Friday, March 7, 2014

Conservation Fraud

[Approximate Reading Time: 7 minutes]
[Mood: "Never a dull moment"] 


What is man's relationship to animals?

This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. Consider these observations... While scientists believe that man evolved from animals over millions of years, certain religious groups claim man was created separately and more recently. Humans seem to connect to certain species so much better than to others. Species than can be kept as household pets elicit strong emotions and stories about animal cruelty make regular headlines while species that are killed for food are routinely treated cruelly in factory farms. People from different parts of the world treat animals differently too. Dog meat is taboo in most of the West but a delicacy in many Asian countries. While some of us eat meat, some don't. Suffice it to say that there is no clear way to describe the relationship between animals and modern humans.

No matter the variety of different viewpoints, there is one particular viewpoint that all modern cultures subscribe to. We believe man is superior to animals in certain key ways. The scientists say this superiority is of an intellectual nature. "Human beings are far more brainy and intelligent than animals. Just look at how humans have been able to alter their natural environment to suit their purposes." Certain religions say man is uniquely positioned to seek and attain salvation or heaven. "No animal can do that." Another common perception among the members of the dominant culture (but not of every culture, especially certain tribal societies) is that animals are not as sentient as humans. We say they have "instincts" but not "feelings". "A cow feeds her calf by instinct, and not because she loves her calf. Humans, of course, love their young so they're a breed apart. They're superior."... so goes the thinking.

There are those who pay no heed to the species collapse underway. Over 200 species go extinct every day. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we're now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate.
And there are those who say we need the animals to stick around because they are an important part of the natural, local ecosystems. "If species were to die off, these delicate habitats would suffer because of the ripple effect on the rest of the ecosystem and eventually man would be affected too." However, in both these scenarios, there's no mention of animals' unconditional right to life. Why do we look for reasons to convince ourselves and others that animals need to be around, if for no other reason than the sake of humans? Can animals just not exist on their own accord, for their own sake, irrespective of what we think of them?

What follows is a photo essay featuring a particular charitable organization that I came across recently. If I had heard the worlds "Safari Club International", I might have thought it's one of those fancy eco-tourism agencies that have been catering to the members of the wealthy and middle classes who care for nature.

Safari Club International Foundation brochures on a wild animal-themed tablecloth.

Entrance to a promotional event

Serengeti calling?

It was a handful of protesters that piqued my curiosity as I was driving by. So I stopped to ask what they were protesting.


What exactly were they protesting? The brochure below makes it a bit more clear...


What do we see? A picture of a white man with a native African woman subtitled "Safari Care". A boy holding food subtitled "Sportsmen against hunger". Woman and deer subtitled "Sensory Safari". All that sounds good. But what's with the "Disabled Hunter"?

It turns out that Safari Club International Foundation is no eco-tourism company. It's not an animal or nature conservation outfit either. And it's not about hunger. Unless it's a strange kind of hunger... a hunger for the hunt.


A few more pictures should make it clearer...



Moose - 4 tags, 100% shot opportunity! and a South African Lion for $19,800



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Some of the pictures below are a bit more graphic, so be advised!


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They tell you where to set your cross-hairs, where to aim and shoot...











The event had quite a warm, feel-good vibe and the people were actually quite friendly too. If I ran into one of them on the street, I wouldn't think their hobbies included killing animals for fun. There is a difference between killing animals for food and killing them for fun. When the Native Americans killed animals for food, they did so very deliberately, and with much gratitude. It's as if they thanked the animal for giving up its life to feed and clothe the tribe. There have been tribes that have inadvertently hunted certain large animals to extinction in North America, but it wasn't the thrill of the hunt but hunger that brought them to it.

Wikipedia says "Safari as a distinctive way of hunting was popularized by the US author Ernest Hemingway and President Theodore Roosevelt." Hunting has an interesting history in India. "During the feudal and colonial times in India, hunting was regarded as a regal sport in the numerous princely states, as many maharajas and nawabs, as well as British officers, maintained a whole corps of shikaris (big-game hunters), who were native professional hunters. They would be headed by a master of the hunt, who might be styled mir-shikar. Often, they recruited the normally low-ranking local tribes because of their traditional knowledge of the environment and hunting techniques. Big game, such as Bengal tigers, might be hunted from the back of an elephant." As Swathi Shresth says in her dissertation exploring the colonization of wildlife in nineteenth and early twentieth century British India, "While hunting represented domination of nature and natives, the "colonial hunt" also came to signify a paternal benevolent British rule. The importance given to hunting and to the notion of fair play in their hunting served to "identify" the moral and physical superiority of British rulers. The new ideology of paternalism was realized in the figure of the hunter-officer, the Sahib who in hunting dangerous carnivores was seen to act as a protector of the native."

It was business as usual at the SCIF event. Apart from the membership drive, there were several items on display and for sale...








There was also an arcade game setup if you get the "urge 2 hunt"...



and a general festive feel to it all...





The "conservation fraud" that the protesters were decrying was apparent. You can't kill the last members of an endangered species if you want to return next season and hunt. Or if you want your kids to enjoy the hobby as much as you do. So you want to conserve these species and their habitats. I wonder if organizations such as SCIF are the only reason that there are still a few tigers and lions left in the world. Humanity is keeping alive a small number of species so a few rich people can go sport-hunting! I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.


And since they possibly can't eat all the meat yourself, nor haul it back home, SCIF members are encouraged to share the carcass with the locals. SCIF will then be able to add a second feel-good cause: hunger...


Conservation and hunger: just the two right shots to load up the double-barreled hunting rifle. Two birds with one stone. Cliche!

The SCIF appears to be the conservation front for SCI. They have different web sites with either linking to the other...

Safari Club International Foundation - http://www.safariclubfoundation.org/home/
Safari Club International - http://www.scifirstforhunters.org/


Conservation fraud is not limited to little known SCIF. One of the world's largest and most popular conservation non-profits, WWF, frequently engages in conservation fraud. WWF, with its cute panda logo, raises over $266 Million in revenues every year, and spends part of it in helping mining and other corporations access lands currently inhabited by tribal peoples... peoples who have lived on the land and have intimate knowledge of their local ecosystems and who have been caretakers of their surroundings for thousands of years. This 50-minute documentary "The Silence of the Pandas - What the WWF isn't saying" (2011) is informative.

So what's modern man's relationship to animals? It's complicated. It's been a lot more complicated since the enlightenment era than it was ever before. But depending on how you look at it, you could say the trouble started as long ago as Aristotle, a foundation thinker of modern civilization. SCIF and WWF are not alone. They have an entire culture that supports them. As the following quotes from the SCI home page suggest, modern man has had little in the way of a relationship with nature and animals. Aside from the protesters, the event itself was really ho-hum which goes to show how very routine all this is today!



5 comments:

  1. Gee. Another fake capitalistic pile of crap. You have nailed it Satish. Great work. Love your humor and insight. You are the best.

    SHEP

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Shep... this sort of thing is very insidious. So many of these profitable and harmful ventures hide behind the mask of non-profits. Perhaps you will like http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/

      Delete
  2. I've never seen anything like that before. It looks like a sort of a really unusual museum. Like hunter's museums.

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  3. I believe that a person is simply obliged politely and respectfully to the diversity of the animal world.

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  4. Unfortunately, modern man's relationship to animals is too complicated. Furthermore, it became even much more complicated since the enlightenment era. Anyway, I really like your article. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete