Sunday, October 26, 2014

The privilege and the problem

I am not a huge adherent of big-city living. However, I will say this of Edmonton: if you are a hunter it could be a lot worse living in a greater metropolitan area of approximately 1.2 million. Right on the periphery of our (creeping) suburbs exists some excellent opportunities to escape and indulge in the imperative of the hunt. Even living quite centrally I can be into publically accessible, good waterfowl wetlands within 35mins, big game in less than twice that. Online mapping tools and apps even deliver to you detailed directions for each of the multitude of public access lands close the city.

Furthermore, in Alberta we are not subject to onerous hunting licence requirements or lengthy exams, we don’t need to enter lottery draws in the hope of getting an opportunity to sit in a specific duck blind on a highly pressured public wetland in the hope that birds will pass that spot, and we don’t pay for access. All that you do is show up, find a safe spot that you think will work, toss out decoys and (try to) shoot birds. It’s that easy; we are that fortunate.

As a show of respect we have those amongst us who express their gratitude like this:

I really should have taken a better photo as the whole area was a mess of hulls, take-out cups, cans, an old chair, bags etc. I took out 2 bags of garbage and should have gone back for more.  As an insult to injury there were also 2 empty boxes of lead shot loads – this being illegal to shoot at migratory birds since 1999 (this blind is over water, so not sure what else they would be shooting at?)

More to the point, this is not a rare sight in Alberta. Runners, dog walkers, bird watchers et. al don’t see the hunters with integrity, they see this. If we don’t pursue excellence in our conduct, knowledge and duty to set an ‘ecological-example’ then hunting, and hunters, will lose.

© Brian Joubert

Friday, March 22, 2013

Video: Hunting and Bubye Valley Conservancy (Zimbabwe)

A very interesting video that deconstructs the logic of incentive, land use priorities and conservation, in a very clear manner. Lions saving rhinos and a whole set of interrelated management symbiosis. It is seldom these stories that we see on social media and ones that should perhaps be occasionally inserted between the strident calls to save wildlife, the calls that appear to infrequently extend beyond cyberspace.
There is room for critical discussion here, of course, but the process is undeniably a useful one.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Controversy: Timbavati Rhino Hunting (South Africa)

This is an open letter from Timbavati Game Reserve Chairman Tom Hancock regarding the limited hunting of selected rhino in that reserve. A recent controversy erupted when it was ‘discovered’ (although it has proceeded quite openly for years) that amidst the current and alarming rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, white rhinos were being legally hunted in this flagship reserve along the western boundary of Kruger National Park. Accusations flew and social media exploded with vitriol.

1)      Should an individual’s personal revulsion to rhino hunting translate into ban or cessation? I understand someone’s personal aversion to hunting, or hunters, but do these sentiments equate to sound conservation polices? Ironically, some of the most respected and erudite conservationists say no, antipathy to rhino hunting should not translate into bans because properly conducted it is a tool that has served the species very well.

2)      It is clear that illegal horn traders have fronted as ‘legitimate’ clients with shady outfitters and there is no doubt that this ‘loophole’ is a serious threat to the industry and credible conduct. I agree that this is a serious problem, driving any current benefits towards a zero sum outcome.

The letter makes their case quite simply. Draw your own conclusions:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Myth Busting: Ammunition Impact and Fire Safety.

‘Sporting firearm ammunition is less of a risk to firefighters than many other household products’.

I had seen the short version of this SAAMI training video before (essentially the trailer) but not this highly informative version. Possibly the best antidote to the common myths that ammunition will create a ‘bomb’ if subjected to heat or impact is that in the absence of a chamber and means for a gas-seal, the effectiveness of ammo is massively reduced. Note how even a primer popping out in some of the examples is enough to prevent the bullet from exiting an unsupported, fired cartridge. This is not to say reloaders and shooters should not store ammo, powder and primers  lawfully and with care, but it is useful in understanding the physics of detonation and projectiles. They really did burn up a lot of ammunition!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Recommendation: "Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control in Canada" by R. Blake Brown

The value in books like “Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control in Canada” by R. Blake Brown lies in their potential contribution to civic and political debates about firearm legislation and the civil discourse on ‘gun-politics’. For this reason I can highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to further arm themselves with a meaningful and coherent foundation in the history and development of Canadian firearm legislation. Obviously Canadians will primarily benefit from this book but many of the associated issues are universal and the legal details are similar to other jurisdictions.

