Editor’s Note: In the last issue of African Indaba we published several articles on the debate on hunting and game breeding in South Africa. We have now received a letter from Stewart Dorrington, a highly experienced South African professional hunter and outfitter and past president of the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA). With permission of Stewart, we share this letter with our readers:
For hunting to have a future in the world, it is imperative that hunting is supported by a sound conservation ethic. If hunting does not contribute to conservation, the public will eventually close all hunting down. The animal rights groups are attempting this with growing success. They have just succeeded in persuading Australia to ban the import of any lion trophies and products from SA as they public want canned lion hunting shut down!! They are now moving their campaign to Europe and then the USA.
If we can demonstrate publicly that hunting contributes greatly to conservation, then it is unlikely that the animal rights groups will be able to persuade the public to support the closure of hunting. At this moment in time, all hunting associations in South Africa and around the world should be making a concerted attempt and investment in getting that message to the public.
Taking it further, without a hunting community, there will not be a game ranching community. Hunters are the consumptive end user of the game that is produced by game farmers. Venison, skin and horns are other lesser earners. Hunters pay for conservation on private land.
Hunting also benefits provincial and national parks. Even if these parks do not hunt, they sell excess game which is bought by game ranchers and the final consumptive end user is the hunter. So hunters indirectly benefit all national and provincial parks that sell live game!!
Thus it is vital to the game ranching industry that they look after the hunter first and foremost. If there are no hunters, only the game farms where tourism is sustainable will survive, and there are maybe only a couple of them that are profitable and sustainable on tourism alone! The hunters are the cornerstone of private conservation in South Africa; they are the foundation of the wildlife industry. It would be good for the wildlife industry to listen to the voice of hunters as there is growing anxiety amongst hunters as to the direction the game farming industry is moving.
Currently, there is a growing perception amongst hunters in SA and around the world, that hunting in SA is becoming tame. Many animals offered to hunters are viewed as “farmed” animals. The majority of hunters do not want such hunting. As a hunting outfitter who markets abroad, it is becoming harder and harder to sell SA hunting. The canned lion industry has done enormous damage to the image of hunting in SA, but our image is being further damaged by the proliferation of intensive game farming and color variants and the perception that this creates. I am neither a scientist nor a geneticist, but I am both a game farmer and a hunting outfitter and I notice the perception of hunters both in SA and abroad.
My greatest concern comes in with the various color variants and the continued attempts by ranchers to line breed any color aberrations. There is a very limited demand for these animals for hunting. In fact, most hunters I speak to despise them! However, if hunters voice their opinion and speak out about their dislike of such color variants, the game ranching industry lashes out at them and attempts to ridicule them … even though they represent the consumers of the game ranchers’ product!
Not only are the majority of these color variants not wanted by hunters, they contribute further to the negative perception that all hunting in SA is canned or farmed, and thus continue to erode the international marketability and credibility of safari hunting in SA. Many hunters, outfitters and conservationists who share my concerns don`t speak out for fear of causing conflict. The game farming industry should do a survey of the hunting outfitters (over 100 of them) who marketed in the USA this year and garner some honest feedback about the demand for the products they are now producing as fast as they can. If the hunter is not the end user, who is? When new entrants stop entering the color variant market the industry will collapse. It’s not sustainable.
Once again, if hunting doesn`t support a good conservation ethic it has no future. Without hunters there will be no healthy game farming industry. In my opinion the game ranching industry is building its massive house on sand and one day it will collapse, ruining many ignorant investors who have put their pensions and life savings into worthless freaks of nature.