I hunt. I do this because deep in my makeup – call it my DNA – nature intended me to be a hunter just like my ancestors, and there is a basic drive inside me to do just that. I am a law-abiding citizen. I obey all the hunting regulations in the areas where I hunt and, in addition, I have my own strict code of ethics which I set for myself and which take the parameters within which I hunt one step further than the regulations. In the areas where I hunt, the game is carefully managed by the authorities and I have never, nor would I ever, hunt an endangered species. All Canadian hunters, including myself, have to write an exam in order to procure a hunting licence, and we have to conform to all the regulations pertaining to the game management areas wherever we legally hunt. Notwithstanding this, we are under attack from anti-hunting organizations with little or no understanding of wildlife and conservation or the way in which sustainable hunting is regulated. This has just been exemplified by the forced last-minute cancellation of two hunting expositions to be showcases for African hunting safari companies in Canada due to pressure from one such group. We are being portrayed as something akin to murderers of wildlife. The venue of the one cancellation was the Toronto Airport Holiday Inn, and in Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Inn. Alternative venues were found and prospective clients had to run the gauntlet of protesters screaming at them and carrying signs such as “Psychopaths” and “Killers”. As an ethical hunter, I feel compelled to respond to the above attack on something that is special to me. The anti-hunting groups are extremely selective in their “outrage”. The so-called “Cecil” incident, the facts of which are still unclear and which occurred in a hunting block adjacent to the Hwange game reserve in Zimbabwe, was followed one week later within the borders of the same game reserve in Zimbabwe, by the killing of a photographic walking tour guide by a male lion. There was not a murmur from any of the anti-hunting groups. A week later, yet again in the same reserve, poachers poisoned a waterhole, resulting in the indiscriminate death of thousands of life forms if one counts all the living creatures right down the ecological chain – again not one protest, although over thirty elephants, bulls, cows and calves, targeted for their ivory, were among the dead. One can only deduce that in initiating their attacks against legitimate law-abiding recreational hunters, these anti-hunting groups display a blatant double standard. These groups appeal to the public at large for their support, using emotion and misinformation as their tools. To counteract these attacks from the anti-hunters, we hunters as a group, have to formulate clear and logical arguments in our defense that the non-hunting public can understand. In the current context as part of the argument, hunters have to clarify two terms – the one is “conservation” and the other “hunter” .They are, in fact, connected. “Conservation” and “Preservation” are words that cause confusion. The difference is that conservation implies utilization of whatever is being conserved. Preservation is a word that simply implies preserving something and nothing more. In this context I will be discussing conservation using Africa as my model. Conservation begins in the soil – in good old mother earth – and what grows out of it. The human population in this impoverished continent is exploding exponentially. The indigenous populations who live in rural Africa count their wealth in domestic livestock, generally cattle. In this exploding population with their attendant livestock, the need for grazing brings man and his livestock into direct confrontation with “nature’s livestock” – the indigenous antelope and bovines of Africa and the predators that feed on them. The predators are one of nature’s way of balancing the African ecosystem. Mother Nature is not benign. Nature is what it is – it can be magnificent, but also it is not only cruel at times in human terms, but utterly ruthless. To the African villager – often poor and living at a barely subsistence level – his livestock is his wealth and just about everything else that occurs naturally and threatens his very existence, is an unwanted nuisance. The antelope and wild pigs compete for feed and trample his meagre crops – his food. The elephant can destroy those crops and the economy of a community overnight, and in addition pose mortal danger to any puny humans that attempt to interfere with their feeding depredations. The predators sometimes view the human population and their livestock as food, and as a result are hunted (at best) or simply poisoned by the native peoples. The wild animals that we Westerners glowingly describe as magnificent, majestic, etc., are seen somewhat differently by the rural African. I have heard many times that they would simply like to see them disappear. To the rural African, the Westerner’s view of conservation is a somewhat vague notion – something we Westerners can afford – and which they cannot. Out of all this there is one obvious solution which is all-important to understand and that is, put an economic value on the wild animal. A value where the indigenous populations share in that value and can see a return and a benefit to themselves and their communities in the form of protein, cash and employment. Once the value of a wild animal exceeds the value of a cow to the owner of that cow, human nature being what it is, that wild animal will be protected by that owner . Protected in the conservationist sense, in that at the end of the day this protection does return a visible economic benefit. Recreational hunting safaris referred to as “consumptive” and photographic safaris referred to as “non-consumptive ” are two forms of utilizing wildlife, and they are not mutually exclusive. There are also several different types of hunting, so let’s look at some of them. For example there are still subsistence hunters living all over the planet who rely on their efforts to garner food in the form of protein, hides for clothing and shelter and material for tools utilised in their everyday lives. Their lives depend on the