Brown (Associate Professor of History at St. Mary’s University, Halifax, N.S.), has neatly collated a treatise of Canadian firearm law history from pre-Confederation through to the contemporary, ongoing debates subsequent to Bill C-68. The book is a research work and as such is not intended to be a source of ‘entertainment’. That said it is not nearly as dryly academic as one would expect from a journal article for example and is peppered throughout with interesting quotes, anecdotes and art from news media, citizens and politicians. He gives thorough treatment to varied issues ranging from state support for rifle skills through to the emergence of sophisticated gun-control and gun-owners lobby groups at work in Canada today. Along the way he deals with issues such as early state sanctioned firearm ownership, concerns over youth and firearms, early disarmament schemes that were xenophobic, racist and classist, Canada’s early forms of registration and the evolution of licensing and modern legislative requirements.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: "Game Changer- Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa's Wildlife" by Glen Martin.

They tell of the baby elephant that was saved in a specific locale, but they don’t tell of the scores of other elephants in the region that were killed because of crop depredation or land tenure disputes. IFAW’s methods have thus proved effective in saving individual elephants, and for this their strategy is sound. Setting up elephant rescue centres is doable. But the larger mission implied in their work – “saving” Africa’s elephants – remains unfulfilled and may in fact be sabotaged by IFAW’s own work. The lavishing of hundreds of thousands of dollars on the suckling of baby elephants while locals see their maize crops razed and their cattle stomped flat by irrate pachyderms sends the familiar, loud , and dissonant message to rural Africans: too bad about you; this cute little elephant comes first.(Glen Martin, pg 200).

Alongside biology, pecuniary incentives and conservation sociology are ever more important core foundations in wildlife management and in the efforts to conserve Africa’s – and the planets’- wildlife. In Game Changer: Animal Rights and the Fate of Africa’s Wildlife, Glen Martin provides a thought provoking analysis of what he describes as the ‘ascendancy of animal rights based conservation policy’ and how it is driving the decline of many of Africa’s great game populations. The apotheosizing of Africa’s mega fauna as ‘untouchable’ has had perverse outcomes in many areas once rich in wildlife. While the reasons for decline in wildlife can stem from poaching, Malthusian population expansion and agrarian conflict, Martin highlights exactly how and why a hands-off legislative approach further compounds these threats and often provides a disincentive for local-level conservation efforts. If the people that live with and share the landscape with wildlife are divorced from conservation decision making processes, denied compensation for wildlife conflicts, edged out of wildlife-based incomes and generally  shut-off from legal and sustainable use they not only lose conservation incentives but often see wildlife as a menace to other land-based livelihoods. Simply put, the old adage of ‘if it pays it stays’, albeit often bandied about a bit casually, often underpins the most effective conservation policy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun" by Paul M. Barrett

 How did an unknown Austrian engineer who had barely ever touched a gun come to develop the most iconic modern handgun, with the largest market share in production today? Author Paul Barrett does an excellent job of tracking Glock’s meteoric rise from a Viennese suburb into a handgun empire that trounced the established monoliths of the American handgun industry, like Smith and Wesson. If you are interested in Glock’s, firearms, the gun industry and the wrangling’s of modern gun politics in America, you will thoroughly enjoy Glock.

I began reading this book with a basic knowledge of Glock’s history but Barrett provides a detailed account of the company’s character and inner workings, based on his research with industry insiders and Glock employees. One could say that Gaston Glock was a man who found himself in the right place at the right time, both in Austria and the US. The initially unassuming Austrian decided to compete for a government contract to supply pistols to the Austrian military. Lacking the infrastructural or a priori design path-dependency held by other companies, a factor later believed to have been a benefit as opposed to a constraint, he set about designing a unique handgun. His timing in the USA was also fortuitous – the late 80’s saw many police departments wanting to upgrade their duty side arms from predominantly 6 shot revolvers to higher capacity pistols. A number of high profile police shootouts that left the authorities feeling under-gunned precipitated this review of duty gun capabilities (many of these events also became slightly embellished).  Many in the US at that stage still saw ‘wonder 9’s’ as Euro-trash; the all-American 1911 .45 being the only pistol worthy of consideration. This alongside with the Glock’s unusual features and polymer frame meant that the pistol was initially met with scepticism. However it wasn’t just good timing that worked in Glock’s favour, the fact is that the pistol was, and remains, and very ergonomic, ultra-reliable and user-friendly handgun. It didn’t take the police long to see the light, in part because of the Glock’s capabilities and in part because of the company's innovations outside of pistol design.