POISON AND GIN TRAPS - the new policy on DCA's (Damage Causing Animals - ie Vermin)
A Policy of Environmental Terrorism – the new draft Policy on DAMAGE CAUSING ANIMALS.
After much delay by Government, some of which has been reported in the Press, the new draft Policy for the “management” of damage causing animals in South Africa has finally come to light.
However, many concerned citizens may not be familiar with tricks of drafting, or the realities of the situation, so here is a critique of the new Policy. Until Government understands that there is no such thing as a problem animal, there are only problem farmers, we will continue to see our wildlife exterminated indiscriminately, regardless of the elaborate, unwieldy and totally unenforceable bureaucracy laid out in this draft policy.
Before we get into the detail, here is a Preface.
First, any wildlife whose natural habits impact upon agribusiness in any way, have been routinely poisoned, gin-trapped and shot for generations. Compared to the indiscriminate massacre of wild animals by farmers, all other threats to their survival pale to insignificance. There has been no realization that poor farming practices are responsible for most of the conflict, or that the indiscriminate methods of killing animals were destroying our wildlife heritage, and causing regional extinctions, mainly to non-target species. As for the ghastly cruelty involved, no one ever gave it a thought. At first, such animals were termed ‘vermin’, then the term became ‘problem animals’ and now it has become ‘damage-causing animals’ - DCAs for short. Apart from the terminology, nothing has changed. The new draft policy specifically allows for the use of inhumane methods of extermination, including banned poisons, certain gin-traps etc.
For more info on Compound 1080, a banned poison which is approved for use in the draft DCA Regulations, see Addendum A below.
Second, even if I were to draft the Policy myself to put the protection with the animals, where it belongs, and not with the financial interests of agribusiness, it would not make the slightest difference to the plight of the wild animals. There is a culture of defiance in many farming circles, a mindset that says: no one is going to tell me what to do on my land - regardless of the law.
So even if the use of poison, gin-traps, and denning were legally banned, many farmers would continue to use them regardless. And if government is unable to effectively combat crime in urban areas, where there are witnesses and a police presence, how on earth could it possibly control the setting of snares and traps on rural, private land, out of sight and out of mind.
So the reality of the situation is the farmers will continue to do as they please, and the vicious slaughter of our wildlife by inhumane means will continue unabated.
Tragically, the new draft policy makes no effective attempt to protect the animals but it will have the effect of entrenching poor farming management - which is the real cause of the conflict.
Accordingly there seems to be little point in nit picking through the Policy, pointing out all the flaws and loopholes. After all, the reality is that the policy will signify nothing.
However, just spare a thought for the thousands of unfortunate victims who, while you read this, are convulsing in agony after being poisoned; who are struggling with shattered limbs, in medieval gin traps, or being twisted up in barbed wire and hauled out of their dens into the jaws of the waiting dog pack. All out of ignorance, and for the greater glory of the Supreme God, Money.
Below, I draw attention to some of the main clauses in the Document. My comments are in italics.
“humane”- definition absolutely meaningless. The Animals Protection Act does not apply to wild animals anyway, and mention of ethical notions is just pious, unenforceable aspiration.
Poison Collar must contain Compound 1080.
For details of this ghastly poison, read more below in the Addendum.
Stakeholder – narrowly restricted to people with a financial interest and expertise.
This is unconstitutional. All citizens have a Constitutional right to participate on wildlife governance. What this definition actually means is this: No bunny huggers included in this aspect of environmental governance, regardless of the Constitution.
Welfare: Notice that there is no attempt to even define animal welfare, although the entire regulation is based upon animal abuse on a national scale.
2. Guiding Principles.
The DCA’s must be ‘managed’ in a ‘socially acceptable manner with due regard to being humane and ethical with regard to the general well-being of the animal.’
This is meaningless drivel. It is designed to make the Policy look like what it is not – namely, concerned for animal welfare. And who decides what is ‘socially acceptable’ when society has been excluded by the narrow definition of ‘stakeholder’? See above.
3. Minimum standards.
Elaborate procedures are laid down whereby conservation officials can make a damage assessment including incident reports, police reports, damage costing etc record keeping.
This just creates a nice big bureaucratic paper trail so everyone can pretend government is doing its job of protecting our environment.
8 Management rules.
DCAs may be hunted with permits allowing the use of poison, bait, traps, leghold devices, dog packs, etc The hunter of a DCA may also use lures and bait, and hunt from a motor vehicle, using spotlights at night.
This is the core of the policy. All these old cruel methods allowed under outdated problem animal control ordinances have been re-stated and approved. So nothing has changed, and the slaughter goes on. This section is aimed at making life easier for the most cynical environmental terrorists of all - the so -called problem animal control specialist.
12. Leghold traps may be used, subject to certain design characteristics.
This section allows the use of so called ‘soft’ gin traps. However the possession, sale, import and use of the existing medieval gin traps has not been criminalized, so what is to stop farmers from continuing to use them? Why will a farmer buy an expensive new gin trap when he already has half a dozen old ones which he thinks work perfectly well?
13. The setting of traps in areas without shade is permitted, to keep the Free State farmers happy.
Critique: so trapped animals can die of thirst in the blazing hot sun. Further restrictions such as the need to check traps at least every 24 hours and not to allow a trapped animal to be left ‘intentionally’ in a trap cage for longer than 48 hours, are yet more pious aspirations, utterly unenforceable.
So what is wrong with this policy? Answer, everything. And it will promote the further regional extinction of wildlife populations on a massive and indiscriminate scale.
First, what is really needed is not a mere Policy, a mere departmental guide. What is needed are legally enforceable Regulations. Why has the use, possession and sale of all gin traps not been banned? Where are the criminal sanctions for the sale, possession and use of medieval gin traps? Where is the ban, under criminal sanction, of the use or possession of Compound 1080 poison? Where is the ban, under criminal sanction, on the use of dogs, of so-called problem animal specialists, paid by the skull indiscriminately?
Where is the protection that struggling wildlife populations so desperately need?
And when will government ever see that there is no such thing as a DCA, there are only damage causing farmers?
2nd December 2010
1080 - THE JOHANNESBURG MEETING - APRIL 2004
A public meeting was called by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) in order to defend its actions in importing and coordinating the testing of 1080 poison in Sough Africa. The meeting took place in Johannesburg on Friday 16th April.
The animal welfare community was well represented - and also well informed, making it a force to be reckoned with.
Louise van der Merwe of Animal Voice
Beryl Scott and Ann van Vliet from Beauty without Cruelty
Rita Miljo and Karen Pilling from CARE
Wendy Brodie from FreeMe
Marcelle Meredith, Jane Marsden and Christine Kuch from the NSPCA
Michele Pickover and Alan Rolstone from Xwe
Chris Mercer from the Kalahari Raptor Centre
(Beatrice Wiltshire and Tracy Forte of Wetnose were prevented from attending by unfortunate circumstances) Our grateful thanks to Louise and Beryl for flying up from Cape Town to participate.
There were three distinct groups at the meeting: the farmers, the conservationists and the animal welfarists. And Rob Harrison - White, an independent researcher and wildlife film maker, whose expertise and experience was crucial.
Also the Poison Working Group of the EWT (PWG) who were chiefly responsible for the 1080 scandal. Each group had different expectations and a different agenda. The farmers thought that the meeting was held to discuss the financial problems caused by problem animals. Welfarists were there for the animals and conservationists were there for the environment generally.
Rob Harrison White was by far the most important of the eight speakers. An accomplished presenter, he tore the PWG's arguments in favour of 1080 to shreds. Showing photos and video footage of tests which he himself had conducted upon small mammals at the S.A. Lombard Game Reserve, he proved beyond a shadow of doubt what the scientific literature had already established: that 1080 would wipe out non-target species leaving the jackals and caracals untouched and the farmers' problems un- addressed. That was why the poison had been banned in U.S.A. thirty years ago - because it did not work. Rob's research came as a shock and an embarrassment to the Poison Working Group of the EWT, which has helped the Wool Growers spend R400,000 on a completely ineffective and environmentally ruinous method of problem animal control.
The conservationists and animal welfarists were convinced, but the farmers were skeptical. 'Something had to be done,' they protested. 'Why not give 1080 a chance?' Rob H-W demonstrated effortlessly that 1080 was just too harmful to the environment to be 'given a chance.'
The farmers then tried to argue that it would be better to reduce the misuse of other poisons by using 1080. Ann van Vliet demolished that argument by asking sweetly: "Isn't that like trying to counter drug abuse by legalizing cocaine?"
The threat by farmers to go ahead regardless with lethal testing of 1080 baits on living animals provoked a backlash of threats by the welfarists to resort to litigation and campaigning, involving inter alia showing the horrifying footage of poisoned jackals convulsing in agony.
The cultural divide between farmers and the rest became so evident that eventually the project leader of the PWG had to stand up in front of the audience and admit that he "regarded himself as a farmer". That was clearly the main problem: had he regarded himself more as a scientist and less as a farmer then perhaps the 1080 project would never have got off the ground.
It became painfully obvious to all present that there had been little scientific learning done by EWT before launching the 1080 project. By the end of the meeting, the Endangered Wildlife Trust PWG had been unable to point to one single, compelling reason for introducing 1080 to the farmers' toolbox of lethal devices.
That raised the obvious question: why 1080? Of all the hundreds of poisons available, why had the PWG made the worst imaginable choice of poisons: one which was the subject of a terror alert by the FBI and is banned in much of the world?
Alas, although the question was asked several times, PWG and the farmers remained tight-lipped on the real reason for selecting 1080. Was there a financial inducement? Did it just seem like a good idea at the time? We still do not know.
The upshot of the meeting was a fairly united front by everyone - except the farmers and their PWG accomplices - against the use of 1080 under any circumstances. A decision was taken to set up a committee to 'resolve the problem' but this generally unsatisfactory decision merely seemed a better idea than to admit failure.
The S.A. government has been alerted to the danger to national security of this dreadful poison, and we hope that government will act swiftly to confiscate the EWT stockpile of 1080 (4 1/2 kgs) for reasons of national security. One spoonful of this colourless, tasteless powder is enough to wipe out all the MPs in Parliament Once this happens, it will put a decisive end to this misconceived project and allow us all to move forward for a non-lethal approach to protecting livestock.
Campaign Against Canned Hunting.