Sport Hunting – Letters 1 And 2
Sport Hunting – Letters 1 And 2 – On June 23, 2014 – with his permission – I published Bradley Bergh’s excellent letter to WWF on my animal awareness blog A Beating Heart. He poses interesting questions to that organization about “sport” hunting. The post garnered some interesting comments. For context please re-read it here.
WWF Supports “Sport” Hunting – A Reminder of Bradley Bergh’s Brilliant Letter To The WWF – at – www.abeatingheart.ca/wwf-supports-sport-hunting/
A reply from WWF to Bradley is highly anticipated – thanks Bradley!
On June 25, 2014 – I received this rather rambling reply from a dedicated hunter:
Dear Rosemary. I wrote a response to Bradley Berg’s letter to the WWF. Just to give you different picture.
Dear Bradley Bergh – I hold no brief for the WWF and I am not in their employ. However, I beg to differ from your stance regarding hunting.
As someone involved in sustainability, you should know that numerous studies from various scholars at universities in South Africa and abroad have proven that hunting in South Africa is highly sustainable and it is through hunters that we have the abundance of wildlife across our country. As a point of departure I will not initially entertain the issues you do not want to read: that of sustainable jobs, a boost for local economies etc. However, seeing that you refer to it in your letter, I will entertain the issues further on.
I would like to give you a background and run down on what hunting (and hunters) has done for wildlife in South Africa and that it cannot be seen in isolation.
It is not as simple as you put it. To evaluate the South African hunting industry by means of a few videos of badly managed hunts deserves reaction.
First of all, as a point of departure we should keep in mind the development of wire and especially barbed wire in 1867 in Ohio. That revolutionized world- wide animal husbandry. It confined all animals, whether domesticated or wild. Shortly afterwards it was introduced into South Africa, and was used in both Boer Wars which played a large part in decimating our wildlife as a way of feeding hungry troops.
After the majority of cattle, sheep and horses had been seized during the first Boer War for use by Her Majesty’s army, the Rinderpest and Brandsiek (scabies) of 1890-96 had a devastating impact on livestock and farmers had only begun breeding herds back to sustainability. Similarly it took its toll on wildlife. In the meantime the soldiers simply shot wildlife: from Aardvark and Eland to Elephant and Hippo, to feed the troops.
War is awful and it leaves a legacy. The scorched earth policy literally left vast tracts of land barren and farmers came back to burnt out farms and destroyed families and as a result had to eke out a living and eat what they had.
In 1914, children who grew up in the concentration camps had to go and defend their vanquisher at the bloodbath of the Somme.
Coming back from the war, the Spanish flu tried to finish what two wars could not. 140 000 people died in seven weeks from September – October 1918 and eventually 500 000 people perished. A time still remembered as Black October. This however was not the worst effect.
Thousands upon thousands of pigs, wildfowl and poultry also died in the process and the pigs that remained were killed and destroyed. Then came the droughts of 1914-1916, and floods of 1916-1917. Floods are always followed by disease.
It was described as follows:
‘It is as if the Plagues of Egypt are upon us. First the awful War, then this pestilence and now boils, and the near dread of a famine, the season is so against all crops and fruits.’
This lead to massive urbanisation and men took their families to work on the mines at the Rand.
The remaining farmers started picking up their heads. Livestock and wildlife numbers started returning to normal. Then tragedy struck with one of the worst droughts ever. The 1933 drought was so serious it was discussed in parliament on the 26 of May 1933. It is common knowledge that that the worst depression ever followed in the wake of the drought.
This all created the theater for conflict between livestock and wildlife. All of the above is well documented.
Farmers had to start managing the wildlife conflict and they adopted a number of ideas: If it pays it stays, if you cannot beat it, join it, and the last was sustainable utilization.
Initially friends and family were invited for a biltongbok hunt and as is the nature of human beings, it soon developed into one of the more sustainable wildlife management tools. Studies followed practice: University programmes developed, academic centers and units were formed and Veterinary medicine for wildlife followed.
In the meantime the endemic Black wildebeest and Bontebok was nursed back to healthy populations. Bontebok was once extensively killed as pests, and was reduced to a wild population of just 17 animals, but the species has since grown exponentially.
Blesbok was extinct in their natural habitat, but they have increased in population to the point where they are now very abundant and avidly farmed, because they are popular quarry for hunters and are easy to sustain.
Let’s consider the effect these practices had. Dr Gert Dry, the deputy president of Wildlife Ranching South Africa and a National Parks Board Member,, broke them down for a green economy conference in 2010.
Of South Africa’s 122.3 million hectare land area, 7.5 million hectares, or 6.1%, are protected by government as national parks. Much more – 20.5-million hectares or 16.8% – is owned by private landowners who operate commercial game ranches. Half of these ranches are in Limpopo, with another third in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. This compares to 100.6 million hectares of agricultural land, representing 82.2% of the country’s land area. The Western Cape has followed suite with districts like Beaufort West, Laingsburg, Loxton, Sutherland and even the Tankwa Karoo being developed as game ranches.
A typical game farm, according to Dry, employs three times as much staff as a comparable livestock farm, and pays three to four times more. Camera tourism in 5 star lodges only enriches the owners and shareholders. The majority of them being foreign companies, notorious for their meager salaries. A married management couple with 10 years of experience will at best receive a salary of under R20 000 per month while the guests pay in excess of R5000 per night.
In contrast over 100,000 people are said to be dependent on the wildlife farming industry. Considering that they are concentrated in South Africa’s poorer provinces and isolated communities, it seems rash to dismiss this socio-economic contribution.
Finally I want to consider the issue of sustainability. Wildlife has become increasingly valuable. We all know of the R40 million buffalos, but most of the farmers sell Springbok for R550 -600 hunted. An average carcass weighs in (dressed) at between 15 and 30 kg. Much better than the R16-20 per kilo you get for heifers and young bulls. Lamb beats it per kilo price, but must be inoculated, dredged and dosed regularly at exorbitant cost.
The farm also gets the income from the tourism aspect; sleeping, eating and transport. Cleaners, cooks, laundry staff, guides, drivers, butchers and gardeners. There is a designated day fee that guarantees salaries of the staff. Tips and gratuities are all encouraged. Even the least educated worker gets menial tasks in order to earn an income.
Farms are similar to a municipality in very remote areas. It creates housing; it manages and supplies services like water, sewerage electricity, roads, clinics, schools and churches.
It is because of all these values that hunting has been, and will remain the most sustainable wildlife management tool.
The hunting equation is simple; animals breed and sooner or later their numbers have to be controlled to match the carrying capacity of a habitat as land is finite. The age old fence problem! If a landowner or community does the culling, they earn (much) less than hunters are prepared to pay for the privilege. The impact on the local economy regarding petrol, food, wine and beverages, spending power of the earning local community etc, is huge and sustains other practices such as clinics, schools, churches, local artists and crafters.
Districts with very low population densities depend on returning hunters. Every animal hunted or sold encourages the landowner or community to keep those animals and look after them as best they can. Same can be said for sheep, pigs and chicken, as is the case for kudus, springbok and impala.
But your main concern should be addressed and I would like to discuss the trophy hunting problem you have. If a “trophy” is a reminder or a memento, even taking a picture should be wrong? If your problem is the death of the animal, then the following surely follows: Should a hunter utilize the meat and throw away or burn the horns and skin (the trophy), so as not to offend anyone, then he is wasteful and in a manner disrespectful of the animal.
You state that it is unsustainable yet in 1945/6, the first “trophy” hunts in Southern Africa was managed by Basie Maartens, a gentle man and gentleman of note. His Safari Company still exists and his son is still hunting. A seventy year legacy surely implies sustainability.
Current South African firearm laws dictate that dedicated hunters include proof of hunts in their firearm renewal application. The preferred proof is to include photos. Yes! Hunters smile on the photos, as it is enjoyable to be out in nature. A surly photo is also not going to convince the staff at the firearm registry that you have hunted the animal. This dispels the myth perpetuated by anti-hunting activists that all hunting photos are those of “trophy hunters”.
By their very nature, hunters are practical people and for them not to use the skin or bones or skull is considered wasteful. Making beautiful lampshades from Eland skin and Oryx horns can also be seen as a trophy, a memento or a reminder of a hunt. Should the artist also be accused of sociopathy and entertaining a blood lust and love for killing?
We are left with the hypocrisy that similarly no chicken eater eats feather or bones, and even vegans throw away waste, wilted leaves or parts of plants they don’t eat.
How many people spare a thought for the animal they enjoy over lunch? Modern humans have detached themselves so far from the cruel reality in order to protect him/herself from it.
I see you refer to the SASSI list. Incredible how you only see evil amongst people who do the hard yards so you can eat. We all are conscious of eating green listed fish, but those fish are also killed in order to feed us. Are fishermen taking photos of their catch also sociopaths?
Hunters fortunately have the peace of mind knowing that they did not outsource the killing as non hunters do, and do not hypocritically deny having a hand in the death of the animal they consume or enjoy the luxury of, such as leather car seats, shoes, belts, hats, handbags, watch straps, office furniture etc. Also what anti-hunters do not realize; by its very nature, if you consume any being, whether meat or vegetables, you have had a hand in its death.
Fortunately, hunters do not have to carry that burden of guilt and can rest assured that the death on the animals they hunted is paying for the upkeep, safety and security of others. Herein lays a very good sustainability model for other countries to follow.
What effect has wildlife farming had in South Africa?
There are currently more than 18000 rhinoceroses – up from less than 50
-There are currently over 26000 black wildebeest – up from less than 40
-In 1975 the first private game auctions sold 128 at a cost of about R20000…
-In 2009, 45 private sector game auctions sold 14000 animals at a cost of about R183 million
-In 2009, it was estimated that over 28000 animals were sold at a cost of over R370 million directly from one game rancher to another
-In 1964, there were an estimated 557000 game animals
-In 2005, there were an estimated 18, 6 million game animals.
Recently buffalo bulls sold at more than R40 million.
In conclusion, looking at videos of badly managed hunts does not constitute research. Your findings are seriously lacking critical thought and solid research. Saying bow hunting is illegal illustrates that you did not even do the simple research of looking at hunting ordinances for the different provinces. Surely you must have done some course in research methodology? Finally, if you do not trust academic research, which you call mumbo jumbo, if you are so against the value of academic study, why spend so much time, money and effort doing a Masters degree in sustainability?
Now to your ps: Hunters do not live in denial. We are aware of land and feed being finite. We are aware of the effect of drought and we know that to hunt in order to preserve the species is the kindest cut of all. This illustrates the love we have for the animal. Also by enjoying the meat and celebrating its life while doing so!
The following questions now remain: How are you going to sustainably manage wildlife in South Africa without compromising animal health and welfare. What is your plan for the management of the game accrual and the destruction of habitat? Before you say sell the animals, keep in mind that the neighbour has the same dilemma.
I eagerly await your response. I would love to debate this with you.
As a blogger for A Beating Heart in Canada – and although I am opposed to sport or trophy hunting of any kind – I am certainly NOT an expert on this topic – so I referred this letter to Chris Mercer of Campaign Against Canned Hunting.
Please see my next Blog Post for the reply from Chris Mercer!