IUCN SULi is supporting a narrative-changing ‘hunter advocacy’ program
Jared Kukura

The Wild Harvest Initiative seeks to normalize hunting with the help of IUCN SULi and trophy hunting industry groups.

IUCN SULi (Sustainable Use and Livelihood) and Oxford University are currently undertaking a project titled Exploring the role of hunting, particularly trophy hunting, in conservation and wildlife management: Supporting conservation decision-making through a comprehensive, cutting-edge & independent evidence assessment.

According to IUCN SULi’s project description, one of the goals is to “describe the scale, significance and impacts of hunting, particularly trophy hunting, in the wider context of national wildlife management policies.” Additionally, the “work intends to produce an IUCN-published “situation analysis” which will focus on trophy hunting in Africa set in a wider context of wildlife harvesting globally.”

The following is an excerpt from the project description:

“Wildlife harvesting is a key element of the national terrestrial wildlife management strategies of many countries around the globe. Harvesting activities include culling, ranching, hunting for food and hunting for recreation. Despite sustainable use of biological resources being one of the three foundational pillars of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), wildlife harvesting – and other forms of consumptive use of wildlife – attracts high levels of controversy. Hunting is one such controversial strategy, and, although it involves relatively few animals compared to many forms of wildlife harvesting, trophy hunting is a particularly high-profile topic where issues around conservation, animal rights, human development, human rights, media pressure and local and external viewpoints clash.”

Are IUCN SULi and Oxford University engaging in good faith research or working towards improving the public image of trophy hunting?

Conflicts of interest are a serious concern with this project. Amy Dickman is a member of IUCN SULi and Director of Oxford University’s WildCRU – her work has been cited as an example for potential conflicts of interest in the trophy hunting debate. IUCN SULi also receives about 5% of their funding from hunting sources.

[Dickman threatened the sociologists that cited her work in their paper on conflicts of interest with legal action.]

And many members of IUCN SULi come straight from the trophy hunting industry itself – Christopher Comer from Safari Club International Foundation, Corey Mason from Dallas Safari Club, Gray Thorton from Wild Sheep Foundation, John Jackson from Conservation Force, and Mark Ryan from International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC).

But there is a specific word that IUCN SULi uses in the project description that is certainly incriminating – ‘harvesting.’

Why would IUCN SULi use the word ‘harvesting’ in the context of trophy hunting? Is it because IUCN SULi is supporting The Wild Harvest Initiative?

The Wild Harvest Initiative is a program associated with the private company Conservation Visions. IUCN SULi Vice-Chair and IUCN SULi North America Chair Shane Mahoney is Founder of The Wild Harvest Initiative and CEO of Conservation Visions.

Mahoney has played many roles for the trophy hunting industry including:

·       Safari Club International Conservation Committee member and life member.

·       Dallas Safari Club Director-at-Large and life member.

·       Wild Sheep Foundation Conservation Advisor and life member.

·       Conservation Force Director.

·       International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) Division President of Policy and Law.

The IUCN SULi Vice-Chair had this to say about the trophy hunting narrative in an article for Houston Safari Club:

“[T]he term “trophy hunting” has been used and interpreted by some to imply a distinct form of hunting where only one thing matters, that being some part of the animal collected as a memento or simply the record of its having been killed. From this misguided perspective, the animal dies to satisfy a bloated ego concerned only with the taking and not the pursuit; and one that pay its way to success by travelling far, buying access to the rare, and hiring the talent required to find and bring the animal within range. Cast in this distasteful image, the trophy hunter is really a collector, more than a hunter; the pursuit of the animal is unimportant and the meat of the animal taken is routinely discarded. But how true is this? Does the picture match the reality? I don’t think so, and I firmly believe we need to set the record straight.”

And setting ‘the record straight’ is something Mahoney appears to be attempting with The Wild Harvest Initiative.

I obtained a grant request (starts on page 146) that Conservation Visions submitted to Safari Club International Foundation Hunter Legacy 100 Fund for The Wild Harvest Initiative. The grant request makes it clear that the initiative aims to improve the public image of hunting by leveraging a ‘harvesting’ narrative.

According to the document, The Wild Harvest Initiative is “the first-ever attempt to synthesize and evaluate the combined economic, conservation and social benefits of recreational wild animal harvests.”

The program seeks to utilize a “long-term advocacy and communication strategy” and “engineer new conversations” in order to “Build Relevancy Alliances for Hunting, to Expand Hunting’s Value Portfolio and, ultimately, to Normalize Hunting.”

The Wild Harvest Initiative “must primarily succeed as a knowledge mobilizer and social outreach initiative.” The program’s “larger mission” is “to advocate, build alliances and influence public opinion.”

The grant request states that the initiative is “not a project; it is a narrative-changing program.”

The Wild Harvest Initiative also has an academic program that seeks to influence academics and even graduated its first M.Sc. student in 2018.

“Formal educational experiences help shape individual and institutional perspectives on major social issues, including hunting, angling, and wildlife conservation. To effectively influence and bring balance to these views, we must provide wildlife management professionals, academicians, and decision-makers with peer-reviewed information based on empirical evidence of the benefits and comprehensive value of sustainable wild animal harvests, especially in terms of food security.”

The Wild Harvest Initiative’s listed partners are primarily trophy hunting organizations and hunting outfitters.

In an email to Safari Club International Foundation Hunter Legacy 100 Fund, Mahoney states, “The Wild Harvest Initiative® is designed to protect and preserve our freedom to hunt today and in the future. Our program is specifically designed to engineer new conversations and provide new insights to convince nonhunters and even anti-hunters of the relevance of wild and natural harvests.”

Christopher Comer, IUCN SULi member and Safari Club International Foundation Director of Conservation, says in another email, “I think WHI is really a hunter advocacy project that builds support and understanding for hunting and so is not strictly within our purview.  Nonetheless, I know there is interest in WHI among SCI members.”

Could IUCN SULi’s conflicts of interest be any more apparent?

All I know is that I can’t wait for the IUCN SULi and Oxford University ‘harvesting’/trophy hunting analysis to be published. Let’s see how they try to spin this one.

Original article: https://wildthingsinitiative.substack.com/p/iucn-suli-is-supporting-a-narrative?utm_source=email