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Lessons For Advancing The 3 Rs
Explain The Big Picture!
Several years ago, I took my son, Erik, then twenty, to shoot doves in Argentina. He shot many doves, but the lessons he learned were more meaningful than the experience was challenging. Our host explained how the doves annually destroyed tens of thousands of tons of grain, negatively impacting food prices. The dove shooting industry brought much-needed millions of dollars of revenue to Argentina, providing employment and increasing people’s standards of living. The big picture was patiently explained.
During our trip, my host asked Erik if he wanted to hunt a barren aged female buffalo that was wounding younger buffalo and destroying property. Erik did. More than having a successful hunt, Erik entered the fire center of conservation, learning that romanticizing animals from afar often led to policies that destroy them. He came to understand the brutal reality of wild animals’ lives and that the cost of fantastical wishing that animals’ lives were idyllic was the destruction of animals. Erik lived the counter-intuitive truth that hunting sustains the animals.
The Big Picture
With guidance from me and our host, the big picture was persuasively presented to Erik. The ethos of hunting transcends the hunt. Inherent in hunting are layers of insight that merit acknowledgment and evaluation. The hunter, of course, should aspire to be ethical, and the well-educated hunter knows the big picture demands multi-level ethical duties to the land, to society, to one’s self and, of course, to the animals.
But ethical behavior does not simply manifest like the crabgrass on my lawn. Ethical behavior is the consequence of personal honor and integrity, characteristics that must be taught and continuously nurtured. Presenting the big picture and developing a hunter’s honor are the most effective methods for achieving the trilogy of the 3 Rs.
The primary skill required of the hunting advocate desiring to achieve the 3 Rs is discerning the potential hunter’s deepest values and then persuasively showing how hunting harmonizes with those values and breathes life into them. Love of wildlife, wanting healthy sustainable animal populations, treating wild animals ethically, preserving and enriching habitat, consuming organic protein from the hunt; all these and others are virtues that hunting offers that are consistent with the values of the large majority of people. On the warp and woof of conversation and experience, Erik uncovered values previously unexplored but were discovered as if mining for them in a rich seam of ore. Illuminating this big picture component will advance the 3 Rs most successfully.
The North American Model offers an illustrative example for seeing the big picture. The Model is the foundation for hunting and game management in the United States. But the Model means nothing unless it is encased in our unique political economic system which values individual liberty, free markets, a somewhat transparent tax system that is reasonably honest, the right to possess and use firearms and the ability to have leisure time to hunt. The willingness of each hunter and potential hunter to see his or her role in this big picture will be a powerful driving force for advancing the 3 Rs.
Most people place great trust in the positive impact in an argument of facts, logic and science. Such trust is unjustified. Truth is not self-actualizing; reality does not advance itself like a steamroller; scientific evidence is worthless unless the audience is credibly persuaded that the evidence has value.
A vital component of the big picture is, thus, the articulate presentation that these truths matter. That is, that science and facts are consistent with the values of the potential or existing hunter. The success of implementing the 3 Rs is dependent largely on persuading people that truth is relevant to the audience’s world view and self-image.
Similarly, the effective advancement of the 3 Rs will be achieved when ethics is transformed from an abstraction to tangible specific actions that support the values of the hunter and enhance its honor.
As a rule, people are drawn to activities that enrich their lives, enhance their dignity and make them better people. When Erik accompanies me on hunting events supporting Wounded Warriors and Paralyzed Veterans of America, as examples, he sees hunting in a broader context: achieving virtuous goals by helping others. Hunting makes Erik proud. His grasp of hunting’s picture enlarges. He is inspired to be an advocate for hunting and a dedicated participant. Introduced to hunting by me and sharing values that we find virtuous, the experiences that provided direction and purpose in nurturing Erik’s participation in hunting serve as an effective model for implementing the 3 Rs.
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At this year’s annual conference of the African Professional Hunters Association held at the 2017 Safari Club International Convention, a participant expressed the opinion that after the Cecil incident the world “will not tolerate unethical behavior.” My blood pressure rocketed to 190 over 120!
