BY JOHN NASH
There is a huge difference between a dairy farm where milk is produced from grass and, say, a petting farm where people, especially children, go to see and touch live animals. Rather importantly, the first is actually a farm and the second is entertainment even when sold as education.
Farming is a primary occupation, exploiting the “outside” environment to produce the resources we need, while processing milk is a secondary “indoor” occupation, turning that primary product from “outdoors” into something more useful to us “indoors”. Entertainment is an “indoor” tertiary occupation, using the results of primary and secondary industries to enhance our lives with services of some kind. This is the way we humans, inside our human cave of civilisation, are fed and nurtured by the things from outside nature that we need indoors.
It is also true that public access to a dairy farm is not important because the public shouldn’t touch or feed the cows on dairy farms situated “outside” where grass grows well, in remote, peaceful and quiet places in the countryside, away from too many people. Dairy farmers like it that way.
By contrast, the paying public are encouraged to feed and touch the animals in petting “farms” and so easy public access to petting farms is vitally important, with the result that they are best situated close to or inside busy centres of high population. You don’t need a PhD to work all of this out.
The difference between dairy farms and petting farms is immeasurably greater than first noticed. Traditional farmers have deep roots – cultural and psychological bonds with their environment – in the land and their animals, both of which are uncivilised and found “outdoors”. At times, farmers therefore have to be uncivilised (objective) because otherwise they couldn’t compete and extract the necessary resources from the outdoor environment. Farming is not for snowflakes. Farmers become a competitive part of the environment when dealing with the environment and have been for 10,000 years of farming and millions of years of hunting before that. Objectivity, the male gaze, is what turns “outdoor” potential into “indoor” utility.
A petting farm, on the other hand, is based entirely on human fascination and affection for animals. Its customers look at and touch the animals for their own selfish reasons. But affection for animals is not part of the animal world. Affection for animals is inside the human head and this sentiment makes use of animals for entertainment. Provided it is not done in a cruel way, it’s a perfectly legitimate, although subjective, use of animals. Subjectivity, the female gaze, turns indoor utility into indoor nurture.
So, animal farmers are often an integral part of the natural environment unlike animal lovers who are visitors to the natural environment. Both have affection for animals, but affection for animals without understanding can lead to anxiety about their welfare. In turn, anxiety without understanding can run out of control, sliding into animal rights (AR). AR souls want to ban both animal farms and petting farms on “moral” grounds because they think “we shouldn’t own or use any animals in any way”. However, since animals themselves neither give nor expect any morals or rights, AR has nothing whatsoever to do with animals or their natural world and is, in fact, a wholly human mental affliction.
This bizarre folly is often a mystery to outsiders (especially working farmers and field managers), but it is not inexplicable – it is simply a symptom of mental illness that occurs in “indoor” (civilised) people who have no knowledge, understanding or experience of the “outside” (uncivilised) natural world, or the processes by which we get stuff from outdoors to indoors.
People do, of course, have a human affection for animals, an affection that is expressed in animal welfare (AW), not rights. AW is the more realistic belief that since we cannot avoid owning, using or killing animals for reasons of primary resource harvesting, food, protection or living space, it is incumbent upon us to make their life and death as painless as possible under the circumstances. But AR is not AW – animal rights is a situation where animal welfare – the milk of human kindness – has gone off. It follows that most farmers have affection and concern for their animals (animal welfare) but that does not preclude them from carrying out their objective function as actors in an important and necessary primary industry.
It is exactly the same when it comes to hunting in South Africa. There are huge National Parks, like the Kruger Park, where millions of animal lovers go to look at animals (although unlike a UK petting farm, it is not very advisable to try petting lions and crocodiles). Most of the animals in the National Parks are perfectly safe and although the parks were established originally to safeguard the natural diversity, the more popular parks, like the Kruger, have become places of mass human entertainment. This is a shame, but from a rural economics perspective, it’s a good thing. It has costs – only two out of South Africa’s twenty-odd National Parks actually make money. The rest have to be subsidised by the government because there are not enough tourists to support them all.
Then there is another entirely separate world in South Africa – the forty million acres of private hunting reserves, the so-called game farms, where farmers raise wild animals as a resource in almost natural environments to harvest them for livestock sales, hunting, trophy hunting and venison production. They are all inseparable facets of the same farming activity – there is no real difference between selling a live animal to another reserve, selling an animal for a trophy hunt and meat, or selling an animal for meat and then having its horns and skin turned into something useful, be it rug or glue. They are all farm income, Africa style.
