A Plea to the Professional Hunter and Field Scientist Alike
by Natasha Illum Berg
I am a hunter, one of a long line of hunters and conservationists. I have been in Tanzania for twenty years now, and I have hunted it for as many years as I have been here. Hunting is my first, is my last love.
But I see things which make me want to speak.
I see a world mostly against hunting. I see us becoming increasingly unsuccessful in making ourselves accepted and heard in a majorly urbanized world. I am not talking about the islands of natural hunters around the world, or countries that still largely accept hunting (that we each year migrate to, to look for clients.) I am talking about the place where history is taking us.
The other day I saw a review in the New York Times (the most read newspaper in the world). It was about some films on Nat Geo Wild. The reviewer warned that children must not watch this film about lions hunting, as a lot of blood was shown. Fear for where we are going, and sadness filled me. Surely nobody wants a world that will end with vegetarian lions? When did the sight of a lion killing become anything but majestic? A lion killing is harsh maybe, but surely something of the most beautiful and true, in its natural force and grace that nature can produce.
But the general public should not be ignored, for it is an indication of the direction we are moving in.
Then I spoke to a renowned lion researcher here in Tanzania a few days later, who casually told me that he was not welcome to speak at the TAHOA meetings, and had not been allowed since 2006. ďWhy?Ē I as a professional hunter want the information, and I should hope all hunters do. How can new hunters otherwise be at peace, when all they want to do is to be hunters and not destructors? I donít know the man and maybe I would agree with nothing he has to say whatsoever, when I hear the whole story behind, why he has been so excommunicated, I am not raising the flag for certain individuals here. I am asking this, however: Can we afford such an incredibly undiplomatic and arrogant attitude like that anymore? I for one do not think so, and I am happy to say that openly.
So often have I spoken against the anti-hunting opinions of the uninformed masses, who hate hunters, though they happily wear a pair of Gucci shoes, made from leather of animals that have never seen day-light. For 15 years I have written articles, spoken and written books on the subject, and I will continue to do so. But some things they say are right and then I feel ashamed and like a liar when I speak to them and I know I am not the only hunter to feel this way. Many hunters and hunting companies are NOT doing enough to live by the ethical standards that we promised the world that we have. Letís be honest. It may not be one personís fault that another is unethical, but lines have to be drawn, or it becomes a fault of all of us. Passiveness is the devil, and if we donít watch out we will all end up being blamed for what some individuals do. Passiveness is dangerously close to not caring. Aggressively keeping information out is simply stupid.
Do you see the anti-hunter fist banging on the door? Do you see how many more they are every day and how much money they have? Itís not even only about anti-hunters any more. Ask people on the street anywhere in the world where there is money, and hunting is a ďno, noĒ. To ignore it is a little bit like when children hold their hands up in front of their face and say : ďyou canít see me.Ē
We have no future unless we get off the high horse and let in other conservationists for open discussions. I could write about a sense of conscience, how we should all care, just out of our respect for nature, and I would prefer to do so, but I fear that the promise of a future job is of more importance to many hunters. So be it, I can talk as animatedly to them. In conservation we naturally need to work with what we are, what drives us, what we need to make a living, the rest is vanity. But driven by either of those two motives, it is obvious to me that we have no future if we donít do something radical.
Inside meetings, shoulder patting, gathering tighter together and giving each other lip service and promising each other that we are ethical hunters, is very pleasant, but not enough. We have to open up MORE and stop being aggressive to the outside world, and we do have to clean up where cleaning is needed. We need to write, try to gather information from the field, speak up and DO SOME REASONABLE SACRIFICES, NOW. We have to be stricter on ourselves, admit fault sometimes, or at least admit that times are changing and that we are willing to work with that, we have to rectify according to the situation, and stop those who are not ethical, if we donít want to be bunched with them.
I know I am not the only one to thinks like this, and I know that MANY people are doing what they can. I AM IN NO RIGHT TO GIVE ANYBODY A LECTURE AND THIS IS NOT WHAT I AM AIMING AT, SO PLEASE LOOK AWAY FROM THE PRIDE THAT SO QUICKLY PRICKS. I AM NOT TALKING TO INDIVIDUALS, I AM AIMING AT US ALL, MYSELF INCLUDED.
This is simply my plea to hunters who are ready to do something radical. The suggestion I have in mind is to let in as many field scientist as possible in our midst and talk with them. Listen to them and be reasonable.
Some hunters are doing something from inside, efforts are being made, but what does it help to sow a massive field of seed, when the masses are hungry now? We should have started a long time ago, but now we need help from our neighbors, some of them being the field conservationists. We canít afford to ignore them. We may not like it, but the ignorance of the urbanized worldís Waldisneyfication, their sentimental and often superficial Hollywood money throwing, will show us that we must, if we want to go on.
