I received the Press Release set out below directly from PHASA on Friday last week:
PHASA President Calls for a Review of Lion Hunting
Pretoria, 24 July 2015 – Hermann Meyeridricks, president of the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), is asking the hunting association to reconsider its position on lion hunting.
In a letter emailed to PHASA members today, Meyeridricks says that the campaign against trophy hunting has intensified around the canned or captive-bred lion hunting issue since its current policy on lion hunting was adopted at its AGM in November 2013.
“We took the view that our position was a stepping-stone to clean up the captive-bred lion hunting industry and made it clear that it was certainly not our final word on the hunting of lions,” he says.
“From my dealings with the media and the community, it has become clear to me that those against the hunting of lions bred in captivity are no longer just a small if vociferous group of animal-rights activists. Broader society is no longer neutral on this question and the tide of public opinion is turning strongly against this form of hunting, however it is termed. Even within our own ranks, as well as in the hunting fraternity as a whole, respected voices are speaking out publicly against it.”
Meyeridricks says that with some airlines and shipping lines refusing to transport hunting trophies, PHASA has to face the fact that the lion issue is putting at risk not only the reputation of professional hunting in SA but its very survival.
“PHASA’s current policy on the issue is, broadly the speaking, that it recognizes the legality of and demand for captive-bred lion hunting, and is working with the predator breeders and government to improve its standards and conditions to a generally acceptable level. We have made little demonstrable progress on this front,” he says.
“Against this background, I have come to believe that, as it stands, our position on lion hunting is no longer tenable. The matter will be on the agenda again for our next annual general meeting and I appeal to you to give it your serious consideration, so that together we can deliver a policy that is defensible in the court of public opinion,” he says in the letter.
I have the following comments to make on this sad announcement:
- PHASA proposes to reconsider their “position on lion hunting”? What hunting? There is no hunting involved in canned or put-and-take killing. PHASA has supported the predator breeders’ position for the last 20 months that a captive-bred lion, released into an enclosure of 1 000 hectares, a week before it is due to be killed, constituted fair chase hunting despite the fact that during this time it has alienated organisations such as the SA Wildlife College, the Nordic Safari Club, CIC and many if not most genuine amateur hunters. I mean, ask yourself one simple question – would you want to hunt with a person who supports this disgusting practice in the name of hunting?
- The opposition to canned and put-and-take killings of wildlife, let alone lions, has never been based on the views of a few animal rightists although PHASA has given them wonderful ammunition to use against genuine hunters. Broader society has never been neutral on the question but has opposed it from the very beginning. Did the overwhelming response to the Cook TV documentary of the first exposure of canned lion killing guided by Sandy MacDonald not ring any bells all those years ago? PHASA and its leadership have completely misjudged the opposition to these disgusting practices blinded, as I believe they were, by the short sighted attraction of making easy money.
- After 20 months I am afraid this is all too little too late. The damage has been done and the reputation of PHASA, such as it was, is in tatters. The best that can be hoped for is that a brand new, ethical professional hunting association is formed under the banner (possibly) of SAMPEO, the group of eight senior professional hunters who disassociated themselves from the PHASA stance on canned lion killing right from the start. I would urge people to visit their web site – www. sampeo.co.za and read their bi-monthly column in African Outfitter. If people are looking for professional hunters to guide them, they can make no better decision than to start with these men.
- PHASA’s Press Release is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst. I have no recollection of PHASA ever indicating that their stance was a “stepping-stone” aimed at improving “standards and conditions to a generally acceptable level”. I do know that the SA Wildlife College asked PHASA to conduct a scientific investigation into whether a captive-bred lion in such a case was able to feed itself, procreate naturally and escape its predators. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the college is still waiting for the results of the study.
- PHASA’s support of canned lion killing has not only put its reputation at risk but, in my opinion, has ruined it and done untold damage to our country’s reputation as conservationists and a premier hunting destination as can be seen by the material reduction in overseas hunts – down some 16% or 1 500 hunts in 2013, the last year for which accurate statistics are available.
- I have also taken note of the almost contemporaneous resignation of PHASA’s CEO, Kitshof, and her appointment as CEO of Wildlife Ranching of South Africa, which houses those who intensively breed and domesticate wildlife to produce animals with exaggerated horn lengths and other unnatural colour variants and hybrids. Is this a question of rats leaving the sinking ship or is it mere coincidence? Can we expect the same kind of management style and propaganda from WRSA now as has been forthcoming from PHASA in the past and will the results be the same i.e. after untold damage has been done to WRSA and the country, will they also realise that the “court of public opinion” is totally opposed to these practices, reverse their stance and expel the small minority of their members that are destroying the well-deserved reputation of the extensive game rancher members that have been at the heart of the quiet conservation revolution that has swept across this country for the last 60 years or so for the benefit of so many people while creating opportunities for all?