2022 Review

Stephen Wiggins Article Leave a Comment

United Kingdom Hunting Trophy Imports

On the 25 November 2022, the first reading of Henry Smith MP’s “Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill” took place in the United Kingdom House of Commons – the bill passed unopposed to the next Committee Stage due 25 January 2023. The bill has the potential to prohibit hunting trophies form thousands of species into the United Kingdom.

The bill is a landmark achievement for all that campaigned for its passage through the parliamentary process – thanks to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) – Banning Trophy Hunting and all in the Coalition Against Trophy & Canned Hunting Campaign, especially Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting founder Eduardo Gonçalves.

The pro-hunting lobby will no doubt seek to water the bill down with talk of ‘smart-bans’ and the vital income trophy hunting brings to local communities….(see the section “Assessing hunting trophy imports via a ‘smart ban’ on a case-by-case basis – the pitfalls). However, the benefits of trophy hunting are not so easy to identify, especially communities when indigenous Maasai are being forcibly evicted (yet again) from ancestral lands (for example) to make way for the trophy hunting industry’s self-serving interests in Tanzania:

Northern Tanzania is faced with evictions as UAE firm seeks to turn ancestral land into a trophy-hunting ground. More than 70,000 Indigenous Maasais reside in northern Tanzania, and they are all facing displacement after the government revealed plans to lease the space to a UAE-based company, [Ortello] Business Corporation (OBC), to create a hunting reserve for elite tourism….On Friday, June 10, 2022, Tanzanian security forces fired at Maasai farming communities. The gunshots came in the context of an eviction operation leaving Maasai people terrorized and feeling unsafe… all this happened for the sake of clearing the land to turn it into a hunting corridor” – “Ancestral land of Maasai people trophy-hunting grounds for UAE royals,” Al Mayadeen News, 12 June 2022

The evictions have sparked concern, with a team of UN-appointed independent rights experts warning that “it could jeopardize the Maasai’s physical and cultural survival. “This will cause irreparable harm, and could amount to dispossession, forced eviction, and arbitrary displacement prohibited under international law,” they said in a statement”….”Thousands of Maasai families were evicted from Loliondo in 2009 to make way for an Emirati safari company, Ortel[l]o Business Corporation, to organize hunting expeditions. Following allegations of corruption, the government cancel[l]ed the deal in 2017 – “Maasai forced out of Ngorongoro reserve for UAE ‘elite tourism’,” Al Mayadeen News, 12 June 2022

South Africa – Sustainable Use

IWB submitted to the South African Government’s “Consultation on Conservation and Sustainable Use,” this included the policy’s impact on trophy hunting and the captive breeding of wildlife for commercial exploitation.

The formal enactment of the proposed policy to shut down South Africa’s captive big cat and speculative captive rhino breeding industries is awaited – even though political parties agree it must end. A ‘Ministerial Task Team – to identify and recommend voluntary exit options and pathways for the captive lion industry‘ is being formed – however, one main obstacle (besides the need to fund/incentivise industry exit) to achieve a voluntary (or otherwise) closure of captive lion facilities, is that such facilities also breed other big cat species and cross-breeds (‘ligers’) – ie. the captive/exploitative big cat breeding industry will likely continue in some form regardless if not shut down in entirety.

[Update] “Grisly report on captive lions shocks Parliament,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 25 January 2023

There is a clear dichotomy between South Africa’s consultation on conservation and sustainable use, its proposals that every individual animal’s welfare needs matters and speculative captive rhino breeding, elephant and leopard trophy hunting, game meat trade expansion etc.

