Is criticism of optics suppliers justified?

Over the last few days I have noticed an increased focus on Optics suppliers and their links to the sporting industry. Murmurings of distaste regarding their role in supplying shooters with the gear necessary to spot, track and ultimately, kill wildlife. The issue has been touched upon by both Mark Avery and Chris Packham and, as such, is sure to linger on social media for a while but is one that puzzles me somewhat. If you oppose shooting, should you avoid organisations that support the practice, however indirectly? Perhaps – it is after all down to personal choice but despite this, I for one, as someone who prefers to observe wildlife alive as opposed to dead, will not be avoiding such brands.

Look in the bag pack of any naturalist, birder or conservationist you will almost always find a pair of binoculars, a scope or a camera. Some may even possess remote trail cams or thermal technology. These, the tools of our trade, make the study, observation and enjoyment of wildlife much easier. Looking at the equipment around myself at present; I see a Swarovski spotting scope, a Nikon camera and a Bushnell Trailcam. All brands irrefutable linked to the sporting industry but all brands that allow me to indulge my passion for natural history. Something for which I am entirely grateful.

The ties of many of these suppliers to shooting interests are their for all to see and they make no secret of them. Swarovski, Kowa and Nikon supply spotting scopes and binoculars to hunters to find and identify their quarry but are also some of the leading suppliers of equipment to birdwatchers. Similarly, Bushnell are predominately a shooting supplier, their remote cameras used to scout out game trails and assess the suitability of areas for hunting. Likewise they also allow naturalists a unique insight into the lives of many species they would not usually encounter and are readily used in scientific ventures. Is it hypocritical of a nature lover to oppose hunting, or in my case, the criminal acts committed by a small portion of hunters, while using equipment designed predominately for said people? I don’t think so.

If you oppose the killing of any animal for ethically purposes and live a squeaky clean existence maybe you ought to avoid all of the aforementioned companies and can do so with a clean conscience. I however feel it is wrong to suggest that companies such as Swarovski, Kowa and Bushnell are working to the detriment of our wildlife. Hunting/Shooting if done right, is perfectly sustainable and, in some cases, beneficial to conservation and I see no problem with such groups catering to another sector. Shooting wildlife is undoubtedly more popular (worldwide) than enjoying it, a sad fact but a true one and I personally find it hard to scorn these organisations for catering to their biggest consumer base. They need to make money after all, such is the nature of business.

Personally I detest some of the knock on side effects of hunting, illegal persecution et al, but would never boycott a company that allows me to indulge my passion because they also sell to the opposing side. Glass may allow you to find wildlife but ultimately it is up to personal choice whether or not to commit crimes. Many hunters do not commit crimes and their optics are used for perfectly legal purposes, as are our own. Given that most companies undoubtedly cater to more hunters than naturalists, thus making more income from them, we should probably be grateful they choose to deal with us at all. Many however do more than just “deal with us” and do go an extra mile.

Many of the suppliers listed above do more than just supply us with top quality products. They sponsor our events, fund charitable ventures and occasionally donate money to conservation. This to me signifies a sense of neutrality that should be respected and as such I will not be returning/selling my fantastic yet dual-purpose equipment. Obviously it all comes down to personal choice (and your own sense of ethics) and people are free to buy from whom they like. Turning down top of the range equipment that could, ultimately, better your enjoyment of nature, based on a vague tie to another industry is however an alien notion to me. If we are worried about the impact our optics are having on nature we should probably take a look around our homes and assess the worldly implications of our other possessions. Smart phones? They’re incredibly bad. Plastic, that’s damaging. I bet most people have at least one palm oil product in their cupboard and that goes without mentioning micro-plastics in soap. Intensively farmed meat, aerosols, holiday tickets to Malta, all could be criticized. In my opinion, optics are the least of our worries if we are concerned about our purchases harming the environment.

4 Replies to “Is criticism of optics suppliers justified?”

  1. Hi James
    Great to see the Ethical Consumer piece is making some waves and making people think about their optics in a different way.

    Small point to start with, it is not optics suppliers its the manufacturers that are looked at in the piece. Might be worth a change in blogpost title.

    The piece aims to give people information, which they can then use to make informed decisions should they be so inclined to do so. I believe it does this very well and as with all EC features it is a very well researched piece. If you don’t subscribe to EC I suggest you take a look, it makes taking decisions on ethical, sustainable and green purchases much easier. I am sure you would agree that people’s purchasing power is The most powerful tool individuals have at their disposal to affect change?

    You say in your piece that there is a ‘vague tie’ between optic companies and hunting.
    Am guessing you have read the full report? but cannot see how you can suggest that the ties are vague. The EC piece clearly shows that there is much more than a ‘vague-ties’. Don’t know if your comments section allows web links but here is a link to the EC piece for your readers, hope it works

    “They need to make money, they are afterall, a business”
    Yeah but the point of the piece, is that they don’t have to make money from people who kill animals for fun. However if they do then we as ‘nature-loving consumers’ might want to think twice about further adding to such companies profits by buying their optics. The piece points to a number of companies who ‘make money’ and don’t involve themselves with hunting, proving it is possible to do both.

    As for there being more pressing problems in the world, plastics, smartphones using conflict minerals etc then again I suggest you get EC Magazine. They did a big feature on conflict minerals two issues ago. Again they provide alternatives we can purchase, such as Fairphone There are usually alternative more ethical options for most products these days.

    I certainly don’t live a ‘squeaky clean’ life and my conscious certainly isn’t clear but when it comes to things I have choice over, and lets face it buying high-end optics is certainly that, then I am trying to make better decisions and articles and information like this all help with this.

    To be honest I was going to write a lot more on your post but when thinking about it really is pretty simple…
    …If you disagree with hunting and killing animals for fun and you want to avoid supporting companies who take a very active part in this killing then this piece provides very useful information to help make informed decisions and avoid such companies.

    Like you I think this story will have a lot of legs. Do not under-estimate the power of someone like Chris Packham can have when he sells his bins on ebay because of a report like this.


    P.S. You might be interested (you might not), I currently own a pair of Zeiss 10×42 Conquest HD bins! However they are now listed on eBay for auction starting at 20:30 tonight. 10% of the sale will be going to the RSPB and the rest will be put to purchasing the best ‘most ethical’ pair of bins I can afford. So if any of your readers are after a pair then check out the auction ; I will make sure that I let Zeiss know why I have sold them too.


  2. Personally, I would have been interested in the bins you’re putting on eBay – until I read 10% of the sale will be going to the RSPB.
    Should Packham decide to put his bins up for sale on eBay, I sincerely hope Zeiss are aware as he features in their advertising, and no doubt there was some arrangement in return which sees Packham sporting Zeiss!


    1. Land Manager – in fact not only is 10% going to RSPB I will be buying RSPB branded Viking bins so will be getting much more that 10%!
      I’ll make sure I buy coffee and maybe a bowl of soup when I purchase the bins from an RSPB reserve too so they get a bit more out of me!
      Then I’ll take a wander on a reserve managed for wildlife not killing for fun, and see loads of good birds and meet like minded people. Win Win!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An interesting post. I am not against hunting as a whole. Sustainable hunting as a source of meat is something I’m in agreement with (as long as it IS truly sustainable & done sensibly etc etc), as I’m certain that is far better than our agricultural systems. However, not so sure about hunting purely for fun… Never really understood that when one can enjoy wildlife alive. Despite this, my optics will continue to be treasured due to their sentimental value and as it would be far better for me environmentally to keep the optics I have then to buy a new ones.


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