Opinionista Peter Flack 4 July 2018

Why can hunters and animal rightists seemingly never agree?

The question is a perplexing one. Why, if hunters and animal rightists are both passionate about wildlife and wildlife habitat, are they seemingly always at loggerheads? This question, of course, assumes that the parties are, in fact, both passionate about these things which, as I will show, is not the case. And whose fault is that? Which party is the unreasonable one? And can anything be done to change this?

The answers to these questions are important as they could dramatically affect a large number of people, places and issues over the long term, namely:

  1. The over 9,000 extensive game ranches covering some 21 million hectares of land under wildlife that has been developed over the last 60 years or so and which depend for their existence on hunting, directly and indirectly;

  2. The over 100,000 people employed on these ranches in predominantly rural areas;

  3. The over R12-billion the hunting industry generates each year;

  4. The some 6 million kilograms of healthy, low fat, low sodium protein, free of anti-biotics and growth hormones conservatively provided annually by the hunting industry – assume the 300,000 local hunters (as estimated by Free State University) shoot only one small buck (say a springbok) each year with a dressed weight of 18 kgs and the 6,543 overseas hunters shoot only one small, medium and large animal per hunt weighing, say, 90 kgs in total);

  5. The amount of land that will have to be set aside for domestic livestock farming to replace this amount of protein.

The above are but some of them.

Given my training as a lawyer, I have been led to believe that, if facts and logic exclude everything else, what is left must be the truth. Now there is no question but that for hunters to practise their passion, the two things they cannot do without is wildlife and wildlife habitat. The end result is that they spend huge amounts of time, effort and money, directly and indirectly, effectively conserving both these things and which have seen, among many other benefits, the wildlife numbers in this country increase from some 557,000 head of game to over 18.7 million in just 40 years. You may not like the reasons why they do this but that they actually do so is indisputable and, in monetary terms, currently amount to some R12-billion per annum in this country.

On the other hand, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of animal rights organisations. In a recent report in the United States it claimed to house about 650, which together raised some $605-million to fund their cause in 2017. So, what do they do with it all?

Let me digress for a moment. There is obviously a big difference between animal “welfare” organisations, which work for the humane treatment of animals, and animal “rights” organisations, which aim to completely end the use and ownership of animals. The former have been around for centuries, while the latter emerged in the 1980s with the rise of the radical People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and many organisations seem to have followed hot on their heels.

Obviously, I cannot track what all these organisations do with the money they raise but the biggest of them is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which, as recently as three years ago, had net assets of almost $250-million (R3.4-billion) and generated revenue of $133-million (R1.8-billion) for the year predominantly via donations. Figures also showed that, percentage-wise, they spent 35% on salaries and 38% raising more money, so 27% or 27 cents in every dollar donated was left to fund their other costs, aims and objectives.

Until recently, the CEO of HSUS was Wayne Pacelle. In 2013 – the latest year for which I have accurate figures – he received a salary of over $325,000 (R4.4-million), although one source claimed that, when you added all the amounts paid to him by other companies and organisations in the HSUS group – and there are literally scores – the amount was $1.4-million.

Pacelle served as CEO from 2004 to 2018, so his pronouncements should be reliable evidence of HSUS’s aims and objectives. According to www.activistfacts.com, he said:

HSUS is working on a guide to vegetarian eating, to really make the case for it.”

And:

Reducing meat consumption can be a tremendous benefit to animals.”

One of Pacelle’s first acts as HSUS’s new chief executive was to set out his vision for the future. He wrote that HSUS “will focus on farm animals” and hired other high-profile, unapologetic meat and dairy “abolitionists” to assist him.

Under his watch – Pacelle, like a number of other senior staff at HSUS, is a vegan – he took aim at the traditional morning meal of bacon and eggs with a “Breakfast of Cruelty” campaign and HSUS’s newspaper demanded that consumers “help make this a more humane world [by] reducing our consumption of meat and egg products”.

So, what does this have to do with hunting? Not much is the answer and we will see why as this article progresses.

