Shooting Captive Animals for Sport (and Trade)

Stephen Wiggins Article, Studies 1 Comment

As we await the United Kingdom’s planned legislation resulting from the “Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies,” the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) has released a study “Shooting Captive Animals for Sport – South Africa, the United Kingdom & the growth of a global industry,” May 2020.

This report shows how wildlife is being bred in captivity, killed as a ‘hunting trophy’ and exported using ‘legal’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permits, but in reality this ‘legal’ mechanism is being used as loop-hole to obtain wildlife commodities by deception in many cases – this is known a “pseudo hunting“:

’Pseudo-hunting’ is the practice whereby supposed trophy hunters either need to be told how to shoot or leave the actual shooting to an accompanying Professional Hunter or land owner, a practice that is illegal in South Africa” – Endangered Wildlife Trust

‘Pseudo hunting’ has been widely exploited in the past, to illicitly obtain rhino horn for instance.

Pseudo trophy hunting demonstrates how the trophy hunting industry can undermine the United Nation’s (UN’s) own programmes – the UN funds the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) – for example, there is evidence that pseudo hunting is already established as an illicit means to obtain crocodile and caiman skins – which potentially undermines the SULi’s own ‘sustainable utilisation’ crocodile trade initiative to supply the fashion industry:

Almost as many crocodile hunting trophies have been exported from South Africa as have lion trophies. South Africa is not the only exporter of crocodile trophies. In fact, it appears that trophy hunting is being used to mask a massive global industry in crocodile and caiman skins. Labelled as ‘hunting trophies’ in the CITES Trade Database, they account for more than half of all the hunting trophies of captive-bred animals traded over the past decade….. The trophy hunting industry appears to be providing legal ‘cover’ for major international trade in crocodile and caiman skins. These are exported from Bolivia, Colombia, as well as from southern African countries such as Mozambique and South Africa. Over 50,000 skins have been traded in this way over the past decade alone” – Shooting Captive Animals for Sport,” CBTH, May 2020

Saltwater crocodiles sunning themselves” – Credit: Shazzashaw (i-Stock)

However, despite the SULi’s continued promotion of crocodile farming as an exemplar, the realties are this trade struggles to deliver on those promises for rural communities, having  become an industrial scale wildlife utilisation business, where dominant players now undermine ‘rural communities’ (such as Papua New Guinea’s) ability to benefit. This community support claim is the ‘sustainable utilisation’ model’s principal raison d’être. The ‘sustainable utilisation’ crocodile skin market/model suffers from oversupply – of course, this market downturn is being blamed by the industry upon animal rights groups (not the ‘sustainable utilisation’ ideology which assumes unbounded market expansion, rising demand and an ability to crowd out illicit actors).

Fashion and public tastes have always been fickle, highlighting how commercial, industrial scale exploitation of crocodiles (or other species exploited to supply ‘fashion’ for that matter) can rapidly become an unsustainable exploitation, once over-promoted by vested interests when market realties bite. Plus, such ‘legal’ mechanisms always risk promoting negative, illicit and health consequences:

The trade in skins for fashion accessories is legal, but experts say viruses do not distinguish between legal and illegal trade” – “Coronavirus: ‘Exotic’ skins in shoe and handbag fashion stores fuel risk of further epidemics, say experts,” The Independent, 13 April 2020

[Update] “A report finds that companies including Chanel, Gucci, and Coach had thousands of imported exotic leather goods seized by U.S. law enforcement from 2003 through 2013 “ – Luxury fashion brands had thousands of exotic leather goods seized by U.S. law enforcement,” National Geographic, 22 May 2020


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