Nikon Corporation openly promotes hunting and sells a large selection of hunting accessories in the US, but can a global company really sell both wildlife optics and hunting products? Can we still consider hunting as just another “sport”? Is there a place for Ethics in a global business?
by Ion Holban
Up until recently I was a proud owner of several Nikon cameras and as an amateur wildlife photographer I have spent many hours outdoors in the search of that special wildlife picture. However, a few weeks ago I found a Facebook group (Boycott Nikon) that were highlighting Nikon’s involvement in the US market of hunting accessories. In particular, one of Nikon’s US websites is specifically dedicated to hunting: http://nikonhunting.com/ and promotes not only hunting accessories but also (rather gruesome) individual profiles of hunters and the species they like to kill for fun or sport (*Editor’s note: this website has now been replaced, please see Update 1 at the end of this article). This was both an unpleasant surprise and a contradiction for me as the last thing I was expecting from one of the largest manufacturer of wildlife photographic equipment. From a business perspective, it made little sense to me that a company as large as Nikon would risk alienating a large proportion of their wildlife and nature enthusiasts in order to gain access to a relatively small market of hunting accessories. But maybe it does make sense in a globalisation model of expansion at all cost and in all directions.
I have since logged complaints with both Nikon Europe and Nikon US asking them to clarify what is their official company stand on hunting. The answers I have received so far are disappointing and I quote:
“Being a premier optics manufacturer if there is a market to which we can offer our considerable services then we will facilitate where possible. It’s with this in mind that Nikon provide the rifle scope product range. Rifle shooting is a sport and sportsmen within the field require optics. Regarding hunting specifically, Nikon’s stance is that in certain parts of world it is perfectly legal and considered a sport. In the UK Nikon do not distribute the rifle scope line-up directly as there is little market for it, however in the US, for example, there is a very sizeable hunting market to which we are happy to provide the optical tools that allow them to get the most out of their chosen sport.”
So, for Nikon the killing of animals for fun is just another sport and they are “happy to provide”.
My reply was that they should reconsider their stance from a moral and ethical point of view. I’ve mentioned that it is contradictory for a company to promote both hunting and wildlife photography. If a large number of their clients are wildlife enthusiasts – how does Nikon explain to them that it encourages the killing of animals and calls it a “sport”? I have therefore requested two things from Nikon:
1. That they adopt an animal-friendly policy which disapproves of hunting and any other blood sport.
2. As a result of the policy above that Nikon stops selling hunting accessories worldwide.
So far, I’m still waiting for an answer; apparently my complaint and requests have been escalated to their corporate office.
It’s worth mentioning that Nikon have buckled to public pressure in the past: back in 2009 they were forced to retract from a predator hunting derby in Idaho (US) due to public pressure. A predator derby is a killing spree of carnivorous animals where hunters compete against each other on the clock to kill as many carnivores as possible in 24 hours. There are no tags, permits, or government oversight.
More details here : http://iamidaho.deviantart.com/journal/Nikon-Sponsors-Predator-Derby-214212300
I have shared my views with several UK animal rights groups and the majority are outraged by Nikon’s double standards. Support the Hunting Act (Ban) UK have replied: “Any company that associates itself with bloodsport places their product against the view of the decent majority who respect wildlife. Given the impact of the global recession it is something no company would be wise to do if they want to continue to sell in all countries.”
In the wider context of animal abuse Professor Mark H. Anshel Ph.D from Middle Tennessee State University, states in a recent article that there might be an even darker side to hunting than what the views we currently hold: “Mental health professionals and the American Psychological Association have designated animal abuse or torture as an important indicator of future violent behaviour toward humans. Hunting for the “pleasure” of killing the animal without the purpose of hunting for food consumption predicts more aggressive and violent action toward humans.”
Nikon is part of the Mitsubishi Corporation, a large global company with a questionable environmental record, but that doesn’t make the company invulnerable to consumer pressure or competition. As late as 2009 Mitsubishi were responsible for up to 40 per cent share of the world market in bluefin tuna, one of the world’s most endangered fish, that the corporation is now freezing at -60C to be sold in several years’ time for astronomical sums if Atlantic bluefin becomes commercially extinct as forecasted, according to The Independent.