The March 2022 Good Governance Africa working paper, “Trophy hunting in South Africa: is it worth it?” conclusions indicate that trophy hunting is of limited conservation value from an economic perspective and continues to damage South Africa’s reputation:

There is next to no evidence that trophy hunting has been, or will be, well governed in South Africa. Even if it was, the fact that the practice may directly undermine other economic activities such as non-consumptive tourism, is a good governance reason to abandon the practice and condemn it……The fact that it [trophy hunting] provides minuscule economic benefits, especially to poor households, and may directly undermine conservation, appears to be a strong argument in favour of abandoning trophy hunting, especially of iconic species” – ” Value of trophy hunting to conservation massively overstated: report,” Daily Maverick, 22 March 2022

Either South Africa is at a cross-roads to enshrine individual animal welfare, or it continues down a path of exploitation as the main driver that dictates how animals are treated.

Image courtesy of “Unfair Game,” Lord Ashcroft

In the meantime, rhinos are still being poached from the Kruger at unsustainable rates – the strategy to protect them has stalled, whilst the speculative rhino breeders rhino horn stock piles continue to feed demand for rhino horn in Asia “which is seen as both a status symbol and cure for various ailments (it isn’t).”

 

Scottish Wildcat

A Scottish parliamentary decision on whether there will be windfarm building work in the last known bastion of the Scottish Wildcat at Clashindarroch forest is still awaited – however, the public inquiry has been reopened with a further hearing session now scheduled for Monday 30 January 2023 for submissions regarding ‘the impact of recent National Planning Framework legislation’ which has yet to finalised – it remains unclear how, or why the public inquiry has been reopened and at whose behest, upon Vattenfall’s appeal perhaps?

The Scottish government and Swedish government owned energy company, Vattenfall have proposals (in the name of logging and industrial windfarm revenues) that will undoubtedly negatively impact the Scottish Wildcat, a rare and endangered species. The initial public inquiry report is with Scottish Ministers (reported as with Scottish Ministers, 17 October 2022) to decide whether the planned windfarm construction can go-ahead unhindered on the Clashindarroch forest site. Note: Wildcat Heaven suggested in November 2022 that there is now a seemingly viable alternative to this [Clashindarroch forest] destruction. Another company called Infinergy have proposed a windfarm that is adjacent to the Clashindarroch forest but wouldn’t involve the extensive forest clearance that the Vattenfall proposal would. The Infinergy project would be built on open moorland which isn’t valuable wildcat habitat…”

 

UK Ivory Act

The UK Ivory Act was finally enacted 6 June 2022. 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). The results of this government ivory bearing species consultation are still awaited….

However, a worrying signal emerged at the CITES Cop19 (November 2022), the UK and EU opposed a proposal to uplist the common hippopotamus to Appendix I protection:

Sadly, an attempt by ten African countries to secure a ban on all international trade in hippo products by raising the level of protection for hippos from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I was defeated, with both the EU and UK delegations voting against. Hippo tusks and teeth are in increasing demand in international markets as a replacement for elephant ivory, and hippo populations are declining across much of their range” – “Cop 19 – Week One Round-up,” Born Free Foundation, 21 November 2021

Poachers target hippos for giant teeth in place of ivory,” BBC News, 20 December 2022

 

UK Fur Farming

IWB has continued to support campaigns against the UK’s fur farming industry, submitting comments to various T&S Rabbits’ planning applications (including Cornwall, Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire etc.) that sought to expand rabbit exploitation for commodities such as fur.  This work came to fruition with many applications refused at Local Planning Authority level and appeals rejected/withdrawn. In August 2022, T&S Rabbits shut its final East Bridgford rabbit farm, with commendable local support keen to see this facility closed – the rabbits have been taken into care and their deplorable ordeal ended. However, until the UK law ends the loop-holes whereby animals can be bred under the pretext of meat production with fur as a by-product, then this animal exploitation will potentially continue – the results of a May 2021 UK government consultation “Fur Market in Great Britain are still awaited.

