Melanie Verwoerd, News24 | May 6, 2021
Sunday was a good day for South Africa and the wild animals of this country.
At a media conference, Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy released the final report of a high-level panel, which she had appointed in 2019.
The report, among others, recommends a policy on biodiversity, conservation and sustainable use, and specific measures to protect some of our iconic species such as lions, elephants, rhino and leopards.
Creecy also accepted the recommendation of the panel to put an end to specific captive breeding and hunting practices.
Unsurprisingly, there is already a backlash from those who will be financially affected by these decisions. They are now crying foul that the panel was loaded with “animal rights extremists”. This is laughable and couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of the animal rights people resigned from the panel last year.
The minister was widely lambasted because there were too many hunters and people from the captive breeding industry on the panel.
“How could they possibly come to conclusions that could, for example, close down captive breeding or canned hunting of wildlife and vote against the export of ivory, rhino horn, lion bones or live animals?
“Who on the panel would propose non-consumptive alternatives or could understand the long-term effects of inbreeding or zoonotic transfer of disease?” asked the well-known environmental journalist Don Pinnock in an article mid-2020.
The fact is the panel consisted of five traditional leaders, five academics, the chairperson, seven conservation NGOs, seven people representing the hunting and private wildlife industry and no animal rights activists. Yet, almost 64% of the members voted for the majority findings – clearly because they knew it was the right thing to do for the animals and the country.
Of course, the captive breeding and hunting industry does not agree.
It is now going on a media offensive to convince the public these recommendations are anti-conservation and would negatively impact wildlife in South Africa. What disingenuous nonsense.
Let’s be clear, the minister intends to shut down captive breeding and captive hunting operations. These businesses, which are owned by a handful of mostly white farmers, have zero conservation benefit.
Let’s take, for example, the captive lion industry. For years, lion farmers tried to spin the story they are conserving and protecting lions. That is what they tell people who pay to stroke lion cubs and walk with the bigger ones. They even convince young people from overseas to spend big bucks to come and work on these farms in the false belief that they are doing some good.
Little do the visitors to these farms know the lion cubs are not orphaned (as they are often told). The cubs are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth. There are even stories of wild lionesses being shot in Botswana for their cubs to be stolen and brought back to South Africa.
This is only the beginning of a miserable life for these lions.
As soon as their baby days are over, they are kept in overcrowded concrete enclosures for three to five years. The lions are usually starved since they are bred for their skeletons and not their meat or skins. Starving ensures more calcification of these bones and, thus, more money.
There have been endless exposes of the horrific conditions these lions find themselves in.
Towards the end of their short lives, these lions are killed either by their owners (or someone they pay) or hunters during canned hunting operations. During these unfair hunting expeditions, the lions often walk up to the hunters, expecting food.
Therefore, it is not surprising the traditional leaders and even some professional hunters on the panel objected to this practice, as any sensible person would.
The industry also now wants us to believe it would increase the incidences of poaching by stopping these practices.
This is an age-old argument that has been shown to be false for decades. Conservationists have proven you can never breed enough to satisfy the demand for these products – not for ivory, rhino horn or lion bones. In fact, you only increase the demand by supplying the markets with the products.
Peer-reviewed research has also proven practices such as canned lion hunting negatively impact South African’s reputation and tourism industry. Of course, the captive breeding industry would not like us to hear that. Instead, they claim we will now see an end to all wildlife hunting and thus lose a significant amount of revenue.
I certainly wish hunting was stopped as well, but it hasn’t been.
Creecy emphasised this is not an end to professional hunting at all.
Again, it is only the canned hunting – which is an embarrassment to professional hunters – that has now come to an end.
Of course, there is still a long way to go, but this is a good beginning. Undoubtedly, the industry will not take this lying down. My experience is that guys with guns are often big bullies, and I’m already hearing of threats and intimidation of some of the panel members.
Of course, they also can’t stand the fact an intelligent woman is taking a stand against their cruel practices, so – in typical bully style – they are calling Creecy uninformed, someone who has been railroaded and they are suggesting she couldn’t have possibly applied her mind. (How patronising and sexist can you get?)
The minister has opened the report for public comment.
It is time that the majority of people who care about animals and the image of our country have their voices heard and don’t allow a small minority of cruel, money hungry farmers to succeed in overturning one of the few good things that has happened in this country for a long time.