Especially because there seems to be some puzzlement on why I am not going to Cape Town for this event. It is about lion farming, right? Surely CACH should be there, right?
This report explains what it is about:
I don’t know why there has to be such a pompous and pretentious Latinism to describe what is clearly a workshop. And notice that the agenda is restricted to the effect of lion farming upon South Africa’s conservation image.
The Department of Tourism is not even mentioned or represented.
So do not think for one second that this chat group is going to lead to a ban on lion farming or on the trophy hunting of lions. I'm writing this blog post because I think that there is an unrealistic expectation from members of the animal welfare community about the purpose and results of this workshop.
The hunting industry is at this workshop in force to ensure that the message gets across that responsible trophy hunting is a wonderful tool of conservation, job creation, foreign currency generation, blah blah. And they’ll call for regulation of lion farming, not to ban canned hunting, but to minimise the bad publicity that it brings to all hunting and the threat felt by the hunting industry that the excesses of canned lion hunting will pull down the whole trophy hunting industry.
People who live in the developed world where parliamentary committees are important and can actually effect change will have unrealistic expectations for this workshop.
I have been to Parliament to talk to members of the portfolio committee on the environment and I can tell you that these are not animal lovers. Or in my experience qualified to understand what true conservation is. One of the MP’s looked me in the eye and asked: ‘what’s wrong with hunting. I hunt.’ Talk about the cruelty to helpless animals involved and their eyes glaze over.
Conservation as you and I understand it, which is the preservation of natural functioning ecosystems for their own sakes, is a totally alien concept to this government in general, and to the portfolio committee in particular. Like the DEA, they've swallowed the pro-hunting narrative.
This workshop is about public relations surrounding the hunting industry and how to improve it. Nothing more.
Indeed, Minister Molewa has publicly stated that biodiversity is merely a resource that needs to be exploited and transformed (a euphemism for transferring income to previously disadvantaged South Africans)
So please put this workshop in that political context.
The most effective tactic for CACH to adopt is to circulate David Nash’s compendium of bad publicity to Brand South Africa, a comprehensive list of all the poor publicity that Brand SA gets from lion farming, canned lion hunting and the hideous lion bone trade. And that is what we'll do - even though this workshop is not about the financial damage to the tourism industry.
If it were the Department of tourism would be involved.
Add to all this the fact that the portfolio committee would be unable to change anything even if it wanted to. Conservation structures in South Africa have been utterly and completely captured by the hunting industry and any attempt to crack down on lion farming and canned hunting would be met with a torrent of lobbying and litigation:-
‘You gave us permits to breed lions for hunting and for lion bones’, they would argue, ‘so if you want to close us down we want compensation.’
So in short I regard this workshop is a total waste of time. I cannot justify the cost and time involved to attend. If I thought there was a sliver of hope that I could achieve anything by attending, I would be there like a shot. But to spend a day travelling to Cape Town, two or three nights in a hotel and another day travelling back home, all of five days away from the work which I regard as really important, is out of the question.
I'm not telling any of you not to go. Attending will certainly do no harm. Subjecting the members of the committee to something other than hunting propaganda would certainly do no harm - if only to cause them some bafflement.
And if I regard the Portfolio Committee as a, no doubt well-intentioned, but woefully un-qualified and ineffective bunch of political appointees utterly incapable of understanding why it is in the national interest to ban lion farming, why, I may be wrong.