The Onslaught on Hunting

After listening to a talk on this issue recently, and SABA’s visit to the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) conference, I realised how superficial our knowledge and nonchalant our stand is regarding the constant threat the Greenies pose to hunting and why this attack is so severe.

However, I want you to think about a different opinion for a second. In fact, you cannot oppose an opinion if you do not share it as well… Japan is hunting whales for food, for various motivations and ultimately money. Now the whales they hunt are highly endangered. I oppose the hunting of whales by Japan.

Closer to home we see animals like the roan antelope. In the wild they are highly endangered. This means that if hunting on roan continues, they will become extinct. Elephants are highly endangered – right through Africa they are being hunted into extinction for food, and for the danger they present. Lions are probably the worst off, being hunted for muti and for the danger they present to all people and livestock. Lions are being hunted into extinction. I will just say “rhinoceros” and you will feel the hate against the “hunter”.

And so we can list one endangered species after the other in each part of the world and how someone is hunting them (or collecting the plants) into extinction. I am severely tempted to join these greenies, anti-hunters and bunny huggers. If not for them, the world will be a much poorer planet. I think we should all stand behind these nature lovers, to protect the diversity of the Amazon, Africa, etc.
If we do not support the ban on the hunting of these animals, the biggest and fastest mass extinction of animals is here – in our time, by our own hands. Not a meteorite, not a zombie virus, not global climate cycles…

Yet, I am very happy to hunt an antelope for myself. I have shot quite a number of animals, and species. I use the meat of course, and, so sinful, I even enjoy doing it. I am the president of a hunting organisation…

How then do I reconcile these two conflicting points of view? This is the very heart of the problem. We do not understand the onslaught of hunting worldwide on animal populations. Animals are being decimated for food, for muti, for competition with livestock, for agricultural land, for protecting crops – and yes, even for the pleasure of killing.

Now you may claim you have no part in this killing, you only buy meat from the supermarket. You realise that the meat was once a little piglet, a soft fluffy lamb, even a beautiful strong bull. But somehow being “removed” from the death of these animals, you find it acceptable. My question is: If this was about the killing of animals, how do you absolve yourself by paying other people to do the killing for you? Are you not willing to do it yourself?
But what is the new trend? “I’m a vegan. I do not eat any animal products. Therefore I do not contribute to these animals’ plight.” WRONG, my dear. The very house you live in was built on some poor Bambi’s food. Your bread replaces the grass they eat. You drive your car on roads that cut their playfields into patches… and so on.
We are all part and parcel of killing animals in favour of our own life and living standards. Live with it.

But then some people felt guilty about this. And they decided to do something at least to attempt to right the wrongs caused by their very existence. And they are recruited by very legitimate and righteous organisations that stand to protect what is left of the planet’s animal and plant kingdom.
The point I’m trying to make is that the world’s anti-hunting onslaught is justified…
Where does this leave me as a bowhunter?

The complications
The important point to note here is that all these justifications are not against hunting itself, it is against the hunting of endangered species. The problem is not killing animals, as NOBODY can live without doing so. This is the first point of order. The whole onslaught is against the hunting of specific species.
We ourselves take part in this onslaught. We give money to those who fight against the hunting of rhino. How does this differ from us taking up a weapon like a rifle or a bow and killing an impala?

Some organisations in South Africa have redefined the concept of hunting versus poaching. And this is one technique in attempting to resolve the dichotomy. They have defined that hunting happens inside the law, and any illegal killing of animals is deemed poaching. This is a very handy definition, especially to point to the real problem. Unfortunately the Japanese are also hunting whales “within the law” – their law.
Which means this is not yet enough to satisfy the nature lover. In fact, the organisations that use this definition do not target the nature lover – they target the majority of neutral population. Unfortunately, I believe that this group is EXTREMELY small. I take myself: I am against the hunting of whales, and I hunt. I think the huge number of “undecided” responses is an artefact of the questionnaires. But I do not want to debate this – you will see it has no relevance.

Other organisations defined responsible hunting, which describes it as hunting and conservation. This is huge step forward – not linking conservation to hunting, but linking hunting and species and conservation. We could claim our hunting contributes to conservation – there is the money, of course. We as hunters contribute huge amounts of money to the conservation of species that we hunt, and even to species we do not hunt. Still, the problem I see is that this is all uncoordinated and subject to market forces. I will not digress to talk about the colour variations here.

