Shouldn’t We All Think Twice?

CSM EDITORIAL

Images of dumb Americans posing beside the corpses of lions and other animals they have shot dead on ‘hunting holidays’ appals most people. There’s an overriding sense of a terrible waste of the animal’s life. It’s easy to feel hate towards the killers just as it’s easy to feel hate towards poachers who kill rhinos and elephants – alongside other wildlife – mostly to provide ingredients for some lunatic Chinese quack.

Now look at the following photos. Go on, make your blood boil at the disrespect for the slain creatures shown by the so-called ‘hunters’:

Blood boiling yet?

Don’t you feel that the slain animals are worth so much more than their ridiculous murderers?

How can we humans end the lives of such tremendous creatures to make fools feel like they have achieved something? There can be no excuse, surely?

Now imagine the end of these creatures’ habitats. Are such habitats genuinely threatened? Imagine that they are and that the price to pay is dumb Americans and others visiting reserves and killing a tiny proportion of the animals there, so the rest can survive. Would you be prepared to pay such a price – however revolting – when the alternative is extinction for these wonderful creatures?

Following the publishing of John Nash’s article A Funny Old Game in this magazine on Wednesday this week, the Editor – aside from the usual abuse and smears from animal rights nutters – received the letter (published below) from John Rance, the owner of a wildlife reserve in South Africa (worth noting, not a lion hunting business). The letter is well worth a read alongside a submission made by John to DEFRA on this very subject.

However hard it is to tolerate the idiocy of ‘trophy hunters’, is it not necessary to perpetuate the environments within which such great creatures can survive and thrive? One of the trickiest questions of our day around one of the most emotive subjects out there. Is this a question for us Brits or for the locals anyway? Before establishing an opinion we should all fact up.

Please decide for yourself:


Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing and thank you John Nash for writing the article of 14th October article “A Funny Old Game”.

We who are the forefront of biodiversity conservation in Southern Africa are appalled and fearful of the campaign in UK by people like Gonçalves to ban the import of trophies derived from trophy hunting.  There are no noble outcomes which will result this.

Trophy hunting is the most valuable contribution to the sustainable use of wild products of the land, second only to use of natural products like ivory and rhino horn which is misguidedly outlawed internationally.  Whether one likes it or not, whether one agrees with the capitalist system or not, it is an unfortunate fact that most anything which does not have economic value in our world does not have sustainability.  If wildlife in Africa does not have economic sustainability, it will be eliminated everywhere excepting in national parks set aside for its protection.  And with Africa’s burgeoning population, even those will come under pressure if they are not seen to be providing benefit to the masses.

Hundreds of thousands of wild animals exist in Southern Africa on private land and in provincial game reserves, involving millions of hectares of land committed to them because of the demand from hunting.  Trophy hunting is the highest paying form of hunting.  Eliminate that and meat hunting will cease to exist because it is not economically sustainable.  When that ceases, the land will be converted into domestic farming involving cattle, sheep and goats which has already occurred most everywhere in the world, including in UK where Gonçalves lives.

This is plain common-sense and understood by true conservationists and scientific wildlife managers, whether they like hunting or not.  If anyone has the interests of maintaining wild places and the wildlife which inhabits it, they would promote trophy hunting, not condemn it.

An abhorrence of hunting or trophy hunting is no reason to outlaw it, just as anyone’s abhorrence of homosexuality has been proven by the justice system to be no reason to criminalize it.  The campaign by people like Gonçalves is, at best, merely their over-zealous expression of a personal preference and lack of wildlife management knowledge.  They are in the same category as those who burnt people at the stake because they postulated the world was round, or who condemned people to death because of their different sexual preferences.  At worst, it is a cheap shot at money-making out of the gullible public at the expense of the sustainability of wildlife populations in Africa.

Those of us who operate wildlife reserves in Africa and who preside over the last wild places get to wondering if there is any understanding and connection with the natural world and any common-sense left in the British population that they don’t come out in numbers to voice their opposition to Gonçalves’ campaign.

It is that campaign which should be condemned and banned in the interests of wildlife conservation, not trophy hunting.

Owner of a Wildlife Reserve,

In South Africa.

J.C. Rance


Submission for the Consultation on Controls on the import and export of hunting trophies by Rance Rural Development (Pty) Ltd to UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Trophy Hunting – DEFRA submission 25th February 2020 by e-mail to: huntingtrophyconsultation@defra.gov.uk – signed copy with page numbers

Note:  This writer has studied the submissions of Confederation of Hunters South Africa (CHASA), Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA) and Professional Hunters of South Africa (PHASA) and their views must be regarded as reflecting our company’s views.

The submission is designed to give the view of one company whose environmental conservation efforts will be negatively affected by any legislation against hunting and trophy hunting, from any country, worldwide. However, there are many more such individuals and companies whose conservation efforts will be similarly thwarted.