The game farmers of South Africa have a close bond with the land and everything on it, just like UK farmers. They are part of the land, wild animal farmers, and have to make a living. Without hunting or venison, they would farm something else. The problem is that every “something else” entails removing all the wildlife on the land – like a landowner in Scotland removing all the deer on his estate and replanting the whole estate with something else like trees. A lot more than the deer would disappear.
Eco-tourism is not the answer in Africa.
There are already not enough eco-tourists to go round, and across the globe, more and more subsidised eco-parks are opening up, diluting the footfall even further. Besides, mass ecotourism is not benign – it has a carbon footprint worse than a soot-covered chimney sweep trampled by a chain-smoking elephant.
Significantly, South African game farms (average size 4000 acres) are often remote, quiet places where eco-tourists don’t go because there are no good roads, hotels or amenities and only a narrow choice of species to look at. On top of that, the animals are naturally wild and not habituated to thousands of tourists in vehicles, with the result that they are secretive and often difficult to find, just how hunters like them. Similarly to the different worlds of dairy farms and petting farms in the UK, the world of hunting game farms has nothing whatsoever in common with the National Parks. They are different wildlife industries with different customers.
However, in safeguarding some forty million acres of privately owned, privately financed, more or less natural environment on the game farms, millions of non-hunted plants and animals are conserved, too. It is true that on these game farms, predators are controlled because they eat the livestock, but predator control means that the remaining animals have a quiet life and increase rapidly in number. This explains how the game farms have increased the number of South Africa’s major wild animals (outside the National Parks) twenty-fold in thirty years while more than a million animals are harvested every year. Forty million acres of natural habitat, filled with indigenous wild animals and plants where there was once very little, is why this type of hunting is called “conservation hunting”. Much more importantly, it is also conservation farming.
Now we come to the parasites and con-artists.
Even in the National Parks, animals have to be managed (often lethally, out of sight of the tourists), while on the privately owned game farms, game farmers and hunting £££ are demonstrably among the most effective conservationists in the world, far more so than organic vegetable farmers, for example. The whole AR “philosophy” is a mental illness, so it comes as no surprise that all of their AR theories are arrant nonsense when applied to the field management or farming of real wild animals. To overcome this problem they have to use deception to raise power and money from hoodwinked politicians and the more gullible members of the public.
Wild animal numbers there are rising – they cannot also be endangered. Adverts and articles that use photos of trophy hunters on South African game farms in order to wax hysterical about extinction to raise donations are criminal scams that break every rule for UK charity fundraising, were such rules to be enforced and implemented.
Truth surely still matters?
It follows that banning the importation of hunting trophies from the game farms of South Africa is irrational and will damage an important rural industry in places where there are no equally viable alternatives. A ban most certainly will not save a single animal, but if a ban skims the cream off marginal South African farm incomes and forces farmers to do something else, a ban WILL cause millions of animals and plants to be destroyed, replaced with more traditional animals, crops or even settlements. To claim a UK import ban will “save animals” therefore, is worse than a blatant lie – a ban will cause precisely the opposite – it will doom the animals, including many that are not even hunted at present.
That is why the government found it difficult to bring in an honest ban. That is why there was no place in DEFRA for Zac and his little parrot, George Eustice – who chose the wrong side, allegedly shortly after lady-Mullah Carrie gave him an ominous finger-wagging.
But, in Zac’s own words, like “the turd that won’t flush”, the AR disease hasn’t been eliminated. There are still people like the gormless old nutter, Sir Roger Gale MP, and now another deceitful AR soul has grabbed their dangerous brown and smelly flag aloft. To Tory shame, it is Ian Smith, Conservative MP. Here is one of his golden droplets of deceit:
This subterfuge is repulsive, even for a politician. The “research” carried out by WAP was the usual nasty sham – let’s face it, if you asked the UK public if they think “forcefully tearing a terrified one-day-old baby calf away from its heartbroken mum” is cruel, you might well get 100% to say, “Yes, it’s cruel. Stop it”, even though 96% of them use cow’s milk.
You see, Dear Reader, you can get any answer you want if you frame the question carefully and use the results out of context. We expect that sort of dishonesty from left-wing politicians, but of late, the Conservative Party and government have been somewhat infected, ignoring The Great British Countryside and made vulnerable by the modern saddle-sniffing penchant for spurious opinion polls and social media currents.
And why would the modestly named “World Animal Protection” produce such deceptive mischief?
You might think it is because they are simple AR souls, but the real answer lies hidden in their annual statement – they raked in over £32 million in donations last year, and I’ll wager precious little of it ended up saving endangered animals in Africa – certainly nothing like the many millions of acres of wild animals conserved by South African game farmers and hunters.
UK farmers – beware the petting farm coming after you.
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.