On May 27th, the California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water voted 5-1 to advance Senate Bill 11175, legislation that would ban the possession and importation of thirteen species of African game animals, the majority of which are stable or increasing populations in range countries where they are hunted.
Despite the documented benefits of regulated hunting in Africa, California Senators effectively voted against the lives and livelihoods of Africans while also turning law-abiding California citizens into criminals, subject to a civil penalty of at least $5,000 for each violation, in addition to any other penalty.
Safari Club International has actively opposed this legislation through our volunteer leadership in California, over 2,000 letters of opposition in advance of the hearing, and our connections with a network of government officials and wildlife conservation professionals in Africa. Our opposition to the bill is firmly rooted in science and law.
“California is currently faced with an historic budget shortfall, yet politicians like Chairman Stern and his animal rights cohorts are still putting their grossly misguided and expensive political agendas ahead of what is best for Californians” said Safari Club International CEO W. Laird Hamberlin. “Safari Club International will continue to lead the fight to do what is right for California and conservation by defending wildlife and wild places from bad policy like SB 1175.”
Because a trophy import ban has far-reaching consequences, the Permanent Secretary of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr. Munesushe Munodawafa, testified against the bill. His testimony highlighted the potential detriment of the ban, emphasizing that it will not solve any of the challenges that it seeks to address. According to Permanent Secretary Munodawafa, the blueprint for protecting these species is their management plans, community-based programs, and conservation measures currently being implemented—which are funded by revenues from well-managed international hunting.
It is rare for such a high-level African official (second-in-command to the Minister) to testify before a state legislature. But, the passage of Senate Bill 1175 would be felt most strongly by African range countries and their rural communities.
Also testifying in opposition during the hearing was Catherine Semcer, a Research Fellow with the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). Semcer specifically addressed the positive contributions of hunting in Africa to conservation, discussed the role of conservation in securing public health, and highlighted the fact that the importation of hunting trophies into the United States has never been linked to an outbreak of disease.
Groups that testified in support of the legislation included notable anti-hunting groups such as The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. These groups provided no substantial, science-based claim for their support, instead relying only on emotional rhetoric.
Not only does Senate Bill 1175 conflict with the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is also in conflict with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – an international agreement between governments with the goal of ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
During the hearing, Senator Brian Jones gave a passionate pitch to other members of the committee urging them, and even inviting them to attend an event held by Safari Club International to better understand real conservation. Jones added that after attending an SCI event, he was taken back by “the care and concern that the people who support this organization have for animals not just here in California and not just in the United States, but around the globe.”
As SCI has repeatedly explained to the California legislature, this bill is a bad idea for conservation, and it is unenforceable. Enacting this bill would hurt people in Africa and in California. And for that reason, the legislature should reject the special interests pushing the bill and side with science-based conservation.
Safari Club International will continue to lead in opposition to this emotionally charged charade as the legislation will now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee.