THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION depends on who you are and what you are. It also depends on how you understand what her role is, or should be, as the appointed South African Minister for the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF).
DEFF’s mandate is to give effect to the right of citizens to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
To understand where Creecy’s portfolio originated, however, we have to go back in modern history to the time and place where her responsibilities were properly articulated for the first time. The year was 1980. The place was inside a document called: “The World Conservation Strategy” (WCS) which carried the sub-title “Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development”.
The WCS was described, at the time, as being the mission statement of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). This document was promulgated with the advice, cooperation and financial assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). One might say, therefore, that the WCS had a ‘royal birth’.
Within the WCS the word “conservation” is defined as:
“The management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations. Thus, conservation is positive, embracing preservation, maintenance, sustainable utilization, restoration, and enhancement of the natural environment.”
The definition goes on to say:
“Living resource conservation is specifically concerned with plants, animals and microorganisms, and with those non-living elements of the environment on which they depend. Living resources have two important properties the combination of which distinguishes them from non-living resources: They are renewable if conserved; and they are destructible if not.”
The WCS defines “development” as:
The modification of the biosphere and the application of human, financial, living and non-living resources to satisfy human needs and to improve the quality of human life. For development to be sustainable it must take account of social and ecological factors, as well as economic ones; of the living and non-living resource base; and of the long term as well as the short term advantages and disadvantages of alternative actions.
The WCS goes on to say:
“Conservation, like development, is for people; while development aims to achieve human goals largely through the use of the biosphere, conservation aims to achieve by ensuring that such use can continue. Conservation’s concern for maintenance and sustainability is a rational response to the nature of living resources (renewability + destructibility) and also an ethical imperative, expressed in the belief that “we have not inherited the earth from our parents we have borrowed it from our children.”
Conservation is a process – to be applied cross-sectorally – not an activity sector in its own right. In the case of sectors (such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and wildlife) directly responsible for the management of living resources, conservation is that aspect of management which ensures that utlisation is sustainable and which safe-guards the ecological processes and genetic diversity essential for the maintenance of the resources concerned.
In the case of other sectors (such as health, energy and industry), conservation is that aspect of management which ensures that the fullest sustainable advantage is derived from the living resource base and that those activities are so located and conducted that the resource base is maintained.
Living Resource conservation has three specific objectives:
• To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems (such as soil regeneration and protection, the recycling of nutrients, and the cleansing of waters), on which human survival and development depend.
• To preserve genetic diversity (the range of genetic material found in the world’s organisms), on which depend the breeding programmes necessary for the protection and improvement of cultivated plants and domesticated animals, as well as much scientific advance, technical innovation, and the security of many industries that use living resources.
• To ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems (notably fish and other wildlife, forests and grazing lands) which support millions of rural communities as well as major industries.
The international community was so taken with the provisions of the WCS in 1980, that sovereign states the whole world over stated that they believed the WCS was the vehicle that would take nature and mankind, together, in symbiotic harmony, into posterity.
The WCS is the linchpin on which a great deal of modern wildlife management philosophies and practices are based. It is, therefore, a major component of our foundations. It is necessary, therefore, to spend a little time discussing its other provisions.
The WCS does not deal JUST with WILD renewable natural resources. It is concerned with the management of ALL renewable natural resources – both those that are domesticated or cultivated, AND those that are wild.
Renewable means that the natural resource is alive, that it breeds, and that it can replace individuals that are killed by harvesters or hunters or that die of natural causes. The term ‘renewable’, however, cannot be applied to non-living natural resources such as oil, coal, natural gases, and the earth’s many minerals.
The WCS represents a blue print for the survival of man AND of nature on planet earth. There is no other protocol that spells out this vitally important human desideratum. By stating the need for man to harvest the world’s renewable natural resources (plants and animals) in a sustainable manner, the WCS projects the vital message:
The only way that the survival of all living things on Planet Earth can be effected, is for man and nature to live in symbiotic harmony.
Finally, the WCS supports the sustainable and consumptive-use of the earth’s renewable natural resources for both subsistence and commercial purposes.
National Conservation Strategies
After 1980, those responsible sovereign states that were members of the IUCN at that time, obligated themselves to world society to model their National Conservation Strategies (NCSs) on the WCS template. When a country wrote the provisions of the WCS into its national laws, therefore, that is how the WCS got its legal teeth. South Africa was one of those countries.
