VOL. 16 (23) - 18-05-2020
THE NATSHOOT POSITION ON THE PROPOSED GAME MEAT REGULATIONS UNDER THE MEAT SAFETY ACT (2000)
1. As members know, Natshoot has never made comments on any legal issue without the document(s) commenting on, having been officially communicated by a relevant government department or published in an official Government Gazette.
2. That is why we have taken note of a WhatsApp message doing the rounds relating to Natshoot’s stance on the proposed so-called Game Meat Regulations to amend the Meat Safety Act (Act 40 of 2000). We thus, need to present our position on the matter, albeit premature, and not our normal style as the proposed Regulations are still under discussion for possible implementation.
4. Although it is true that Natshoot opposes sections of the proposed so-called Game Meat Regulations, it is not true that Natshoot opposes all of the proposed Regulations (the WhatsApp message must thus please be understood in the context of hastily worded social media communication with good intent).
5. In fact, we are of opinion that the proposed so-called Game Meat Regulations endeavour to, in principle at least, establish high safety and hygiene standards in the production of game meat to safely sell same into the public domain, be that national or international. In that regard the principles contained in the major part of the proposed Regulations are supported. Any possible changes to the bulk of the proposed Regulations will shortly be submitted to the Department of Agriculture by the Game Meat Industry Forum (GMIF) of which NHSA is not a member.
5.1 Natshoot can, however, not support a regime in which game farmers are forced into the marketing of the meat of their game in a context which only benefits certain parts of the hunting and wildlife sector, while denying smaller game farmers the right to choose how they will market their own property (their game). Unfortunately it does seem as if the proposed so-called Game Meat Regulations could lean towards such a situation.
6. The proposed Regulations Natshoot as representative of our consumptive hunter members are opposed to, are contained in Part X1 of the proposed Regulations. The proposed Regulations fall under the heading, ”Exemptions for the Slaughter of Game Animals for Own Consumption” and are further explained as “Slaughter of game, not in an abattoir, for own consumption”.
7. Natshoot is of the opinion that the implementation of the proposed Regulations in Part X1 will criminalise game farm owners and consumptive hunters (also described as subsistence hunters) by their transgression of seriously unimplementable and unrealistic proposed Regulations, which are so far removed from the reality of practices and hunting traditions instituted over many years of consumptive hunting in this country, as one can but imagine.
8. Natshoot is specifically opposed to the implementation of proposed Regulations 116, 117 and 118 as was stated in writing to the Director General of the Department of Agriculture at the time. Both CHASA and PHASA are on record as also opposing these proposed three Regulations. See page 48 to 49 of the proposed Regulations – download HERE.
9. The proposed Regulation 116(1)(a) stipulates that a game farm owner may in a six-month period only slaughter 8 so-called category B game animals for own consumption. A category B animal is described as medium sized game comparable to domestic cattle, i.e. buffalo, eland, kudu, zebra (will thus also include blue wildebeest).
9.1 In addition, the proposed Regulation 116(1)(b) stipulates that a game farm owner may in a six-month period only slaughter 32 so-called category C game animals for own consumption. A category C animal is described as small game comparable to domestic sheep and goats, i.e. springbuck, impala or blesbuck.
9.2 Apart from all other aspects one can question in respect of these proposed Regulations, the fact that a government department is prepared to, and presumes it has the right to prescribe how a citizen may use or may not use his own property (the game on his exempted game farm), which is legally in his possession in terms of the Game Theft Act of 1991 (act 105 of 1991 as amended), is beyond belief.
9.3 We could find no such limitations placed on the frequency of slaughter of privately owned domestic stock for private comsumption (i.e cattle, sheep, pigs, goats or even chicken) in the Meat Safety Act (40 of 2000 as amended). It is not clear why the frequency of use of the meat of game owned by a game famer justifies government intervention which deems it fit to regulate the frequency of its use (next we know government will try and tell us how many times in a week may eat pap).
10. The proposed Regulation 116(4) stipulates that game meat slaughtered for own consumption may not be sold to any person, including indirect sale, and may not be offered to a paying guest on a game farm.
