Anti-hunters fired blanks last month when they took verbal shots at Safari Club International and its Convention exhibitors in a media blitz, alleging that a new Nevada law had been violated.
“We are the good guys and through science-based conservation, we protect wildlife,” said SCI President Paul Babaz. “The antis only whine while hunters are out there in the wilds, protecting animals and fighting criminal poachers.”
In January 2019, representatives for anti-hunting groups gained entry into SCI’s membership-restricted annual Convention in Reno, NV for the purpose of exposing what they characterized as potentially illegal conduct by Convention exhibitors.
The anti-hunters publicized their findings, targeting SCI and several individual exhibitors. The accusers claimed that the exhibitors were selling items in violation of Nevada state law.
Not surprisingly, the accusers appear to have failed to properly research the law—or intentionally mischaracterized it–before publicizing their accusations. Also not surprisingly, the accusations were rebroadcasted by hundreds of internet communicators who similarly chose to skip the investigation that would have demonstrated the weakness of the accusations.
Nevada did pass a law that went into effect in 2018. N.R.S. 597.905 controls the sale of or possession with intent to sell products from shark fin, lions, elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, sea turtle, ray, mammoth, narwhal, walrus or hippopotamus. https://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-597.html#NRS597Sec905.
The law provides a number of exceptions, the most general of which exempts sales of items for which the owner or seller has obtained permission from the federal government or for which federal law permits the sale. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a bureau of the federal government, has adopted regulations that specifically authorize the commercial sale of elephant products (other than ivory and sport-hunted trophies). 50 C.F.R. 17.40(e). Because of this regulation, it is likely that none of the sales of elephant products violated Nevada law.
And, since the exhibitors at the SCI Convention are familiar with federal permit and license requirements and likely obtain such permits where required, it is also likely that the majority of other sales that were the subject of the anti-hunters’ accusations were also exempt from the Nevada law’s prohibitions.
Individuals who have questions about which animal products may or may not be sold in Nevada may contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife for more information. http://www.ndow.org/Our_Agency/Contact_Us/.
Like the laws of several other states that prohibit the sale and/or importation of wildlife products, Nevada’s law provides protections for species that do not require and will not benefit from protection. For example, Nevada’s and other states’ prohibitions against the sale of mammoth products will do nothing to bring back the long extinct species.
Other states have laws that similarly prohibit the sale and/or importation of wildlife. New York has a law that prohibits the sale or offer for sale of parts of leopard, snow leopard, clouded leopard, tiger, Asiatic lion, cheetah, alligator, caiman or crocodile, some tortoises, some marine turtles, vicuna, wolf, red wolf, Tasmanian Forester kangaroo, polar bear, mountain lion, jaguar, ocelot, margay, Sumatran rhinoceros, and black rhinoceros. N.Y. Envtl. Conserv. Law § 11-0536.
In Delaware, state law prohibits the importation, transportation, possession or sale of any endangered species except under license or permit from the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. Del. Code Ann. tit. 7, § 601.
Hawaii’s law bans the sale or trade of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, great ape, hippopotamus, lion, pangolin, cheetah, jaguar, leopard, (and unless permitted by federal law) sea turtle, monk seal, narwhal, whale, walrus, rays and sharks. Despite acknowledging its extinct status, Hawaii also bans the sale of mammoth products. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 183D-66.
Washington state law makes it unlawful for a person to sell, offer to sell, purchase, trade, barter for, or distribute any elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, pangolins, marine turtles, sharks, and rays, among others. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 77.15.135.
California’s penal code prohibits the importation for commercial purposes, possession with intent to sell, or sale within the state of polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf, zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise, Spanish lynx, or elephant. In 2020, crocodile and alligator will be added to California’s list. Cal. Penal Code § 653o.
Oregon’s law prohibits the purchase, sale or exchange of elephant, rhinoceros, whale, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar pangolin, sea turtle, shark and ray. O.R.S. § 498.022.
Some states simply add unnecessary restrictions for species that are already regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). New Hampshire’s law prohibits knowing purchases and sales of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, and CITES-listed sharks, rays, sea turtles, and whales. N.H. Rev. Stat. § 212-C:2. New Jersey’s law prohibits the possession, transport, import, export, process, sell or offer for sale, or shipping of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, pangolin, marine turtle, or ray listed by CITES. N.J.S.A. § 23:2A-6.1.
Many of these laws provide exceptions to the prohibitions. All state laws are limited in that they cannot prohibit conduct that the federal Endangered Species Act authorizes. Note that the list of state statutes discussed in this article is not intended to be exhaustive. Future articles will address other similar laws including those issued in countries outside of the United States.
As evidenced by the lists of species that legislators have deemed in need of protection, many laws prohibit importation and trade for species that do not need such protection. Many of the species on these lists do not meet the qualifications for federal designation as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Laws that prohibit the importation and/or sale of species that even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not deemed necessary to protect are often the handiwork of lawmakers who lack an understanding of how conservation works and are following misguided motives intended to appease constituents who incorrectly believe that the best way to save species is to prohibit others from sustainably using them.
Those who are personally uncomfortable with the idea of hunting often advocate for laws that make it impossible or at least less desirable for others to hunt. The legislators and their constituents ignore the rational thought and appeals against such legislation made by the governments and communities of the range countries, the IUCN, and experts in wildlife biology. Instead those who force the adoption of such laws substitute their own personal feelings as the basis for dictating the conduct of others.
Allowing this nonsensical means of legislating is akin to enabling a committee of conscientious objectors to plan a military offensive or putting a team of individuals who prefer faith-healing in charge of running a hospital surgical unit.
It is fine for these individuals to make decisions about their own personal behavior, but it is insanity to allow anti-hunters to make the laws that dictate whether others should be able to hunt and/or whether hunting and other forms of sustainable use of wildlife are effective means of conserving wildlife populations.