So, although the names given to the current national Conservation Strategies of South Africa, may now be called something other than a ‘National Conservation Strategy’, they are NCSs all the same and they stem from the same rootstock – the WCS.
Since 1980 there has been a massive and still growing surge of “GREEN” NGOs world-wide and their purpose has been virtually to negate the provisions of the WCS.
The Green Movement comprised three basic parts: environmentalists, animal welfarists and animal rightists.
• TRUE environmentalists are people whose purpose in life is to make sure that the Earth’s environment remains a safe and healthy habitat for man and all the living organisms of the natural world to live in. Every responsible member of society, therefore, should be an environmentalist because, to be otherwise, is to be suicidal. True environmentalists support all three of the WCS objectives.
• TRUE animal welfarists (whose purpose in life deals solely with anti-cruelty matters) also support all three of the WCS objectives (more to follow later on this subject).
• Animal rightists can be identified, particularly, as people who reject the third of the WCS objectives. They believe man has NO right to use or to kill an animal -any animal – for his own benefit. They believe that when man does so, he is abusing the rights of the animal concerned. It is the animal rightist’s purpose to STOP man’s use of ALL animals. The animal rightist is not concerned about whether or not the treatment that man metes out to animals when he uses them, is humane or cruel. His requirement is that man should NOT use animals AT ALL. In this regard, animal rightists have an absolute and unchangeable tunnel vision.
How is Minister Creecy involved in all these matters? There is no doubt at all that the provisions of the WCS:
- support the sustainable use of SAFE wild animal populations for the benefit of mankind;
- support the annual culling of SAFE wild animal populations in the interests of species diversity and the maintenance of healthy habitats;
- support the population reduction management of EXCESSIVE wild animal populations;
- support the commercial trade in wild animals and wild animal products;
- support the general use of wildlife resources, on a sustainable basis, for the benefit of mankind;
- support regulated hunting and sustainable harvesting of wild animal populations;
- support the sale of legal ivory and of legal rhino horn for the benefit of mankind and to generate funds for the proper management of wild animals and their habitats;
- support commerce in South Africa’s wildlife industry;
- support every other biological and commercial facet of the wildlife management practices associated with South Africa’s wildlife industry.
One has to wonder, therefore, when all it will need to do so is for her to attach her signature to the application, why Minister Creecy has not yet registered with CITES, South Africa’s several, diverse and perfectly legal captive-breeding-of-wild-animal-facilities, such as:
- all the country’s private game ranches (inclusive of every wild animal species that is bred thereon);
- the captive breeding of both black and white rhinos on South Africa’s long established rhino breeding farms, which will enable the rhino farmers to sell their legally produced rhino horns into the lucrative international rhino horn market;
- South Africa’s captive lion breeding facilities which produce legitimate stock for the ranch-lion-hunting-trade and hundreds of surplus lion skeletons which are much in demand at very good prices in the Far Eastern international market.
Why, indeed, has she not done this?
I’ll tell you why not! She has not done this because Minister Creecy is a Trojan Horse. She is empowered – and expected by South African society to make the country’s wildlife industry a great success. But she has personal preference prejudices that identify her as a fellow-traveler of the animal rights brigade.
- She does not want South Africa to sell its ivory into the international ivory market because her animal rightists friends are striving to abolish the ivory trade;
- She does not want South Africa’s rhino farmers to sell their legally produced rhino horn because her animal rightists friends are striving to abolish the sale of rhino horn into the international market.
- She does not want South Africa to have a captive lion breeding industry because her animal rightist friends are striving to abolish the captive lion breeding industry, the hunting of captive-bred lions and the sale of lion skeletons to the Far East, even though there is nothing illegal about any of these pursuits.
I might add that her animal rightist friends are also inimical to the practice of hunting, especially trophy-hunting and there is nothing illegal about hunting. Indeed, hunting, including trophy hunting, is a vital wildlife management tool.
The animal rights brigade denounces and disregards the provisions of the WCS because they disapprove of its support for the “sustainable use” of wildlife for the benefit of mankind. Whatever the animal rightists may think of the document, however, the WCS is the historical back-bone of the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and South Africa’s National Conservation Strategies have their origins in its bowels. There must, therefore, be a huge clash of personal interests within the minister’s psyche because her portfolio demands that she give support to the people of South Africa’s wildlife industry whilst her personal sentiments clearly lie with the animal rightists.
