UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls on South African government to ‘protect children against violence of trophy hunting’

Humane Society International / Africa

HSUS A hunter posing with a zebra he shot at a captive hunting ranch in South Africa.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the South African government to “protect children from the vicarious effects of exposure to violence inflicted on animals such as during Trophy Hunting.” The announcement, on 8 February 2024, follows a periodic review of children’s rights in South Africa. Humane Society International welcomes the Committee’s recognition of trophy hunting as a violent and harmful activity—not just towards animals but also towards children.

Last year the UN formally recognised and defined the right of children to freedom from all forms of violence, including exposure to violence inflicted on animals. On 24 January 2024, during the UNCRC’s considerations of the periodic reports submitted by the South African Government, Dr Rinchen Chophal, vice chair of the UNCRC commented: “Various psychological studies on violence and animal abuse have shown that witnessing or participating in the violence can severely impact children’s moral and psychological development, besides normalising violence and conditioning life-long negative behavioural patterns. The popular and social acceptance of child participation in animal trophy hunting in the country (South Africa) is horrendous to say the least. Can the State Party enlighten us whether you will, as a matter of urgency, criminalise this practice?”

The UNCRC recorded that: “South Africa took note of the concerns about the effects that trophy hunting could have on children participating in them. South Africa was committed to holding roundtable discussions to address this matter.”

Research shows that witnessing animal abuse is a form of psychological abuse in children. Trophy hunting represents one of many forms of violence towards animals that could cause trauma. Around the world children, especially those from low-income communities, often encounter instances of domestic abuse towards pets, the violent slaughtering of conscious farmed animals, and the cruel extermination of animals considered to be “pests” or that pose a potential health risk to humans, including mice, rats and street dogs. Other activities perpetrating violence against animals include game hunting, culling, poaching, wing shooting and dogfighting, all of which pose harmful exposure to children. With the passage of UN General Comment 26 last year, children now have the right to be protected against witnessing any violence inflicted on any animal, and the South African government has been called on to demonstrate how it will ensure this right.

Dr Matthew Schurch, wildlife specialist for Humane Society International/Africa, stated: “Trophy hunting is cruel and violent to animals and deeply harmful to the children who witness it. The Committee’s statement is a critical starting point to address the wide spectrum of animal cruelty that children in South Africa—and around the world—are exposed to. Promoting compassion and respect towards all animals helps to foster children’s emotional and social skills. Ending exposure to animal cruelty can help prevent the development and normalisation of violent behaviours, towards the animals and also towards people. We look forward to the South African government demonstrating how we will ensure the rights of our children to be protected from all forms of violence towards animals.”


Media contact: Leozette Roode, media specialist, HSI/Africa:+27 71 360 1104; LRoode@hsi.org

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