulated development in the targeted rural areas. A report by the South African Government’s Financial and Fiscal Commission shows that land reform as a mechanism for agricultural development and job creation has failed. A survey by the commission in Limpopo province, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape found that most land reform farms show little or no agricultural activity, the land reform beneficiaries earn little to no income and most of those beneficiaries seek work on surrounding commercial farms instead of actively farming their own land. If farming is taking place on land reform farms, these farms operate below their full agricultural potential and are mainly used for subsistence agriculture. On average, crop production had decreased by 79% since conversion to land reform. In the three provinces surveyed, job losses averaged 84%, with KwaZulu-Natal suffering a 94% job haemorrhage”.
Since the wildlife industry is already large, organised and capable of growth, it would be a better idea to train emergent black game ranchers in the same system than to try AR fairyland reform. The difference between farming and journalism is the difference between backbone and wishbone, Mr N.
More ominously, the hunting organisations who think “ethical hunting” and brown nosing the High Level Panel will save their bacon from the AR inquisition are fools – they clearly don’t understand either the “divide and conquer” nor the “boiling frog” techniques favoured by AR. They are turkeys voting for Christmas. Once SA’s hunting organisations are prised away from the protection of the farming industry, they will suddenly find that their new-found bunny-hugger Dr Jekyll friends in the environment department will suddenly do an evil Mr Hyde and kill them off without mercy or regard. They are willing donkeys and will become economic ejiao once they have served the objectives of their masters.
Now let’s look closer at Mr Naidoo’s outstanding golden droplets of testicular obfuscation:
- “Lion trophy hunting can negatively impact the population of a species”.
But nothing like the impact of an expanding human population, Dom old son. Most lions hunted in SA are raised in lion farms, so they have no direct impact on lions as a species. It is a farming and harvesting process, separate and nothing to do with the Dept. of the Environment. However, farmed lions do provide a buffer for wild lions and provide a supply to meet an existing demand, thus protecting “wild” stocks. More than half all wild lions are killed by other lions and most of the rest by non-hunters, to protect people and farm stock. There is no scientific evidence that regulated trophy hunting affects species negatively, and lot of evidence that it provides useful income for conservation whilst turning pests (a liability) into value (an asset). Ask an accountant to explain, but stay well away from the AR conservation economists, like Ross Harvey, who was invented by God to make compensation lawyers look honest.
- “Rural communities rarely see economic benefits”.
You would have to be a tad blind not to see forty million acres of privately or traditionally owned rural wild habitat and animals in SA providing a sustainable living to droves of rural people, white and black (and everything in between). Hunting revenue, jobs and meat are a valuable addition to the income from eco-tourism, mainly in remote places where eco-tourists don’t go. It is an excellent use for marginal land, especially since there are already not enough eco-tourists to support 20 out of 22 National Reserves.
- “Conservation should not be linked to hunting”.
Why not? Conservation has to be funded and provided the hunting is sustainable, hunting is just another support stream. I have no doubt Mr Naidoo, like all the other wise men of media la-la land, has absolutely no intention of putting his hand in his pocket to help. Like many of his ilk, he has lots of idealist ideas, but no suggestions for the real world. When it comes to animal extinctions, these people (people who live, work and consume resources in large cities originally carved out of the natural habitat) are part of the problem, not the solution anyway. Remember when you point a finger, three point back at you, Mr N.
- “Trophy hunting is an elitist sport”
So is elite eco-tourism, Mr Naidoo. Try Shamwari Lodge, that epitome of green voyeurism and home to a Born Free Reserve, at $1000 a night. Elite enough for you? All industries have bespoke upper and mass lower strata and make offerings accordingly. On the other, less elitist hand, some bloke from Boksburg on a drive-up weekend, hunting a scraggy bit of biltong is considerably cheaper. Biltong is a trophy, too, although covid restrictions on recreational activities require it to be deemed cultural sustenance.
- “There is a thin line between trophy hunting and poaching”.
It is the same as the thin line between shopping and shoplifting, Mr Naidoo. If you owned a corner shop instead of writing emotional claptrap for a living, reality might modify your ignorance somewhat.
The truth is that AR souls speak with sophisticated eco-language but are really no different to those sad old ladies who smell of urea and keep hundreds of cats. It’s a kind of eco-Alzheimer’s or displacement activity. They think they are being kind, but someone else has to deal with the mess they cause. AR followers kill with kindness while AR leaders make a killing from kindness. AR souls suffer from a chronic need to love and be loved, explaining why a large proportion of their supporters are post breeding age and older women who, handily enough, write generous wills and are near their sell-by date. The real sadness is that nature doesn’t care. Nature works by competition and survival of the fittest, not jelly-head love. If you destroy the competition via protectionism, the system falls apart.
The truth is that the DFEE, in decrying trophy hunting, is simply responding to an AR demand with menaces, and is the willing victim of a criminal protection racket. They are going to end up being controlled by foreign NGO’s, no different from colonial days, just like modern Kenya’s wildlife. Every junkie thinks he can control his (or her) habit, and those with an AR cash dependency are no different.
So there you have it, Mr Naidoo and IOL. Your article describes the High Level Panel of political effluent, in which AR fundamentalists are carefully, move by move, separating the softer and more vulnerable parts of South Africa’s wildlife industries in order to sell tickets for their execution.
It’s only connection to wildlife is snake oil.