2021 Review

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In last year’s review,  it was hoped that in 2021 we could start to return to some kind of ‘normality’ after Coronavirus (Covid-19) impacted the globe – it would seem we are still a long way from any guarantee of ‘normality,’ as the fight against the virus endures.

On a brighter note, in recent weeks, there has been some welcomed recognition within the United Kingdom government of the negative impacts of trophy hunting with the promise of a comprehensive ban on the importation of hunting trophies permitted into the UK.

 

United Kingdom Hunting Trophy Imports

DEFRA’s “Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies” and “Call for Evidence on the scale and impacts of the import and export of hunting trophies” both closed 25 February 2020. IWB submitted a response to both parts of the consultation, December 2019. The consultation  results have been awaited since.

Finally, on the 10 December 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released the proposed policy for a government bill on the import of hunting trophies:

Importing of hunting trophies banned to protect world’s threatened species,” UK Government Press Release, 10 December 2021

The proposed contents of the bill regarding the importation of hunting trophies concluded that “Based on the results [of the consultation], we will be banning the import of hunting trophies from:

  • species on Annex A and B of the UK Wildlife Trade Regulations;
  • additional endangered and threatened species not covered by these regulations but subject to hunting and of particular conservation concern“;

DEFRA’s “Policy response” states for inclusion “…namely those [species] assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered or Extinct in the Wild” – thus the proposed hunting trophy import restrictions would encompass for example, the African lion (Panthera leo) despite the anomaly* of this species only being listed as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List, with the added reassurance that “For all species in scope, the import of hunting trophies from both wild and captive-bred animals will be banned” – “Policy response,” DEFRA, 10 December 2021

DEFRA also released the long-awaited conclusions (10 December 2021) from the public consultation, “Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies” (which closed 25 February 2020):

… 86% of the 44,000 responses to the public consultation called for tighter restrictions on the import of hunting trophies and a ban has cross-party support in the Commons…” – BBC News, 10 December 2021

IWB continues to work with a consortium of non-government organisations (NGOs), campaigning against trophy hunting, under the umbrella of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH’s Christmas message attached).

IWB continues to work with a consortium of non-government organisations (NGOs), campaigning against trophy hunting, under the umbrella of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH’s Christmas message given above).

When the hunter is overcome with joy after the killing, and shares that emotion on Facebook, then surely this must be the joy of a diseased mind” – Jane Goodall

 

The UK’s stance will hopefully encourage action elsewhere:

American hunters are the biggest importers of African leopards. The U.S. was responsible for half the global trade in leopards between 2014 and 2018……As Teresa Telecky of the Humane Society says, “The pathway to leopard extinction is littered with leopard trophies.”  And it is littered with ineffectual and lazy bureaucrats who don’t see the incredible urgency of saving what is left of wild animals from the bloodlust that is the mind of the trophy hunter.…..We should [also] not forget that the great American West, where over 30 million buffalo once roamed were shot for leisure, fun, amusement, target practice. The great herds were totally eliminated. Manifest Destiny, the West was “won” with the concurrent elimination of the big game. The killing, massacre of innocent wildlife, the slaying of millions of Native Americans in tandem with slavery, this is the house America built….The fight for what is left of the American Wilderness continues with those who would stop the heinous practice of trapping and gunning down wolves and the attempt to delist grizzlies In Montana, Idaho and Wyoming” (“When the UK finally bans wildlife trophy imports so too must the US, The Hill, 17 December 2021). The buffalo/bison slaughter is still prevalent today (“Slaughtering 900 Yellowstone bison a win for ranchers, loss for conservation,” Wild Things Initiative, 15 December 2021).

As further confirmation that wildlife killing (including trophy hunting) and wildlife trade under the guise of ‘sustainable utilisation’ is not conservation, a recent study of Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) model concludes:

“In many areas, particularly in the dry CBNRM-dominated Kunene Region of the country, wildlife populations of many species are declining. Elephant, oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and lion numbers are the large mammals most negatively affected, largely as a result of drought, trophy hunting, own-use hunting, conservation mismanagement and human-wildlife conflict incidents. This region also faces the spectre of the capture, auction and possible export of live elephants which, when the auction goes ahead, will likely threaten the entire existence of this isolated and uniquely desert-adapted elephant population that is already in sharp decline. 

In other areas across the northern region, elephant populations and movements have likewise been adversely affected due to trophy hunting, own-use hunting, poaching and trade. In two additional commercial cattle farming areas, elephants have been earmarked for live captures, auction and possible export…..