As Japanese companies are struggling to recover from a long recession, some manufacturers such as Canon have increased their share of the photographic market, while others such as Nikon have instead diversified into a wider range of optics including microscopes, scanners, binoculars and sports optics. But at some point in this expansion ethical principles have shrunken and become expendable, while their definitions of a sport widen to include hunting. And where there was a need they were “happy to provide”. Rifle scopes, range finders, spotting scopes, no job is too small.
My hope is that Nikon will change their ways and incorporate an animal friendly policy. Just as they are improving on their recycling and environmental projects I believe they will eventually consider the selling of hunting accessories as unethical and cruel. If not maybe the risk of loosing clients with a passion for wildlife will be make the economical argument instead.
Until then, I won’t be buying Nikon any more.
Update 1 (26.01.13): in the last few days since the publication of this article Nikon have taken down http://nikonhunting.com/ and this page now diverts to a different Nikon site: http://www.nikonsportoptics.com/Nikon-Products/Hunting/index.page. The new site continues to sell some of the same hunting accessories as the original site, however it no longer displays individual profiles of hunters or dear animals. I am not sure if this change has been implemented due to public pressure or if it is indeed a permanent change. I am attaching below a snapshot of the cosmetic changes, before and after.
Update 2 (31.01.13): As late as 2011, Nikon even had their own Nikon Hunting facebook page, which they have eventually removed, under pressure from the public. Our friends from Stop Trophy Hunting NOW sent us the below picture with what Nikon Hunting facebook were posting, notice the proud company watermarks:
Update 3 (31.01.13) : Just as with www.nikonhunting.com, Nikon’s facebook hunting page has been re-branded in 2011 as Nikon Sport Optics Hunt & Birding. They continue to post “sporting” pictures, such as the below:
Update 4 (01.04.13): After discussing the issue with several major groups and online campaigners, such as Stop Trophy Hunting NOW, we finally get a national breakthrough: UK charity Viva! joins in the protest by publishing an online petition boycotting Nikon, here: http://www.viva.org.uk/huntingban/nikon/. In the first three days alone over 2000 people sign the petition.
Update 5 (01.04.13): Following Viva!’s involvement the campaign receives national coverage with articles in The Independent, Daily Mail, Amateur Photographer and others. The articles are very well received by the public: the Independent article becomes the most viewed in their Environment section. Unsurprisingly Nikon declines to comment.
Update 6 (01.04.13): Stefano Unterthiner, renowned photographer and winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2008, criticises Nikon’s connection to hunting and joins in the boycott. Stefano declared for Viva! and The Independent:
“I have used Nikon since I was a young boy, fascinated by nature and wildlife. I always saw Nikon as a company close to nature but I was wrong. I do not understand and cannot agree with their support for trophy hunting which sends out entirely the wrong message to global photographers who love nature. Wildlife needs protecting now more than ever. I urge the company to end its support for trophy hunting.”
You can follow Stefano’s posts here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stefano-Unterthiner/177409410491
Update 7: (19.04.13): Another renowned wildlife photographer – Christopher Rimmer has joined in the protest against Nikon and declared for Viva!:
“Like many people around the world, I was dismayed to learn that Nikon, a company with which I have a 30 year association, was directly involved in the promotion of trophy hunting in Africa.
“Trophy hunting is a vile and cruel practice carried out by a small majority of people who afford their perverse gratification a higher priority than the welfare of animals. Several of the species regularly shot by trophy hunters are on the endangered list. It is a practice that is completely contrary to my values and beliefs as a conservationist and a photographer. This is the reason I have ended my association with Nikon.
“I will no longer use or endorse Nikon products nor accept sponsorship until they agree to withdraw their support for trophy hunting in Africa and elsewhere. I urge anyone currently considering the purchase of a Nikon product to reconsider in light of these disturbing revelations.”
Full media release here: http://www.viva.org.uk/mediareleases/emails/2013nikon_chrisrimmer.html
What can you do:
Sign the online petition, here:
Write to Nikon, here:
Join our Facebook group, here:
And the Boycott Nikon, here:
Tell Nikon what you think on their new hunting facebook page here:
Please raise awareness with your friends and share this article on your social media
Recent national coverage of Nikon, following our article:
More about the Mitsubishi Corporation here:
Article on animal abuse:
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