My credentials and those of our companies are, briefly, as follows:

  • Rance Timber is a forestry and sawmilling company operating in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.  It is not a large company by international standards, but because it is labour-intensive, it employs 1500 people in an impoverished region, where unemployment levels are as high as 80% in rural areas.  The forest areas it manages have international environmental certification under FSC. See www.rancetimber.co.za
  • Rance Rural Development (RRD) operates in the same region of high unemployment, growing crops together with rural communities, operating an agriculture processing factory the product quality of which is EU certified and employing some 1500 people seasonally in growing, harvesting and processing of agriculture products.  Many of those people had never been employed before in their lives.
  • An off-shoot of Rance Rural Development is Rance Safaris which operates a trophy hunting business on 21’256 acres of land which is owned and operated by the shareholders of Rance Timber and Rance Rural Development. See www.rancesafaris.co.za
  • The writer has personally been involved in terrestrial and marine conservation most of his adult life and has held honourary positions as a Nature Conservation and Marine compliance officer, executed privately and in spare time.
  • Because of their love of wildlife and passion for environmental conservation and their belief in sustainable use of natural products, the shareholders invested in tracts of land which were previously commercially operated with domestic animals, primarily goats, sheep and cattle.  

The commercial farming operations were unsustainable as they were environmentally degrading for plant life which negatively impacted on topsoil.  There was no other way to remain commercially viable with domestic stock farming on that land in the medium term, other than to be environmentally degrading and most forms of wildlife which interfered with domestic stock farming were eliminated as they competed with domestic stock for resources.

The shareholders of that land have spent many millions of SAR and developing this previously commercial farmland into wildlife reserves, introducing wildlife species which had become locally extinct and protecting habitat and vegetation to carry the wildlife species naturally.

Wildlife Ranching.

Wildlife ranching is well developed in Southern Africa, including Namibia and Botswana, where private ownership of land occurs, unlike much of the rest of Africa, where most land is government or tribally owned.

The submissions by various Associations involved with wildlife ranching and management have provided the figures of numbers of wildlife and areas of land occupied by this practise.

This activity is commercially based and takes many forms, from intensive breeding of wildlife, to extensive wildlife reserves such as operated by the writer’s companies, to wildlife co-habiting with domestic farming and tourist game-viewing operations.

All of this is underpinned by the value which hunting, particularly trophy hunting, gives to that wildlife.  Even tourist game-viewing operations (which purport not to allow hunting) must sell excess wildlife to hunting and game breeding operations because wildlife population reduction is a necessity in wildlife reserves in Africa, even in national park wildlife sanctuaries.

Hunting as incentive to sustain and increase wildlife populations.

It is important to note that few if any people involved in what has become the “wildlife industry” expect the people who abhor the thought of killing animals to like the thought of doing so.  In fact, most if not all of them understand the fact that many people in urbanized populations do not understand the imperatives of wildlife management and the “natural world”.  However, to a person, they are appalled at how this lack of understanding has morphed into a rabid opposition to hunting as an environmental tool and few understand the drivers behind this.

Writers in other submissions have elaborated on the increase in human populations in Africa, which together with misguided actions by the anti-hunting movement, present the greatest threat to wildlife populations.

Simply put, as happened in UK, Europe and the rest of the world, if wildlife has no commercial value, it will be eradicated and replaced with domesticated stock in the form of goats, cattle and sheep.  Unless wildlife is given a value above that of domestic stock, there is no way of preventing this, not even in wildlife sanctuaries like national parks, when the crush of humanity seeks lebensraum and the economic means to live. 

The evidence is everywhere in Africa (if not the rest of the world) that wildlife living areas and populations are shrinking; yet populations of goats, sheep and cattle are increasing or at least maintaining their levels.  However, worse than this, habitats are being devastated where they are not suited to domestic animals, which includes vast areas of Africa.  This has a negative impact on climate change and sustainability of the human populations, which creates a vicious circle of more habitat destruction.

And yet, in Southern Africa, this trend has been reversed as the statistics of other submissions will have elaborated and proven.  Our businesses were instrumental in this reversal.  The means for this was provided by the income obtained from hunting, particularly trophy hunting.  Without that, the land will revert to domestic farming.

Trophy Hunting.

Whilst trophy hunting might be abhorred by the people who oppose it, that is no reason to ban it if it contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity, particularly wildlife populations.  In fact, it is a reason to promote it.

In our business, trophy hunting is the highest paying sector of hunting and without it, our business will close, wildlife will be eliminated and land will revert to domestic farming from which is was reclaimed. 

Contrary to propaganda, nothing from trophy hunting is wasted and the benefits to poorer people, of whom there are many in Africa, are considerable.