Thinking about rhino again – one point of view is to ban all trade in all rhino products. In theory this should stop the poaching of rhino as it should remove the market. But does it? The other point of view is that the moment you ban trade you only remove the legal market. In effect you create an illegal market – with the added dangers to the poacher. So the price must go up: The product is scarcer, more dangerous to obtain, more exotic, more worth the risk, etc.
We see the same phenomena with gun control ideas: Remove the legal guns and you would not have any more violent crime. It looks simple on the surface, but then you realise only law-abiding people, who were no threat to you, will comply with any law. The thief/murderer/rapist is already willing to break the law in the face of very long jail times. A few extra years for doing it with the gun they stole or bought in our neighbouring country are not relevant. The laws should not make it more difficult to own a gun legally – it should make the punishment for illegal gun use hugely more severe.

What is the value of a species? For years and years people visit national parks, and “look” at animals. They pay top dollars to do so, and I have done so myself. It is very enjoyable. But the surface area and management required make national nature parks extremely expensive to run. So they are funded by governments. Governments do not fund farmers. And game farmers are left to their own devises. “Looking” at wild animals on private game farms is also very enjoyable, but there simply aren’t enough tourists. The farmer also wants a Jacuzzi and working fridge and the rest. If the farmers cannot realize the maximum benefit from animals they will not keep them – that species will become extinct. I will not rehash all the numbers and data of how national nature parks performs versu. private game parks here – suffice it to say, the more money you can make with your game, the better you look after it.

The realisation
The real issue why South African rhino farmers want trade in rhino products and the world wants to ban it, is because the world sees worldwide trends. South Africa is unique in this regard – most of the game is in private ownership, and managed. We see game that cannot realize a profit, as a loss, and game that can, as manna from heaven.
The difference is the world sees the roan as an endangered species. We know that with proper management they thrive. The world sees the hunting of the endangered rhino in the worst light; we see properly managed groups grow and thrive. The majority of species and animals that are endangered are so because they are being hunted or deprived of life to extinction, in areas where they are not managed.

The realisation is that the world fights not against hunting, but against the mismanagement of game. Nobody is managing whale populations, therefore I’m against hunting them. Lions, hippo, giraffe, elephant all are “hunted” without regulation, and management, in large parts of the world. I’m against that. Sardines, hake, yellowtail, etc. are all hunted without effective management. I’m against that.

But we hunt on private game farms. In controlled, managed and thriving populations we hunt species that may be highly endangered elsewhere, but very much in control and thriving on private game ranches. This is the difference. Our hunts pay for the conservation – read ‘management’ – of these species and their habitat!

The world is attempting to apply a needed and responsible reaction to a human activity that is not sustainable, to a group/area/species that is management/thriving/sustainably hunted. The world does not believe we are able to sustain the hunting of multiple species in Southern Africa, in private ownership.

You must remember that “the world” comes from Europe and America. And both Europe and America, and Asia, and the rest of Africa, have hunted or are hunting their game into extinction. They have so few species and numbers left – they failed! This is the crux – the world failed in managing the world’s wildlife. Now they expect the same from us.

The task at hand
I do not think it will help if we hunters now sponsor a kennel at the local SPCA. To me this is not only an empty gesture, but useless, and a slap in our faces. What we must do, is prove to the world that we manage and conserve our species. Management implies conservation for me.
We must present evidence of sound management – numbers and trends and key performance indicators: numbers of species, numbers of individuals, numbers of hunters, numbers of kills, numbers of growth, etc. etc.

But our boerevolkie are so scared that they would agree with a neighbour. We even have more churches than political parties, and we know how long our ballot papers are.
The task is to show trends, how hunting is indeed contributing to wise land use. How it contributes to food security. How we manage it.

For us as bowhunters in South Africa, we need each and every bowhunter to commit data to an organisation that will collect and store it. And then we need the organisation to publish trends, how many animals hunted, sizes, species, etc. How it changes etc.

Then we have to actually sit next to the Greenies and the Bunny Huggers, and fight with them against irresponsible hunting – for irresponsible hunting is the source of their hate.

Irresponsible hunting is the danger to our culture of hunting. Of course there is always those that are simply short-sighted and do not accept that you need to break eggs to make an omelette.
I therefore ask all bowhunters to participate in organised hunting as managed hunters, not to police you, but to ensure our way of life… We will be making a log book available at SABA competitions and participating shops. If we do not participate in managing our sport, it will be done for us. And there is no better way to counter anti-hunting than by quoting numbers, and fighting uncontrolled hunting.

Harry Marx
Chairman, South African Bowhunters Association

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