SA Hunters calls for removal of ‘flaw’ in draft Biodiversity White Paper

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) requested the minister of forestry, fisheries and the environment (DFFE), Barbara Creecy, to remove the term “animal well-being” from its revised draft Biodiversity White Paper since its definition refers to the physical, physiological, and mental health, similar to the definition of the well-being of humans. It can be interpreted as putting animals and people at the same level with similar rights, especially when having to consider the mental health of both.

Although SA Hunters acknowledges the improvements in the revised draft White Paper which reflect a more holistic and sensible approach to biodiversity, it regards the confusion between animal welfare and animal well-being as a fatal flaw, which is problematic from a practical implementation perspective.

The definition for well-being, which apparently flows from the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) review process, states: “The holistic circumstances and conditions of an animal or population of animals which are conducive to its physical, physiological, and mental health and quality of life, including its ability to cope with its environment”.

Read more about the wildlife industry in South Africa here.

In its letter to minister Creecy, SA Hunters pointed out that using a similar definition to that of human well-being will not only significantly impede the implementation of the Biodiversity White Paper, but also all associated legislation and regulations. “It is further expected to result in constant legal battles between the department and members of the wildlife sector on both sides of the spectrum, from the extreme animal rights groups to the extreme all-use-is-good-use groups,” said Fred Camphor, CEO of SA Hunters.

From a legal perspective, using the term “well-being” in relation to animals can open a contentious debate about what is more important: humans or animals? This is especially relevant in instances of human/wildlife conflict in communities adjacent to game reserves where predators and large herbivores such as elephant, hippopotamus and buffalo pose a threat to human lives and livelihoods. Repeat offenders are usually destroyed for the sake of human lives.

“It is absurd to think that the mental health and quality of life of locusts that destroy crops should be considered before they are being controlled using pesticides. The same goes for the so-called well-being of elephants or predators. We accept that animals are sentient beings, but one cannot reason with an animal about its behaviour that threatens humans. Neither can you consult the chicken about its mental preparedness for becoming your dinner? Clearly, well-being in the context of the definition given above is not a term that one can remotely consider to be applicable to animals,” Camphor explained.

Read more about the Wildlife Rancher of the Year here.

“By including the term “well-being” in the White Paper, we understand that DFFE may wish to make provision to address issues of animal welfare in NEMBA and in the White Paper, without overstepping on the mandate of Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development that has the mandate to deal with animal welfare, and the NSPCA that has the mandate to deal with animal cruelty.

“We certainly do not argue for animal welfare to be neglected. It remains an important aspect. We merely argue that you cannot apply the same principle to people and animals in this context, by using animal well-being. It will merely increase and exacerbate the conflict,” Camphor concludes. – Press release, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association

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