….Thus, far from being a success-story, Namibia’s much-touted wildlife conservation model, and its adherence to sustainable utilisation of wildlife through community-based management has, in fact, achieved the opposite of what is commonly presented. Overall wildlife numbers are declining, and elephant populations in the Kunene Region are collapsing, while rural communities within the CBNRMs are as impoverished as ever, in many cases, more so” – Conclusions, p51, “Investigation – Efficacy of Namibia’s Wildlife Conservation Model at it Relates to African Elephants,” Cruise, A; Sasada, I, Journal of African Elephants, November 2021

Therefore, is it wrong for third party countries to ban the import of hunting trophies when such hunting lacks evidence it benefits any meaningful conservation imperative? The Namibian conservation model has been touted by pro-trophy hunting advocates (eg. Informing the debate on Trophy Hunting,” Slide 12, Dickman, A; Roe, D) and those with potential (undeclared) conflicts of interest (Koot et al., 2020) for decades. However, the Namibian conservation model has been shown to be failing to deliver conservation of targeted species – Namibia’s CBNRM and Game Product Trust Fund (GPTF) have been found to have exaggerated claims of success. Perhaps the only way to encourage change is for third party countries to acknowledge that even the pro-trophy hunting advocates’ much-touted Namibian ‘kill/trade model’ does not deliver the claimed species conservation benefits in reality.

 

South Africa 

IWB continues to work with the “The Coalition to Stop Captive Breeding and Keeping of Lions and Other Big Cats for Commercial Purposes (the Coalition)” – In the ongoing process within South Africa, IWB Submitted in July 2021 to the consultation on South Africa’s draft policy position – elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros. The legislation to enact the South African government’s final policy on the issues raised is awaited.

After last year’s High-Level Panel (HLP) submission process in South Africa, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) released its HLP Report in May 2021, with the notion that captive breeding would end and in the future only ‘responsible hunting’ (which lacks formal definition) would be permitted – for example, is killing a giraffe and glorying in its death ‘responsible hunting’ or is it predominantly bloodlust killing for fun likely to continue to tarnish South Africa’s image?

Among many proposals, the DFFE proposes to enhance the conservation of lion and rhino species in the wild by halting their commercially driven domestication/exploitation. This is warmly welcomed by all those seeking an enduring and irreversible track to the fair, ethical and moral treatment of South Africa’s wildlife/animals. The swift implementation of this halting of domestication of all exploited captive bred species is key, with many potential pitfalls and loop-holes that could be exploited by the captive breeding industry in the interim.

However, at the same time the ‘sustainable utilisation’ driven agricultural department (Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)) seeks to exploit species for commercial gain and is ill equipped to fulfil any role in determining animal welfare policy – the conflict within South Africa’s rival departments over the fate and welfare of species is palpable:

The welfare of wild animals in South Africa is being thrown under a bus by dithering departments and inappropriate legislators……..Giving the job of drafting wild animal welfare legislation to the Department of Agriculture is like asking a jackal to look after your ducks. It’s the wrong department for the job. They’re the food police. They administer the Meat Safety Act, the Animal Improvement Act, chopping trees, drought relief, catching fish, pets, draft and performing animals, and exporting sheep. Their vision is sustainable agriculture and food security, for God’s sake” – “The welfare of South Africa’s wild animals is in the hopelessly wrong hands of the food police – this has to change urgently,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 8 December 202

The collapse, due to Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions, in South Africa’s tourism income surrounding national parks is thought to be fuelling a return to rhino poaching in the run up to the Chinese New Year (and resulting demand for rhino horn) as communities around the parks are desperate:

““Poverty is driving a lot of the people who are recruited as poachers to go into the parks. If there are economic difficulties, then that’s obviously going to be exacerbated,” said Richard Emslie, a former scientific officer of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) specialist group on African rhinos.

“These are people that just want to feed their families. There is human greed, which is in all of us. But there is a lot of desperation which is unfortunately living alongside these national parks. And when you are desperate and I know as a parent that you’ll do anything for your kids, to feed your kids……You win this war by looking after the people. That’s what they do in India,” said Kevin Pietersen, the former England cricket captain who is a prominent rhino conservationist, said visiting some of the 3 million people living on the edge of Kruger national park had opened his eyes about the challenges many are facing

While increases in rhino killings are common before Christmas and the Chinese new year, experts said arresting poachers would not break the cycle, and more needed to be done to crack down on criminal gangs and demand in Vietnam and China for horns” – absolutely.

Poachers kill 24 rhinos in just two weeks in South Africa,” The Guardian, 16 December 2021

Actively deterring poaching (and the corruption that drives it), giving alternatives to communities, ‘breaking the cycle’ of rhino horn speculative ventures and quashing demand are a must if an unwelcome upward trend in rhino poaching is to be stemmed.

There have been almost 10,000 rhinos poached across Africa in the last decade, the majority of that occurring in South Africa. Officials should publish remaining 2021 rhino poaching numbers in a few months – they are expected to be higher than last year’s” – International Rhino Foundation, December 2021

[Update] “Where have all the rhino gone?” EMS Foundation, December 2021 – “Where Have All the Rhino Gone? is a compilation of, and expansion on, the work previously carried out by researchers and investigative journalists over the past two decades. The Information contained in this retrospective report sets out to illustrate the questionable decisions that have been made over the past two decades regarding the protection and conservation of South Africa’s rhino.”