In the published proceedings of an Animal Rights and Human Obligations conference, HSUS unequivocally stated that “there is no rational basis for maintaining a moral distinction between the treatment of humans and other animals”. One of its ardent supporters, the actor Michael Fox, is on record as using words to the effect that there is no difference between an ant and his son. This helps explain Pacelle’s statement: “[I]f we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.”

According to www.humanewatch.org, there are 10 things everyone should know about HSUS. One of these is that, when the group completed its transformation from an animal welfare organisation during the 1990s, it changed its personnel in the process. HSUS assimilated dozens of staffers from PETA and other animal rights groups, including employing John “JP” Goodwin, a former Animal Liberation Front (ALF) member and spokesman with a lengthy arrest record and a history of promoting arson to accomplish animal liberation.

In the same year he was appointed by Pacelle, Goodwin described himself as “spokesperson for the ALF” while he fielded media calls in the wake of an ALF arson attack at a California meat processing plant. When asked by reporters for a reaction to an ALF arson fire at a farmers’ feed co-op in Utah (which nearly killed a family sleeping on the premises), Goodwin replied, “We’re ecstatic.”

HSUS’s senior management included others who have voiced support for ALF-type attacks. For example, HSUS chief policy officer, Mike Markarian, has written:

A perfect example of effective rebellion is an Animal Liberation Front raid on a laboratory.”

HSUS food policy director, Matt Prescott, has written:

I also believe in the actions of the ALF and other such groups.”

Consistent with their changing views and that animals were more important than humans, HSUS leaders have wanted to put an end to (human) lifesaving biomedical research that requires the use of animals. The group’s literature has demanded that the US government “eliminate altogether the use of animals as research subjects” and when John McArdle, one of their senior office-bearers, was asked about his opinion that brain-dead humans should be substituted for animals in medical research, he said:

It may take people a while to get used to the idea but once they do the savings in animal lives will be substantial.”

These radical changes in direction of an animal welfare group have been accompanied by other changes mainly related to funding and finances. As Human Watch points out:

Most egregious is how HSUS cynically exploits cases of animal abuse to boost its fundraising. In 2009, John Goodwin issued a fundraising appeal to raise $1-million to support animals like “Faye”, an abused fighting dog rescued in a major bust of a dog fighting ring… The fundraising letter made it sound like HSUS was responsible for saving Fay.

She was in tough shape, but we found her in the nick of time,” wrote Goodwin.

She now sleeps in a warm bed in a safe place.”

But HSUS was not spending any money in caring for Fay or the vast majority of the dogs rescued from the dog fighting ring. The woman who was caring for Fay stated:

I am rather sad that HSUS has chosen to use Fay (not Faye) in their fund drive. Fay has never received a dime from HSUS.”

According to Humane Watch, dogs, cats and fish are used in some 85% of HSUS advertising and yet they do not own one animal shelter and approximately only 1% of the funds generated by HSUS goes to animal shelters.

While it raises money with these advertisements, in reality HSUS has an anti-meat, vegan agenda. Speaking to an animal rights conference in 2006, HSUS’s then vice president for farm animal issues stated that their goal was to “get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry” and that “we don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed”.

In an article in the Sunday Times dated 1 July 2018, after the vandalisation of four rotisseries in or about Lille in a matter of weeks, French butchers asked for police protection against vegans and animal rightists, saying they were under “physical, verbal and moral” attack from them.

In May 2014, HSUS was part of a $15.75-million settlement of a federal racketeering lawsuit. Feld Entertainment sued HSUS, two of its in-house lawyers and others under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act for bribery, obstruction of justice, fraud and other torts. Court documents indicate that HSUS sent several cheques as part of an alleged witness payment scheme.

As RB Martin confirms in his paper, The Influence of Hidden Traps (Hammond et al. 1988) on the Decisions made by Animal Rights Organisations and Sustainable Use Advocates:

The major animal rights organisations in the western and northern hemisphere are, in fact, involved in ‘big business’. The funds that they raise from the public are used, firstly, for expensive media campaigns deliberately aimed at perpetuating a sense of crisis and, secondly, to support the livelihoods of their own employees. Social media have permitted their reach to escalate to alarming levels that include uncontrolled cyberbullying.

