ANIMAL PROTECTIONISTS, CONSERVATIONISTS AND CIVIL SOCIETY UP IN ARMS AT VAN SCHALKWYK’S APPARENT CONTEMPT FOR PRESCRIBED PUBLIC CONSULTATION PROCESSES
Stakeholders who represent the views of many people, both locally and internationally, concerned about the continued use of brutal wildlife trapping and killing methods in South Africa were left shell-shocked after it became apparent that the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism’s (DEAT) consultation process for the so-called "Damage Causing Animals" Norms and Standards, was a sham and fundamentally flawed.
At the first stakeholder consultation workshop, held last week, it emerged that DEAT had already, arbitrarily and subjectively, produced a draft document which was largely reflective of the views and inputs of the pro-hunting lobby and those who support unnecessary, barbaric and cruel methods of "wildlife control" and was making a case for legalising leg hold traps, poisons, hunting with dogs and the practice of denning. Many stakeholders at the workshop objected to the existence of this document and DEAT agreed that proper consultation processes had not been followed and that, as such, a clean slate approach would be taken and DEAT was at pains to state that "no such document exists".
However, only a few days later, in an Alice-in-Wonderland-Mad-Hatter move, this "non-existent" and biased document remerged as The Draft Norms and Standards document and as apparently reflecting the input at the workshop. This is in conflict with South Africa’s environmental legislation and its commitment to meaningful stakeholder consultation processes, transparency in decision-making and the right of civil society to participate in decision-making. Also of critical concern is that this document ignores the extensive empirical evidence and research presented at the workshop that clearly showed that non-lethal and humane options are sound, practical and financially more effective. Moreover, it also ignores the ethical arguments that were put forward by a number of presenters and stakeholders.
"Apart from the obvious ethical issues, there is no scientific data that supports the case for the use of these cruel lethal methods. Animal Rights Africa is therefore totally baffled by DEAT’s current disingenuous stance. We will not allow them to push through an illegitimate policy document – whether for administrative reasons or to appease the barbaric pro-trapping hunting and agricultural lobby. This lobby unashamedly promotes a gratuitous culture of killing and violence and still reflects the rhetoric, language and chauvinistic mindset of wasteful, cruel and inhumane colonialism and apartheid which exploited Africa, its peoples, and its wildlife", said ARA spokesperson, Michele Pickover.
Of additional concern is that the outcome of the workshop was further biased because DEAT consciously appointed a Facilitator who could not have been objective or neutral as he is a bow-hunter who according to his own website is a "dangerous game and damage causing animal control officer, professional hunter, hunting outfitter and one of the most experienced problem lion, buffalo and elephant hunters in South Africa".
Said Pickover, "The drafting of the Norms and Standards document could provide an opportunity for South Africa to creatively promote mutual co-existence and to solve, mitigate, prevent and reduce any potential conflict between wild animals and humans. This can be achieved in a way that not only promotes ethical conservation whilst preserving and enhancing local livelihoods but is also ethical, compassionate and free of gratuitous violence. We urge Mr Van Schalkwyk and his department to do the reasonable and decent thing."
Contact persons for ARA:
Steve Smit +27 (0) 82 659 4711
Michele Pickover +27 (0) 82 253 2124
ARA email - firstname.lastname@example.org
ARA website – www.animalrightsafrica.org