Apart from the employment created by hunting generally, international trophy hunters leave the carcasses in the hands of the Hunting Outfitters.  Because they are subsidized by trophy hunting, these are sold to abattoirs and butcheries at a much lower price than conventional forms of meat from domestic animals.  That allows people to obtain meat protein who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

The taxidermy industry, which is a spin-off of trophy hunting, is considerable, providing employment for many people and valuable foreign exchange from exports, all of this on a sustainable basis.

There are those who claim that trophy hunting depletes the gene pool.  Doubtless there will be evidence of this where operators, fearing the collapse of the hunting industry, or the loss of wildlife land through government intervention, or through ignorance, adopt a short-term policy to trophy selection.  The irony is that this will increase if there is a prohibition or reduction of trophy hunting whilst landowners harvest the last remaining wild animals before reverting to domestic farming.

However, the majority, like ourselves who believe in long-term sustainability, know that maintaining trophy quality is the key to survival of our businesses.  Therefore we jealously guard the genetic quality of our animals and seek natural ways to improve this.

In most wildlife areas, large predators which are a danger to human life, have been eliminated.  When that occurs, man has to take the place of the natural predator by hunting and through the application of science and logic to maintain natural balances.

Why not passive wildlife viewing in place of hunting…?

In a human dominated world, there is no such thing as the original “natural world” where matters can be left to nature, not even in extensive game reserves such as Kruger National Park.  Even those areas are fenced off, albeit extensively, where natural migrations and animal expansions have been curtailed.  The only way an approximation of the natural world can be maintained is through the application of man-made scientific management methods and logic.

The priorities of wildlife conservation are:

  • Firstly, the topsoil.  When this is lost, it takes millions of years to replace.  Therefore it is vital to retain this.  In UK with your vegetation types this is not as evident as in Africa with our lower rainfall and more fragile environment.
  • Secondly, the plants.  If plant life is degraded, topsoil is lost to wind and water erosion.  And plants, through photosynthesis, are the primary form of energy.  They are also the vital form of habitat for myriads of insects, birds and animals which make up the biodiversity whole.  When a species of plant life is degraded or eliminated, so is biodiversity negatively impacted.
  • Lastly, the animals.  It is vital that animals do not negatively impact on plant life and topsoil through over-population.  By the time natural deaths of animals take place through over-population, plant life, topsoil and general biodiversity is negatively impacted, often beyond recovery.  Conversely, if animals are over-harvested, it takes a relatively short while to correct the error and to maintain the balance.

Therefore it is vital that man intervenes through the application of logic and science to ensure animal populations are maintained at levels which the habitat can support without degrading.  There are only so many animals which can be captured live and sold.  And those are mainly sold to populate land for the hunting industry.  The rest need to be harvested by killing them.  There is no other practical way.

Therefore, even in so-called passive wildlife tourist viewing land areas, the imperatives of wildlife conservation, as elaborated above, need to be maintained.  The tragedy is in many game viewing areas this is not being done and the land is degrading, particularly in Southern Africa’s national parks, due to misguided pressure from animal activists not to kill animals.

Compared with hunting, particularly trophy hunting, wildlife viewing requires more vehicles and materialistic consumption which is environmentally degrading and often unsustainable in the long-term.

By contrast, one trophy hunter, in one vehicle and hunting mostly on foot provides a far lesser human environmental foot-print than wildlife viewing. 

In our circumstances, wildlife areas are too remote with too little infrastructure in the form of roads, power and housing to allow passive game viewing tourism.  Where one lodge provides the infrastructure for hunting, ten would need to be built for game viewing.  Roads would need to be constructed to facilitate game viewing in environmentally sensitive areas which are accessed by foot with hunting.  Where one vehicle suffices for hunting, twenty or more would be required for game viewing. 

In short, to adopt game viewing as a form of income to sustain our wildlife reserves would be economically impossible and would defeat the objectives of the shareholders in creating the wildlife areas.

Conclusion.

Our company’s wildlife reserves cannot exist without trophy hunting.  Should this stope, or if demand reduces, some 22’000 acres dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation, along with the conservation of biodiversity will be lost to domestic farming of cattle, goats and sheep.

Whilst we do not agree with or accept them, we understand the motives behind the anti-hunting, anti-animal killing sentiments.  However, with respect to them, they are based on emotion and not logic.

We also understand that to harness emotive tendencies is an easier form of political support than to go against them.

However, I believe and trust that the UK political system can rise above political expediency in the interests of and in line with the worldwide drive for environmental sustainability and we appeal to you not to legislate this proposed ban on hunting trophy imports.

If this motivation and appeal is not sufficient, then we at least ask you send out a fact-finding mission to South Africa which we would be happy to host on our wildlife reserves, before enacting anti-hunting legislation which would impact on Africa, particularly Southern Africa.

John Rance
Director
Rance Rural Development (Pty) Ltd