The Importance of National Wildlife Cultures

All nations are a product of their national cultures. And national cultures are a combination of a great many subcultures: including  language, dress, religion, and , many more. One of a nation’s sub-cultures is its wildlife culture.

And children are subject to indoctrination about their national culture, and its various sub-cultures, from a very early age. As toddlers they accompany their parents to church on a Sunday and that is where it all begins.

Most sub-cultures are exposed to children during their earliest years.  Children are not necessarily ‘taught’ about their sub-cultures, they absorb them through being  constantly brain-washed from a very young age. By the time they become young adults, therefore, their brains have been indelibly imprinted with their cultural identities; where after very little will get them to change their minds.

The American wildlife culture is what the Americans themselves call “anti-market hunting”. That means, among other things, that the Americans believe it is immoral, as well as being illegal,  to ‘make money’ out of wildlife.

Many countries take millennia to develop their various sub-cultures which is why their cultural  beliefs are so important to them. Other countries have sub-cultures that are still evolving – and for very good reason. South Africa is one of those.

Throughout the 20th Century  South Africans witnessed the continuous decimation of what remained of the country’s wildlife on private property. This was because the Roman-Dutch laws at that time continued to try to implement an ancient law (res nullius) that tried to enforce the idea that the government had the right to hold  the wildlife on private land in trust for the people. It did not work. The wildlife continued to decline. By the middle of the 20 Century, the wild animals of South Africa – which two hundred years before had numbered in their millions – had declined to just 500 000.  So private land owners continued to try to get government to award them legal ownership of the wild animals that lived on their private properties.

In 1991, the South African Courts ruled – by reason of the promulgation of the Game Theft Act – that private ownership would be allowed provided the land-owners secured their privately own game animals  inside ‘adequately fenced enclosures’. Furthermore, that the private game owners would be allowed to buy and to sell their privately owned game animals, and to breed them in captivity, to advance their wildlife business interests. And hunting these animals became their means of harvest. This established a new Wildlife Industry in South Africa which, from its inception, was commercial in orientation. In one stroke of the pen, therefore, South Africa’s new wildlife culture began in an entirely new direction. It was a bold experiment. But it worked.  And, within 20 years, 10 000 new game ranches surrounded by high game fences, had been created and  private game holdings had increased to over 22 million animals. The Game Theft Act, therefore, was the exact right solution for South Africa’s wildlife woes.  Why?  Because,  South Africa’s wildlife resources were pulled back from the brink of extinction and set on a new road to prosperity.

The American anti-market-hunting wildlife culture, and the South African commercial wildlife culture, therefore, evolved at different times, on different continents, for different historical reasons. Nevertheless,  they both satisfied the needs of their respective nations – even though they are the antithesis of each other.

Not all Americans agree with their anti-market-hunting wildlife culture; and not all South Africans agree with the commercial nature of their commercial wildlife culture. But those cultural foundations now fashion – or SHOULD fashion – the wildlife management practices of both nations. And in South Africa the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries SHOULD be working in total support of the new national wildlife culture. But that, it seems, is not always the case.  Animal Rightist NGOs in South Africa who opposed the country’s commercial wildlife culture, are constantly trying to reverse the provisions of the game theft act of 1991. And the government often provides these nefarious people with a platform from which to distribute their venom.

What should be happening in South Africa at this time, is that all South African Animal Rights NGOs who oppose the country’s commercial wildlife culture (EWT, EMS, CAT, NSPCA) should be marginalized by all government agencies; and denied access to all official wildlife management debates. But, alas, that is not happening. Furthermore, we have NGOs from America and elsewhere, coming to this country and meddling in our political affairs. The American NGO – Humane Society International – for example is currently intermingling with the DEFF people trying to get our own Commercial Wildlife culture changed to one that mimic’s the American Ideal of “anti-market hunting’. They have, apparently, even submitted American reports to the Minister’s High Level Panel of Experts.  If that is true, this is a crazy state of affairs.  And it indicates that those of us who believe in the sustainable harvesting of our living resources, for the benefit of Africa’s people, are having the carpet pulled out from under our feet by our own DEFF. And, in my opinion, all people who come from other countries trying to tell us South Africans what we should be doing with our own renewable living resources – like Lord Ashcroft of Great Britain did recently – should be expelled from South African soil with immediate effect, and prosecuted where they have broken our laws.

I would like to point out, therefore, that we have a high mountain to climb if we are to get on top of all the bad things that have been happening. And it seems that the first person we have to convince that ”we” are right and the that “the animal rightists” are wrong, is our own Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries. I don’t want to go to war with my own minister, but I cannot sit back and let South Africa’s new commercial wildlife culture crumble without trying to get our minister to amicably (hopefully) understand what is at stake.

Ron Thomson.  CEO – TGA

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