Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

The Poilitics Of Canned Hunting

The antis have been at it again, and we will not know how they have faired until the Department of the Environment makes a decision on the importation of Lion skins and specimens. Their campaign was, of course, against hunting, which they have sought to attack under the guise of an attack upon ‘canned hunting’,

It is unclear from listening to Members of Parliament speak, if they have any idea what a ‘canned hunt’ is. Some are I think drawing a moral line about animals being bred to be killed, but this is not a definition of ‘canned hunting’. The Hon Jason Wood (Liberal, Latrobe), who seems to have initiated this debate, seems to fall into this category, for, in the speech to Parliament about Canned Hunting he refers to the shooting of bear over baits while they are eating.

If it is unsporting to hunt feeding animals I guess I shall have to give up fishing.

One of his other concerns seems to be the breeding of animals to be killed. Cattle, fowl, sheep are bred to be killed, so are fish at fish farms, and the death of an animal, even at a so called ‘canned hunt’ is quicker and cleaner than that of livestock processed even in a country like ours that has livestock handling laws.

As to the issue that we are enjoying ourselves, our Politicians, who in many cases have a physical shape that suggests that they enjoys a good feed, need to reflect upon the reality that recreational eating is a form of entertainment as well, and that this contributes to animal deaths.

Sadly the Australian political scene is devoid of a definition of ‘canned hunt’, and this was not provided to the House of Representatives when Jason Wood addressed it on Tuesday 27 May 2014.

One of the best definitions of ‘Canned hunting’ (without actually using this name) or its older, and less media savvy name of ‘shot behind wire’, is to be found in the ‘Sportsmanship in Hunting’ Bill of June 16 2011, which was introduced into the US Congress but not enacted.

S49 of this Bill prohibits the interstate or international transportation or possession of confined exotic animals for the purpose of allowing the killing or injury of the animal for entertainment.

For the purposes of this Bill, the confinement of the animal must be for the majority of the animals life or a continuous period of one year, and captivity does not include any period where the animal is surviving primarily by foraging for naturally occurring food, is roaming in an open area of at least 1,000 acres and has the opportunity to avoid hunters.

Many hunting clubs, including the Boone & Crocket club, have accepted this definition of canned hunting. And I believe most sportsmen would not wish to participate in that style of hunt. Indeed, shooting behind wire is ‘just not done’ in acceptable sporting circles around the world unless the ‘wired’ area is indeed very large and the circumstances amount to hunting a free range wild animal.

The problem is, many hunters participate unwittingly.

Canned hunting can involve hunting an animal that has been released into the wild while sedated, shortly before it is shot. This often occurs after several days of ‘stalking’ during which the ‘guide’ has shown the ‘hunter’ numerous pieces of ‘sign’.

This often occurs in very marginal lion country in southern Africa, and represents a nice safe earner for the ‘actor’, who I will not honour with the title Professional Hunter.  The actor gets an easy hunt that lacks the danger of hunting a truly wild Lion, where wounding one can cost a guide or client their life, and his client gets a guaranteed result, and possibly repeat business from the shooters friends, who are impressed that the guide has ‘delivered’.

You can get an idea whether a friend of yours has been duped in this way by looking closely at the hide he bought home- wild cats have a lot of scars, farm bred ones, do not.

Some of these lions spend their early days at ‘petting zoos’ where they are handled by tourists, and are then transferred illegally either to a public or private reserve when they become too big for this activity, their bones wind up being consumed by the Asian alternative medicine industry.

Of course, this type of hunt can be avoided- simply by engaging a guide who is a member of a reputable professional association, and whose behaviour is regulated by their Code of Conduct, and by proper research before booking that seeks to ascertain where the wild lion actually are, and where the PH intends to take you.

Large game farms provide areas for animals to be hunted in that are well in excess of 1,000 acres. They provide a valuable source of specimens for zoos, and for the maintenance of a gene pool to enable animals to be re-established in the wild, and for scientific study.  The animals live under wild conditions and are also hunted under circumstances where they can escape the hunter.

Sadly, politicians do not understand that African countries cannot afford much money for conservation, and the one thing that will save the elephant, like the white rhino in South Africa in1916, are game parks, whether privately or publically operated and people who are willing to fund their operating costs by paying to hunt.

The hunting also provides meat and revenue for native Africans that reduces the need for them to hunt to eat or poach wildlife.

Submissions to the Department of the Environment regarding amendments to the law that would treat specimens of African lion as though they were listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Flora (CITES) closed on 22 September 2014, and we now have to wait and see.

To me the way to deal with ‘canned hunting’ is not through a ban on the importation of lion skins into Australia. It is through the education of Australian hunters so that they are aware of the industry and can make appropriate vacation choices, and perhaps by assisting countries affected, such as the Republic of South Africa, in regulating the supply of lion to unscrupulous operators, and in ensuring that private game parks meet acceptable ‘free chase’ standards.

Our politicians would be wise to take note of US President Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote over a hundred years ago, that:

“in a civilised and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who poorest against hunting and who consider sportsmen the enemies of wildlife are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more wild animals from total extermination’.




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