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Ethical sponsorship in conservation?

Mar 7

Written by:
07/03/2018 10:00  RssIcon

Emily Joachim questions the ethics of accepting sponsorship money from companies linked to trophy hunting.


At the 2016 Birdfair convention, I presented a popular talk on owls. Four weeks later, Leica Sport Optics contacted me to discuss sponsorship opportunities for the UK Little Owl Project - a project dedicated to UK little owl research and conservation. 

Leica had just launched their NOCTIVID binoculars: the little owl provided inspiration for this range and the binoculars were designed for use in daylight and at dawn and dusk. Advertisements for this range feature a little owl.

Initially I felt excited at the sponsorship opportunity as Leica is a well-known brand. Leica said, subject to budget, they could loan a product, provide financial contributions towards resources and help with publicity and awareness raising. What they could offer depended on how much brand exposure could be generated in conjunction with UK Little Owl Project (e.g. logos on printed material, social media exposure, blogs).

However, I recalled Ethical Consumer’s Shooting Wildlife? Report, which I first discovered at Birdfair 2016. Lots of people were talking about it and so I decided to check if Leica had links with sports hunting. 

Image: Lion 


Leica’s hunting links

On reading Shooting Wildlife? it became apparent that Leica markets riflescopes and optic products on @LeicaHunting Twitter and Instagram and Facebook accounts, with numerous photos of trophy kills being found throughout these social media accounts. Leica is a partner of Magic Safari Lodges (MSL) – an organisation that promotes the world’s elite hunting & fishing lodges. MSL’s brochure had photos of leopard, elephant and lion trophy kills. 

Leica is also listed as a corporate sponsor of Safari Club International, an organisation whose Annual Hunters’ Convention recently featured on BBC Four Storyville ‒ Trophy: The Big Game Hunting Controversy.


Making a decision

These links raised questions for me about the ethics of linking a conservation project with a company that endorses trophy hunting through its marketing and sponsorship. After much deliberation, I decided to turn down the Leica sponsorship opportunity because of these links.

In response to my decision, Leica commented that hunting is a tricky area for most optics companies. It stated that it had an ‘ethical’ hunting policy, which focused on conservation, and that Leica was opposed to trophy hunting. 

However, I could not find a statement about Leica’s hunting policy or opposition to trophy hunting on its website. It’s stated opposition to trophy hunting also appeared to contradict its sponsorship of Safari Club International.


Increasing transparency

Reflecting on my experience and the decision I made, I would like to see much more transparency regarding optics companies and their links to the sports hunting industry.  This should include companies publishing a policy statement on trophy hunting and sponsorship of sport hunting activities on their websites. 

I would also like optics companies to strongly reconsider their use of trophy kill photos and videos on their websites and social media accounts. 

I would also like to see conservation organisations develop ethical sponsorship policies.


Read the full report: Shooting Wildlife II > 









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