In the March/April issue of African Outfitter (AO), arguably the best hunting magazine currently published in Africa, the half page advert set out below by Take Aim Safaris (TAS) was included on page 73, poking fun at those intensively breeding, domesticating and manipulating wildlife to produce animals with exaggerated horn lengths and unnatural colour variations.
The first shot was fired by Mr van der Linde, deputy president of the Wildlife Ranching Association of South Africa (WRSA). He emailed the editor, summarily cancelled his advertising in the magazine and sent copies of his email to all and sundry. The exchange of correspondence with him, the editor and Carl Knight of TAS was published in the May/June issue of AO.
I was surprised at the intemperate and emotional language used by Mr. Van der Linde, a man I have never met, but there were echoes of previous statements by the president of WRSA published on my blog. Like him, Mr. Van der Linde was concerned that, “We are busy harming an industry by fighting our differences in the media and you, the publishers are allowing it.” In other words, us ordinary, amateur hunters should not be allowed to decide for ourselves what the truth is, based on a full and open public debate of the issues surrounding canned and put-and-take killing and the intensive breeding, domestication and manipulation of wildlife to produce exaggerated horn lengths and unnatural colour variants. Why? Does Mr Van der Linde think we are incapable of making informed decisions? That he should be able to decide for us in some small, smoke-filled private room out of the public eye?
Secondly, to refer to the advert as a “degrading and insulting text, directed at ALL RSA breeders, outfitters & professional hunters” is clearly either disingenuous or deliberately misleading. Most reasonable people would say that the advert was directed ONLY at intensive breeders who represent a tiny minority – probably less than five per cent – of game ranchers, most of whom conduct extensive game ranching operations and are the basis upon which this country’s amazing wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation success story has been based over the last 60 years or so. This seems an attempt by intensive breeders to gain by mere association some of the praiseworthy reputation of extensive game ranchers and thereby camouflage what they are doing. This is like the black sheep of a family trying to restore his reputation by claiming membership of the decent, hard working family that disowned him.
Not content with this, Mr. Van der Linde then accused AO of “derogatory statements & mudslinging,” “Degrading someone else in the hope of elevating oneself” and found the advert “unprofessional, distasteful and completely unnecessary”. Wow! Quite a mouthful to protest against a half page, amusing advert and the first thought that occurred to me was the Shakespearean quote, “Methinks milady protesteth too much!”
And then the irony. Mr.Van der Linde goes on to add:
“Our neighbouring countries are laughing at us and I dread to think how potentially damaging this could be to our whole industry if you take into consideration the clients who may read this garbage! We are losing our market share every day and that is because we allow stuff like this to happen and you are encouraging it.”
Of course, it seems to have eluded Mr. Van der Linde that it is precisely he and others like him who are putting people off from coming to hunt in South Africa, on the one hand, and making it too expensive for locals to hunt, on the other hand.
Nevertheless, a few days later another intensive breeder, Mr. Thormahlen, jumped on the Van der Linde wagon using, if anything, even greater hyperbole and more emotive language than before, accusing AO of “a smear campaign in your magazine to put us in discredit” – one advert a smear campaign? While lots of people here and abroad intensely dislike what intensive breeders do because they believe it puts hunting in the country at risk and thereby one of the main pillars of conservation, Mr Thormahlen now argues that their fight to intensively breed, domesticate and manipulate wildlife to produce exaggerated horn lengths and unnatural colour variants is the same as those who fought apartheid for the right to marry across the colour lines or for gay rights. Really? Are you serious Mr. Thormahlen?
As I replied to the editor of AO after he sent me copies of the correspondence with Messrs Van der Linde and Thormahlen:
“Thank you for including me in the exchange of correspondence … According to the figures provided by the Department of Environmental Affairs, the numbers of overseas hunts fell between 2011 to 2013 (the latest available figures) by some 1 500 or over 16%. This has absolutely nothing to do with AO, Carl Knight or one small and humorous advert which appeared a few weeks ago but began after people here started killing domesticated animals in small paddocks, on the one hand, and domesticating and manipulating wildlife to produce big horns and weird colours, on the other hand.
The extent of the hysteria expressed by Messrs. Van der Linde and Thormahlen and the intemperate language they used over TAS’s advert indicates that they either have no sense of humour or, as they say in Germany, “hit dogs bark loudly” i.e. the humour in the advert hit home. In addition, I have also found that, when people overreact like Messrs. Van der Linde and Thormahlen, it is because they are unable to win their argument by normal, factual, logical and verbal means.
I am also tired of these selfsame people using the hoary old argument of black and white springbok to justify the current artificial genetic manipulation of wildlife on an industrial scale to produce the scores of different, weird and unnatural colour phases which can be seen in the hundreds of full page colour adverts in various magazines – I have been told there are now 20 different springbok colour variants. There is solid, scientific evidence that black springbok have been around for thousands of years and date back to the time when the Karoo was an inland sea and which may account for the fact, for example, that they have longer hooves than the normal springbok. Secondly, nearly 40 years ago when I shot a white springbok for the first time, Mr Bowker, the landowner, explained that his grandfather had found two white springbok on his farm after the trekbokke had moved through. He chased them across the river into a separate camp with some sheep and normal springbok and, over many years, they gradually created a small herd of white springbok – some more white than others – but there was no concerted attempt to artificially manipulate animals to produce things never seen before in the wild or anywhere else for that matter.
At the end of the day, the Van der Lindes and Thormahlens of this world can stand on their heads and sing God Save the Queen but it is us hunters who will decide this argument and the writing is already on the wall as can be seen in my opening paragraph. Overseas hunters are already voting with their feet. They do not want to be tainted by inadvertently becoming involved in canned and/or put-and-take killings, on the one hand, nor of being accused of coming to South Africa to hunt these Frankenbuck, on the other hand.
The end is in sight, however, for all those engaged in these reprehensible practices, which I and my many hunting friends despise and the sooner this happens the better. The only pity is that so many innocent people who have been encouraged to invest money in these schemes are going to lose their life savings.
I expect that the attacks on you and all the others opposed to these practices who stick their heads out above the parapets, will be subject to ever more vicious and nasty attacks by these increasingly desperate bully boys. But so be it. I forget who it was that said words to the effect that, for evil to triumph, all that needed to happen was for men to keep quiet. Keep up the good fight, I and my friends support you and, if necessary, will raise a fund to replace the revenue lost by these bullies.
Below are four cartoons drawn for me by Fred Mouton for your edification and delight. In his own brilliant way, they encapsulate much of the discussions referred to above.