10.1 This means that the game rancher’s wife may not prepare the meat of game slaughtered by the farmer as meals prepared for hunters who pay for accommodation and meals on a game farm.
10.2 This means the game farmer and his family may eat game meat at the very table they are forced by regulation to offer their guests, mutton or beef from the same farm. Apart from being seriously ridiculous the legallity of the proposed Regulation is highly questionable.
10.3 Also consider that this proposed Regulation implies that a game farmer may not give his farm manager and his family, nor the staff and their families working on the farm, game meat from animals harvested on the game farm. What would be the legal position behind a Regulation allowing people working for the game farmer to eat beef, mutton and pork produced on the farm, but not game meat from the same farm ?
10.4 This proposed Regulation also curtails the practice where consumptive hunters give game carcasses they have harvested to charitable entities who distribute it to the needy and disadvantaged in food schemes. As an example, HelpJag, which is an unbelievable successful project in feeding 8,000 needy toddlers on a daily basis, may thus no longer receive carcasses from consumptive hunters as donation to their project. How government officials can arbitrarily decide how donations of food, which have been a standing gesture for a large number of years to the really needy are to be stopped just because of a say-so, is seriously questionable. One eland carcass feeds 83 toddlers while a kudu carcass feeds 40 toddlers. How will these toddlers be fed if this proposed Regulation is blindly implemented ?
10.5 This just again shows the really little thought which went into drafting the proposed Regulations. But it might just also be indicative of an effort to force game farmers into a game meat marketing procedure without them having the freedom of choice of how they want to market the produce of their own game animals (not even mentioning the free will of consumptive hunters to donate the meat of game animals they have harvested and have paid for, to whomever they choose).
11. The proposed Regulation 116(5) stipulates that only healthy game animals may be slaughtered by the game farmer for personal consumption.
11.1 It is not clear how the writers of the proposed Regulations would suggest a game farmer goes about knowing that the game animal he is about to harvest is healthy before it has actually been harvested. It is not as if game animals are kept in a kraal – they live wild in the veld and do not stand still for health inspections.
12. The proposed Regulation 117(a) stipulates that a consumptive hunter may in a 14-day period only slaughter (read hunt) one category B game animal (i.e. kudu or blue wildebeest) and four category C game animals (i.e. impala or springbok), unless the relevant PEO (Provincial Executive Officer) gives, at his/her discretion, permission to slaughter (read hunt) more animals (on formal request of the consumptive hunter).
Note: A PEO is a veterinarian appointed as such by the Provincial MEC for Agriculture (section 5(2)(a) of the Meat Safety Act (40 of 2000)).
12.1 Once again, the government officials writing the proposed Regulations (117(a)) are of the opinion that they may legally infringe on a private citizen’s right to choose how many animals s/he may harvest during his/her once per annum hunting excursion (which requires serious budgeting beforehand for the majority of consumptive hunters). We could find no linitation in the Meat Safety Act limiting the number of domestic animals a private individual may buy from a farmer for his/her own consumption. Why is this Regulation then necessary for game meat consumption ?
12.2 The proposed Regulation is yet another say-so with no scientific base to support the stated number of game which may be harvested by the consumptive hunter on a once per annum hunting excursion. How the writers of the proposed Regulations came to the arbitrary numbers they stipulate is thus seriously questionable and unclear as there can be no logic explanation for deriving at these numbers. It would thus mean that if a consumptive hunter would want to harvest two kudu in one year for own consumption, he would have to book two hunting excursions for that year (the cost implications for ordinary consumptive hunters will stop any hunter harvestig two kudu in a year to the eventual detriment of the game farmer and his staff who depend on that income).
12.3 It is also not clear how government officials have the right to determine how the offtake of game on a game farm must be managed. It seems the writers of the proposed Regulations want to force game farm owners to participate in the commercial marketing of game meat, even if they would choose not to partake therein. Freedom of choice of how money is spent and made in the game and wildlife sector is thus directly denied both the consumptive hunter and the game farmer. Surely the game farmer can decide for himself how he would want to manage the offtake of his game animals on his farm and who does that for him. Once again, we are not aware of any such legal limitations placed on the offtake of domestic animals on a farm for another person's consumption.
12.4 In addition, the practical execution of this proposed Regulation of getting the permission of a so-called PEO, even should consumptive hunters know exactly what they were to hunt during a hunting excursion so as to be able to request such permission, is seriously flawed. Consumptive hunters usually have an idea of what and how many they want to hunt but that invariably changes as reality of a specific hunt changes. Just finding a District Veterinarian to sign a warthog transport permit for a consumptive hunter over a weekend is impossible to achieve (it is not nearly impossible, it is impossible). The bureaucratic mess and administrative mismanagement which will be caused by the implementation of this proposed Regulation of having to get permission from a PEO on Provincial level, without the process being done by electronic means, is predictable. Just ask game farmers what a struggle it is to get the relevant permits from their respective Provincial authorities to trade with their own property (game).
13. The proposed Regulation 117(b) stipulates that no meat or edible game products derived from a game animal harvested by a consumptive hunter may be sold. This means a consumptive hunter may no longer hunt animals for a friend who pays for such an animal because s/he cannot make the hunt (don’t forget the limitation on number of animals which may be hunted as per proposed Regulation 117(a)). No private biltong sales either.
13.1 There is once again, no legal substance to this proposed Regulation. There is no limitation on a person buying a domestic animal from a farmer for use by his friend who could not make the trip to the farm. What makes game different ?
14. In final comment, Natshoot reiterates the fact that we support the formalisation of the game meat marketing structures so as to be able to grow the game meat market in this country and to let it grow internationally. However, as we have stated above, Natshoot cannot support a regime in which game farmers are forced into the marketing of the meat of their game in a context which only benefits certain parts of the hunting and wildlife sector, while denying game farmers the right to choose how they will market their own property (their game).
15. Although we have not entered into argumentation regarding the total causality of the implementation of the proposed Game Meat Regulations on the hunting and wildlife sector, it must be understood that the implementation of the proposed Regulations 116, 117 and 118 can lead to a situation where game farm owners will start to seriously reconsider their continuation with game farming. If these three regulations are implemented it could lead to a situation where a large number of game farmers will start to seriously consider going back to domestic animal farming, which invariably has a higher monetary return when compared to game farming (with all its habitat destruction). Such a situation will negate a large part of the conservation success we have seen regarding the growth in numbers of game animals on game farms up to 2020 as compared to the very few game animals outside conservation areas, in for instance, 1980.
16. What we are, however, certain of is that by implementing the ill thought through proposed Regulations 116, 117 and 118 in respect of consumptive hunting in this country, the Department of Agriculture will do irreparable damage to the financial management of game farms in this country and will make a massive contribution to curtailing consumptive hunting in this country, without animal rightists or anti-hunters even having uttered another word on the matter.
17. The financial contribution consumptive hunting makes to the rural economy of this country will seriously suffer if these three proposed Regulations are implemented. There is little doubt that the implementation of the proposed Regulation 116, 177 and 118, will not only criminalise a large number of game farm owners, but definitely a large number of consumptive hunters, just because of the impractical nature of the proposals contained in the Regulations. It will definitely cause a much lower contribution to the rural economy than the R92,3 million only Natshoot hunter members made to the country’s rural economy in 2019. It is a common fact that national consumptive hunters make the largest contribution of all sections to the annual monetary value of the hunting and wildlife sector as a whole.
18. We sincerely hope that the implementation of impractical and really unnecessary Regulations on consumption of game meat by consumptive hunters in our country does not end up in a number of court cases against the Department of Agriculture as is the case with the seriously flawed administrative implementation of the Firearms Control Act by that responsible government department. In this respect the initial statement by CHASA on their recent survey on the domestic use of game meat by consumptive hunters supports this view - the initial report can be read HERE.
19. We will inform members the moment we know of any “official movements” in this regard.
Please stay safe