When Animal Rights Kill Animals

Imagine you are an African subsistence farmer, living in an area rich in wildlife. Hippos and elephants can devour you crop. If they do, you will have no food for yourself and your family for the next year. They are also dangerous, and you or your children might get killed by them.

Most wildlife in Africa doesn’t live in national parks. What are the incentives to conserve wildlife outside parks?

Hunting for sport, game cropping, bird shooting and the capture and sale of wildlife are obvious sources of income in areas that are too remote to support wildlife viewing.

In Kenya there has been a ban on consumptive utilization of wildlife since 1977. This effectively halted the flow of benefits to landowners. Since then Kenya has lost at least 50% of its wildlife.

This is clearly a major policy failure. Who on Earth would be in favor of this disastrous policy?

Animal Rights groups such as the anti-hunting Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), that’s who.

Animals Rights organizations want wildlife conservation on the cheap. Their emphasis is not on incentives for conservation, but on law enforcement. For example, from IFAW’s website,

In Uganda, for example, elephant numbers at Queen Elizabeth National Park had been reduced to only 150. IFAW stepped in to help in 1987 by shipping six patrol trucks to Uganda to save elephants and other wildlife from poachers. IFAW continued to work with the government of Uganda by supporting anti-poaching efforts in Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo National Parks.

Over the years, IFAW has provided operational funds to these parks to enhance security, improve communication systems, buy equipment and address human-wildlife conflicts. We have also contributed to community conservation and educational efforts.

The Humane Society threatened Kenya with a tourism boycott if Kenya changed its laws to allow consumptive use of wildlife, it would “Stop one million Americans a year coming to Kenya”. That could be an economic catastrophe for this poor country, so although a new law on wildlife was passed in Kenya’s Parliament, it was not signed by President Kibaki.

There is a simple way of conserving wildlife in Africa. Pay Africans enough so that they feel about wildlife the way Saudis feel about oil; a blessing and a gift from God.

(Read also this letter to the editor in the East African Standard, and How many wildebeest do you need?)

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