Birdfair’s sport optics sponsors
Anna Clayton of Ethical Consumer at the British Birdfair.
Last weekend birdwatchers and naturalists gathered at Rutland Water Nature Reserve for the biggest wildlife event of the year - the British Birdfair.
This ‘Birdwatchers Glastonbury’ attracts a wealth of wildlife lovers from across the world. However the event both promotes and accepts associate sponsorship from a number of companies that have been linked to the hunting industry - including Nikon, Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, Bushnell and Kowa.
In fact, only the event’s primary optics sponsor - Viking Optical - was found not to be linked to the hunting industry in Ethical Consumer’s Shooting Wildlife report.
In February 2016 Ethical Consumer reviewed 30 optics companies in the ‘Shooting Wildlife?’ report. Of the 30 companies, 25 (83%) had some involvement in selling sport hunting accessories, or in marketing products to hunters.
Of these 25 companies, 17 (57%) sold numerous sport hunting accessories, and marketed products directly at hunters.
Not only were their products promoted for use when hunting, but the promotional language used by 47% of companies referenced ‘big game’ or trophy hunting.
For example, Steiner Optics state on its website:
“Once you’re after that trophy, nothing can hold you back... Even after countless monster-obsessed pursuits, Steiner optics are eager for more and ready to go.”
Still from Steiner Optics' promotional video, photo credit: Steiner Optics
80% of companies that promoted the use of at least one product for hunting, also used images of trophy animals such as elk, white tail deer and bighorn sheep in promotional materials or on social media sites.
In addition, a number of companies, including Zeiss and Leica, used images of animals such as bears and male lions. This comes at a time when the potential negative impacts of selective hunting have started to be evidenced.
More on sponsorship
Companies that sold hunting optics were also more likely to have sponsored hunting organisations or initiatives.
76% of companies that sold multiple hunting accessories had sponsored hunting organisations whose mission statements included "protecting hunters’ rights", and 59% were members of hunting and conservation organisations such as The Boone and Crockett club, Whitetails Unlimited and Safari Club International (SCI). SCI’s main focus at the time of writing was to reduce regulations regarding hunting trophy imports into the USA.
A number of optics companies were also trying to engage new user groups, such as women and children, in hunting through education programmes, competitions and sponsorship of TV shows.
Nikon was a 2015 partner of ‘Raised Hunting’, a US show that follows the journey of an American family that “use hunting as a platform to teach ethics and values to their family”.
Swarovski Optik was listed as an International Sponsor of the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, a challenge organised by the US National Rifle Association.
Through glamorising trophy hunting, optics companies promote a form of selective hunting that has been linked to changes in animal demographics, and population health and movement. The ethics and impacts of sport hunting are discussed in detail in the Shooting Wildlife? report.
Moving Birdfair forward
As a large number of wildlife organisations receive sponsorship from companies linked to the hunting industry, it is not surprising that Ethical Consumer’s ‘Shooting Wildlife?’ report was not openly discussed at Bird Fair this year, or picked up by the specialist birding media; a situation which TV presenter and naturalist, Chris Packham, described as “a shame”.
And yet some tiny movement has been made since Ethical Consumer published its report in February 2016.
After the release of the report, Chris Packham, ‘a Birdfair regular,’ got rid of his Swarovski equipment and replaced them with Canon – one of five companies that do not appear to have links with the hunting industry.
He also sought a ‘hunting free’ sponsor for the ‘Rewilding Britain’ talk at Birdfair this year, a talk which he chaired, settling on Canon once again. And he says he is determined to continue using wildlife friendly optics in the future.
Let’s hope that these simple actions become more common within the wider birding and naturalist community. Perhaps Birdfair 2017 might like to openly discuss the ethical issues associated with receiving sponsorship from organisation linked to hunting?
Read the Shooting wildlife? report.