hunt. One example is the Inuit of Northern Canada. Then there are the aforementioned recreational hunters of which I am one. Individuals who do not have to hunt in order to survive but still have that stray atavistic gene in their makeup and have that age-old hunting imperative etched into their DNA – an “imperative” that drives them to want to hunt. Sustainable, regulated hunting, whether for food or for a trophy provides an outlet for that imperative and, as a result, cash, meat and employment to the local people. Then there are the poachers. There are many different levels of poaching, some involving different forms of hunting. These people operate outside the laws and regulations. Some poachers are so poor that any form of food be it fish, animals, birds, insects (such as locusts – a delicacy) are killed in order to sustain life. Sometimes their prey is shot or speared, but generally their prey is snared – often dying agonizing deaths, the meat left to waste away and to rot in the bush. Operating outside the law, often in game reserves, these people cannot run the risk of constantly inspecting their snares for fear of being caught. This form of hunting is non-selective and can have a hugely adverse effect on the wildlife of a region. One step below this “subsistence poaching” is the poaching for bushmeat – to be sold for profit. A cruel, destructive and indiscriminate way of making a living. The worst form of poaching is carried out by those who operate in conjunction with sophisticated international criminal organizations who make enormous profits on such items as rhino horn, ivory, bear gall bladders and animal parts such as the floating bones of lions which are passed off for tiger bones now that just about all the tigers have been wiped out. Hand in hand with this is the corruption of officialdom and government functionaries because there are enormous amounts of money to be made. Poisoning waterholes has become the preferred modus operandi for these criminals Banning licensed regulated sustainable hunting is NOT the solution. In the 70s Kenya banned all safari hunting. Supposedly this was to “protect” their wildlife which was utter nonsense. The real reason for the ban was so corrupt government officials who were working in conjunction with poaching organizations could get a free hand with their lucrative poaching activities. The result is that Kenya has lost approximately 70% of its wildlife – particularly its elephants – the big tuskers for which the country was famous. The reason for the ban was to get the safari companies out of the way because they could see and report poaching activities. On top of that, all licensed professional hunters were honorary game rangers empowered to make arrests. On the Internet check out “Kenya’s hunting ban in the 1970s” to find out the shocking truth from pieces written by internationally respected conservationists, wildlife biologists and wildlife experts. The numbers say it all. I reiterate, after the hunting ban in 1977 Kenya lost 70% of its wildlife, and recreational hunting cannot be held accountable for that indisputable fact. In contrast, the southern part of Africa where licensed, regulated and sustainable hunting is flourishing, so is the game. The fees from hunters, the meat from the animals harvested and the jobs provided by this industry have been a boon to all. To attack hunting as some misguided and ill-informed groups are doing, is working towards hastening the end of the game rather than the conservation of the game, and the public at large should be made aware of this. The hunting industry and the photographic industry are not mutually exclusive. On a per capita basis the hunting industry earns more revenue. This is exceeded overall though by the photographic industry, which, being far more affordable, attracts a far larger client base. The photographic safari client generally expects to experience a more luxurious safari camp than the hunter does. A camp with all the attendant creature comforts requires a more elaborate infrastructure, and because these camps are more numerous, they have a greater impact on the natural environment. Generally the client expects to see animals – lots of them – and so the prime big-game viewing safari companies operate where there are larger concentrations of game. The positive benefit to the indigenous people in terms of jobs is obvious, but most of those employed have a higher degree of education, skillsets and familiarity with client expectations than those employed in remote hunting camps, and are often brought in from elsewhere. The hunting safari can operate effectively in areas in which the game densities are far less. One has to hunt to find the quarry. Because the numbers of hunters are less than the number of photographers there are fewer clients and fewer camps. The environmental impact is negligible. All hunting is totally regulated by the game departments, taking in such factors such as sustainability and setting hunting quotas and seasons. The hunting is carried out only by licensed hunters guided by licensed professionals. The local is at no disadvantage here, being more attuned to the environment than someone brought in from elsewhere and, as a result, is a valued contributor to the operation. The often overlooked benefit the hunting safari offers is that it provides protein, tons of meat to the local people and that those wonderful trackers, who are usually from the community, get an outlet for that hunters imperative in their own DNA by being legitimately employed in an industry that lets them do what they love. Having a free and legitimate supply of meat also curtails the business and the need for poaching In conclusion I can only ask that consideration be given to the above points rather than the emotionally charged rhetoric of the anti-hunting groups who call themselves “animal lovers”, who seem to only want to promote their own point of view and are doing their best to have all hunting banned. Groups who drown out the voice of the ethical hunter to have a respectful discussion. I would go so far as to say that by doing so, the anti-hunters are sounding the death knell of the very animals they purport to protect. Tony Marsh. Jan. 2016