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Predator-friendly Buys 11/16/10

Claire looks at initiatives in South Africa which help consumers of meat-products make more informed choices.

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I recently read a disturbing Guardian news report on badger culling. They are systematically being destroyed due to the alleged assertion that they are contributing towards the spread on bovine TB. What the article indicates is that scientific research has shown that the culling of badgers is not likely to contribute towards the elimination of the disease and that there are more ethical ways of stopping the spread. However, certain governments have given the go-ahead for culling, anyway. This is just one example where the farmers’ might is hindering the right.

One of the aspects of the meat-industry that is often over-looked is the peripheral animal, the predator. These animals are targeted for extermination because they attack livestock, even if they do not contribute to large numbers of losses. Most of these predators are wild animals and seemingly impossible to control; although various culling methods, such as traps, hunting or poison are used to control their numbers. Invariably, “innocent animals” are killed in the process. In recent decades the plight of these animals, innocent or not, has resulted in environmentalists seeking new ways to control problem species.

While living in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, I was confronted with the cruelty of the gin-trap while visiting a farm which was left to run wild. It was a beautiful place on a river front and attracted many species of antelope. But traps left on the fence border were resulting in a number of these animals either suffering until they invariably died, or losing limbs while seeking escape. Gin traps were not only used by farmers in the Eastern Cape as a means to capture food for the pot, but also as a means to control predators. Gin-traps are a very cruel and inhumane method of control.

It was for this reason that I was pleased to hear of an advocacy group that are researching, and educating people about, alternative methods of controlling predators. The Landmark Foundation, based in the Baviaanskloof of the Eastern Cape, has been a leading group in the conservation of leopards and other predator species. They are advocating for the banning of gin-traps altogether and have been experimenting with other methods of predator control, such as the introduction of Sheep Dogs.

They have also developed a product branding initiative, known as FAIR GAME™, to educate consumers on which meat products are predator-friendly, i.e. farmers use predator-friendly or humane ways of controlling predators. Talking of badgers, although of the honey kind, another South African predator-friendly labelling exercise is the Badger-friendly label on Honey. Branding is a useful way for those purchasing meat to make an informed and ethical choice. We all know about free-range and other labels, but I am not sure how many of us know about predator-friendly labels. I am aware that labeling is sometimes misleading, but I hope that we can rely on ethical conservation bodies to show us a better way.

I am certain that there are plenty of labelling exercises which are contributing in a positive way towards our biodiversity in South Africa and abroad.

Are you aware of any other (reputable) initiatives that you would like to share with us?

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