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Letter to US Fish and Wildlife

By Chris Mercer, Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

I refer to the hysterical letter of protest by hunting fanatic Ron Thomson to US Fish and Wildlife, complaining angrily about the decision to temporarily suspend imports of elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe and Tanzania for the rest of 2014.

First we’d like to apologise to USFW for the tone of this 20-page rant. Not all South Africans are so abusive and discourteous.

In this letter, he attacks your culture, motives and competence because of the suspension, likening the desire of USFW to protect elephants in Africa as the same as “trying to enforce Christianity on to an Islamic state”. Africans, he claims, have no culture of protecting wildlife, only in its commercial exploitation.

He challenges the reason given by USFW that “there has been a significant decline in the elephant population” on the basis that it conflicts with his “belief” (unsupported by any research) that there are far too many elephants in Africa.

Finally he laments the failure of African governments to continue regular elephant culls after the trade ban on ivory in 1989, claiming that “the sale of ivory paid for the culling exercise.”

In other words, he argues that the only way elephant populations can be properly managed is if African governments are allowed to sell the ivory of the slain elephants in order to pay for the cost of killing them.

So what is he asking USFW to do?

He wants you to get out of the way and let the hunters kill as many elephant as they want. His main reason is his belief that there are “tens of thousands of elephants who should be killed.”

But this reason, even if true, does not logically support his plea. Sport hunters play no useful role in reducing elephant populations, because “hunters selectively shoot only elephant bulls.” Hunting certainly harms social cohesion and herd dynamics, but it leaves the breeding cows alone.

What he is really calling for is a massive culling exercise. Culling is the exact opposite of sport hunting. The goals of the two are mutually exclusive. Culling is a para-military operation where whole herds are rounded up and liquidated. The aim is to drastically reduce overall populations.

Expressing his argument as a syllogism, he is contending:
1. There are too many elephants in Africa, and they should be killed;
2. Hunters kill elephants;
3. Therefore, hunting is good.

But why is someone, who wants to see tens of thousands of elephants killed, promoting the sport hunting of elephants? It makes no sense at all. Thomson is really arguing that massive indiscriminate slaughter, either by government killing or by elephant poachers, benefits the ecology far better than hunters.  Does he realize that the implication of his arguments? Is he actually calling for more elephant poaching?

Let’s deal with some of his other extraordinary claims:-

1. A poaching frenzy:
He claims that because of the one year suspension of import of elephant trophies, poachers will invade all the hunting concessions in Tanzania, causing mayhem. This claim wrongly assumes:
1. That this temporary suspension amounts to a total ban on all hunting;
2. That all hunters will immediately abandon their concessions, and;
3. That hunters are the only force for protecting wilderness.

2. Starvation:
He claims melodramatically that the African staff employed by the hunters will not only be put out of work by this temporary suspension, but that they will “starve.” Thomson’s tender concern for the digestion of the natives again ignores the fact that the temporary suspension only affects elephant trophies. The hunting fraternity will continue to kill all other species freely.

3. Philanthropy:
He alleges that “hunting is the best way to take wealth from the rich people of the first world and give it to the poor people of Africa”.
What a sweeping statement! The money from hunting goes mainly to the hunting operators. The “poor people of Africa” get only the crumbs from the hunting industry’s table.

I’m sure that USFW is perfectly able to see through this monument to crooked thinking and muddled reasoning.

I leave you with this piece of self-congratulation in his letter:
He boasts: “I hunted and killed several thousand elephant over a five year period in the Zambezi Valley. In 1971 – 2, I was lead hunter in reducing the elephant population in Gona-re-Zhou game reserve by 2,500 animals…
I have had a very distinguished career. ”

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