A PROACT Position


This is a question I’m often asked and it is not that easy to answer (which is presumably why people ask it!)

I can tell you where I – David Conlin – stand. That may well have represented Proact’s position at the end of the year 2000, when 3 or 4 of us were organising our first internet lobbies on behalf of the birds and their habitats; but as we approach a membership of nearly 800, from all over the world, a much broader spectrum of opinion id represented.

As the founder of Proact, and the initiator and organiser of most of our campaigns, I suppose I have a little more say and influence than the rest; but I do consult with my closest colleagues and others and hope that I can present a balanced and agreed Proact position. And all members have the right to opt out for individual campaigns if they can’t reconcile them with their views. At the end of the day we mustn’t forget our aim “…campaigning for birds and their habitats…” which of course implies and encompasses the rest of the natural world and the environment as well.

But I promised to tell you where I stand so here goes (I wrote this for the proact panel group earlier in 2002):


Uncle David bares his personal soul. This is not Proact doctrine, and as a personal statement probably full of holes and half-arguments. But it’s what I feel. I have divided this into ‘HUNTING’ and ‘KILLING AND MISTREATMENT OF ANIMALS’


There are to my mind 5 main forms of hunting:

1. Hunting for survival. Inuit are a good example; but don’t forget the commercial side. In few societies today are people forced to survive by gun, bow and arrow or fishing line. Sealskin Inc. (not a real company of course) and others often exploit this ethnic or noble savage aspect. And traditional methods of subsistence hunting are now rare; snow-scooters and explosive bullets have replaced the dog-sled and the harpoon.

2. Hunting as a social statement. Anyone born in the country (in UK/Wales – I can’t speak for everywhere) will be quite aware of the ‘hunting, shooting and fishing’ classes. Here hunting is often a social ritual and a class statement. The fate and suffering of the quarry is of little importance There are exceptions – many farmers hunt and understand animals. (So-called ‘Big-Game’ or other big money commercial hunting – involving protected species and now rampant in eastern Europe as well – probably deserves a category of its own; but for my purpose falls into this category as well as 4. below

3. Hunting for the little man. What’s the biggest participatory sport in Western Europe? Football – NO! Coarse fishing or angling. In other countries small game or birds predominate. To stick to birds in this case – I’ll leave the field open for others on fishing and non-feathered game. Tradition, ritual, lack of social opportunity and education all play their part. No one will stop this overnight; particularly if it is not illegal. We have come a long way with environmental education over the past 50 years – this is the way ahead. In the worst case this form of hunting will die out because there is nothing left to shoot or otherwise kill.

4. Hunting as so-called ‘sport’ (when not covered in the other categories above).We’ve seen examples in Malta, Cyprus, Paraguay and many other countries. Killing other beings by shooting them indiscriminately cannot be justified. It usually represents the desire to hurt something or someone else; or to demonstrate a form of power over others. Modern societies provide other, more civilised ways of letting off steam; or of channelling it more productive pursuits. Plenty of work here for social-modellers and politicians.

5. Hunting as a profession. Here I mean, gamekeepers, rangers, foresters or to some extent farmers. I have met many in my professional life and they all love, respect and understand nature – and the animals and birds they protect and regulate. It’s the latter
with which I have a problem. Generally man ‘regulates’ nature because of mistakes he has made in the past; because it is ‘in his way’; to keep the animal populations healthy; or to ensure that those paying the salary make a good profit on their investment. Is this
(or these) breeding – conservation – hunting – breeding cycle necessary. In principle no! In practice impossible to answer in a short mail. This category does a lot for conservation but is far from altruistic. It caters for1!) and sometimes 2) above; and makes it hard to combat 3) – “why can’t we if they are allowed to?”

Summary – I’m not for hunting and would only personally kill an animal on the same ethical basis as I would a fellow human being: as a last resort in self defence or, in certain special circumstances, to put it out of its misery. Our societies will continue to tolerate some legal forms of hunting for some time to come (fact) and I don’t want to alienate totally anyone who will help to honestly preserve and protect our dwindling natural resources. I am not prepared to enter into any unholy alliances either as a person or a part of Proact. Far from perfect; but who is?



There can be NO justification for mistreatment of animals, domestic or wild. (This includes all forms of unnecessary and outdated forms of pain-infliction such as docking, branding and the like.)

The former trust us and give us companionship; if they were human we would be tempted to call it love. The latter is an abuse of the gift of nature’s variety which we have been given; and for which we – humans – are self-appointed trustees.

Experiments on animals. Few in this forum will agree _fully_ on this. My view?

Cosmetic testing on animals is unnecessary. No one (except those unlucky enough to be badly disfigured – and there must then be other solutions – is forced to apply cosmetics or sun cream.

Testing of the effects of smoking and other self-inflicted diseases? A warped view of the role of animals in our world. Why should we torture them with our failings if we cannot respect our own bodies (I was a heavy smoker; but am ‘clean’ – after a heart attack – for 6 years and will never smoke again).

Testing for cures for diseases such as cancer. I honestly don’t know where I stand. In principle I am against; but if it was one of my children and the only chance was….. Sorry to sidle out of this one. There is hope here with our increasing knowledge of gene structure and the use of embryo cells; but that’s another ethical Pandora’s box.

Killing for profit, furs (fashion), ivory, you name it – WRONG!

Killing for food – I respect vegetarians and Vegans; and note that, for example, theat the numbers suffering from heart and associated diseases  in the Far East has risen rapidly since a more western (meat) diet. has become popular.(They are also the world’s ‘worst’ smokers – and Marlboro & Co are in there already) I eat meat, once a week at the very most and will probably go on doing so. Please don’t condemn me – and many others.
It’s a very personal decision. I do not condone the killing of protected species for food – whales are a good example of this.

Thanks for your time,