United Kingdom Ivory Bill

IWB submitted, July 2021, to the UK consultation (“UK Ivory Act – Ivory bearing species consultation”) to encompass other persecuted ivory bearing species such as “.…hippos, walruses and narwhals,” thus closing potential loop-holes within the Ivory Bill (2018).

However, the full enactment of the Ivory Bill (2018) is still awaited, with DEFRA recently stating:

The Government’s world-leading Ivory Act will also come into force next year [2022] and will further support conservation measures by introducing a near total ban on the import export and dealing of items containing elephant ivory in the UK, regardless of their age” –  Importing of hunting trophies banned to protect world’s threatened species,” UK Government Press Release, 10 December 2021

The delay in implementation of the Ivory Act (apart from the UK antique industry’s spurious challenges) would appear to be complications with launching a digital registration and certification system for exempted items (such as musical instruments with minimal ivory content). However, some fear the Act is also being watered down, with potential exemptions mooted for ivory pieces to be ‘gifted, donated or bequeathed,’ which potentially opens up loop-holes under which pseudo ‘trade’ could be maintained.

An official process for ivory to be handed in under some kind of amnesty scheme for destruction also remains unclear:

“”There is also continued refusal to implement a destruction or donation system for people who no longer wish to own their items of ivory and want to ensure they will not reappear on the market” [said James Sawyer, UK Head of  International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw)]. He said many people who own ivory had asked the charity to destroy their items to ensure nobody profited from them in future” – “UK ban on ivory sales ban postponed again – after three-year delay,” The Independent, 23 December 2021

The good news is that Lord Goldsmith (Animal Welfare Minster) has reportedly stated that “In the Action Plan for Animal Welfare, I committed to implementing the Act by the end of this year and have said I will bring the [ivory] ban into force in spring 2022.” In the meantime, the UK ivory trading market is still open for business:

“This year, a 12-day research project by Ifaw discovered 913 ivory items on sale in the UK, acting as “a smokescreen” for new ivory passed off as antique” – “UK ban on ivory sales ban postponed again – after three-year delay,” The Independent, 23 December 2021

The additional good news is that on 16 December 2021, the European Commission announced new restrictions on the ivory trade – thus the prospect of an EU wide ivory trading ban appears imminent.

 

Scottish Wildcat

The Scottish Wildcat population estimation ranges from 30 to 430 individuals, hence any man-made threat to their known strong-hold/habitat can only be deemed to be wilful environmental sabotage. It has emerged that the Scottish government and Swedish government owned energy company, Vattenfall are seemingly hell bent (in the name of logging and industrial windfarm revenues) on destroying one of the few remaining bastions of the the Scottish Wildcat – namely, Clashindarroch forest. Scotland hosted the CoP26 UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021, with pledges ‘to protect biodiversity and the planet‘ – which on this issue (and many others) of preserving Scottish Wildcats from extinction rings very hollow…….

With a Public Inquiry of the proposed Clashindarroch Forest windfarm development due at the end of February 2022, the outcome is going to be vital to the potential survival of the species in the wild.

Scottish Wildcat Kit with rabbit – Image courtesy of  Steve Piper

 

United Kingdom Fur Industry

IWB has also campaigned against the UK’s fur farming industry, submitting to various planning application consultations where dubious proposals had been filed to expand rabbit exploitation for commodities such as fur.

 

Coronavirus

In 2020/21 (and into the future), the consequences of human exploitation of wildlife have continued, with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the infectious disease COVID-19, a zoonotic disease that is highly likely to have resulted from the human species’ interaction with wildlife, wildlife habitat destruction and the utilisation/consumption of wildlife and derivative products. Wildlife could be acting as a reservoir for the virus as a result of human interaction, thus exacerbating the potential spread and ongoing mutations of the virus.

 

Elephant Trophy Hunting

IWB continues to support the campaign against Botswana’s retrograde step to reintroduce elephant trophy hunting – with Botswana continuing to promote the slaughter even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservation Force Inc’s, John J Jackson III – “………critics have described it [Conservation Force Inc.] as a “an around-the-clock international communication headquarters and advocacy ‘war room’” for the pro-hunting lobby that has repeatedly blocked attempts to protect species including lions and giraffes – “Anti-hunting groups seek to oust big-game hunters from global conservation body,” The Telegraph, 3 October 2019

 

Wild Justice

IWB continues to support Wild Justice campaigns in the UK – the destructive nature of driven grouse shooting, to the persecution of bird species, badger culling etc. For example, Wild Justice’s work to expose the ongoing toxic levels of lead (Paywall) found in game products on UK supermarket shelves – a human health hazard that has, until now, been ignored and allowed to slip below the radar, seemingly excused for commercial gain and incomprehensible game industry priorities:

…….meats, such as beef, chicken, pork, have Maximum Levels of lead set by regulations. The MLs for these meats are 0.1mg of lead per kg of wet weight of the meat. No such MLs are set for game meat despite there being high levels of lead in game meat which mostly derive from contamination by lead ammunition….The Food Standards Agency and NHS England warn against eating game shot with lead, especially by pregnant women, women trying to become pregnant and young children. 

