The Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles, says that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment should be commended for many of the policy directions in the Draft White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, as it could lead to a new era in conservation and animal welfare in South Africa, as stated in the progressive vision in the White Paper.
The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, called on all stakeholders and members of the public to engage in the public paticipation process in July to make submissions on the content of the Draft White Paper. The paper gives effect to amongst others, the recommendations made by the High-level Panel of experts appointed in 2019 to review current policies on the management of lion, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros. A wide range of recommendations are also made on how a single all including legal and policy framework can be established to inform and guide a future overarching strategy of conservation and how all factors influencing biodiversity like climate change and the human factor should be incorporated.
The organisation handed their submission in today in which Miles emphasises that FOUR PAWS in South Africa hopes the White Paper is a clear indication of change that seeks, among other things, to declare animals as sentient beings. In the light hereof, legislative processes can be introduced to protect wildlife and promote animal welfare.
She points out that the acknowledgement of animal sentience, animal welfare and well-being, indicates a significant step forward in South Africa’s views on animals and our rich biodiversity. If these concepts are recognised and implemented in legislation effectively, they stand to meaningfully advance the way South Africa deals with animals, however only if we don’t only see this from a human benefit perspective.
"A very positive aspect of the spirit in which the Draft White Paper is written, is that it recognises that nature has a right to exist independent of its financial and commercial value to humans."
Miles continues: “Such recognition of the intrinsic value of animals, animal sentience, welfare and well-being however cannot be achieved if sustainable use of biodiversity allows for captive breeding of big cats. South Africa must proceed to phase out the commercial captive lion breeding industry.”
Miles makes the case that it follows that all big cat species deserve a better deal. FOUR PAWS in South Africa is especially concerned about the breeding of tigers in South Africa as the number of tigers in captivity has grown considerably, after the setting aside of the quota on the export of lion bones in 2017 and 2018.
The organisation does not stand alone in its viewpoint. In a recent survey, commissioned by FOUR PAWS on South Africa’s big cat industry, 71% of South Africans indicated that they believe the government should include all big cats in captivity in any future legislative protection. The survey is soon to be published.
Miles says, “By including steps and processes in the Draft White Paper that can also protect other big cats, South Africa has the opportunity to contribute to the conservation of non-native big cat species like tigers. If this opportunity is missed, the survival of all the big cat species is threatened.”
FOUR PAWS also believes that a specific clause in the proposed legislation must be addressed as it can create a possible loophole that can be used by parties that want to perpetuate exploitative practices under the pretext that it can benefit conservation and promote sustainable use.
Explains Miles: “The transformation of the domestication of wild animals is outlined in a policy goal in the Paper. In the same clause, however, it is also recommended that responsible practices on breeding for commercial purposes outside the captive breeding industry will be allowed if it has an added benefit to conservation or promotes sustainable use.”
She believes you cannot contend on one hand that the industry must transform to end exploitation of animals and on the other hand say breeding will be allowed as long as it contributes to sustainable use. “That leaves a door open for breeders in the industry to continue with their practices under this ruse. This led to the industry coming into being in the first instance.”
Miles calls on the Department to reconsider this clause and the intent thereof in the draft legislation. She says making this change will align with the opinion of 66% of South Africans who indicated in the FOUR PAWS-survey that they do not support the exploitation of big cats for profit.
To FOUR PAWS it is also disconcerting that another document issued by the Department, the Draft Game Meat Strategy, is contradictory to the draft White Paper as it has as a single focus that wildlife should be treated as a resource. The Strategy makes provision for the intensive farming and slaughter of wildlife species, including lions, and ignores the White Paper's progressive outlook that there should be a higher duty of care towards animals.
"While our submissions on both papers focuses on our area of local and global expertise which is big cats, we consider it integral that our plea for these apex predators should ring in a new era for all animals, people and the environment. This would be possible if we develop the progressive spirit of the White Paper to work towards harmony between man and nature rather than control and the idea that resources may justifiably be exploited. There is much work to be done."/END
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za