Sports optics are essential equipment for anyone with an interest in wildlife, including birdwatchers, naturalists – and sport hunters. What isn’t widely known is that many optics companies are directly marketing products at pro-wildlife and pro-hunting groups simultaneously. This website highlights those companies who are putting wildlife first.
Whether you enjoy birdwatching, wildlife photography or surveying and monitoring, or you’re a naturalist who loves getting close to butterflies, mammals and ocean wildlife, you probably own ‘sport optics’. Binoculars, spotting scopes and monoculars are essential kit for anyone who wants to enjoy watching wild animals responsibly, with minimal disturbance.
They are also essential equipment for hunters, and many optics companies market products at both conservationists and sport hunters. Indeed ‘sport optics’ can also include rifle sights and optical rangefinders, sold to hunting enthusiasts.
Hunting animals is controversial. From the death of Cecil the Lion to the attempted legalisation of fox hunting (both in 2015), many independent surveys have revealed that the majority of the UK public does not support hunting wild animals for sport or fun. The slaughter of songbirds in the Mediterranean and the ongoing battle in the UK between the grouse-shooting industry and environmentalists, provide further examples of the impacts of ecologically insensitive hunting. They also reveal the political tensions that surround the sport hunting industry. Issues are also being raised about the military and far-right political links that many optics companies have, as well as their environmental credentials.
Bringing transparency to the industry
When you shop with companies who endorse and promote hunting, of any sort, a percentage of your sale will go back into their advertising. That advertising may be spent in wildlife-friendly publications, or it may be spent in shooting and hunting magazines, television programming and online marketing. Companies that sell hunting optics are more likely to sponsor hunting organisations or initiatives. Research by Ethical Consumer highlighted that three quarters of companies who sold multiple hunting accessories also sponsored hunting organisations whose mission statements included “protecting hunters’ rights”.
The hunting industry is powerful, both financially and politically. With big marketing budgets, including in pro-wildlife publications and online (like magazines, forums and websites), there are concerns that pro-hunting optics companies are able to silence what should be a transparent, public debate. The threat of losing advertising revenue is too big a gamble for many publications to take; the issues, therefore, go undiscussed. At the same time, the influence of pro-hunting organisations can make it difficult for companies to speak out against bad practices.
There should be greater transparency and clear position statements from sports optics companies. They should hold the hunting industry to account for illegal practices; demonstrate greater transparency to customers in how they market products and who to; and be open to discussion about the ethics surrounding the hunting industry.
You, the consumer, have the right to know who you are buying from and how they are spending your investment. What initiatives are they supporting? This website provides optics customers with clear information so that you can make decisions aligned with your values. This will help you understand how your money is spent and what activities your brands endorse.
All information on this website was correct as of 2020, with the publication of the most recent Ethical Consumer report.