A belated Happy New Year to all of you. I hope you have enjoyed a peaceful, restful and memorable festive season with family and friends. I know I have.
I last wrote a Newsletter ten months ago and, in keeping with my undertaking not to bother you unless I felt I had something meaningful to share, I have not written to you since then. Admittedly there has been the odd occasion when animal extremists have raised my blood pressure with their emotional, fact less, unscientific outbursts, which much of the media seem to suck up and publish without checking the facts or considering the effects of their publication. Not only this but they almost universally refuse to publish any contrary or opposing articles. That if hunting ends, conservation as we know it in Southern Africa ends with it as many African governments are beginning to understand for almost the first time in many of their troubled histories, as can be seen in their reaction to yet another corrupt and rigged CITES conference where government representatives queued up, yet again, to sell their votes to animal extremist groups.
We hunters and conservationists have been on the back foot for so long I cannot remember when there has been any good news on these fronts. Attacked by animal extremists and anti-hunting organisations we have, for the most part, only ourselves to blame. We refuse to co-ordinate our responses and form a united public relations approach to these attacks and each organisation stands on its own dung heap crowing about its self-congratulatory achievements which, in the overall scheme of things, has done nothing to stem the overall tide of animal extremist victories.
Worse still, in South Africa we have allowed existing legislation to be used for purposes it was never designed for and, without consulting those most directly affected by the regulations, effectively domesticated almost all the wildlife in the country, allowing intensive game breeders free reign to genetically manipulate these animals. We are now dealing with the bastardisation of wildlife on an unimaginable scale at the behest of a handful of money grubbing people who have already decimated the hunting community in the country with their canned killings and intensive breeding of once wild animals to create domesticated creatures with exaggerated horn lengths and unnatural colour variations.
We are doing this to ourselves without the help of the animal extremists. Overseas hunters who have been the driving force behind the conservation revolution that has been so beneficial to this country’s conservation for nigh on 70 years, forming the financial foundation which has given rise to the huge growth in land under game and the numbers of wild animals themselves, have stayed away in droves. Although there has been a small increase in overseas hunters visiting South Africa in 2018, it is still barely half the number that visited in 2008.
I suppose when you look at what has become the almost predictable policies of the government which has run the country for the last 25 years and its pattern of destruction and decimation of the institutions and assets they inherited, it is no wonder they have allowed the canned killings and manipulative game breeding practices to continue unhindered. If they had set out to destroy the hunting and conservation communities on purpose, they could not have done a better job.
In this regard I attach an article I wrote entitled The Bastardisation of Wildlife, part of which was published recently in Conservation Frontlines, the international, free ezine which can be subscribed to online. This publication is a must read for any conservation minded hunter.
For some years I have written that animal extremists are not concerned with African wildlife or wildlife habitat. Hunting was merely seen as low hanging fruit and their attacks were merely a means to a much bigger end, namely, the domestic livestock industry and that is what we are seeing today. That such a minuscule percentage of people, the vegans and, to a lesser extent, the vegetarians out there, can already have harnessed such huge support for their meatless campaign is an indication of how well funded and organised these people are.
There never was any intention on their cynical part to conserve African wildlife and wildlife habitats else they would surely have diverted some of the hundreds of millions of dollars they raise each year to do precisely that and yet they have not bought one wild animal or one hectare of land to show how their preservationist plans would work in practice. No, their goal is stop the use of animals in any shape or form. And this includes fish and fowl as their increasing attacks on fishing and wing shooting show.
They want – no demand – that animals to be accorded the same rights as humans and, I suspect, what will come next is a demand that animals be given the vote, which the animal extremists will demand they be allowed to caste on the animals’ behalf, given that they know what is best for them. You think I am joking, well, so did people when I first started to write about the real, long term aims of these extremists?
They are ably aided and abetted by social and traditional media where opinion has become more important than empirically determined, scientific facts. Where, if enough people hold the same opinion, they can and do demand that these opinions be accorded the same validity as facts, that people who hold contrary views are bad and should be universally castigated, if not jailed. Opposition views are irrelevant, no matter how valid they can be shown to be. They can be shouted down, hounded out and denied the opportunity to be heard in public on the flimsiest of grounds. For example, that universities are “safe places” where vociferous minorities prohibit freedom of speech, which has often been the basis for research, innovation and for which these institutions have, for the most part, been formed.
To be honest, I despair. How could we have allowed things to deteriorate so far so fast? The short answer is I believe we have allowed too many posers and politicians to dictate the policies of our hunting organisations, people who put their own short term, personal interests first, second and 157th before they consider what is best for wildlife and wildlife habitat. These are mere ephemeral things to them and to which they pay lip service in pursuit of personal self-aggrandisement and the polishing of their own egos.
How can I suggest such a thing? Simple. I have seen it work at first hand, face to face. After 18 months of meetings with senior executives of SA Hunters settling the foundation of the Fair Chase Guild, whose formation was publicly announced at the Annual General Meeting dinner by the President of SA Hunters, some months later the Guild was unceremoniously disbanded, without its founders being consulted or even being given the opportunity to address the meeting, by the chapter heads and for the basest of grounds, namely, that certain deeply unethical but senior members of SA Hunters were afraid the Guild might expose their unacceptable “hunting” methods. Not that the Guild was formed for this purpose at all. It was a totally voluntary club within SA Hunters for those members and others who wanted to abide by an agreed set of hunting standards and simultaneously fund a professional, pro-hunting PR strategy.
When the largest hunting association in Africa tolerates this kind of behaviour what chance is there for us ordinary hunters and the wildlife and wildlife habitats we all love so dearly? Not much as things stand unless hunting association worldwide stop their individual, lone “Light Brigade charges” and act together, or their senior executives are replaced by those willing to move away from the historical and usual way of doing things.