The world listens to them; it does not listen to us.
Surely you see that we have no power in the long run to continue being hunters, when you see where urban history is taking us. And all power is in the urbanized world, not here. If we isolate ourselves and pretend not to see what is going on, I, for one, will eat my old hunting hat if hunting is still allowed in this country (and so many others) in 30 years.
Hunting is no longer very fashionable in the big picture, and the fact is that it is getting less and less fashionable every day. Partly because hunters very rarely are speakers and sadly many retreat to aggression or close up when questioned. Also because we are afraid that if we open up too much, the life we love will be taken from us. So in this fear we just try to stay out of the limelight, get on with it in the quiet. I even know that many of my colleagues in this field do not present themselves as hunters when they travel around the world but ďconservationists or guides.Ē The pressure is felt.
I believe that some things will be taken from us if we open up and show our face now, I think is pretty sure that we have to compromise. But I believe everything will eventually go if we donít. I am convinced of this.
Letís bring scientists in to our midst and take the bull by its horns. Letís start there. We are usually good at that. Please invite some scientists who know what they are talking about. Please invite them to APHA, TPHA, TAHOA, and other hunting organizations around the world, instead of sticking your heads in the sand every time you donít like what they are saying.
If the game disappears so do we. It doesnít take a genius to figure that one out. And this new generation of hunters will die in a world that despises them.
I am not saying that we should agree with everything they say by a long shot, but we must listen as much as we speak. Certainly I would like to hear more fact and figures (I should hope we all do and, even demand for more fact and figures. We should be on top of things!!) And maybe then the more popular conservationists and nature lovers will listen to us as well, and sing a tiny song for us on the other side of the globe. Itís about being smart and not cutting the nose to spite the face.
A finger pointing party is not what I am looking for. Every single human being on this planet acts for selfish reasons. Self-glorification on any side will help no one.
I will not deny that I hunt because I love it, but I will say that I care deeply for the future of any species of animal I have ever hunted and will continue to do so. This should be the only thing that matters. This sentiment from a hunter is of course less obvious to the majority in the modern world, than what they see in the love that field scientists have for nature. But even the scientist who spends his/her days studying animals in the Serengeti does it not only for conservation. To say that would be a lie. If we are all honest it is also a love for a particular kind of a life. A way of life that makes one feel alive and part of something as old as the hills, and close to something as natural as we can possibly be. As creatures amongst other creatures on this planet. If we can all be that honest we already have a bridge between us, a starting point.
So the field scientist, the Hollywood animal savior, the zoologist, biologist is becoming more loved every day and the hunter is becoming more chastised every day, and this is the way in which the world is going. Letís accept it, work with it and think clearly.
Any field scientist who hates hunters indiscriminately simply because they kill animals, is falling into the most dangerous, self-glorifying and unproductive waltdisnification of animals. Any hunter who hate field scientists indiscriminately because they fear their knowledge and fear the growing monetary weight behind a world that is ultimately becoming one that refuses to see death as a natural part of life, is refraining from dealing with the cards at hand. I am hoping for a giving dialogue beyond judgment and with respect. The crux is how we can all continue doing what we love in the best way and how to ensure that this will be done in a sustainable way. Truly sustainable!.
I speak only for myself and do not represent the hunting company I work for, with these words. This is my personal suggestion of how to stretch out a hand to the modern world, in the hope that hunting will have a healthy future ahead of it, however dire it may look right now. I was brought up to believe that hunting is a way to be a conservationist and for three generations my family has done what they could in that respect, I am calling for those of you who feel the same.
If it is indeed true that conservationist is what we are, then what do we fear from numbers from the field? And if we donít one day want to be written down in history as abominable destructors, however unfair that may seem to us now, we have to listen to them and bring them in. We have no choice, and we should in fact want it.
What are the consequences of a world that no longer has people as part of the food chain? This is a question I would like to ask in a dialogue like that. A world without people who stay honest and stay real to a nature where animals get eaten and hunters get killed by buffalos and elephants and lions and hippos? Surely both hunters and field scientists alike can see that we are living in a world that is becoming more and more aborted from true nature, and more and more connected with an artificial idea of nature. One where tons of money is thrown at animals because they are pretty, yet has nothing to do with anything real. Nobody wants that, and we have to say our piece too. We need an open dialogue and if we stay isolated we will not be heard. We have to open this can of worms publicly.
We need the other conservationists and their unbelievable dedication and raising of money to preserve animals and bring information to people who no longer know how to pluck a chicken, or children who think that fish are square, because they have never seen them as anything else than factory packed fish fingers.
For this is where the world is heading and my plea is for both field scientists and hunters to think about the responsibility they have herein. Preferably together.