by Brian McCombie - Monday, May 18, 2020
With so much of our lives currently focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, you might think the National Rifle Association (NRA) has slowed its efforts to help hunters fight the work of animal-rights extremists. Not true. In addition to working with like-minded hunter-backed groups to push governors and other government officials to keep spring hunting seasons open providing social distancing guidelines are met, the NRA continues to act on hunters’ behalf and protect legal, regulated hunting.
Case in point: Recently, the NRA was one of 22 organizations that drafted and signed onto a letter to Theresa Villiers, at the time Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for the United Kingdom (UK). DEFRA had just announced a call for public commentary and evidence concerning the role of hunting as it began considering banning hunting imports and exports in the UK.
As is happening here in the United States, animal-rights extremists in the UK and Europe are working to discredit hunters and hunting. They try to suggest that hunters slaughter game animals, take the antlers and skins, and leave the rest to waste.
That is a lie. But it is a lie that can influence the uninformed.
As the NRA-signed letter explained, “The term ‘trophy hunting’ suggests a false dichotomy between those who hunt wildlife and keep a commemorative part or parts of their hunts and those who do not. Under the principles of Game Laws in the UK and The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation in the U.S. and Canada, every hunter is a subsistence hunter. Additionally, every hunter who wishes to commemorate the experience is a trophy hunter, be it through a photograph or through the artform of taxidermy. Regardless, they are all hunters who participate in the same science-based conservation models that fund conservation efforts worldwide.”
The letter underscores how such an import and export ban would disincentivize hunters in the United States as well as the UK. The act of hunting is recognized by the UK government as an effective and beneficial method of wildlife conservation. Although a hunting trophy import/export ban would not prevent sportsmen there or in the United States from taking part in hunting opportunities, the letter recognizes that “the pursuit of game without the ability to commemorate the experience will have a negative impact on the overall economic contribution of the industry.”
As for why U.S. hunters, the NRA and like-minded hunter groups care about another country potentially banning such imports and exports, it is because of the domino effect. Such a move could lead to other nations following suit with similar bans, which also would impact U.S. hunters and additional funding that would go toward wildlife conservation.
“The U.S. represents the overwhelming majority of hunters traveling internationally, and we have two bills currently in the House of Representatives seeking to limit and even eliminate trophy imports into the Unites States,” noted Matt Boguslawski, Manager of Advocacy for the Dallas Safari Club (DSC), which also signed onto the letter sent to Villiers. “So the UK’s decision could turn out to be a real threat to hunters here.”
In the United States alone, for example, hunting provides $3 billion annually in direct spending, billions more to the overall economy and comprises the bulk of funding for fish and wildlife conservation. It is the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation that continues to conserve and bolster wildlife populations across America.
As the letter highlights, “sportsmen and sportswomen are the primary funders of fish and wildlife conservation in the United States, providing upwards of 80 percent of the funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. In the United States over 46 million individuals, including international sportsmen and sportswomen (including those from the UK), participate in hunting and angling annually.”
In addition to incentivizing wildlife conservation and providing significant funding to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats, the letter explains hunting is a key component in managing the balance between invariable human population growth and the resulting wildlife habitat decline. It also shares how hunting “encourages private investment in wildlife conservation in developing countries.”
According to information provided by DSC, the 2016 Great Elephant Census (GEC) estimated a population of 352,271 elephants across 18 African countries. Notably, 90.5 percent of the elephant population is found in countries that use legal, regulated hunting as a wildlife conservation tool.
The DSC also notes that “across four Southern African countries (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe)—all of which use hunting as a conservation tool—sub-population sampling evidenced that there was an 8 percent increase in their lion populations relative to large-scale lion population decreases across the rest of Africa. Tanzania, which also uses legal, regulated hunting to manage wildlife, is estimated to hold half of Africa’s wild lion population.
The real threat to these two iconic species? Habitat destruction on the African continent. In fact, legal, regulated, conservation-based hunting is what is benefitting both species by helping to sustain and grow their populations.
So then why is DEFRA considering a hunting ban?
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