Eating our heritage in times of prohibition
It has been said that during these covid-times when governments have granted themselves enormous powers under the guise of states of disaster (South Africa) or states of emergency (Botswana, Czech Republic, and Japan, to name but a few), it is wise to ensure that citizen’s rights are not trampled on and to watch out for sneaky pieces of legislation.
In South Africa’s case, not only are citizen’s rights being trampled on by not being allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes and being under a curfew, but the government wants to change the legislation to allow for the breeding and eating of captive wildlife. It is not clear whether the South African government understands the background to the causes of the pandemic, which are ascribed mainly to the transmission of a virus from a wildlife creature, possibly a bat or a pangolin or a combination of both, to a human at a wet-food market in Wuhan, China. Or whether it is deliberately obtuse.
A recent report by the EMS Foundation and the Ban Animal Trading Organisation reveals that South Africa has become the largest exporter of live wild animals to Asia. These animals are either killed for their body parts to extract potions, eaten as delicacies to show off, languish in zoos under inhumane conditions or be used for animal experiments in Asian countries. The report also finds that it is quite clear that the strong regulatory powers of the South African government in the trade of wildlife are either ignored or circumvented. Why this is happening is not known.
What is worrying is that there is hardly any oversight by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The purpose of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wildlife (animals and plants) does not threaten their survival. It has lists of endangered animals, and a lot of those animals are traded and sold to Asia.
So, what is behind the South African government’s intent published on 28 February 2020, to trade in wildlife. Well, it says that it wants to market the use of 104 types of wild animals, including giraffes, zebras, emu, elephant and rhino. This move follows the amendment, (without public consultation) of a previous law that reclassified 33 wildlife species including lions, cheetahs, rhinos and zebras as farm animals. Interestingly, on 24 February 2020, China requested CITES to impose more stringent measures on the trade in wildlife and also called for it to be banned.
Of course, let’s look at why the government could be wanting to sell the family silver, so to speak. Could it be that there are members in the National Executive Committee who support the trade in wildlife? Could it be that they think the money from the sale of the wildlife will alleviate the situation in South Africa, with its extraordinarily high levels of unemployment, malnutrition and starvation in the land? All caused by acts of corruption, nepotism and entitlement.
The ANC government has not managed to clothe itself in glory. Its moral high ground and acts of good are obscured by a tarnished history full of corruption, nepotism and shame.
Just as we don’t know the reasons why the sales of alcohol and cigarettes are banned so too, we don’t know why the South African government wants to sell its heritage and expose the world to further pandemics. But we do know that with this piece of legislation, current and future South Africans, the animals and the environment, will suffer. Sign the petitions. Speak out. We must stop this legislation and stop the trade in wildlife.
See also Sandra Baker on the lockdown in South Africa.