Waitrose told The Times that they believe that these results were caused by environmental residues and not by lead shot. Wild Justice believes that this is overwhelmingly unlikely. Dr Mark Taggart, whose laboratory analysed our game meat samples, told The Times that it was unlikely that the very high lead levels were caused by birds consuming lead in the countryside.

In response, Liam Stokes, ex Countryside Alliance and current CEO of British Game ‘Assurance’ said that we are 18 months into a five-year voluntary phasing out of lead ammunition and failed to mention a report to government over six years ago that recommended a phasing out of lead ammunition back then. When asked whether it was good enough to take years to phase out a harmful poison Mr Stokes said that lead was ‘ballistically perfect’ which seems to indicate where the industry’s priorities lie and ignores the fact that other countries have done away with lead ammunition already. When the CEO of the Game ‘Assurance’ scheme was asked why the overriding concern was not the health of consumers, rather than the convenience of shooters, Mr Stokes relied on the fact that an obscure government agency website has food warnings about lead – it’s a shocking abrogation of responsibility by the Game ‘Assurance’ outfit. The industry is in a morally bankrupt position – selling game as healthy when it contains high levels of a poison, as our analysis of game meat last year (click here) and again this year (click here) have shown” – Wild Justice

 

[Update] The UK’s own captive breeding industry – “We’ve been talking about the issue of when gamebirds such as Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges are classified as wild birds and when they are regarded as livestock for the last three years, but it appeared in the national press last week and caused a bit of a stir [“Wild birds can be killed to protect game birds in England – new guidance,” The Guardian, 3 January 2022  – “Gamekeepers told certain species such as carrion crows and jackdaws can be shot as government updates definition of ‘livestock’”]

About 50 million Pheasants are reared and released into the countryside every year for recreational shooting. Yes, 50 million, and another 10 million or so Red-legged Partridges!  When those birds are being reared in captivity they are livestock – and they should benefit from the same welfare protection as, say, chickens kept in captivity.  In late summer, ahead of the opening of the shooting season, those birds are transferred to release pens to start to make the transition to being wild birds, finding their own food and trying to avoid being eaten by Foxes and other predators.  When the doors of the release pens are opened, those gamebirds, reared in captivity as livestock become wild birds. Or do they?

The authorities in England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), have muddied the waters about when captive-reared gamebirds transition to being wild birds. They’ve suggested that if gamebirds are revisiting their release pens, perhaps to find food, then they are still livestock.  This is a bit like suggesting that Blue Tits visiting a garden bird feeder are livestock when they fly back into a local wood – daft isn’t it?

The reasons for this muddying of the waters are all to do with whether land owners can kill native wildlife, such as Carrion Crows, under the terms of the general licences, to protect their ‘livestock’. We wrote a blog about this [i]ssue (click here) but the diagram below captures the idiocy of this position

 

Image

 

Silly isn’t it? We are taking legal advice on this matter and would potentially support individuals who wanted to claim compensation for damage done by someone’s gamebirds to their vegetable patch.  Pheasants are the cause of many road traffic accidents every year, occasionally fatal ones, and we would question whether shooting interests really want to run the risk of being liable for the impacts that their ‘livestock’ have on other country folk” – Wild Justice Newsletter, 13 January 2022 and “General licence confusion continues – Schrodinger’s Pheasant,” Wild Justice, 4 January 2022

Further Reading

Pheasant and partridge classified as species that imperil UK wildlife,” The Guardian, 30 October 2020

 

Best wishes to all animal advocates for 2022.

 

* Despite the African lion’s steep population decline, the species is still only listed as CITES Appendix II, despite other species, which have larger species populations, such the African elephant, or similar species populations, such as the White rhinoceros, both being listed at Appendix I (with exemptions).

Panthera leo is only listed as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List, with the “Threats” listed including:

…….trophy hunting has a net positive impact in a some areas, but may have at times contributed to population declines in Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe (Packer et al. 2009, 2011, 2013), Cameroon (Croes et al. 2011) and Zambia (Rosenblatt et al. 2014).”

Is the reluctance to uplist the African lion to Appendix I (or IUCN Red List as “Endangered” or above) because the African lion is such a popular income generator as a hunting trophy?

 

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