When I read the editorial of the January 2018 edition of Magnumit was apparent that the Editor, along with many other publications and commentaries had not been aware of the full facts relating to what transpired at the PHASA 2017 Annual General Meeting and the background leading to the Annual General Meeting.
In the interest of fairness and by exercising the right of reply, I hope to set the record straight with this article. This article is written in my personal capacity.
I have an interest in responding to the editorial because I drafted the new PHASA Constitution. However I was not involved in the November 2016 High Court case, which has been all but ignored in the commentary on captive bred lion hunting and PHASA.
I also want to stress that this debate is harmful to us all as hunters and firearm owners. What we all need to learn is that any compromise either in hunting or firearm ownership makes us all collectively weaker and makes our enemies stronger. If we compromise in hunting by saying that although something is legal it is not acceptable, then once we have made that compromise, further compromises will follow. There is a no difference to hunting lion in an enclosed area to any other animal. If we compromise on one type of enclosed hunting to pacify our enemies, further compromises will follow with other animal breeds.
At the Annual General Meeting at PHASA in 2015 and by a narrow margin, a resolution was passed that simply stated, “PHASA distances itself from all captive bred lion, breeding and hunting until such time as the South African Predator Association can convince PHASA and the International Union for Conservation of Nature that captive bred lion hunting is beneficial to lion conservation”. The resolution did not say anything further about what would happen if a PHASA member engaged in captive bred lion hunting. It is important to note that captive bred lion hunting was and remains legal.
Unfortunately a number of members of the then Exco, in order to forward their own personal and subjective agenda of trying to stop captive bred lion hunting then requested all members of PHASA to sign an affidavit on oath that they would not engage in captive bred lion hunting and that if they did not sign the affidavit, their membership would be terminated. The Exco also went further and misrepresented to members that this was part of the original resolution of 2015 by stating “PHASA further resolved that any of its members found to be involved in the breeding, hunting and marketing of captive bred lions would face disciplinary action and if found to be in breach of the resolution face possible termination of their PHASA membership”. This was never part of the original resolution and was subsequently found by the High Court to be a misrepresentation to members.
The then Exco of PHASA embarked upon a process, which I will describe through quotations from the court judgment a little later on, that was intended to victimise certain members of PHASA who either did not agree with the resolution, or who were involved in captive bred lion hunting. Certain members who refused to sign the affidavit had their memberships unilaterally suspended. The conduct of PHASA in an urgent High Court application was described by Judge Prinsloo as “not only misleading but wrong and, it is common cause that there was no due process as I have mentioned let alone an internal disciplinary process before these applicants were suspended as I shortly illustrate” and “What is more and I find this astonishingly unreasonable is that they simply notified the applicants’ attorney to tell his clients that they have now suspended the applicants membership without commenting on the incorrect affidavit which they expect the applicants to sign on oath. It is patently obvious that there was not the slightest suggestion let alone application of due process or, as promised in the rider, an internal disciplinary process. Nothing of the kind” and “That compounds the unreasonable conduct of the 1st respondent and it seems to me, particularly its attorney. Judge Prinsloo described the conduct of the then Exco as a “comedy of errors…” and, “This is a very fine example in my view of adding insult to injury...”
In summary, the Judge found in the High Court application that the 2015 Exco had acted without due process, dishonestly, and in an unfair administrative manner.
All of the above has been conveniently ignored by the people opposed to captive bred lion hunting. Captive bred lion hunting is supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs who work closely inter alia with PHASA and other hunting associations and DEA is one of the few government departments that is both functional and which understands and recognises the need to consult with relevant stakeholders and does so, to promote and protect hunting.
Pursuant to the judgment of Judge Prinsloo, it became apparent that the PHASA Constitution did not comply with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in that it was administratively unfair because it gave excessive powers to the executive committee and that those executive powers had been abused for subjective personal motives.
I was then tasked with redrafting the PHASA Constitution. The Constitution was never a single issue Constitution about captive bred lion hunting. The whole Constitution needed to be re-written to balance the powers of the Exco and that of members and to be detailed enough to be fair to all parties concerned and to overcome the suspicion and antagonism that had been created by both the issue of captive bred lion hunting and the outcome of the High Court case.
I, in drafting of the Constitution consulted widely with members of PHASA and individuals and organisations outside of PHASA and internationally and it became clear that in most people’s minds, the central issue was about captive bred lion hunting and the issues of Constitutionality and administrative fairness was ignored or regarded as irrelevant. Nothing could be more wrong.
Some organisations particularly International ones (who want to dictate how we hunt in South Africa) and individuals including PHASA members regard captive bred lion hunting as unethical notwithstanding that it is legal in certain provinces. Unfortunately we cannot police ethics because ethics is a subjective issue and very few people have the same understanding or agreement about what is ethical. That applies to all spheres of life and not just hunting.
After a considerable amount of consultation and research, I concluded that the only way to define ethical would be by reference to what the law permits or does not permit. Therefore if a member contravened any hunting law they could be disciplined in an objective, and not subjective manner.
Therefore clause 2.2 of the PHASA constitution was amended as follows “the association is founded on the fundamental principle that legal hunting is an effective conservation tool and that legal hunting contributes to the conservation and management of wildlife and sustainable use of wildlife. Legal hunting shall mean all types of hunting permissible by law.”
There is no mention in the Constitution of canned lion or captive bred lion hunting. Notwithstanding this, those persons and organisations opposed to captive bred lion hunting have chosen to shout the incorrect message that, and I quote from the Magnum Editorial, “members approved of canned lion shooting”. There was never such an approval.
Finally I have not sought the permission of, nor shown the content of this article to the Exco or management of PHASA. – Martin Hood
¬ I do not agree with several of the statements made by Mr Hood in the above letter, but will keep my response short as I have already voiced my opinion on several occasions in Magnum. I am well aware that the hunting of captive bred lions is lawful in South Africa, however this does not make it the “right” thing to do. My call was not to ignore the Law but to act responsibly for the good of hunting. We at Magnum encourage debate on contentious issues and value your opinions. – Editor