Farmers, Gin traps and Predators - how dare I protest?
CRUEL FARMING PRACTICES – HOW DARE I PROTEST?
After attending our Wildlife Forum meeting in Cape Town last week on the issue of predator/farming conflict, I sent out a report entitled “Ripping the Heart out of Conservation”
Several livestock farmers responded to my report. Stripped of the anger and abuse, the common themes are:-
1. How dare I criticise farming practices when I am not a livestock farmer myself?
2. Do I eat meat or buy wool products? If so I must be a hypocrite.
Let me deal first with their first complaint, namely that I am not qualified to comment on farming practices. (I can express an opinion on politics, religion, abortion etc – but not, it seems, about farming – unless I am an expert)
1. After early retirement from legal practice I farmed for ten years with sheep in the western Transvaal. Bev and I won prizes for our Damaras at the Rustenburg Show. Now this might not make me an expert, but it certainly prevents me from having the wool pulled over my eyesJ.
We started sheep farming with the traditional South African method of throwing the sheep out in to the veld day and night, without any protection. Predictably, we lost lambs to predators. However, instead of reaching for gin traps, guns and poison bottles, we simply changed our animal husbandry. We brought our flocks in to a safe camp every night; we kept pregnant ewes and young lambs in a safe camp. And that solved our predator problem. The jackals used to call around our house at night, but we slept very well and in fact, enjoyed hearing them.
Then one day we witnessed what happened to a batch of lambs when they went to the abattoir and that was it; we sold our sheep, became vegetarians and moved to the Kalahari to found a wildlife rehab centre and sanctuary.
As you can read in our book Kalahari Dream, we rescued a large number of animals and birds over a seven year period, including many caracals and jackals who had been caught in gin traps, and eagles suffering from secondary poisoning.
We were often at the Vet’s surgery late at night, up to our elbows in blood, trying to save the shattered legs of victims of gin traps.
So, to sum up, after ten years of sheep farming and seven years of rescuing animals from gin traps and poisoning, Bev and I believe we are qualified to express opinions on farming practices and poor predator management.
2. Next, do we eat meat and buy wool products? No we do not, but those who do will certainly insist that their meat and wool be produced humanely.
They will demand that the big retailers avoid buying meat or wool which has not been produced ethically.
Livestock farmers must understand that they can no longer farm using the same methods as their grandfathers. What intelligent producer thinks that he can offend his own consumers and not put himself out of business?