So, just what is this “animal rights brigade”? If the minister is really mixed up with them and is embracing animal rightist viewpoints and is considerate of their contra- opinions; further, if she is marginalizing what our wildlife industry experts are telling her should be done, the South African public has a right to know what this salmagundi is all about!
What is the animal rightists’ purpose in life? And how do they operate?
Bluntly! The animal rights brigade is a confidence industry. It is the biggest confidence industry the world has ever known. Its purported purpose is to help animals which, in their opinion, are in distress (both wild and domestic) resultant from their usage by man. And the way they propose this should be done is by abolishing ALL animal uses by man. This includes owning family pets like dogs and cats.
To provide the reader with the full extent of the arguments involved, the following is an extract of a ‘Public Guidance Position Statement’ that was released to the public, a few years ago, by the True Green Alliance.
The Animal Rights Doctrine
The True Green Alliance (TGA) considers the application of honest science to be the only vehicle that can provide mankind with an understanding of the natural world; and that can offer the truthful information necessary to develop rational and effective methods to manage the earth’s living resources (both domestic and wild). TGA recognises the intrinsic value of all living organisms and their importance to civilisation; and believes these resources and humanity should be looked upon as an integrated and ecological-cultural-economic complex.
The TGA, therefore, believes that wild animals should be considered by society to be WILD “products of the land” just as cattle, sheep and goats, and cultivated plants, are TAME (or domestic) “products of the land”; and TGA believes that both should be managed and used wisely and sustainably for the benefit of mankind.
TGA believes that it has a watchdog role to play (even in agriculture) with respect to the need for society to adhere to the planet’s fundamental living resource management priorities which are:
- First – for the good care and sustainable wise use of the soil;
- Second – for the good care and sustainable wise use of plants; and
- Third – for the good care and sustainable wise use of animals – in that order of priority.
TGA supports and promotes the scientifically determined control of wild animal population numbers (by way of organised population reduction, culling and acceptable harvesting practices). It supports and promotes regulated hunting, trapping and fishing (both recreational and commercial), provided these practices are sustainable and it supports and promotes the sustainable legal trade in wildlife and its products.
TGA believes that people have the right to pursue either consumptive or non-consumptive uses of their privately-owned wildlife (wild plants and animals) as they see fit, provided such use is sustainable.
The TGA is concerned that the foundation elements of the animal rights philosophy contradicts all the principles and practices of successful wildlife management, globally and that they promote bad choices within society regarding desirable current and potential human-wildlife relationships. They also create false expectations for wildlife population management; they erode society’s confidence in the decades of knowledge gained from extensive scientific exploration of wildlife and habitat management practices; and they seek to force change in accepted national wildlife cultures within human societies.
Although a range of individual philosophies exists within the realm of animal rights, most adherents hold similar foundational beliefs:
- that each individual animal should be afforded the same basic rights as humans;
- that every animal should live free from human-induced pain and suffering;
- that animals should not be exploited for any human purpose; and
- that every individual animal has equal status regardless of commonality or rarity, or whether or not the species is native, exotic, invasive or feral.
TGA notes that animal rights organisations, themselves, declare that it is their purpose to ABOLISH all animal “uses” (both domesticated and wild) by man.
By comparison, animal welfare organisations do not object to man using animals to obtain benefits for mankind provided that:
- when the animal is alive (such as when a horse is used to pull a cart, or an ox to plough a field) no cruelty is involved in the process; and
- when an animal is killed (such as when an ox is slaughtered to obtain meat for human consumption) such killing is conducted in a humane fashion.
Animal welfare organisations, therefore, do not preclude the use of animals for food, or for other cultural reasons, nor do they object to the management of wild animal populations, provided these uses can be justified and are achieved humanely.
In contrast, the animal rightist point of view is that it is wrong to take a sentient animal’s life or cause it to suffer (for virtually any reason), even when the taking of an animal’s life is:
- in the interests of the animal species concerned;
- is in the interests of the other species of animals which share its environment;
- is in the interests of the better management of the natural ecosystem as a whole (and biodiversity); or
- to promote human welfare and safety.
The animal rights philosophy dictates that ALL animals be afforded the same moral considerations and legal protection, as those that humans enjoy. However, its adherents have not reached consensus with regard to which species are sentient enough to qualify for these protections.
