A Strategy To Secure The Right To Hunt
A Strategy To Secure The Right To Hunt
by Ludolph Swanevelder, National Chair, Confederation of Hunting Associations of South Africa (CHASA)
Living in the information era, we are bombarded with information at a mind boggling pace. Strategists have the challenge to filter from this a picture that represents reality as it is of relevance to an evaluation of their area of concern. The question now is: What is reality as applicable to the future of hunting?
The threat to habitat is growing. An increase in population densities have as a result the converting of ‘natural’ habitat to ‘human only’ habitat, with a resultant threat to biodiversity. People in general realize this, and there is growing support for some form of conservation. Unfortunately the instinctive choice, especially to urbanites, is to go the way of ‘non-use’. And non-use proponents have it wrong. We can only conserve successfully by taking the scientific and non-emotional approach of sustainable utilization.
Animal rightists have the resources. They form part of the global conflict movement that build semi-private financial empires in the process of fighting popular issues. The top four international animal rights organizations have a combined yearly budget of $103m. And they have a shrewd strategy. They identify hunting practices that border on the unethical and then work on gaining visual material for a television expose on it e.g. the Cook report on canned lion hunting. This garners emotional public support which allows them to define the practice that it includes also the ethical version of that practice. Next comes the domino effect. They now build on their success in having defined canned lion hunting, to also include other species. They have already labeled bred-for-release bird hunting as ‘canned’. Next all rhino hunting will be claimed canned. Then they will build on these successes by claiming hunting on small ranches to be canned. First ranches smaller than 500ha, then 1000ha, then 5000ha.
Hunting associations are cultural organizations. We are, in fact, by far the largest cultural organizations in the country. Hunting might be the common denominator, but the distinguishing factor is really the theme of ‘ethical hunting’. Unfortunately, ethical hunting and fair chase cannot be cast in a set of rules. Different cultures view ethics differently. And as hunting practices change from desert to bushveld, so does ethical hunting mean different things in different areas of our land.
The next step in designing an effective strategy, is defining a vision of the ideal end state. For hunters the ideal environment will be one with a distinct positive attitude to pro-use, politically and socially, Scientists and conservationists in government organizations are certainly in favor of sustainable utilization. The politicians, however, are not easily convinced to act in the interest of sustainable use. The reason is one of sensitivity to public opinion. Animal rights proponents are so verbal that the perception with decision makers is that the general public might have an instinctive (even if in error) bias towards non-use. Ideally, public opinion should lean heavily in favor of sustainable use, if not outright in favor of hunting. This can only be achieved by an active campaign to project a positive image of hunting and hunters. Which brings have a two legged strategy in securing the right to hunt:
On grassroots level, as cultural organizations, hunting associations should offer members a form of union, enjoyment, excitement and value for money. Enthusiastic hunters should not be bored with political strategy and the antics of the animal rights activists. Rather ensure, through excitement in hunting, that we popularize hunting and bolster numbers. Numbers is what counts in a democracy and CHASA currently represents only 35’000 out of an accepted figure of 200’000 hunters.
Hunting is a form of escaping the modern world of grit and conflict. The global conflict movement is the last thing that a recreational hunter should be troubled with when he escapes to the hunting field. Enjoyment of organized hunting will also ensure that we perpetuate the hunting heritage. We should excite and train our youth to carry on the tradition of hunting.
Through this strategy of exciting and strong associations, can we also establish a common culture and a culture of ethical hunting. Even if we only define ‘ethical‘ as subscribing to ‘a standard’ or ‘a code’! This attitude and the resultant conduct are essential in promoting a positive image of hunting and the hunter. Ethical hunting is not only a mind set. It also requires some form of capacity on the side of the hunter, especially when the principle of fair chase is at stake. When training and practice become a social and enjoyable experience, we can create competent hunters, which in turn have the capacity to hunt ethically and fair.
The second leg of our approach is confined to the management level. Here we should focus on establishing a capacity to lobby. I am of the opinion that, individually, South Africa’s sustainable use associations do not possess the resources to achieve this. Combined, however, we certainly do! A combined industry, representing game farmers, hunters and professionals will also empower us to take a pro-active and united stance on conservation issues. Accepted standards and practices which leave no room for exploitation. We should be first in defining the meaning of practices like e.g. canned shooting.
The 15 person strong National Advisory Council for the Environment was announced on 24 February by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The role of this council is to involve stake holders in the environmental decision making process. It is an absolute tragedy that utilization associations have no representation in this Council. This sad state of affairs must be corrected at the first possible opportunity. Will a strategy of a united lobby ensure that? I firmly believe it will.
The Confederation of Hunting Associations of South Africa (CHASA) was established in 1980 to represent regional hunting organizations on a national basis. Today it has 19 member associations with 14,000 individual members. Mission: to promote sustainable ethical hunting through leadership and the coordination of activities of member associations. Objectives: Conservation through sustainable utilization; a culture of ethical hunting; standardization in products and outputs; representation of hunters at national level; excellence in education and training; building the image of the hunter.