I said I disagreed with that statement and explained why. I said that there is no “world” in any coherent meaningful sense of the word, especially as it applies to hunting. Thus, it follows that there is no world opinion on what the world will and will not tolerate, not only pertaining to hunting but pertaining to any human behavior. No consistent measurement enables anyone to judge what the world will and will not tolerate.
I went on to say that the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior, and has no interest in trying to make the distinction, particularly as it applies to hunting.
World Opinion is Morally Bankrupt
I don’t want to tip toe into the world’s politics but I am compelled to write that the world’s grotesque horrors and obscenities of human behavior, well-known to all of us, are ignored, evaded, suppressed and not universally condemned. They are all tolerated. What the world will tolerate, thus, is morally meaningless.
The assertion that the world will not tolerate unethical hunting behavior is not supported by any evidence. To the contrary, the world is drenched in unethical animal killing—poaching, absurd hunting bans and trophy bans and trade bans that kill substantial numbers of animals —which is not only tolerated but paradoxically supported by powerful organizations and governments. Particularly regarding the iconic big game—lions, elephants, black rhino, leopards—legal hunting kills relatively few. Legal hunting, does, however, provide millions of dollars for local populations, anti-poaching support and habitat development.
The Cecil situation did not prove the world will not tolerate unethical behavior. To the contrary, Cecil proved with exquisite unarguable clarity that the world willfully refuses to differentiate between ethical and unethical hunting and tolerates all of them.
Let’s analyze the concepts of world opinion and what the world will tolerate in the specific context of Cecil. I won’t rehash all the details of Dr. Palmer’s hunt but mention a few key facts: the hunt was legal; Cecil was not induced or drawn out of the Hwange Park; no legal significance attached to the fact the lion was collared; Cecil was an aged lion and no longer reproduced; the hunt raised a lot of money for local populations and for conservation.
The world did not wait until these facts were determined and publicized. Rather, agenda-driven people instantly promoted and disseminated lies. We may recall Winston Churchill’s astute comment that a lie will travel half way around the world before the truth gets out of bed. That was certainly the case with Cecil. But the world and its opinion, such as they were, responded to these lies with the enthusiastic intensity of burning heretics at the stake. A dishonest narrative constructed by anti-hunting forces went viral. Truth did not matter; facts did not matter; reality did not matter. Driven by a delicious smug ignorance, with no interest in attempting to discern the truth, aspects of world opinion responded venomously like a viper’s strike.
The Cecil situation demonstrated conclusively that the anti-hunting hysteria it generated was not based on evidence or truth. Drenched comfortably in ignorance, world opinion, such as it was, willingly was seduced by a simplistic notion of the hunting ecology. Seeing things simplistically facilitated a passion bordering, in some instances, on the fanatical. Passion and moral smugness create a toxic stew when one knows nothing.
Given what the world tolerates generally, as articulated through international institutions, and the cascade of constraints it imposes on legal hunting specifically, we may justifiably draw several conclusions about the morality and consistency of world opinion and the moral weight of what the world tolerates. The world tolerates barbarity and often condemns moral behavior. Often the world vilely makes a moral equivalence between the aggressor and the victim. Thus, world opinion is morally meaningless. World opinion is often morally bankrupt. The Cecil situation proves those conclusions.
Cecil and the Weaponizing of "World Opinion"
How does the world articulate what it does and does not tolerate? Who decides? How sanctimonious to say, “I am the arbiter of what the world tolerates!” Nice work if you can get it! If we are to judge the moral competence of the world based on the actions and pronouncements of the United Nations and the European Union, a strong argument can be made that the world is morally deficient.
“World opinion” is a mythical creature, like the tooth fairy. It can mean anything the speaker wants it to mean. Like pretzel dough, it can be twisted into any shape. Here’s the key point: this ambiguity is the source of its power. Anyone can make the accusation no matter the facts. Yet, the rhetoric, the accusation, that the world will not tolerate unethical hunting, is powerful. How intimidating to charge that the world is against you! Not every person has the mental agility and knowledge to effectively fight back. Indeed, the accuser is counting on the inability to refute his attack.