 

CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP 19) – Panama City

To put it bluntly, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international trade body, not a conservation body. CITES has no ‘opinion’ or away over a sovereign country’s internal domestic ‘conservation’ policy (or lack thereof) –  and CITES continues to let us/nature/wildlife down:

CITES deals with international trade, it is not there to deal with the conservation of species in situ – there is a great deal of misunderstanding about that,” John Sellar, formerly chief of enforcement for CITES

Pro-trade lobbies continue to push for international ivory and rhino horn trade mechanisms. This was again resisted at CoP19 (November 2022):

“The pro-trade lobby at CoP19, especially pro-lethal trade, was large, exceptionally well-coordinated and organised. It made its presence and views known at many side events, made several interventions and lobbied Parties extensively. This was especially the case with the Southern African countries, where there is strong support to resume the ivory trade“ – “CITES CoP19 – an overall win for wildlife with greater commitments to protect a variety of species,” Environmental Investigation Agency, 28 November 2022

However, worryingly there was tacit support shown to open up trade for elephant skins/leather, which is likely to exacerbate demand/poaching and illicit trade in elephant ivory:

“EIA also notes with concern the voting stances of the EU, US and UK on the second deliberation of Proposal 4 to permit Zimbabwe to commercially trade elephant leather. Despite their previous stance prioritising elephant conservation, the UK and the US abstained, while the EU voted in favour. Elephant skin trade has received relatively little oversight from CITES and there are concerns that an increase in legal skin trade could lead to increased poaching of elephants for both skin and ivory– “CITES CoP19 – an overall win for wildlife with greater commitments to protect a variety of species,” Environmental Investigation Agency, 28 November 2022

 

Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15).

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) has three official targets: the conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and the sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources:

It’s largely a for-human-use agenda, though part of it will be a push to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030” –  “The sad truth is, most humans don’t give a damn about nature,” Daily Maverick, 6 December 2022

No amount of target setting is likely to counter how the “human species has become a weapon of mass extinction’ – António Guterres (UN Head) urging an end to this “orgy of destruction.

For example, Target 9, page 12 of the initial latest draft agreement included “[sustainable trophy hunting]” to provide “social, economic and environmental benefits for people” and has “significant support from southern African states:”

Ensure that the management and use of wild species are sustainable, thereby providing social, economic and environmental benefits for people, especially those in vulnerable situations and those most dependent on biodiversity, [including through the promotion of sustainable biodiversity-based products and services] [that enhance biodiversity] [including sustainable trophy hunting], and protecting and encouraging customary sustainable use by indigenous peoples and local communities.”

Where is the case-by-case ‘proof’ of ‘sustainable trophy hunting’ and its “social, economic and environmental benefits for people” going to come from for many targeted trophy species and who gets to “benefit?” The same sources that have for decades used poor/manipulated data to maintain trophy hunting income presumably, for example:

Polar Bear

Inuit tribes (Nunavut indigenous communities) in Canada ‘sell on’ their historic rights to co-manage Polar bear numbers (IUCN 2016, Case Study 10).

Roughly half of the fees [and all of the Polar bear meat apparently] taken enter the northern Inuit communities, the remainder goes to the ‘Outfitters’ with approximately 400 – 500 polar bears harvested annually in Nunavut during 2000 – 2012 – IUCN 2016 So, let’s say for 500 Polar bears per annum at $45,000 per hunt, this equates to approximately:

• Outfitters income per annum – $11m USD
• Northern Inuit communities’ income per annum – $11m USD

The ‘proven science’ for setting Polar bear hunting quotas is apparently based on annual updates “through a co-management system that integrates the best available scientific and traditional ecological knowledge” where is has been acknowledged:

Reduced monitoring will constrain governments’ ability to assess sustainability of harvest especially if abundance is estimated from aerial surveys which cannot provide data on vital rates (Aars et al. 2009,
Stapleton et al. 2014)” – IUCN

So those that profit also get to set the quotas based on their ‘knowledge’ (read guesstimates) of the target population. The biggest threat faced by Polar bears is climate change and shrinking habitat; how has that been modelled into Polar bear trophy hunting’s “harvesting” sustainability and quota setting? There is a glaring absence of the precautionary principle – if the outcomes are risky are uncertain, then killing Polar bears and pretending it’s ‘sustainable’ is a delusion.

