Hidden Anti Activities By Dr. Dave Samuel
Jun 24, 2010 - 6:35:45 PM
For years I've heard people say it won't be the antis that stop hunting, it will be loss of hunting land access. Maybe. Although hunters have the support of a huge majority of the public, there are lots of political things going on that eat away at our hunting rights.
More importantly, there are lots of political things going on that eat away at the economic incentive hunting provides, and the dollars it provides for rural citizens as well as millions of people living in 'third-world countries'.
Every year I give a small donation (wish it could be more) to an organization called Conservation Force. You should donate too, because this group works hard to protect wildlife, especially in foreign countries. From that organization and from Safari Club International, I learn about anti-hunting activities, things that have great impact on the future of hunting and wildlife, yet most hunters know nothing about them. Bit-by-bit, these activities are hurting the future of many foreign species. Let me give you an example of what is happening.
Created by the Endangered Species Act, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (commonly known as CITES) is an agreement between member countries to govern trade in animals, to be done in such a way so as to protect them. When they meet, not only can member countries attend, but NGO's (non governmental organizations, such as Safari Club International and the Humane Society of the United States) can also attend. In March CITES met in Doha, Qatar (located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia). As always, at this CITES meeting there were many critical issues to be voted on.
For example, at this years Convention they were trying to define 'hunting trophies'. The definition was ambiguous as to whether it covered processed and manufactured items. A report in the May 2010 issue of Safari magazine notes that one example of where this definition is important is the elephant. Now understand that in some places the elephant is listed as an endangered species, but in southern Africa, elephants are far from endangered. In fact, they are abundant and do a lot of damage to rural farms and gardens. Plus, hunting these abundant elephants provides a huge income to the governments to manage elephants, and to local villagers who benefit in many ways. When a hunter takes an elephant, a head mount would obviously be a 'hunting trophy'. But what about mounting the tusks in brass holders, or making a briefcase from the skin?
Our government officials in the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have made a number of extremely questionable CITES decisions over the past ten to fifteen years. These decisions take away hunting of species that are not endangered, and species that in some instances create the only jobs in a region where that species is found. In many cases, these officials have no experience or understanding of the economic value of these animal species. Nor do they seem to understand that if you stop hunting these species, local citizens have no reason to protect them from poaching. Thus, the species will suffer, and numbers may plummet. It's a fact.
Back to the elephant. Our U. S. officials defined 'hunting trophies' so as not to include manufactured items. SCI disagreed, as did the governments of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa where many of these manufactured items are made, creating jobs. A committee was created with Israel as chair (and Israel is known for it's anti-hunting positions on a number of issues at these CITES conventions). However, in this case, the committee and many countries supported SCI and others and the definition they adopted that is now in force will mean that U. S. officials must reconsider the restrictive definition they supported and are using.
At this convention the United States officials attempted to list the polar bear as an endangered species. Our activities, under the Obama administration, have already created hardships on natives who live and hold jobs totally related to hunting bears, and in many of those areas, the polar bears are doing extremely well. Of course, you will remember that the Obama administrations justification was the idea that global warming would eventually make polar bears extinct, as if the stoppage of hunting would change global warming.
Think about that logic for a moment. Even if you believe that global warming is caused by human activities, how will the stoppage of hunting polar bears change temperature? Hunting of any species should be based on sustained harvest. If hunting hurts polar bear numbers, we should reduce or stop it in that region. If it doesn't and it creates jobs, and creates the economic incentive to keep more bears out there, then we should support hunting. Global warming is a separate issue.
But our officials at CITES ignored that and attempted to list polar bears as endangered. Fortunately, pro-use NGO's such as SCI and many others, spent a lot of money, lobbied hard, and defeated the U. S. proposal.
Those are just two examples of many that take place at each CITES convention. And most of those the average hunter has never heard of. But, as each one passes, and some with the support of our officials in Washington, it is a chink in the armor of sustainable hunting. It all seems pretty basic, but it is what happens when politics gets mixed up with biology and management of wildlife in the international arena.