Covid19 and SA Venison

  • Friday, 24 April 2020 18:41
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Covid19 and SA venison

A news report titled “Verbied wildsvleis eet in SA” that appeared in two Afrikaans newspapers earlier this week has been met with harsh criticism from within the wildlife ranching and hunting industry. The news report refers to letters from the EMS Foundation sent to various government departments asking for an outright ban on the consumption of venison. 

In the letter the Foundation asks the “…Agriculture Minister to restrict trade in wildlife products”,  claiming that “In the light of the current pandemic, there are reasonable grounds for suspecting lion bones and other products originating from wild animals are unsafe for human consumption”. This is the basis on which China has banned all farming and consumption of “terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value. It is also accepted that viruses also travel between animal species and even from humans to animals.” 

The EMS Foundation's mission, according to their webpage, is to end and alleviate the suffering of vulnerable groups, particularly children, the elderly and wild animals. Regarding wild animals, it is concerned about animals in captivity, hunting and the wildlife trade, policies and legislative issues affecting wildlife, and national and provincial parks. 

This request is nothing short of absurd and raises serious questions about the Foundation’s motives. The crux of the matter is that EMS shows a lack of understanding about local wildlife and the hunting industries. There is a huge difference between the legal venison market in South Africa compared to the crowded live and dead animal markets, or so-called wet markets, of Wuhan in China, where the corona virus originated. 

The South African venison market is highly regulated in terms of health and safety from the point of origin to the local retailer; even more so if the venison is exported. The legal movement of live animals within South Africa’s borders is regulated by the government and it is well policed. 

To use China’s temporary ban on wildlife farming to halt that country’s slaughter and consumption of exotic animals, such as fish, birds, badgers, bats, pangolins and turtles, in overcrowded and unhygienic markets, to motivate a total ban on venison consumption in South Africa is outrageous. 

EMS’s suggestion to government to “at the very least place a ban on the human consumption of wildlife products within South Africa” in reality wipes out an entire industry, with dire consequences for related industries. The local hunting industry alone annually contributes between R8 billion and R12 billion to the country’s economy, and mostly in rural areas, where sustainable economic activities are sorely needed.

Indications are that the lockdown measures have already had a devastating effect on the hunting industry, which could last for an extended period. Apart from the government’s loss of billions of rand, there have already been severe job losses in the industry and related sectors and a much-needed source of protein for many rural households has vanished. There is no doubt that the most vulnerable in these rural societies, such as children and the elderly, will bear the brunt of this. 

The EMS letter does not mention the possible effect of its request, or provide solutions. Asking for an outright ban on venison consumption now seems premature and odd. Further realities, such as the complete economic standstill in the sector at present and possibly in future; the lack of significant health concerns in the past; and the low volume of people involved in the hunting value chains, do not support most of the Foundation’s submissions. 

The question arises whether EMS is using Covid-19 fears that South Africa’s wildlife trade poses a public health risk, to further its campaign to ban hunting. If there is a slight indication that this might be true, it places EMS in a moral dilemma, with its mission being to end the suffering of a large part of South Africa’s vulnerable citizens.

Lees die Uitvoerende hoof van die SA Jagters- en Wildbewaringsvereniging (SAJWV), Fred Camphor, se reaksie deur HIERDIE skakel te volg.

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