Matho’s blog: Hunting the elephant in the room

Last week we were going to introduce elephants to Australia, a rather outrageous proposition, but it brings attention to an elephant in the room of Australian conservation and its politics – hunting.

Professor David Bowman’s suggestion to introduce elephants here achieved the impact he intended but didn’t necessarily deliver the message he was trying to get across: that we really need to re-think land management in Australia because it is “in crisis” after being “handled by a mix of ad hoc responses, or in some cases, denial”.

Lots of people missed the point of his article in Nature magazine. His response was published this morning on The Conversation.

Bowman isn’t advocating hunting but many of his arguments ring true when it comes to our position.

“Clearly current management approaches are not working,” he says, a point hunters have made repeatedly as we’ve fought for access to public land to help control feral animals. In Victoria, a deer stalker can target deer in national parks but can’t shoot a feral there. In NSW, the Shooters and Fishers Party has been hammering on the thick skulls of the state’s NPWS to get a fair hearing on the subject but keeps running up against the denial that Bowman mentions.

At least NSW hunters have licensed access to many state forests. Other states have nothing.

CSIRO research tells us that shooting is both more humane and more species specific than the use of acute toxins like 1080. The same research says that, if you don’t count the cost of labour (think voluntary conservation hunters) shooting is a highly affordable control method.

Yet governments prefer to go on with their poisoning programs and the like.

“The challenge is to find a way forward,” says Bowman.

“I believe a basic first step is to put everything on the table and work through options that may be unsound ecologically, impractical, or socially unacceptable.”

Given that we hunters have pretty good grounds to win on all those criteria, there’s no excuse for authorities all over Australia to let us have an equal place at that table. No excuse except sentiment, and that won’t save the environment.

“Hosing down debate is a strategy doomed to failure,” Bowman says. He’s not talking about the failure of personal agendas, he’s talking about the environment.

“The key message I have learnt from the recent debate about Australian land management is that it is a necessarily political subject, charged by sentiment as much as reason,” Bowman says. Dead right.

It is only politics that has kept hunters out. I might be sentimental about my hunting but there’s reason behind it, too. Far more reason than any anti-hunter can generate.


Mick Matheson




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.


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