Industry body in the crosshairs over captive-bred lion hunting reversal

Durban – The Professional Hunting Association of South Africa (Phasa) came under fire this week over the body's reversal of its 2015 policy against the hunting of captive-bred lions.

Several board members, founders and past presidents resigned in protest and the Operators and Professional Hunting Associations of Africa (Ophaa) withdrew and suspended Phasa's membership indefinitely. 

READ#ShockWildlifeTruths: PHASA backtracks and approves canned lion hunting

International sponsors and affiliate organisations attending Phasa's 40th annual general meeting earlier this week expressed their disapproval when members voted on a resolution to allow the hunting of captive-bred lions.  

Hunting agency immediately withdrew all future support for Phasa, saying the practice was incompatible with its "standards of fair chase and hunting ethics and is something we cannot possibly tolerate or endorse in any form".

Responsible hunting

A coalition group calling itself "Concerned Professional Hunters" condemned the association in a mass email and on social media.

"In light of the recent acceptance of the shooting of captive-bred lions as a legitimate form of hunting by Phasa, we, as a concerned group of professional hunters... no longer view Phasa as the legitimate mouthpiece for professional hunting in South Africa," it said. 

"A new association will be formed in the very near future and will once again reflect the traditions of responsible, ethical and conservation-based hunting in South Africa."

Phasa's new policy backtracks on its 2015 resolution, in which members distanced themselves from all captive-bred lion hunting until the South African Predator Association showed that it was beneficial to lion conservation. 

READHunting Association's president resigns over 'captive lion hunting'

Ophaa said in statement that it was "deeply troubled" by the new decision. 

"The practice of captive-bred lion hunting inevitably brings the entire African hunting industry, in every African nation where hunting is permitted, into ill repute," it said.

"Phasa's actions completely disregard one of the fundamental concepts of hunting, namely fair chase, and will, without doubt, jeopardise not only conservation efforts, but also the livelihoods of those who rely on well-managed and ethical hunting practices, far beyond the borders of South Africa".

Rotten eggs

Phasa president Dries Van Coller said he was under immense pressure from all sides in the hunting industry, but was also bound by the organisation's constitution to remain neutral.

"The matter was on the agenda – we took a vote by members who participated in the meeting, and as in any democracy, the majority won.

"We know that it will never be accepted by everybody... I think that this is probably the best thing that could happen to the industry, with the divide that will take place once and for all. We need to expose all the rotten eggs and all the issues that we have in the industry and address it from there in a constructive manner," he said.

Financial greed

Namibian Professional Hunting Association CEO Tanja Dahl said the resolution "flies in the face of all that is deemed to be ethical hunting by the overwhelming majority of hunting associations in Africa and around the world". 

Linda Park, a director at the Campaign Against Canned Hunting called the move "morally reprehensible.

"This comes from an industry that is ethically bankrupt and driven solely by financial greed.  The damage to Brand South Africa is huge".

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