By John Nash
On 8 July 2022 The DFFE published its “Consultation on the Draft White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable use”. It makes an interesting read, especially if you have difficulty sleeping at night and has a number of stated goals, including:
On page 5, Goal 2 is “effective biodiversity conservation and sustainable use”. On page 6, Goal 3 is: “biodiversity conservation promotion”, and Goal 4 is “responsible sustainable use”. So, it aims for the promotion of responsible and sustainable use of SA’s biodiversity.
But… Page 12, it defines sustainable use: “ In the case of animals, (sustainable use) is humane and does not compromise their well-being”. It goes on to define well-being as …”the holistic circumstances and conditions of an animal which are conducive of its physical, physiological and mental health and quality of life, including its ability to cope with its environment”.
Now call me old-fashioned, but I thought sustainable use meant “using something at a certain rate so that availability continues and it is not depleted or destroyed” – it has nothing to do with fluffy “humaneness” or “holistic circumstances”. Suddenly, there is a smell of rat pee on this white paper – the rodents of animal rights (AR) have been scurrying around on it, nibbling away at the need for scientific fact.
You see, when AR souls say “sustainable”, they don’t mean “at a continuing level” in the real, physical world. AR souls use sustainable in the argumentative, philosophical sense, as in “killing granny with a chainsaw is not morally sustainable”. To AR souls, it doesn’t matter if all the wild animals are wiped out, providing you do not transgress their fundamentalist theoretical Disney-ethics that have absolutely no connection whatsoever with reality of the needs of animals or environmental management. If it all goes pear-shaped, they will blame global warming/capitalism/trophy hunters/apartheid anyway. AR souls live in la-la land, a fictional land inside their heads – they are all legends in their own minds, a mental condition that makes them impervious to sense or reason, let alone reality. It is a condition they share with psychopaths, and, like psychopaths, they will eventually wipe out South Africa’s wildlife, blissfully unaware of their illness.
Don’t let this nonsense slip past you. Insist that “sustainable use” is limited properly, as it is defined clearly on page 36 of the white paper, where sustainable use is defined as “use in such a way and rate that (a) would not lead to its long term decline”. That might well conflict with fluffy “holistic circumstance”. If you think wildlife needs “holistic circumstance”, try giving a Cape buffalo a warm oil massage with candlelight and dolphin music. Then try holding on to your holistic AR fundamentalist doctrine while the unappreciative beast rips you a brand new fundament.
More ominously, when it comes to AR souls, there is another “sustainable”. This one is sustainable’s really ugly AR sister. It is the sustainable that means “the consumptive wildlife industry is not sustainable in the face of our menacing threats and intimidation of the snowflakes who run the tourist industry, nor in the face of our AR propaganda machine that has convinced the public that all hunting is pointless mass murder and extinction of wildlife”. This sustainable is no different to the “sustainable” meaning in the words of a big guy with a Homburg hat and cauliflower ears who suggests your business will be unsustainable if you don’t pay him suitable protection money. Emphasise “sustainable” in its proper English sense and expose AR blackmail.
We move on. Page 14 tells us that “….Wildlife ranching can have negative impacts if conducted too intensively”. Amazing. I never realised that. Talk about the bleedin’ obvious. It should read, “Wildlife ranching, like photo-tourism, mining, fishing, urban sprawl and even vegetable farms, etc, etc, can have negative impacts….” Why pick on wildlife ranching? Let’s face it, Skukuza Rest Camp in the KNP is hardly an “unimpacted natural environment”, is it? The spiteful insertion of “wildlife ranching” alone into a tourism and environmental white paper is just more rodent activity.
Page 21, 9.4.8 informs us that, “Local indigenous communities have the right to full participation in the biodiversity sector…to maintain their social and cultural institutions and to practice their traditions, cultures…”. ER, Minister, perhaps you should think a bit more deeply about this. You see, the indigenous population indigenously hunt the wildlife with indigenous clubs, spears and snares, and indigenously eat it and wear its skins and stuff, as is their perfect right. That was fine in the good old days before evil white man’s modern medicine and welfare, back when Africa had 1.3 million inhabitants who kicked the bucket in their late twenties thanks to Mother Nature’s parasites and predators – they could afford lots of warm and lovely eco-ubuntu because there were comparatively few indigenes and they were all up to their wazoo in delicious wild animals (even if ubuntu didn’t quite extend as far as SA’s original inhabitants, the San). Now, however, there are 1.3 billion Africans of all colours and they are heading for 3 billion by 2100. Sadly, the animals, the environment and even eco-ubuntu itself are all inversely proportional to that demographic, so let’s not go overboard with the fluffy dreams. Respect history. You don’t have to repeat it. Circumstances change.
9.4.9 is a cracker. “Intrinsic value. Nature and ecological systems have intrinsic value and must be conserved…even if it does not directly or indirectly benefit humans”. A fine sentiment indeed. However, a weed is just a wild flower in the wrong place, a pest is just a wild creature in the wrong place and a man-eater is just a wild predator on the wrong diet. You see, they have intrinsic value provided they don’t affect people. The problem comes when the people are hungry. Then the wildlife has another value – as food.
More rodentry in 9.4.12. “Animal well-being. The well-being of wild animals must form an integral part of all wildlife-based practices, recognising wild animals are capable of suffering and experiencing pain, and that sentience requires a higher level of consideration of impact on the well-being of wild animals”. Sentient means, “being able to perceive or feel things”. Even a simple slime mould or fungus will move towards food and away from danger, so you can argue that everything, including slime moulds and fungi, is sentient. Certainly rats, slugs and tsetse flies are sentient. Must we consider our impact on them, too? Sentience is a meaningless AR gobbledegook that really means “nice photogenic animals have suddenly got human rights when we use them for fundraising”. We’re back to AR souls’ anthropomorphic or, in this case, pecuniary psychopathy. Good welfare is desirable where possible, of course, but sentience has no meaningful part to play in wildlife management or conservation.
On page 34 You’ll find 10.4.1.1 – “Conservation defined as protection, custodianship, care, maintenance, rehabilitation, restoration and recovery of biological diversity and its components”. Please note the word maintenance. Close to sustainable use, it can mean, “managing something to keep it in good condition”. In a reserve, it means keeping the reserve in good condition. On a farm, it means keeping the farm in good condition. I suggest you all push for that definition to be added to the white paper. It doesn’t mean treating the wildlife like a fluffy toy or the consumptive wildlife industry like leprosy.
On Page 36 you will find a definition mentioned earlier above, “sustainable use defined as use in such a way and rate that (a) would not lead to its long term decline (b) would not disrupt the ecological integrity (c) ensure its continued use to meet the needs and aspirations of the people”. NEMA principles require it to include socio-economic factors. Part (a) is understandable, but from there it goes downhill. (b) is a daydream. If I have a farm full of springbok raised for hunting and meat, it is probably fairly prudent not to allow hordes of lions to proliferate on the farm if I want a sustainable farm, so I have no choice but to “disrupt the ecological integrity”. If I cannot farm wild animals profitably, then I will stop farming wild animals and grow vegetables instead, earning me lots of Brownie points with AR fundamentalists. Unfortunately, killing all the wildlife and bulldozing all the trees and plants in order to plough the land for veggies strikes me as disrupting the ecological integrity even more. (c) is another silly dream. If I have a wildlife ranch, I have to remove the predators, because if I don’t the farm will not be sustainable and that will have a severe socio-economic effect on my family and the farm staff, let alone the government’s tax rake-off.
Page 39 sagely advises us that, “Frasers practical ethic requires us to act at the level of the individual animal”. No it doesn’t. Fraser’s principles are: (1) to provide good lives for the animals in our care, (2) to treat suffering with compassion, (3) to be mindful of unseen harm, and (4) to protect the life-sustaining processes and balances of nature. Wildlife ranching satisfies all four. Mass ecotourism doesn’t. Fraser actually makes the point that the modern AR movement, with its infantile, vego-fascist “Eek, don’t touch the sacred wild animals” philosophy, is unhelpful and simplistic. Hordes of kyk-daar AR wildlife voyeurs or over-protected elephant plagues can do considerably more chronic damage to an ecosystem than a couple of hunters.
This white paper is a long political statement, sprinkled with platitudes and AR mischief. In reality, once you bung a fence around an area, the environment and animals enclosed by it have to be managed, including matching their numbers to the carrying capacity of the land. Allowing them to starve or killing them and leaving them to rot rather than selling them to hunters is not treating wildlife with respect.
The white paper has little to say about the conservation value of wildlife ranching because wildlife ranching and its harvest, consumptive use, are, at heart, a farming enterprise, beyond the remit of the tourism department and its long-suffering wildlife field managers. Tourism brings in the masses and is sorely needed, but so is wildlife farming and hunting that, together with the consumption of venison, is the greenest possible form of farming. Unlike eco-tourism or traditional farming, it is low infrastructure, low carbon, low water, low fuel, low pharma and low impact, perfect for the low-rainfall, low fertility soils of Southern Africa outside of fertile areas and tourist hotspots.
It could help and feed the whole of Africa, expanding the environment, conservation and wild animal numbers alike to match the increasing population. Africa needs both consumptive and non-consumptive wildlife industries.
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.