An open letter to the Director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
On behalf of millions of American hunters and in keeping with our principles, Hunter Nation urges the Center for Disease Control to reject the misguided petition recently submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calling for a ban on trade in wild mammals and birds.
While minimizing the spread of zoonotic diseases is surely a laudable goal, the petitioners’ single-minded approach of banning any and all trade in wild mammals and birds is myopic at best and a highway to extinction for many species at worst. Petitioners fail to take into account the immense harm such a broad and draconian measure would have on conservation efforts, the catastrophic and far-reaching economic impact on the most vulnerable of our global community, and the dramatic societal impact of responsible hunting.
We at Hunter Nation are hopeful that Petitioners’ omission of such ubiquitous data is unintentional and surely not an effort to undermine responsible hunting by inappropriately and irresponsibly leveraging fear at a time when concern around zoonotic disease seems at a peak. However, our members are happy to provide the information woefully absent from Petitioners’ request and pray that information, rather than emotion, will guide your response to Petitioners.
Hunter Nation strongly opposes this petition’s actions and goals on three primary points. Petitioners’ proposed action:
- Impairs current conservation efforts and negatively impacts the economic resources they need to be successful.
- Undermines the knowledge, effectiveness, and authority of local wildlife management agencies.
- Seeks clearly to mislead and deceive by inappropriately leveraging COVID-19 fears to advance an unrelated and radical anti-hunting agenda.
Both the CBD and the NRDC continue to refuse recognize the immensely positive impact of responsible hunting and well-regulated trade of wild mammals and birds on conservation of our most precious natural resources. Ironically, the CBD submitted a petition whose execution would significantly harm one of the strongest contributors to sustaining and growing biological diversity.
Legal, well-regulated hunting is vital to conservation and ensures the maintenance of global biodiversity by funding protections against over-hunting and illegal poaching that are the greatest threat to some species. Around the world, well-managed sport hunting provides financial incentives for governments and private landowners alike to maintain strong habitats and practice responsible land use to cultivate wildlife. Additionally, successful programs, such as those in Namibia, provide almost all the funding for education on conservation and the importance of sustainable use for the next generations.
Licensed hunting programs are a key generator of funds for international conservation, land management, and anti-poaching programs. Banning sport hunting is well-known for its catastrophic effect on species conservation in Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia.1 In Kenya, for example, hunting was banned in 1977 and Kenya’s populations of large wild animals have declined 60%-70% since then.2 While these examples are surely dramatic and conclusive, they are clearly not isolated. Petitioners’ arguments are emotional and fly in the face of well-established data.
Domestically, Petitioners’ proposals completely undermine state fish and wildlife agencies. These agencies are run by experienced staff whose on-the-ground, science-based knowledge continues to lead successful conservation efforts grounded in local values. A top-down approach, as proposed by Petitioners, devalues these successes and ignores grass-roots stakeholders positions. The CBD and NRDC seek to circumvent these agencies expertise and do so to the detriment of true conservation.
Worse still, this petition’s efforts hinge on an argument centered zoonotic disease prevention. While it is true that the majority of emerging pathogens are zoonotic, trade in wild mammals and birds is not necessary for the introduction of novel pathogens into the US. Consider that the most recent novel influenzas were introduced into the US by infected humans and dogs in 2009 and 2015, respectively. When you consider that combined with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 entered the US through citizens’ international travel, it seems that regulatory efforts could most productively be focused on an examination of canine and human travel regulations. The CDC’s recent acknowledgment of this fact was welcome news!3
Given the current environment and this petition’s lack of other considerations, it is difficult to view this as anything but tragic fear mongering during a time of heightened concern around infection and a blatant effort to advance a radical anti-hunting agenda.
The CBD and NRDC’s petition is misguided, counterproductive, deceptive and—if implemented—would have catastrophic effect on worldwide conservation efforts with no conceivable change in the risk of zoonotic disease emergence and transmission in a global context.
Hunter Nation stands firmly opposed to this petition’s efforts, deceptive messaging and clear aversion to science and data in public policy. Hunter Nation strongly encourages the CDC to reject this petition and its proposed actions.
1 Nelson, F. & Lindsey, P. & Balme, Guy. (2013). Trophy Hunting and Lion Conservation: A Question of Governance?. Oryx. 47. 501-509.