Information provided by: Intelligence Squared U.S.
Recently a public radio show, Intelligence Squared U.S., aired a debate for and against the motion “Hunters Conserve Wildlife.” The debaters include the Editor-in-Chief of Field & Stream, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, the COO of Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants and the CEO of the Born Free Foundation.
Whether in America’s state game lands or the African bush, hunting has become one of the most hotly debated issues in the media and online. Internationally, the killing of Cecil the lion triggered a firestorm of criticism over trophy hunting rules and regulations. Many believe that regulated hunting can be an effective way of managing healthy populations of deer and other wildlife. And with the funds raised from legal hunting, the purchase of permits in Africa, licenses and taxes here, some say hunters have contributed significantly to conservation efforts on both public and private lands. But hunting’s critics question whether big game revenues really benefit local communities and whether hunting could ever be a humane way of maintaining equilibrium and habitats. Is hunting wrong? Or are hunters conservationists?
The against side argued that hunters have depleted animal populations and that the money trophy hunting actually generates for conservation efforts is minimal. The other side argued that by hunting individual problem animals (often old/aggressive/dangerous) they are actually helping the species as a whole and that trophy hunting in fact can generate significant revenue for conservation. The debate raised some interesting points for each side of the motion, and the top three ones for each side have been quoted below:
For the motion: “Hunters Conserve Wildlife”
1. “Hunting provides a sustainable, repeatable model on which wildlife could be managed and protected. Hunters provide 80% of the funding to fish and game wildlife agencies. There are about 37 million hunters in the United States, and every single one of them contributes. All told, sportsmen contribute a billion dollars a year to wildlife conservation.” – Anthony Licata, Editor-in-Chief, Field & Stream
2. “The cause of lion decline is not sportsmen. The cause of lion decline is herdsmen killing lions because they are competing with their livestock. That is in every single document, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the IUCN. There are instances in which hunting can benefit lion populations. We tend to get obsessed on the 1% but we really need from a conservation focus to be focused on the 99%. The money raised by killing one old male lion – who’s probably starting to prey on cattle, possibly starting to prey on people because he’s no longer able to catch the gazelle – that money then gets funneled back into protecting 99% of the lion population. As a conservationist, given the state that we are in right now, I can’t focus on one lion. I have to focus on the whole population. And we can invest tons of energy and resources into mourning Cecil. That’s not going to bring him back and it’s not going to do anything to conserve the lions of Southern Africa.” – Catherine Semcer, COO, Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants
3. “Conservation does not come for free. It is a very capital intensive effort. You know, something we talked a little bit about, photo tourism and ecotourism and that’s great. We need that too, but the reality is in Africa it’s not possible everywhere. There was a study released by the World Wildlife Fund last year that showed that 74% of the wildlife conservancies in Namibia, including the ones that incorporated photo tourism into their conservation programmes, would not be economically viable if they were to take the trophy hunting revenue out of their programme. Tanzania, the wildlife division, receives almost nine times as much funding from hunting as it does from photo tourism.” – Catherine Semcer, COO, Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants
Against the motion: “Hunters Conserve Wildlife”
1. “Globally there is no justification for the argument that hunters can serve wildlife. In fact, we see that politically, the deck is stacked against animals. Looking at nations in Africa that have both ecotourism and Big Five hunting – in no nation that has that condition is more than .27, about a quarter percent of the GDP, generated from hunting revenue. Of all the tourism revenue combined, only 1.8% is generated from hunting. Now, I’m not mathematician, but that says to me that more than 98% is generated by ecotourism, a drastically different sum.” – Adam Roberts, CEO, Born Free USA & Born Free Foundation.
2. “If you really want to help the people on the ground in Africa, you help them with sustainable ecotourism models, not hunting models. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation and the hunting industry itself has noted that only 3% of hunting revenue actually makes it back to the local communities. The rest of it is held in government coffers and foreign operators. Remember, it’s not the people on the ground in Tanzania or Zambia that are running these hunting operations, it’s foreign operations. Hunters overall globally do not conserve wildlife. And if we really care about both people and wildlife, we do need to generate sustainable models for the long term, and that’s keeping animals alive, not dead.” – Adam Roberts, CEO, Born Free USA & Born Free Foundation.
3. “Botswana outlawed trophy hunting. There are more lions in Botswana than any other country in Africa. They outlawed all trophy hunting of these animals and the wildlife authorities there say we can make much more money by keeping the living capital there. You can watch a lion a hundred times. You can watch a lion 500 times. You can monetise that each time, aggregating more dollars for the economy for rural communities, for the government. You can shoot the animal only once.” – Wayne Pacelle, CEO & President, The Humane Society of the United States
The debate results were determined by the audience in the room. They voted twice – once before the debate and then again at the end. The side arguing that hunters do not conserve wildlife won by a large margin – this was determined by which side convinced more of the audience over the course of the debate, and they rose their numbers by 30%, versus just 5% by the pro-hunting side. Pre-debate poll results stood at 21% for hunting, 35% against and 44% undecided while post-debate poll results came in at 26% for hunting, 65% against and 9% undecided. However, the debate also struck a nerve with online listeners and an informal online poll swung the other way with 69% for votes and 31% against.
Watch the full debate below: