Sustainable ethical hunting versus illegal hunting

Members may sometimes question why pro-hunting stories or the SSAA’s views on such issues are not featured more in the mainstream media. The SSAA was asked to write an opinion piece for on lion hunting in the wake of the death of Cecil the lion. The piece was declined on the basis that it was not ‘sensational’ enough. Read our piece below.


The events surrounding the death of Cecil the lion are currently under investigation. It is alleged that the lion was poached and therefore taken illegally. If the allegations are true, the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA), which represents more than 170,000 Australian hunters and shooters, condemns this appalling criminal act.

While it is an emotive issue, it is important to understand how legal hunting works in a completely different continent such as Africa. Hunters see legal, sustainable hunting, and illegal, unethical hunting (poaching) as two distinctly different activities that are at the heart of species conservation in Africa. One offers a unique economic, social and important conservation tool to landholders; the other is one of the biggest threats to wildlife populations and needs to be stamped out.

Species conservation works in many ways and it can be difficult for those who do not hunt to understand how hunting could have any environmental benefit. Here in Australia, the SSAA has used hunting as a conservation tool to enable the re-establishment of many threatened native species, including the Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby and the Western Quoll. These two species were abundant throughout the South Australian Flinders Ranges National Park prior to the arrival of feral pests such as foxes, feral cats and goats. Hunting of these introduced pests by our members has secured the future of these two native species.

The African context is different, but the result of managed and regulated sustainable hunting is the same. Animals can be hunted, which helps build sustainable populations of wildlife, and also brings the opportunity to deliver money that increases the living standards of some of the world’s most impoverished people. These communities have a human right to improve their lives, just like you and I, and this needs to be acknowledged when discussing hunting in Africa. It would simply be unfair to make moral judgements as we sit comfortably in a first world country, without considering the impact on the African people.

Local African communities use legal sustainable hunting as a unique conservation tool to deliver money to improve the health and education of their communities. Legal sustainable hunting provides the opportunity for habitat conservation and protection from poaching or illegal trade. It also provides funds to keep native habitat in place and allows farmers, stock and wildlife to coexist. This decreases the opportunity for poaching and illegal trade because wildlife becomes a valued asset to the farmer. Habitat loss and illegal trade of wildlife are the two biggest issues facing wildlife in Africa; legal sustainable hunting is not.

Legal sustainable hunting is managed and regulated by governments, and is big business in Africa. More importantly, these activities are a proven conservation tool that is recognised and supported by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Regulated hunting in Africa and unethical ‘canned hunting’ are also two different things; one common and one not so common. Many groups and organisations opposed to hunting in general attempt to blur these two types of hunting together and promote both as ‘canned hunting’ to cause public confusion for political gain.

Back home, the Australian Government recently introduced new rules banning the importation of all lion products. Although we made attempts to help the Environment Department develop policies focusing solely on unethical canned hunting, they decided on a blanket ban of all lion products. This will have no effect on the ground to prevent unethical canned hunting operations. Although many may think a blanket ban is a good thing for lion conservation, it is not. Any foreign policy that impacts the value of lions in Africa will tip the balance away from sustainable conservation programs, and towards population loss through poachers or illegal trade.

Hunting for conservation is a complex issue. Hunting is not for everyone, but as long as it is done in an ethical and sustainable manner, it is a legitimate activity that can bring about many social, economic and environmental benefits.

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