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The consequences of a total ban of trophy hunting

By Professor Peet van der Merwe

This is a response to the call on a total ban on trophy hunting as a result of the hunt of Cecil the lion. When people and organisations make such a call to ban hunting, it is important to understand the consequences thereof to countries that market themselves as hunting destinations as well as countries supplying them with hunting-related products. The best way to explain the consequences of this call by people, organisations and the international public is to firstly understand the magnitude of the industry, businesses and people’s lives that will be affected by the banning of hunting.

Industries, businesses and organisations that are directly affected by hunting are: license/permit departments, taxidermy services, butcheries (meat products), hunting gear suppliers, hunting organisations, game translocation and capturing services, auctioneers, veterinary services, hunting clothing suppliers, fire-arm dealers, manufacturers, trade shows and exhibitions. Other areas affected are the accommodation sector and transport sector; in other words, the tourism industry that many African countries rely on.

– Licenses/permits: There are specific departments in the government structure of hunting destinations that focus only on issuing permits and managing legislation. In the case of South Africa, there is the National Department of Environmental Affairs together with nine provincial offices that all have people employed in the field.
– Taxidermies: Taxidermists process the trophies, and also supply products to curio shops and other arts and crafts shops that sell game memorabilia. There are hundreds of these businesses in South Africa and even more informal vendors that sell products made from wildlife. On the other hand, taxidermists have their own suppliers that supply them with materials, chemicals and the other produce they use.
– Meat processing: In South Africa, specifically the meat of wildlife is sold. Butcheries sell the meat and processed products (biltong, chilli bites, steak) to the public. Therefore, companies that sell spices and meat processing equipment and products will also be affected by the ban.
– Hunting equipment and gear suppliers: This part of the industry is substantial and includes the manufacturers of rifles, knives, ammunition, binoculars, telescopes, bows and arrows, hunting optics, tripods and bipods, reloading equipment, and shooting targets, to name but a few. A large percentage of these are imported.
– Hunting organisations: Currently, there are numerous hunting organisations in South Africa alone, such as PHASA, SA Hunters and CHASA. The ban will leave all these organisations in dire straits.
– Game capturing and transportation: Due to hunting, game farm owners sell game among each other; in South Africa, this is an enormous industry and worth billions of rands. Think about all the game capturing equipment, such as vehicles, helicopters, capturing nets and darting rifles, to name but a few. Largely, this industry will collapse if hunting were to be banned in South Africa.
– Veterinary services: Public and state-owned veterinary services benefit enormously from the hunting industry. Game is sold among product/game farm owners because of hunting. Farmers or product owners are not allowed to dart or tranquilise wildlife and therefore must make use of a registered vet. The pharmaceutical companies in this regard benefit tremendously from this industry.
– Clothing: As a result of hunting, clothing companies annually produce millions of clothing products for the hunting industry, such as camouflage clothing, shoes, hats, jackets and even underwear.
– Tradeshows and exhibitions: Each year, numerous trade shows and exhibitions are held worldwide. South Africa’s biggest hunting exhibition, HuntEx, annually attracts hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors. Consider the economic impact of these tradeshows on host regions and countries.
– Firearm dealers and manufactures. South Africa alone hosts a couple of hundred firearm dealers, which are mostly dependent on the hunting industry. Most of the firearms sold are imports from other countries outside of Africa. If hunting stops, most firearm dealers will close their doors.

I am also against illegal hunting, poaching and unethical hunting techniques; however, if hunting is banned in South Africa specifically, it will result in the loss of thousands of jobs and the closing down of hundreds of businesses since most game farms are dependent on this source of income. This will hit an already economically struggling country hard. It will not only affect hunting destinations in South Africa, but also countries that supply hunting equipment, rifles, ammunition, and numerous other products dependent on hunting. Therefore, people and organisations in South Africa and other countries must carefully rethink the consequences of their call for the ban of hunting, specifically African countries where job creation is critical and poverty is high, not even to mention land that would be lost for wildlife and conservation in Africa. The question is: Who will then take responsibility for all these job losses and closing business? The people who banned hunting?

Professor Peet van der Merwe is from the Tourism programme at the School of Business Management at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus.

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