The accusation that world opinion is against you is not an offer to discuss and debate the proposition. It is a rhetorical device used to shut you up; to prevent discussion; to make you submit to the abstraction that the world will not tolerate certain kinds of hunting although no facts are provided to support the accusation. Thus, saying the world will not tolerate a Cecil-type hunt or the black rhino hunt created under the auspices of the Dallas Safari Club, as examples, weaponizes the phrase. It transforms the concept of world opinion into a tool for attacking. I make it clear that the person at APHA did not have that intent. He was expressing what others would likely suggest.
What Can We Do?
First, we must reject any notion that the world will be reasonable or will be informed when it comes to certain types of hunting. Such thinking is delusional. Segments of the world have their own agendas. Many factors influence what the world seems to tolerate regarding hunting, among them cowardice, a perverse ideology, greed, corruption, narcissism, moral smugness and condescension toward indigenous populations. Ethical hunting and prudent responsible game management are, regrettably, not the most powerful factors that influence what the world appears to tolerate. Here is my key point: any tendency of our hunting communities to conform to and appease this abstraction of what the world will tolerate will lead to hunting’s destruction.
Second, we must develop the skill to analyze the ethical and factual content of the accusatory rhetoric—what is world opinion? How do you identify it? —and use that analysis to refute the accusation.
Third, it is vital that we fight back; that the hunting community not allow the aggressive anti-hunters to frame the issue as us against the world and thereby enable it to capture the moral high ground. Hunters have the moral high ground.
Fourth, we must, at least, we should, grasp the reality that we are in the persuasion business as much as we are hunters and advocates for hunting. We must understand that truth is meaningless unless someone is persuaded that truth has meaning. We must understand that facts do not advance themselves. Arguments do not compel on their own. We must, therefor, persuade.
Finally, we must persuade the vast majority that the values and actions of the hunter, including hunting Cecil, is, in fact, in harmony with their opinions. We can do so because it is true.
Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colorado. See his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. Available at Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmuNow available as a Kindle EBook.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Saving Hunting Through Persuasion, Character and Honor
April 22, 2017
Michael G. Sabbeth
I thank my friend and colleague Steve Hall for inviting me. He has been my mentor pertaining to much of my writing and lecturing on hunter education ethics and strategies for defending and advancing hunting. I have learned that under Steve’s folksy disarming demeanor is a Pentium processor brain with five terabytes of memory.
After meeting with many of you, I am enthused to share my ideas and receive your critiques of them.
I have done a fair amount of lecturing these past few months; gave a keynote speech to the Namibia Professional Hunters Association in Windhoek this past November; two presentations to the Saskatchewan Outfitters Association in Saskatoon this past December, then two presentations at the Dallas Safari Club and one at the SCI Convention. I share this background so you get a sense of what I stand for. I share some of the themes and anecdotes I learned from those experiences. Hopefully I will offer an entertaining and thought-provoking half hour.
A Professional Hunter in Namibia asked why I spend time doing these lectures; thinking about these issues. The efforts are quite removed from my law practice. I thought, hmmmm. Good question! I told him I see the attacks on hunting, on the shooting sports, on possessing firearms, as part of a large movement… a larger ideology… and philosophy that loathes human rights, individual liberty, personal responsibility… the anti-hunting anti-gun movements are merely a subset of this larger pervasive and very dark ideology. Look at the fascism saturating college campuses, and I rest my case. I am here to play a small part, I hope, in going against this malevolent tide. And I feel the grains in the hourglass falling quickly. Listen, at my age, my friends don’t send me birthday cards; they send me Do Not Resuscitate forms.
I am relatively new to your discipline… your field… I don’t stand before you to lecture you about anything. I have met instructors who have taught more than thirty years; who have taught over 30,000 students. I am in awe of your accomplishment and your dedication. At best, perhaps some of my ideas can be useful to you.
I am not an experienced hunter. I share my one significant experience. Kudu story: hunting in Natal, South Africa… quite an intereting experience because one of the celebrity hosts of the Orion Multi Media TV show was Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal and Lone Survivor. I shot a kudi: About 80 yards, straight shot. There was no suffering. The PH explained the characteristics of the animal: it’s dark lush cape, its polished horn tips; he was a dominant bull but was no longer biologically useful to the herd. ‘That sounds like me!” I exclaiomed. “I could go on his wall!!”
