Following the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, commentators have called for a ban on game hunting, including in South Africa – something which could be to the country’s detriment.
Cecil – a protected lion – was killed, beheaded, and skinned after US dentist Walter Palmer shot the animal in what has subsequently been labelled an illegal hunt.
The event has been extensively covered by media from around the world leading to mass debate, with conservation groups and celebrities calling for a ban of wild game hunting across the globe.
A snap poll conducted by BusinessTech after the event found that 63% of people would be in favour of a hunting ban in the country, echoing the sentiments expressed on online platforms.
However, according to Professor Peet van der Merwe, from the Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society at North West University, such a ban would have a devastating effect on many industries in South Africa.
“If hunting is banned in South Africa…it will result in the loss of thousands of jobs and the closing down of hundreds of businesses, since most game farms are dependent on this source of income,” he said.
“This will hit an already economically-struggling country hard. It will not only affect hunting destinations in South Africa, but also countries that supply hunting equipment, rifles, ammunition, and numerous other products dependent on hunting.”
The Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa compiled a presentation in 2013 showing how game hunting in South Africa was a R6.6-billion industry – not counting other industries that benefit from the trade, such as the tourism industry.
To explain the magnitude of the hunting industry in South Africa, NWU compiled a list of sectors that would be knocked – if not shut down – if hunting were banned in the country.
There are specific departments in the government’s structures that focus only on issuing permits and managing legislation for hunting.
In the case of South Africa, there is the National Department of Environmental Affairs together with nine provincial offices that all have people employed in the field.
Taxidermists process the trophies, and also supply products to curio shops and arts and crafts shops.
There are hundreds of these businesses in South Africa and even more informal vendors who sell products made from wild animals. Taxidermists also have their own suppliers that supply them with materials, chemicals, and the other produce they use.
- Meat processing
In South Africa, wildlife meat is big business. Butcheries sell the meat and processed products (biltong, chili bites, steak) to the public.
Therefore, companies that sell spices and meat processing equipment and products will also be affected by the ban.
- Hunting equipment and gear suppliers
This part of the industry is substantial and includes the manufacturers of rifles, knives, ammunition, binoculars, telescopes, bows and arrows, hunting optics, tripods (bipods), reloading equipment, and shooting targets, to name but a few. A large percentage of these are imported.
- Hunting organisations
Currently, there are numerous hunting organisations in South Africa including PHASA, SA Hunters and CHASA. The ban would leave all these organisations in dire straits.
- Game capturing and transportation
Due to hunting, game farm owners sell game among each other; in South Africa, this is an enormous industry and worth billions of rands.
Think about all the game capturing equipment, including vehicles, helicopters, capturing nets, and darting rifles, to name a few. This industry would largely collapse if hunting were to be banned.
- Veterinary services
Public and state-owned veterinary services benefit greatly from the hunting industry. Game is sold among product/game farm owners due to hunting.
Farmers or product owners are not allowed to dart or tranquilise wildlife and therefore must make use of a registered vet. The pharmaceutical companies in this regard benefit tremendously from this industry.
Clothing companies produce huge quantities of clothing for the hunting industry, including camouflage clothing, shoes, hats, jackets, and even underwear.
- Tradeshows and exhibitions
Each year, numerous trade shows and exhibitions are held worldwide. South Africa’s biggest hunting exhibition, HuntEx, annually attracts hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors.
Consider the economic impact of these tradeshows on host regions and countries.
- Firearm dealers and manufactures
South Africa alone hosts a couple of hundred firearm dealers, which are mostly dependent on the hunting industry. Most of the firearms sold are imports from other countries outside of Africa.
If hunting stops, most firearm dealers will close their doors.
“People and organisations in South Africa and other countries must carefully rethink the consequences of their call for the ban of hunting, specifically African countries where job creation is critical and poverty is high, not even to mention land that would be lost for wildlife and conservation in Africa,” said van der Merwe.
“The question is: Who will then take responsibility for all these job losses and closing business? The people who banned hunting?”