Dear Corey, DSC Executive and Hunters.
It is with some serious concern that we read the newly released DSC Position on Captive Bred Lion (CBL) Hunting, as released 11 January. Of course, DSC is fully entitled to take any position on any issue they deem fit, but as this specific issue has resulted in highly charged and escalated divisive debate both in and outside of the public domain recently, we would have hoped for a more considered, comprehensive and indeed leading statement from DSC. In particular, we believed that the US based hunting organisations would have brought some sanity back to the current frenzy that has engulfed the rest of the hunting world on this subject, but alas your statement leaves more questions than answers while in fact, in essence, has you joining the chorus!
To be more specific on some of our concerns; your opening sentence repeats the mythical narrative of the African Lion being a so called “iconic” animal. This lingua franca of the Disney and Animal Rightist (AR) brigade has permeated into the hunting community’s discussion of late, and is going to become an albatross around our necks with each successive domino that is attacked in the onslaught against us. Suggesting a subjective approach to one specie in its use and hunting regime as against another, based on perceptions of that animal is suicidal for the global sustainable use cause. Look at the bear hunting situation now in Canada.
We are happy that the African Lion Hunting Policy, as modelled on your ideal huntable lion, is the laudable approach when hunting extensive areas for so called “free ranging” wild lion. We need not mention however, that this has done nothing to appease AR or the public at large, given the so called “Cecil” debacle. In fact, that case more than anything else, should have taught us all that no matter what appeasement we offer, the goal posts will be moved relentlessly, one foot at a time against us, with each sacrificial lamb we relent!
Your paragraph reflecting your recognition of ranching’s value for wildlife indicating there is “no evidence” suggesting that captive bred lion hold benefit for wild lion conservation is at best vague, but to us is in fact contradictory. South Africa has seen some 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of land convert from agriculture to wildlife over about 4 decades. Most species that are the backbone of the economic force that drove this are NOT in the least endangered or needing this phenomenon for their survival. The very few that are, such as perhaps Roan antelope, are the most recent of additions into this activity, and it is reasonable to say that lions too, will with time become more and more ranched than bred, as the evolution of this phenomena unfolds. But the first sable, roan, buffalo etc in private ownership were kept strictly in highly secure, small breeding areas and only recently are viable semi-extensive herds occurring more frequently to provide hunting animals that can not be described as “bred”. In the process, many of these former breeding animals eventually are hunted after release in larger areas, simply because this is the most lucrative return. Such animals are marketed in vast numbers on your annual show and sold on your fund-raising auction each year. Your own state of Texas has the most flourishing “industry” in the world based on this very model!
To end that paragraph, you quote your USFWS position of not permitting the import of these CBL from SA. You don’t expand on this so one must assume you are relying on this as further good reasoning for taking a negative stance yourselves? We would hate to believe this is the case however, Using the USFWS policy on any matter in order to ratify your own policies will set a precedent that will surely become the first nail in the coffin for any and all wildlife product imports one day. You give blanket credibility to their policy. It is our view that the USFWS stance is flawed, is out of their true mandate, has zero benefit to any wild lion population, and worst of all, it’s the gospel as written by Animal Rightism at its most pervasive ugliness.
Your statement then goes on to espouse the matter of ethics, but of course, without specifics. We would suggest that this is because the very essence of the concept of ethics will always be vague and therefore specifics will always be elusive. So, our question therefore is “what is your clear definition of ethics” as pertains to hunting? Of course, once you have established this, the next question is whether you will then use that as the basis for disciplinary action against any member who fails this standard, by for instance, hunting a CBL?
The sadness here is that we perceived the US approach to matters of common concern as being the bastion of standing firm and fast particularly for LEGAL rights. Is this not why your firearm freedoms as embraced in the 2nd Amendment are defended so rigorously even against those who call for so called “sanity laws” in the face of mass shooting and high gun related killings? Similarly, we should all recognise that if there IS any true Achilles Heel which will eventually see all hunting ended by virtue of poor public opinion, it must be the myriad of hopelessly indefensible activities of countless social media killers who put all manner of the most gruesome animal slaughter, maiming and abuse at their own hand in the public domain. Yet again however, you in the USA will stand fast to defend these actions as they are legal and the displaying of them is protected by your 1st Amendment rights.
With all due respect, one must question the “thoroughness” of deliberation that was given. In fact, the simple blanket statement that CBL is not a practice in keeping with the values of ethical and fair chase hunting and is therefore not “supported” is bland and open to severe scrutiny. At the very least, you should then be able and prepared to stand against every other similar practice, or face that most cruel of all criticisms – Hypocrisy. Will you condemn publicly the hunting which supports the breeding practices of the Texas Exotic Breeders? Will you come out against the more than 35 million partridge and pheasant bred and released in the UK each hunting season? Will you make a clear statement regarding the inclusion of any “managed for size” trophy whether within the US or
elsewhere? If we are to become pedantic about fair chase, will shots from high seats at beaten running game be condoned or condemned? In fact, tree stands, feeding plots, using anything which reduces the absolute certainty of quick clean kills such as bows, handguns, black powder etc all become legitimate for scrutiny as the “ethics dominos” start to fall. Soon shooting animals for the bragging rights of their size, can and will be questioned, so the whole concept of record books will also become a domino. Where does this end?
