Community leaders lay complaint in England, Wales
Representatives from communities of six southern African nations are accusing the Born Free Foundation, a celebrity-backed animal charity, of waging a campaign of disinformation against trophy hunting that will damage African conservation activities, and undermine their human rights and livelihoods.
The complaint to the Charity Commission for England and Wales focusses on the Born Free Foundation’s continued assertion that hunting “does not support conservation or local livelihoods”. Community leaders from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, all of which have trophy hunting as a significant part of their successful conservation strategies, state that the Born Free Foundation’s assertions that trophy hunting doesn’t support local communities or conservation are “demonstrably false” and “misleading”.
Angered at continued efforts to undermine their conservation achievements, and right to sustainably manage wildlife, the leaders’ (who represent several million people) complaint states “that the actions of this Charity serve to undermine the human rights and livelihoods of several million people living in our communities, as well as threaten the continuing success of our globally recognised conservation programmes.” Further, they point out that by requesting donations to support their campaign, the Born Free Foundation is raising revenue on the basis of demonstrably false information. This is in direct contravention of the Charity Commissions Fundraising Code, which states “fundraising materials must not mislead anyone, or be likely to mislead anyone, either by leaving out information, or by being inaccurate or ambiguous or by exaggerating details”.
So far, despite requests for updates, the complaint has gone unaddressed and the charity continues its activities. “Whilst UK charities no doubt have the right to campaign for the rights of African animals, this right cannot come at the expense of African people’s rights to sustainably manage the resources on which our livelihoods rely or at the expense of the truth, science and fact. The Born Free Foundation’s continued distortion of the facts jeopardises conservation and our livelihoods and they should not be allowed to continue to campaign and raise money through disinformation campaigns. It is disappointing that the Charity Commission has to date not acted upon our complaint in a manner which produces results” said Maxi Pia Louis, Chair of the Community Leaders Network.
Trophy hunting, though controversial to many, is recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on the basis of strong scientific support, as a conservation tool that “can - and does - positively contribute to conservation and local livelihoods in the face of intense competing pressures on wildlife habitat and widespread poaching”, Louis says.
According to Dr Chris Brown, chief executive officer of the Namibia Cahmber of Environment (NCE), the proposed ban “talks to a very important component of Namibia’s successful community-based conservation programme, where community rights, responsibilities, livelihoods and conservation benefits all come together in a win-win situation under Namibia’s post-independence policy reform on wildlife, biodiversity and community benefits”.
“This approach is being consistently undermined by Western societies who do not understand the vital role of markets and conservation working together. They try and impose an animal rights approach on Africa – an approach which has not worked in their countries. “Namibia has more wildlife today than at any time in the past 100 years, including ‘difficult’ species which are often in conflict with rural people, such as lions and elephants. And Namibia has more Black Rhino than any other country, including having the only Black Rhino population living outside of national parks and amongst rural communities,” he says, and add: “By contrast, countries such as the UK have lost all their most prominent wildlife such as bison, elk, wolf, bear, lynx – and only very recently have they started small-scale reintroductions of the easiest smaller species that went extinct, the beaver and the sea eagle.”
Brown wants to know if these countries have done so poorly, and Namibia is doing so well, why do Western societies try and impose their failed model of conservation on Namibia and toher African countries?