Nikon has come under fire from animal welfare groups and some wildlife photographers over its new 'Monarch' line of rifle scopes, designed for game hunting.

Nikon Inc has manufactured 'sports optics' for many years, and is not alone (so does Leica, Pentax and Carl Zeiss, for example) but it is the marketing behind its newest Monarch line of scopes that has caused anger in some quarters. Marketed as being 'Engineered for Safari' Nikon's Sport Optics website carries claims that the new Monarch-series scopes are created 'for those seeking dangerous game adventure on the Dark Continent' - an archaic term for Africa which is controversial in itself. 

Nikon's new Monarch range of rifle scopes are aimed specifically at hunters - something that has angered wildlife campaigners and some photographers.  

Among those who have taken Nikon to task are wildlife protection groups and some Nikon users who shoot animals with cameras and lenses, rather than guns. British newspaper The Independent has published a short feature on the controversy, noting that Nikon's photographic products are often marketed as ideal tools for getting close to, and capturing images of animals, while - crucially - not harming them.

In fact, in Nikon's latest camera and lens catalogue the company claims to be 'at the heart of nature' (no pun intended - presumably) and Nikon's marketing materials for its cameras and lenses are typically packed with photographs of rare and endangered animals, and quotes from high-profile wildlife photographers who use Nikon gear. The company has also sponsored numerous wildlife photography competitions and among many feature articles on its American website, you'll find an article by Moose Peterson, entitled 'Preservation of Wildlife Through Photography'. Elsewhere, in Nikon's current photo catalogue, a photograph of a pair of polar bears is captioned 'Nature is full of moments of timeless beauty, to be captured before they are gone forever'.

Nikon's 'Coyote Special' riflescope is designed to be used in the killing of coyotes - the most damaging predators to livestock in North America. A very different type of use to trophy hunting in Africa, and far less controversial. 

Trophy hunting, of the sort that Nikon's Sport Optics division seems to be explicitly referencing in the marketing materials for its Monarch-series scopes, is hugely controversial. This kind of hunting is highly lucrative for certain African countries, but many claim that it is damaging, too. The Independent cites research by Scientific American magazine research that suggests the practice may have contributed to a halving of the population of lions in Africa over 30 years.

What do you think? Nikon Inc isn't alone among photographic companies in making equipment designed for use in hunting, and also not uniquely, Nikon has created optical equipment for military use in the past. So is Nikon's manufacturing of rifle scopes for trophy hunters inconsistent with the claim from its camera/photo division that the company is 'at the heart of nature'? Or should Nikon's product lines be viewed separately, and only considered on their merits for their intended use?

Let us know in the comments (which will be carefully moderated).

via The Independant.