Washington Report – Fighting the Airline Bans

deltaplaneMost SCI members are likely not familiar with the “online petition” fad. Leftist websites such as Change.org host thousands of these meaningless manifestos, and there is an active subculture of agitators who spend substantial amounts of time signing petitions to boost their numbers. Now, SCI members have become the target of a concerted petition drive demanding that airlines and shipping companies ban the shipment of hunting trophies.

Politicians long ago learned to dismiss petitions in any form, whether online or in hard copy. The signatures on any petition could be from anyone, anywhere, or perhaps even faked. The chance that any one signature actually represents a voter in a lawmaker’s district is minuscule. Even the White House, technically accountable to all voters nationwide, treats its online petition site as something of a joke. That’s fitting, given that one of the most popular White House petitions of all time demanded that the United States construct a Death Star in space.

By the same token, it’s very unlikely that petition signers represent the customer base of international airlines. But airlines are unaccustomed to being the targets of political pressure, and the corporate leadership at several airlines folded like dominoes when targeted by the online campaign. In the space of several weeks, the airlines that suddenly changed their policies to preclude the shipment of trophies included Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, South African Airways, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Brussels Airlines, British Airways and Iberia. They were shortly followed by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest shipping line. Many of the announcements from the airlines illustrated a panicky herd mentality, with several including language lifted directly from the online petition itself.   This is the telltale mark of corporate decision-making driven by superficial public relations concerns.

SCI members know that a trophy ban is the worst decision for the wildlife. We know that hunter dollars provide the incentive to conserve and manage wildlife sustainably. We know that our permits and licenses reflect a rigorous set of rules and regulations by which we must abide. And we know that local economies in developing nations rely on the influx of resources that hunters bring with them. But airline executives apparently know none of this.

So your SCI team moved into immediate action, both in Washington and abroad. Your lobbyists and representatives from professional hunting associations made contact with the relevant government officials. They sought out stakeholders from the affected airlines, seeking opportunities to educate. And your public relations team undertook a public education campaign, drafting and placing op-eds in key press outlets both here and abroad.

As we know, the facts are on our side. And our team has begun to meet with success already. The first victory was with Delta Airlines, which refused to fold under pressure. And the second came when South African Airways (SAA) reversed the decision it made just a few months prior.

South African Cargo Embargo

South African Cargo has reversed their earlier embargo.

The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) was instrumental in educating SAA executives, bringing them together with the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The airline learned of the rigorous permitting regime administered by the Department, and the measures that are already in place to ensure that trophy exports were properly inspected and licensed, and duly reversed its decision with a public announcement noting same. SCI is appreciative of the educational efforts of PHASA and South Africa’s DEA, and commended the leadership of SAA in a release that is printed elsewhere in this newspaper.

Your SCI team will continue to seek a reversal of the ill-advised cargo embargo policy from the other carriers who rushed to judgment. Until then, hunters are advised to take notice of these policies when booking travel or other hunt logistics. Economic pressure can be even more effective than political pressure, so if you have to choose between airlines that do and do not discriminate against hunters, make the obvious choice. And then be sure to tell the offending airline why you chose not to patronize it with your dollars.

Back in Washington, pro-hunting Senators are tackling another ill-advised ban on commerce. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) have introduced S. 1769, The African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act of 2015. This important bill would end the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unilateral moratorium on the importation, exportation, and sale of lawfully possessed ivory, while also making significant efforts to assist anti-poaching efforts in countries with elephant populations. The ban otherwise threatens to turn the owners of legal ivory into criminals overnight.

Will we never learn? Alcohol prohibition was an object lesson in the failure of banning commerce. Yet our government, and increasingly, private companies, are turning to the ban as the immediate answer to every perceived problem. While the supporters of such measures may be well-intentioned, they are failing even the most rudimentary study of history – and are thus condemning themselves to repeat it.

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