The animal rightists’ focused emphasis on individual animals, fails to recognise the inter-relatedness of wildlife communities within functioning ecosystems; and they hold that protecting individual animals is more important than maintaining the health, vigour and sustainability, of wildlife populations, species or ecosystems. For example, whereas practising wildlife managers will automatically afford greater protection to an individual animal from an unsafe (or threatened) wild animal population, than they would extend to one from a safe, excessive or very common species population, for animal rights advocates all these animal individuals are considered to be equally valuable and deserving of equal protection.
The animal rightists’ viewpoint is that mankind should subsist on a vegetable diet alone. They are silent, however, about the massive land use alterations that would be necessary to feed the world’s human population purely on plant foods if man is denied the consumptive use of animals. They are equally silent about the dramatic and continued loss of wildlife that would ensue if the world’s wildlife habitats are converted to such intensive agriculture.
The animal rightists’ viewpoint also does not tolerate the use of animals in scientific and medical research, whether designed to benefit humans or animals. And they are not at all perturbed by the fact that the curtailment of these research uses will inhibit wildlife science and wildlife management programmes and a vast range of other human endeavours and progress.
The conflict between many tenets of the animal rights philosophy, and the science of wildlife management, is profound. Established principles and practices of wild animal population management, both lethal practices (such as culling, regulated hunting and trapping) and non-lethal techniques (such as conditioning or capture-and-marking for research purposes) are rejected out of hand by the animal rightists.
In the USA, the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) is the foundation for many laws protecting wildlife. In other countries, similar protocols apply. The PTD is based upon the premise that wild animals are a public resource that should be held in trust by government, for the benefit of all its citizens. In South Africa direct private ownership of wild animals is legal, provided the animals are contained within adequately fenced enclosures. In other countries, different laws pertain.
Animal rightists philosophically oppose the concept of wildlife being the property of anyone, whether it be held as a public trust resource, or is privately owned. Instead, they advocate affording legal rights to all animals. Taken literally, if the animal rights’ demands were to prevail, there would be no legal framework for the maintenance of national parks and nature reserves, or for any kind of wildlife management practice anywhere. If the PTD-type of legal framework, in any country, were to be thus voided, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for wildlife professionals to manage wildlife in any way at all, or to thereby protect human health and safety.
The animal rights philosophy does not recognise the fact that man is an integral part of the animal kingdom; that he is part and parcel of the food chains and food webs of the natural world; or that he has the right (and survival necessity) to subsist upon BOTH the plants AND the animals with which he shares his living environment. The animal rights ideal, therefore, is irrational and quite contrary to everything that is reasonable and natural.
It is TGA’s considered opinion, therefore, that the philosophy of animal rightsism is totally incompatible with science-based wildlife management. And we believe that this opinion, together with the common sense rationale we have offered in support of it, should be enthusiastically embraced and propagated by society-at-large. Why? Inter alia, because, today, animal rightsism represents the biggest obstacle to the application of essential wildlife management practices on the African continent – practices that can save Africa’s wildlife into posterity.
So… whereas, democratically, everybody in this world is entitled to his or her own opinion, nobody has the right to persuade others to their way of thinking by false and/or by (especially) coercive means, for that constitutes terrorism. And animal rightists, everywhere, are not averse to using false, provocative and coercive means to achieve their goals.
They also practice a special kind of racketeering. Leading up to the 2016 CITES meeting in Johannesburg, for example, a whole phalanx of animal rightist NGOs (all accredited to CITES) made false statements in their various propaganda machinery to the effect that the elephant in Africa is “facing extinction”.
This is very far from the truth. In southern Africa, for example, practically every elephant population is grossly excessive, which means there are far too many elephants: They are consequently progressively destroying their habitats, they are destroying their national park’s biological diversities and they are still increasing in number.
But propaganda has nothing to do with telling the truth:
Propaganda is the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of promoting an ideal, or injuring an institution, cause or person by any means true or false.
The false statement that “the elephant is facing extinction” is a highly charged and emotional pronouncement and it has been greatly embellished with evermore exaggerated reports and heart-wrenching photographs of dead elephants with their tusks chopped out.
Nevertheless, having laid their trap, having told their lie, the NGOs then instituted clever propaganda programmes to milk the gullible public of their hard earned pennies. They stated that if they can generate enough money (from public donations), they will “save” the elephant from its seemingly ignoble fate: by stopping poaching, by prohibiting all legal elephant utilisation, by prohibiting legal elephant hunting, by prohibiting the ivory trade and by applying total preservation to all surviving elephants.