In conclusion, we ask that you consider our situation in South Africa for a moment. Almost all hunting stems from private land and private owners. Vast areas have evolved to supply both trophy as well as meat hunting for local and foreign clients. The model is capitalism at its finest in a society mostly run on socialist values, and is the only way that wildlife is to be encouraged and expanded in our country. There is also a huge pressure to ensure that black members of our population get a bigger, equitable share of what this natural bounty offers. The dynamic that holds this all together is “private ownership rights as enshrined in our constitution” but this is at present a political hot potato, and extends beyond the wildlife to the very land itself. It is THIS legal dynamic that has pinned the legality issue on CBL as the government attempt to stop it failed at the Appeal Court level back in 2010. Whatever one’s thoughts on the hunting of an animal bred specifically for that purpose, the fact that here in SA a court has ruled it an activity that may not be stopped is surely a line drawn in the defence of all hunting generally, which should be acknowledged by all prosustainable use advocates the world over as a good thing. The “sensitivities” of a small, but powerfully loud, segment of the hunting community has allowed this practice to become far more
prominent than it ever should have been. Every supposed “ugliness” in hunting which ARA have seized upon usually stays relevant for just a short period of time. Many will argue that CBL is just too ugly to go away, but the fact is that it is the only practice which has attracted, as its arch detractors, some of the most prominent members of the hunting community itself. Some of them may well be influenced by the “icon” notion referred to earlier, but alas, when one really looks at who some of the more active agent provocateurs are, you find names who have vested interest in the very few wild lions that get offered in SA and elsewhere in the region. The single biggest expose’ on the subject being the documentary Blood Lions (which has already started to lose traction in the public
domain) has the names of prominent SA based outfitters rolling in the credits! So, is it really the ethics of the hunt, or is it the competitiveness of the product that is the root of all the noise?
Frankly, we believe that we have all been “played” by this ruse. ex Africa semper aliquid novi. It’s time for all hunting and sustainable use advocates to go back to basics. We have tried the emotionalism, more normally a ploy of the AR, with this subject and we are falling apart at the very seams. Sanity must prevail. The anti-hunting AR have hundreds of millions of US$ per annum to throw at us. We surely do not need to be doing their work for them too…
Chief Executive Officer
To the President, Board and Members of Dallas Safari Club
The Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) is aware of the most recent decision taken by the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) Board. PHASA understands and respect DSC’s decision and although no specific associations were mentioned feels the need to address this position statement. As an Association that is trying to find amicable solutions for over 6000 Captive-Bred Lions (CBL) in South Africa. PHASA is committed to working with DSC and all other stakeholders within the industry for the long term sustainable benefit of wildlife conservation and hunting.
South African ranches fall under a unique paradox in that we are recognised for the role we have played by increasing wildlife numbers in the country. However, currently the international Conservation Regulators including CoP17, CITES, IUCN and RED DATA LIST all do not recognise or count any animals on private wildlife ranches as “wild animals”. These organisations do not recognise semi-extensive or extensive wildlife ranches as “the wild”. Thus, by default all wildlife in private ownership or on game ranchers in South Africa are viewed as making no contribution to conservation.
It is imperative that Associations be mindful of this before taking decisions to oppose an individual facet within the industry as a result of not contributing to conservation especially when the specific practice isn’t a threat to conservation either.
Similarly, to DSC, PHASA does not condone all forms of CBL Hunting and at our 40th Annual General Meeting (AGM) voted in favour of the following resolution:
“PHASA accepts the responsible hunting of ranched lions on SAPA accredited hunting ranches within the relevant legal framework and/or according to recommendations of the applicable hunting association, such as SCI’s fair chase standards.”
This resolution is by no means a blanket endorsement of all CBL Hunting and PHASA currently only recognises 8 accredited South African Predator Association (SAPA) hunting ranches, of which the majority were vetted and approved by our former president Mr Stan Burger. These ranches have to adhere to much higher industry standard and PHASA is committed to upholding fair chase and ethical conduct of members partaking in such hunts.
The 2017 Resolution also allows Associations such as DSC to make recommendations that are applicable to their membership. As previously corresponded to DSC, PHASA commits itself to implementing these requirements on behalf of the associations provided the hunt is conducted with a PHASA member on a SAPA accredited hunting ranch. PHASA would therefore wish to ask for clarity regarding DSC position on CBL hunting. Does the DSC Position statement preclude a member of DSC partaking in a Ranched lion hunt? What are the specific recommendation or conditions required by DSC that either allow or prevent DSC members who may wish to partake in a Ranched Lion hunt?
PHASA is an Association that is rooted in personal professional customer service and respects the views of fellow Associations. As conveyed and discussed PHASA will support DSC in any decision taken to represent or further the best interests of your Association and membership.
Dries van Coller
Read the DCS Position Statement here.
|1.||CHASA Response||Download the letter in pdf format|
|2.||PHASA Response||Download the letter in pdf format|