Ethical Hunting, is there such a thing?
Adding fuel to the anti hunting lobbyists is the lack of distinction made in the non-hunting fraternity between hunters and poachers. I myself am not a hunter, and was ignorant in many ways about hunters, their values, and their passion for wildlife and the outdoors.
Most of my ignorance was due to the fact that I, like so many others was unknowingly tarring hunters with the poachers brush.
A poacher by definition is someone who, trespasses on private property in order to hunt or catch game illegally. A poacher has no vested interest, no passion for the outdoors, no vision of sustainable or correct utilisation of natural resources, and no will to protect the environment for the next generation. They are the individuals who have no knowledge of, or respect for the law. No idea about conservation of a species, and the need to build up numbers of animals to allow for the sustainable usage of the animals for hunting and eco tourism purposes.
These poachers who call themselves, or are mistakenly called, hunters, are the same persons that will pay undisclosed amounts of cash to “hunt” animals protected by law, just for the ability to say, I have hunted that, or that was the last of its kind, OR to boast that they killed (not hunted) 20 Kudu last weekend. This is the kind of sickening monologue we hear from immoral, selfish individuals whose egos are bigger than the world can handle, and in whom the need to dominate and brag is paramount.
Alternatively, as is the sickening reality in South Africa, poachers are the people who run down terrified animals with packs of dogs, for gambling purposes. Most often without land owners permission, permits or licences, just for money. The man who owns the dog, which brings down the animal first, wins the pot!!! Coincidentally, this is why the Oribi population in South Africa is at a critical level, Oribi will run up against a fence and not go over it, or through it, they are just trapped and are therefore easy targets for packs of dogs.
When a genuine hunter goes hunting, it is with the full knowledge of, and complete abidance with the law, a healthy respect for the animal, an understanding of its habits, and with the sole intention of killing the animal in a clean and quick way.
I listen to people who badger hunters, and take them to task, saying it is not a fair contest if the hunter has a rifle with a telescopic sight. I often wonder if they really have thought that comment through? Would you really want to chase an animal for miles whilst it is terrorised, just so it can be hunted with a spear or knife, where you would have to stab it repeatedly and slash its throat to kill it, whilst the animal is paralysed by fear and pain, and completely bewildered? My answer to that is a definitive NO. I am happy for hunters to stalk an animal, get close to it and shoot it, using a rifle with a telescopic sight, if it means one shot and the animal is dead.
In South Africa, the rules and laws governing ethical hunting are very tight. In order for an animal to be hunted a process has to be completed, before that trigger or string is pulled. A landowner, who has wild animals on his land, and wishes to hunt them, has to apply to the local conservation authority for a permit to hunt that animal. A game count is then done to ensure that the population of the animal is large enough to sustain the hunting. Only once the conservation authority is satisfied is the permit issued. The permit states what species may be hunted, what sex, and how many may be taken in that year.
The ordinary South African hunter then has to purchase a licence for that animal. He/she then may then hunt the animal, only under the direct authority of the owner. Whilst transporting the animal once the hunt is concluded, the licence must, at all times, be in the hunter’s possession. A hunter not in possession of a licence while carrying a dead animal is liable for theft of wildlife, and subject to heavy fines.
In the case of international hunters the law is even tougher. The landowner still needs the permits. The overseas hunter is brought to hunt on the land by a licenced professional hunter AND registered outfitter who has written, indisputable, hunting rights on that landowner’s land, which he/she has timeously submitted to the conservation authority. The professional hunter and outfitter has to purchase a licence for his client to hunt that animal. When the animal has been hunted and trophy preparation done, the Professional hunter has to submit papers from his ledger to the conservation authorities. On this ledger is the client information, the animals taken, the names of the farms where the animals were hunted, the landowners permit number and the clients licence number. ONLY when the cross references are done, all of the pieces of information match, and the conservation authorities are satisfied, are the trophies cleared for exportation.
The poacher on the other hand has no permission, from conservation authorities or landowners, kills indiscriminately, and often in a totally inhumane way.
Lets face it, if we are honest we will all know that hunting is an ancient sport and is not going to go away just because some of us say it should. It is an emotional issue and by its very nature will remain that way. We will all have our opinions about it, and it is with this in mind that I close with the following comments:
Poachers by their nature, their need for bloodlust, and lack of forward thinking, will hunt our wild animals into extinction.
On the other extreme are the preservationists, who although definitely not lacking in passion, and perhaps a little misguided in their approach, are seemingly unaware that they can preserve an animal into extinction.
Thus in my simple and humble mind I can only conclude that the persons with radical natures, the poachers and preservationists, will, if left to their own devices leave no real legacy for the next generation.
However, the ETHICAL hunter, who maintains the balance between the extremes, will in fact be instrumental in continuing the existence of wildlife and our natural resources for generations to come.
We may rail against it, and swear it should not be so, but all of us are aware of the fact that everything in our world, either rightly or wrongly boils down to finances. Where there is money there is continuation, where there is none, only the end. “If it pays, it stays”. This rule applies indisputably, even in the case of a majestic and unique animal.
My opening question has I hope now been answered, there is in fact such a thing as ethical hunting.