Very little of these funds percolate down to those involved in protecting wildlife on the ground.”

Still later, he adds:

The Sustainable Use* fraternity has the objective of making wildlife management a high-valued form of land use in the countries where it is practised. Brown (2017) amplifies this statement: ‘The greater the benefits that land owners and custodians derive from wildlife, the more secure it is as a land-use form and the more land there is under conservation. Therefore, all the various uses of wildlife, including and especially trophy hunting, must be available to wildlife businesses. These uses include the full range of tourism options, live sale of surplus wildlife, and the various forms of consumptive use – trophy and venison hunting and wildlife harvesting for meat sale, value addition and own use. It is this combination of uses that makes wildlife outcompete conventional farming. And it is the “service” component of tourism and hunting that elevates wildlife values above that of primary production and the simple financial value of protein.’ This approach flies in the face of the Animal Rights dogma which opposes trophy hunting and consumptive use of wildlife. Both camps are involved in ‘business’ but the AR activities have a negative impact on those of the SU.”

(* Of which most hunters and conservationists form part, including IUCN, the United Nations’ senior conservation body)

So, what are the conclusions that can be drawn from HSUS’s own statements:

  1. They want to stop the use of all animals by any human anywhere for whatever reason.

  2. They adopt the-end-justifies-the-means policies.

  3. Hunting and conservation based on sustainable use are merely easy targets of opportunity. “Low hanging fruit” in the view of animal rightists, which are merely an adjunct to their main objective i.e. to stop the use of animals by humans and to convert people to veganism.

  4. Once they have stopped hunting and sustainable use based conservation they will then direct all their attention to stopping domestic livestock farming, fishing et al.

Wildlife habitat is clearly not an issue for animal rightists and is why they do not use any money to conserve it. The less the wildlife habitat, the fewer wildlife will be killed and that is consistent with their wish to stop “animal agriculture” and to convert people to veganism.

In my humble opinion, this explains why, despite having decried hunting for decades, by their own admission, they have no plan, let alone a tried and tested one, to substitute for the billions of rand hunting contributes, directly and indirectly, to conservation. To date, animal rightists have not bought one hectare of land in Africa or one wild animal on which to test their undefined preservationist policies. The inescapable conclusion is that they do not have a plan because, fundamentally, they do not care what happens to wildlife or wildlife habitat just so long as no human uses the former.

Their ends-justifies-the-means policies explain why a lot of the emotional outrage they use when attacking hunting and conservation is all but devoid of supporting facts and their willingness to use deception and, sometimes, downright, wilful dishonesty in these attacks.

In brief, I can detect no common ground between animal rightists, on the one hand, and hunters and sustainable use based conservationists, on the other hand, and the latter should stop wasting time and effort to appease or accommodate the former.

Equally unfortunately, these hunters and conservationists are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the undecided “silent majority” and will continue to do so for so long as they fail to understand the full import of the effects of animal rightists’ policies on wildlife and wildlife habitat, in particular, and domestic livestock farming, fishing et al, in general.

In this regard, hunters and conservationists have only themselves to blame. Some are cowed into silence for fear of rousing the social media liberal fascists who dictate political correctness. Some remain silent in the hope that, by keeping their heads beneath the parapet, they will escape the focus of these fascists and some – a minuscule minority – unfortunately practise illegal and unethical treatment of the wildlife they purport to be passionate about and which gives the animal rightists the cannon fodder they feed on. Not that this is necessary as they are quite capable, as the recent lion hunt in the Umbabat shows, of manufacturing the “evidence” themselves.

In my humble opinion, we should recognise animal rightists for who and what they are and the sooner South Africans and the media do so and the scales fall from their eyes, the better for wildlife and wildlife habitat, the jobs they create, the healthy food security they underpin and the money they raise for continued conservation. DM

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