Christie Pisani: Glenn McGrath should not apologise for hunting trip

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It is astounding, not to mention hypocritical, that Glenn McGrath can go from saint to sinner status so quickly in people’s eyes because he partook in a completely legal recreational activity. Glenn should not have to justify nor apologise for hunting African animals while on safari in 2008. Significantly, this incident should not have any bearing on the outstanding work he does for the McGrath Foundation.

Having been in the public eye myself while participating in completely legal and ethical hunting activities, I, like many others, have endured very personal attacks by ‘anti-hunters’. These attacks are often violent — completely contradictory to the values of care and gentleness that these people claim to uphold.

However, I continue to attempt to educate the non-hunting public in the hope that the backlash is bred, for the most part, from ignorance rather than blatant hatred — and the facts will shed light on the subject for those willing to keep an open mind and listen to the hunter’s side of the story.

As humans, we have a right to hunt, and a right to eat meat. In this consumer world it is often easy to forget where our meat and produce come from. It doesn’t just arrive neatly-wrapped in a styrofoam container in the supermarket fridge.

Most hunters partake in hunting for a combination of two reasons — recreation, and to provide meat for either their own or others’ consumption. This act of self-sufficiency is ingrained in the hunter-gatherer instincts of our ancestors. Take a trip to an abattoir and you will find that the distress these animals undergo are fuelled by the smell of death, pain and fear they face as they are tightly packed into stalls and herded onto death row. This is a far cry from the quick and relatively painless experience of a sudden bullet or well-placed arrow.

On a recent hunting trip to the African continent I witnessed first-hand the significant efforts the hunting outfitters go to, to ensure that no part of a harvested animal is wasted. Just as we consume farmed beef, lamb and chicken, the meat from animals taken on a hunting safari sustains whole villages.

Hunting is a pastime for many outdoor-loving people, a sport that allows and encourages families to participate in physical fitness, navigation and bushcraft and build a healthy respect for the environment, as well as conducting selective herd management to ensure sustainable ratios of species to the ever-shrinking wilderness environment. Hunters have a vested interest in protecting and preserving the natural environment for future generations.

Here on home soil, hunting takes on an even more critical role. With the majority of the game we pursue in Australia being introduced species, we provide a unique service to the natural and agricultural environment.

Feral animals do countless damage to crops, fences, waterways and vegetation. Anyone who eats meat, fruit, vegetable and wheat products, and wears cotton, should accept that hunting is a necessary activity in helping sustain agricultural practices. Agriculture supports EVERY living person, whether you are vegetarian, vegan or a passionate carnivore!

Furthermore, introduced species poach habitat, food and water from the less hardy native animals, causing them to suffer a slow agonising death from starvation, thirst and exposure. On top of that, letting the fox/camel/pig/deer/goat/rabbit population flourish by simply letting them ‘coexist’ means that they too become overpopulated and often, in times of drought and environmental hardship, they become victims of a slow agonising death themselves.

Similarly, in nations such as South Africa, herd management becomes a critical aspect in ensuring the survival of ecosystems and entire species. Leaving whole herds to populate and dominate environments is not the answer to ensuring their survival, and leads to overstocking, overgrazing, dominance over other species, and a disruption in the natural predator/prey balance.

Also important to note, is that the many African nations, particularly countries such as Namibia, rely on the hunting industry to support their economy. Agriculture does not sustain their nations. Organised hunting does. Overseas visitors bring millions of dollars to these struggling communities. It’s an economically sustainable income, providing the safaris are run in accordance with the strict rules that the outfitters are required to obey in order to attain and keep their licences.

It is very easy to criticise what we do not understand and therefore it is not surprising that the release of Glenn McGrath’s trophy photos from an organised hunting trip have been ill-received by the general public.

But hunters are not cruel villains. We smile in our trophy photos, not at the suffering of the animal, but the result of a long process in which we are able to silently approach the animal to humanely cull it, ensuring the animal suffers very little distress.

Simultaneously, we provide a worthwhile service by assisting with the land management efforts of Aussie farmers and we support struggling overseas nations, while at the same time participating in a sport that allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the outdoors, just as nature intended it.

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