Abattoir compliance for game meat will kill Eastern Cape industry, say professional hunters

Professional hunters in the Eastern Cape have lambasted the banning of game meat that is not slaughtered at abattoirs. The ban was instituted by the provincial department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

“All that will be achieved by implementing these ridiculous and impractical regulations is impoverishing the game ranchers and hunters; depriving local people, communities and welfare organisations of obtaining healthy protein; and wasting a valuable sustainable resource,” the president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (Phasa), Pieter Potgieter, told the Mail & Guardian.  

Last month, the department issued a notice saying that the slaughter and dressing of game meat at any place other than an abattoir was prohibited, and that those not complying could be fined or imprisoned. 

“It has come to the attention of this office that there are game farms and butcheries in the Eastern Cape that are providing game meat for human consumption, without [it] being dressed through an abattoir,” the notice said.

“It is brought to your attention that section 7 of the Meat Safety Act prohibits slaughter of animals in any place other than abattoirs. Slaughter in the case of a game animal means dressing of a game carcass, since a game animal is harvested in the field and brought to the abattoir as a carcass.”

Democratic Alliance Eastern Cape MPL Retief Odendaal told the M&G that not only would the ban have a “significant impact” on the game farming and hunting industry, but that it had also highlighted a legal absurdity, which could either be due to the Act itself, or how the department had interpreted it. 

“[Given] the sheer ‘free-range’ nature in which the game is culled or hunted, it is certainly impossible to have each animal inspected before it will be culled or shot. This thereby creates a legal absurdity as no game owner or amateur hunter will be able to comply with the … interpretation of the Act,” he said.

Hundreds of jobs could be on the line if the imposed interpretation of the Act was not challenged, he added. 

“While it is not within our power as a provincial government to change national legislation, it remains our responsibility to be proactive when it comes to protecting our residents’ livelihoods and responding speedily to any potential threat to our economy,” Odendaal said. 

Potgieter concurred, saying that “the practicalities” did not align with what was proposed, “such as inspectors inspecting game before they are shot”. 

“Also, slaughtering (skinning) can’t be done at a registered abattoir for obvious practical reasons, such as hunters taking skins and horns before delivery,” he added. 

As an example, said Potgieter, a kudu could be shot from a distance of 200m. It would, therefore, not be possible to inspect the animal before shooting it. 

The acting head of the department, Bongikhaya Dayimani, said it planned to consult all involved parties to resolve any concerns. “A meeting is yet to be held with all stakeholders to discuss how game meat can be sustainably used in the province without impacting livelihoods,” Dayimani said.

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