Is there a clear, independently established scientific divide being made between Inuit Polar bear management and inevitable human greed creeping in to maximise commercial income from the potential over-harvesting of Polar bears? The question is can the ‘Endangered’ Polar bears only still deserve recognition by the Inuit because the Polar bear is now a ‘valued $ commodity’ in their eyes to derive income from? Is this a new definition of ‘conservation’ we should all ‘accept’ that despite a historical subsistence killing for food only policy, the Inuit now see the ‘Endangered’ Polar bear as a critical income stream to offset low wages and unemployment and call it ‘conservation?’ Conservation of what, the Inuit? – ref IWB submission, para 3.7.3.6

Leopards

“Plenty left to kill”evident in 2011 when in partnership with a pro-hunting lobby group, Safari Club International (SCI), Namibia launched a census “to manage the sustainability of the leopard population.” The limited returns from the farmers’ census were extrapolated, producing a flawed national estimate of leopards of over 14,000 leopards – giving the notion that there were ‘plenty left to persecute/kill.’ The reality is leopards are a shy and elusive species, there is no feasible means to accurately estimate the population, let alone such a high estimate to justify the killing. Namibia has a CITES trophy hunted export quota of 250 leopards per year, a questionable figure, according to experts of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), because it is based on “insufficient ecological information and lack of scientific data” – – ref IWB submission, para 3.7.3.3

As per the examples above, there is read-across to many aspects of trophy hunting’s claimed ‘sustainability’ and those profiting from the killing also getting to maintain the perceived ‘sustainability’ delusion  – independently verifying trophy hunting’s ‘sustainability’ is a potentially costly exercise that will meet with resistance form the profiteers. So again, where is the case-by-case ‘proof’ of ‘sustainable trophy hunting’ and its “social, economic and environmental benefits for people” going to come from? The most likely answer is the ‘proof’ will be provided from those that profit from it, not any truly independent/credible source, or ‘science.’ The claim will be that trophy hunting protects habitat – but that does not mean the inhabitants are protected from over harvesting.

Thankfully, the final decision drafting of the CoP15 agreement did not encompass the wording  [including sustainable trophy hunting] at Annex H, Kunming-Montreal 2030 Targets (Target 9 (page 9)), or specifically reference trophy hunting anywhere else in the text……

 

Animal’s Farmed and Climate Change

In the United States, legislation (the Big Cat Safety Act) is about to be passed to finally outlaw the keeping of big cats, cub petting etc. – this legislation is the wake of the 2012 “Tiger King” exposure of such practices.

With animal farms finding ways to increase intensity (such as “China’s 26-storey pig skyscraper ready to slaughter 1 million pigs a year,” The Guardian, 25 November 2022), the risk of disease increases:

“The higher the density of animals, the higher the risk of infectious pathogen spread and amplification, as well as potential for mutation” – Dirk Pfeiffer, chair professor at One Health at City University of Hong Kong    

With livestock and their by-products reportedly accounting for “at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions” (Cowspiracy, 2014) a much rethink of the risks associated with animal exploitation/land use’s negative impact on the climate is long overdue (the Netherlands demonstrating a lead in this regard) – with the ramifications of zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19 still playing out in China [and potentially beyond] as an added concern/risk of a return to unbounded animal/wildlife exploitation.

The ‘tech solutions’ to harmful agricultural emissions paraded on behalf of the incumbent food industry at Cop27 do not encompass a move away from industrial meat production (or a move away from industrial agriculture’s dependence on fossil-fuel based fertilizers for that matter) – the ‘tech’ products are an attempt to try and mitigate industrial agriculture’s ongoing emissions impact:

But the long-term risks and benefits of these emerging products remain unclear, and those currently on the market are only affordable to industrial cattle farmers and food companies that are invested in growing meat and dairy consumption, not reducing it” – “The food emissions ‘solutions’ alarming experts after Cop27,” The Guardian, 7 December 2022

At best, these technologies provide a cover for the large meat and dairy corporations to continue overproducing on polluting factory farms” Amanda Starbuck, research director at Food and Water Watch.

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are responsible for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2022 study, which found that reducing their use “offers large mitigation potential” in addition to other health, environmental and economic benefits” – “The food emissions ‘solutions’ alarming experts after Cop27,” The Guardian, 7 December 2022

As ever when it comes to the climate debate and impending climate tipping points that even climate change sceptics find hard to deny, the emphasis and those controlling the levers still seems to be on perpetuating ‘business as usual’ (mitigated perhaps to some extent), rather than a significant shift in approach that the situation arguably demands – governments still tend to believe market-based solutions and light touch regulation will prevail. However, corporate interests continue to dictate (as illustrated above). The enormous task of financing decarbonisation seemingly rests with a financial system still orientated towards  ‘market efficiency’ – maintaining returns (despite efforts to rebrand and capitalise upon ‘green investment’ opportunities etc.). The finance industry markets its ‘green credentials’ and ‘ethical/sustainable funds’ (despite still investing in fossil fuel projects at the same time), when in reality ‘green capitalism’ does not have an inherent objective of significantly advancing the required climate improvement and adverting the looming climate crisis (Buller, 2022): 

… ask not what your portfolio can do for the climate crisis, but what the climate crisis will do to your portfolio.”

This is despite the dire warnings of the risks/climate uncertainty inherent in our species’ ongoing actions, negatively impacting planet Earth’s viability to continue to support all the species that live upon it – mankind included. We currently face the threat of a self-perpetuating escalation of collapse.

In the UK, water companies are more focussed on leveraging finance and paying shareholder dividends than preventing sewage discharges into rivers and the sea it seems and the UK government is weakening river protection allowing targeted reduction in agricultural pollution to be delayed – what hope is there that corporations/the ‘free market’ are intent on solving the climate crisis if the environment is still being degraded to favour shareholder returns? Meanwhile, the UK government has sanctioned the retrograde opening of a new coal-mine, the first in over three decades:

Environmentally, it is adding to world supply and thus consumption of coal and releasing greenhouse gases when there is an urgent need to reduce them. And politically, it is undermining the UK’s authority on the most important global issue of our times” Nicholas Stern, the acclaimed economist who has worked on the climate, development and public policy – “UK’s first new coalmine for 30 years gets go-ahead in Cumbria,” The Guardian, 7 December 2022

The company that applied for the mining license, West Cumbria Mining is ultimately owned by EMR Capital, with its base in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands – any accountability for environmental ‘promises’ upon de-comissioning are going to be hard to enforce…….go figure

 

 

Best wishes to all animal advocates for 2023.

 

 

Further Reading

Ten of the biggest victories for animal welfare in 2022,” The Independent, 31 December 2022

Jagged Peak Films Ltd. production of “Lions, Bones and Bullets” – a film highlighting the cruelty of captive lion/big cat breeding in South Africa – was released for its first screening at the UK Houses of Parliament, 7 July 2022.

Lions, Bones and Bullets,” Africa Geographic, 3 May 2022

The Nature Conservation Act adopted today is an important step forward in the fight against biodiversity loss,” Valtioneuvosto, Minister of Environment – Finland, 13 December 2022

The Nature Conservation Act also includes a new provision on restricting the import of hunting trophies. The import of specimens or parts thereof of the most globally endangered species threatened by international trade as hunting trophies from non-EU countries would be prohibited.

“Under the new act, the introduction of hunting trophies of the most endangered animals into Finland will be prohibited. This means, for example, the horns of endangered rhinos or the hides of tigers on the verge of extinction“” – Maria Ohisalo MP [Minister for the Environment and Climate]

Finland Minister for the environment and climate change - on meme with an elephant and lion. Finland bans trophy hunting imports - endangered species. #BreakingNews #Finland BANS TROPHY HUNTING imports from threatened species [CITES Appx I II] from summer 2023. It mirrors #Netherlands law & imminent ban in #Belgium. A victory for wildlife & common sense. #BanTrophyHunting imports. UK is next

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