Former PHASA President Ronnie Rowland on PHASA Lion Policy
May 2014, Volume 12-3

Editor’s Note (G. Damm): Ronnie Rowland is a past president of the Professional Hunters’ Association (PHASA), recipient of the PHASA Wildlife Utilization Award in 2000 and recipient of the Coenraad Vermaak Trophy in 2005. Today Ronnie Rowland lives and hunts professionally in Namibia. Following the PHASA decision to adopt the SA predator breeders’ association stand on “hunting” of captive bred lions, Rowland wrote to the Executive Committee of PHASA in March 2014. African Indaba obtained permission to let you have Rowland’s thoughts in an authorized, edited version:

Aldo Leopold concluded in his contemplation on ethics, that ethical behavior defines itself by doing the right thing in the absence of witnesses – even if it`s legal to do the wrong thing!  Ortega y Gasset, in turn, observed in his masterful essay “Meditation on Hunting”, that the essence of hunting in our modern day and age has changed its character from hunting and gathering for survival to sport hunting with the principle of fair chase at its core. This change was prompted by hunters in order to negate the emerging imbalance between hunters and hunted through the development of modern day weapons and technological aids. By doing this, hunters strive to preserve the true essence of hunting and not to transgress certain boundaries which would reduce it to merely become an act of wanton killing or execution.

To preserve the true essence of hunting in today’s world one also has to consider that animals should be naturally wild with natural inborn instincts, as opposed to those that have been linebred, domesticated and/or habituated.  Both Leopold and Ortega impressed upon us to adhere to certain self-imposed principles, norms and standards should we want to safeguard our natural heritage as true hunters. At the core of this is our conscience.

Many years ago I wrote in the PHASA Newsletter that morality and prudence are two sides of the same coin. The two concepts are often confused with one another. I suggested as difference that fair chase hunting based on morality is killing with a conscience, whereas the killing of animals based on prudence alone, entails an act of execution without a conscience. For clarity sake compare any true fair chase hunt of a wild animal with the shooting of a captive bred lion. Once we allow hunting to become amoral, i.e. without a conscience, we are transgressing the self-imposed boundary between hunters and hunted, ultimately destroying the essence of hunting. Once we allow rationality especially material gain to supersede our moral values, our world in general and hunting in particular, is doomed. Decisions based on prudence alone, will kill hunting!

As a PHASA Past President and Honorary Life Member I would like the leadership of PHASA as well as the members to take note that I do not only disagree, but also distance myself totally from the direction taken and also from the ending of the liaison with the CIC

Captive-bred lion shooting and the non-definitive positioning of PHASA regarding line breeding of mutants and recessive gene color variants of wild animals transgresses the boundaries of fair chase hunting, endangers the essence of hunting and at the same time allows the erosion of our moral foundations. In my opinion our greatest challenge is convincing the general public as well as governments that the wise and sustainable utilization of our natural wildlife through hunting is indispensable. The CIC is the only European based organization that has stood up for our cause with distinction. No other organization has a better and broader respected standing with IUCN and governments worldwide! So why did PHASA decide terminating membership in the CIC? Obviously, if the reason for the breakdown in relationships concerns the captive-bred lion issue and/or line-breeding, massive obstacles have to be overcome.

It is fair and well to comment that the lion issue was debated extensively at the last two PHASA AGMs and that a majority decision by PHASA members led to the present direction taken, i.e. to accept captive bred lion shooting as a reality. However, the lion issue had already been properly debated and thoroughly contemplated since the middle 90s resulting in a PHASA policy statement against captive bred lion shooting in the late 1990`s This position and the policy were reconfirmed again in 2006. The PHASA leadership in those days refused to accept “canned lion hunting” as a form of hunting, defining it to be the mere execution of captive bred lion, hence the phrase “captive bred lion shooting”, like in target shooting. In both cases the policy was accepted with an overwhelming majority by the members at the AGMs concerned. Question: What in actual fact has changed? None of the arguments, contemplations deliberations and facts of yesteryear, based on ethical reasoning with a moral foundation, have changed. The only thing to my mind that has changed is the leadership and the overwhelming commercialization of hunting which allows the “Dollar God” to reign supreme!

The PHASA Code of Conduct underwrites the concept of fair chase. Has anyone realized that the acceptance of captive bred lion shooting also requires a change in this Code of Conduct since fair chase hunting is in total contradiction with the acceptance of captive bred lion shooting. [I will] have no choice but to resign as an honorary life member should the principle of fair chase hunting be disregarded in favor of the lion debacle and there are many like-minded members who will also be put before this choice!

[Once] we allow hunting to become amoral we are transgressing the self-imposed boundary between man and wild animals which stops hunting to be hunting. Once we allow material gain to supersede moral values, our world in general and hunting in particular is doomed. Prudent decisions alone, e.g. captive bred lion execution and line breeding of mutants, will kill hunting!

Our only chance to safeguard hunting as a noble tradition and way of life is to convince the majority of the populace that our activities have a moral foundation. The breeding of lions in captivity as well as the line breeding of mutants and recessive genes for execution has and will never have a place in the sphere of true fair chase hunting. It has no moral base, no conscience and is purely based on materialistic considerations.

Author: Ronnie Rowland (edited by Gerhard R Damm)