The fact of the matter is that this kind of animal rights propaganda is nothing less than common fraud. They tell the public an emotional and carefully fabricated lie. Then they solicit donations from the public to “make that lie go away”. They tell the public that they will use the donated monies to make the elephant SAFE once again (even when the elephant is not UN-SAFE).
Now here lies the rub.
According to the American RICO Act (Racketeering Influenced Criminal Organisations Act), if the NGO repeats that same common fraudulent act more than once, inside a period of ten years, it becomes a criminal activity called “racketeering”. And racketeering is “organised crime”.
So this is what everybody working in the field of wildlife management, the world over, has to contend with. The mob! The mafia! This is so in South Africa, in the United Kingdom, in Europe and in the United States of America. The mafiosi can be found rubbing shoulders with the British Royal family in Buckingham Palace, in the British parliament, in the White House and in South Africa – everywhere.
And nobody seems to want to do anything about it!
To achieve their objectives, animal rightists will have to force radical changes on the life-styles of most people alive today. They also cannot achieve their goal – to abolish all animal uses by man – without violating the legitimate rights of the vast majority of mankind; and they do not ever consider the gross economic and social consequences that their demands will have on civilisation as a whole. To allow such a state of affairs to persist and to operate in human communities anywhere in this day-and-age, therefore, is simply unconscionable.
All things considered, therefore, there is no place in responsible and civilised society for the animal rights doctrine.
CONCLUSION: All things considered, therefore, it appears to me that Mrs Creecy is not adequately equipped, academically, to understand the intricacies involved in the principles and practices of science-based wildlife management; nor is she informed enough (cf. WCS) about the historical circumstances that brought her department to where it stands today. She is also lacking in the personal wildlife passions with which people in her position should be endowed. Furthermore, the fact that her actions clearly suggest that she does not know about, nor does she seem to understand or to care about, the danger to which she herself, exposes her department to when she fraternises with the enemy. Mrs Barbara Creecy, therefore, in my opinion, is a danger to South Africa’s wildlife and to the livelihoods of everybody in South Africa’s wildlife industry; and to future generations of South Africans. She would have carried out her department’s responsibilities much better, and she would have served the people of South Africa much better, had she sought the advice and the support of the people who work in her own wildlife industry. Instead, she has spent her time looking for, and embracing the contrary and inimical opinions of the opposition. And the way she is going, I believe she will destroy South Africa’s great wildlife heritage.
It is my considered opinion, therefore, that Mrs Creecy is an ill-considered choice for the post of Minister for the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. And I am fearful that her uncompromising presence in this position will result in causing the country’s wildlife resource, and the wildlife industry, to suffer the dire consequences of her policies, strongly coloured as they are, by the animal rights philosophy.
It can be argued that people, including government ministers, have the right to hold their own opinions about anything and everything. And that is true. But when those points of view and the actions derived therefrom threaten to destroy the country’s national wildlife heritage, the public has a right to know what is going on and to make appropriate judgments and comments, too.
Our wildlife industry is passing through a very difficult time because, in my opinion, of the Minister’s inappropriate pro-animal rightist leanings, and because of the unlikely partnership she has made with animal rightist NGOs in the public domain. Consequently she is not liked, nor is she trusted, by many leading people in the wildlife industry. The fact is, communication between the Minister and the people of the wildlife industry is not only very unsatisfactory, it is most unproductive. Communication between anybody and the Minister is, in fact, seemingly a one way route. Countless South Africans have told me that you can write any kind of report or letter to the Minister and you will not get a reply. I corroborate that statement from personal experience.
On another tack: The Minister is also responsible for SANParks and a recent examination of the impact that Kruger National Park’s elephants have had on their habitat over the last sixty years, tells me that the state of wildlife management in the park is unravelling. The Kruger staff advise that their elephant population currently numbers no less than 34 000, when the sustainable elephant carrying capacity of the Kruger habitats is just 3500 (+/- 500). That means Kruger is currently carrying 30 000 too many elephants. The Kruger scientists also admit that “more than” 95 percent of Kruger National Park’s top canopy trees have disappeared since 1960! They are gone! Killed by too many elephants! I sent a documentary film we made recently on this subject to the Minister. That was several months ago and the minister has deemed not to even send me an acknowledgement of receipt.
This too suggests, very strongly, that the safety of South Africa’s precious wildlife heritage is not in the right hands! Surely the Minister should be held accountable!
Ron Thomson CEO – TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE