Banner: Melissa Bachman poses with the lion she ‘hunted’. Photo: Melissa Bachman via Facebook.
In a recent article (“Urgent – The Future of Hunting in South Africa,” Phillip Mostert (Hunting Legends Africa), Wildboere.com,14 March, 2016), finally somebody within the hunting industry has been brave enough to stand up and say that the industry itself and complicit authorities, are to blame for the controversy hunting has caused (and will continue to do so in its current form).
The ‘controversy’ caused to those that are ‘too sensitive’ to the self-glorification and lust for killing the industry and its clients crave – an industry driven by ignorance, greed and a minority’s addiction to killing for fun and trophies/prizes to boost the given hunter’s ego.
Phillip stops short in the article of recognising that the hunting industry he is a key part of, is mainly about killing for fun and income (and bullying anyone that seeks to confront the inhumanity, immorality and lack of ethics apparent – ie. the “greenies”). The hunting industry has very little to do with any true concern for wildlife conservation and welfare for threatened and endangered species, but is all about protecting areas/habitat so the killing can continue in the vast majority of cases – finding excuses to kill for fun even when the science clearly shows it’s unsustainable in many cases for iconic and threatened species.
Walter Palmer (left) poses with the corpse of Cecil, an iconic lion after hunting him with his bow, wounding the leader of the pride, and shooting him 40 hours later. Photo: Courtesy of The Age
The hunting industry in South Africa (and elsewhere) has become a monstrous self-regulated money making business (that benefits an elite few, not the many) – or to put it more accurately, hunting is an unregulated business in the absence of authority (Department of Environment, Republic of South Africa) willingness to even take the most basic action to oversee the industry and its many facets with the resources the Department of Environment has. Plus, a South African Government that actively seeks to exploit wildlife (and ‘canned’ wildlife) for profit, much to the wildlife’s detriment.
However, Phillip is advocating that the hunting industry takes an approach to cloak its activities behind a concerted ‘Public Relations’ veneer of renewed respectability, eg. a call to stop the gratuitous, inane grinning poses of ‘proud’ clients with the blood stained animal corpse of their slain prey, the bragging of such wonderful feats on-line etc., rather than a call to restore independent regulation, sustainability as a root of all hunting ‘ethics’ (assuming anyone within the industry can recall what those ethics should be) and truly visible conservation being derived from all hunting activities to justify the continuation of the killing in any form.
What Phillip is calling for is a more ‘stealthy’ industry approach to mask a continuing deceit behind better ‘marketing’ and ‘business practices.’ But at least Phillip acknowledges that the hunting industry he still defends (and seeks to profit from) is infested with a corrupting, all pervasive delusion, based on trying to justify the killing, the bragging, the bullying under some deluded notion of self –righteous indignation, the hunters’ first ‘emotion’ that all hunting must be good/defended regardless of contrary evidence, because that helps the hunter to cope with perpetuating the self-delusion.
However, just trying to dress the same hunting activities up behind a new ‘professional’ Public Relations façade will not change the fundamental flaws inherent within an industry inhabited by animal abusers, apparently devoid of compassion and an industry that no-longer has any realistic grasp on the difference between killing animals for fun/profit and any intrinsic greater value beyond self-needs (and the overriding requirement to hide the deceit no matter how deluded it is).
Better marketing, business and social-media skills will never mask the festering odour of deceit the hunting industry seeks to somehow sell to everyone as the ‘sweet smell of roses.’
I wanted to add a poignant comment made by Michael Gilbert in response to Phillip Mostert’s original article “Urgent – The Future of Hunting in South Africa” on Wildboere.com:
“Removing the steak and leaving the sizzle is going to do nothing to help you. What you fail to understand is that social media is not the issue here. The court of public opinion is overwhelmingly against trophy hunting not because of a post of Facebook or a Tweet, but because the majority of people just don’t agree with the idea of a living creature being killed purely for [so-called] ‘sport.’ What social media has done is enable these people to link with one another and present a massive, united front of outrage against the very idea of sport hunting, and determined to take a stand against it. Whilst the advent of social media has done your industry no favours, the writing has been on the wall for trophy hunting for some time now. Why? Because it is a “sport” mired in entitlement and privilege on this [African] continent, it is the last outpost of colonialism where rich white folk get to come and shoot something for the hell of it while being waited on, hand and foot, by poor black folk. The average South African “Boer” will disagree, but look at your clientele, people, and they will tell the story of your industry… Predominantly right-wing (for this read Republican) Americans, (i.e.: those who are supporting Donald Trump in his attempt to gain a presidential nomination), Asians from countries where respect for human rights has not even featured, let alone ethical treatment of animals, and post Cold-War Europeans whose feet are still entrenched in pre Cold-War political doctrine (largely right-wing, verging on fascism). What you are selling is smoke and mirrors. It’s a big, fat lie. For every job you create, mainstream tourism creates 10. For every tourism rand you attract, mainstream tourism attracts R1000. You are an exceptionally small cog in a very large and well-oiled machine, a machine which churns out positive experiences based on actual sustainable business models where communities really are uplifted and empowered, where the benefits of tourism are spread widely, not just to a privileged few. Less than 0,5% of revenue (for which read profit) from sport/trophy hunting trickles down to those who actually deserve to benefit from it (communities on the fringes of game farms, for example). As an industry you think you treat your “darkies” well, but how many of you pay minimum wage? How many of you permanently employ people as opposed to using them as casuals? Of the people you employ, how many undergo formal training or skills development? How many are made aware of their rights under the existing labour legislation? How is your industry transforming itself? How many black or previously disadvantaged PHs [Professional Hunters] are there? How may black or previously disadvantaged outfitters are there? When it comes to sustainability of your industry, what benchmarks have been put in place to ensure that farms operate to predetermined standards? Who polices your industry? Who ensures that standards are being met and maintained? Who checks that your animals are being ethically treated? Who ensures your animals are not being “canned”, who checks your procurement chains, looks at your environmental management plan, makes sure the animals on your farms are actually wild and not habituated? Who oversees and determines which animals are going to be hunted? What are their qualifications? Can you assure everyone involved in your operation, from employee to guest, that every aspect of your business is built on the pillars required for a truly sustainable, ethical and responsible operation (respect for animals and the environment, respect for culture, fair wages, fair labour policies, fair procurement, equitable distribution of benefits… etc. etc. etc.).”
“And even if you can prove that you all do all of the above, you still have that major stumbling block to overcome… The fact that in order for you to be in business something has to die. The fact that your industry uses the well loved chestnut that you are contributing to conservation is a moot point here, because as most of you (at least those who have the ability to be honest to themselves) are aware, this is simply not true in all but a small percentage of instances. What conservation programmes are you, as a business, committed to? Explain them in detail, if you can. Are they programmes being carried out by recognised organisations or authorities? Are they being managed by recognised experts in their field? What percentage of your profits [are] being put into these programmes? What is/are the goal(s) of these programmes? How long have you been involved with them? What scientific surveys and studies are being contributed to in this process? How is the conservation programme you are involved with furthering the understanding and knowledge of its particular field of focus?”
“As an industry you have not just been pulling the wool over your client’s eyes and trying to obfuscate the vision of those you regard as “greenies” or activists, you have been blinding [deluding] yourselves with your own BS. This has helped to make trophy hunting one of the most reviled pursuits in the world, and yes, your industry will fail as a result.”
“In summary, nothing you do on social media is going to stop this. Trophy hunting is simply not socially acceptable any more. Those who indulge in it will be reviled and those who make money from it will, eventually, go out of business. Not because the internet did them in, but because there is no way to sustain something which such a large percentage of the population is against.”
“As you so rightly say, nothing can change their minds. They don’t need lectures, or ‘experts’ telling them that hunting is good, because they know, intrinsically, that it isn’t. They don’t need spokespeople moaning at them that they misunderstand… What’s to understand in killing for sport and profit? The fundamental reason your industry will die is because it has outgrown its relevance. In a world which is becoming more awake to the horrors our human species is inflicting on one another and this planet each and every day, the killing of sentient beings (animals) to fulfil some distorted sense of bloodlust and supremacy is never going to be popular, even less when someone is making mountains of money out of it.”
“But just as nothing can change the minds of those who are against trophy hunting, nothing can change the minds of your industry which is determined to prove everyone wrong and persist in spite of the overwhelming tide of opinion swelling against you. So yes, you are your own worst enemies. Perhaps there are some of you who may actually start considering the ethics of what you do rather than your legal right to do it. And perhaps some of you may throw in the towel for purely economic reasons. Whatever the case, your industry is doomed. It has to die. It may not be next year, or the next, but it surely will die. Only you as an industry can choose whether your death is going to be dignified or, like that of so many of the animals you dispatch, messy.”