Feral may be vicious; she may be spiteful; she may hate animals, but she was clear. She chose ideology over the lives of animals. Rarely are such motives so clear.
I suggest these can be effective arguments for defending hunting and which will appeal to our students. Why? Because it makes them stronger people; it makes them more honorable people; it empowers them to stand up for what they believe.
Please see my article Trophy Hunting: the Use and Abuse of Terminology http://thehonorablehunter.com/index.php/articles/224-trophy-hunting-the-use-and-abuse-of-terminology
Here are some of my key points: The phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is vague, and the quality of vagueness gives it its power. The phrase can mean whatever someone wants it to mean. If you try to pin down someone’s use of the phrase, the person can escape by saying, “that’s not what I mean.”
The phrase “trophy hunting” is weaponized to attack all hunting.
Another effect in the accusation of being a trophy hunter is the accusation focuses on intentions rather than consequences. This clever sleight-of-hand ignores the benefits of hunting by focusing on the assumed state of mind of the hunter.
Defending against the attacks by anti-trophy hunters requires skill and mental agility. These qualities are not so common.
The phrase “trophy hunting” is unethical and abusive. We don’t say “trophy soccer”, or “trophy boating” or “trophy skiing”. Why “trophy hunting”? I have heard the phrase “trophy wife,” but that’s an entirely different lecture.
Gun culture: The reference to a ‘gun culture’ is another rhetorical attack on hunters and on people who own and or possess firearms. The phrase is intended to evoke thoughts of a dark malevolent proclivity of hunters / gun owners/ users to be enveloped by the power of a destructive philosophy or tendency, a culture. It’s the gun culture that compels all the inner-city kids to kill and maim so many.
How do hunters / gun owners fight back? I think of the scene in the Godfather… Moe Green attacking Michael Corleone, who responds… the Corleone family bankrolled your casino; the Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety… you want to talk business. Let’s talk business. And so, we hunters make an analogy: You want to talk culture, let’s talk culture. The culture of dependency; the culture of single mothers; the culture of absent fathers; the culture of anti intellectualism and ant education… all of these lead to gun deaths. If you respond to those anti gun ‘gun culture’ accusations that way, I assure you the only culture they’ll want to talk about is the culture in buttermilk and yogurt.
The NAM is one of the foundational blocks of the hunter education curriculum. You all know it; you can likely recite it in your sleep.
Understanding the role of the NAM illustrates another example of – another application of The Big Picture.
Here are the elements of the North American Model:
Beginning in the late 1800s, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and other conservationist realized they needed to establish limits to protect rapidly disappearing wildlife, and assume responsibility for managing wild lands. These principles eventually became The North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which has been critical to the success of wildlife management throughout North America.
The North American Wildlife Conservation Model
Wildlife is a public resource. All wildlife are held in the public trust and managed by government for the benefit of all people.
Eliminate the market for wildlife. Strong laws and enforcement make it illegal to sell the meat or parts of any wild animal in North America.
Manage wildlife through law. Hunters are allowed to harvest surplus wildlife. Laws and regulations exist to protect wildlife populations and ensure fair opportunity.
Hunting should be democratic. In North America, every citizen has an opportunity to hunt and fish in compliance with the law. Hunting is not limited by private land owners or special privilege.
Wildlife should only be killed only for legitimate reasons. There must be a balance between opportunity and regulation. Many states and provinces have laws and regulations protecting against the “wanton waste” of wildlife. In North America, the broad guidelines that restrain use are for food, fur and predator control.
Wildlife species are an international resource. Wildlife management in one country will affect wildlife elsewhere. Working collaboratively, the United States and Canada manage land and wildlife to make sure that no country takes more than its share of the common resource.
Use science to guide wildlife management decisions. Wildlife management based on population estimates and habitat research helps ensure stewardship and prudent decision-making.
What is the big picture? How does the NAWMC survive?
What has to exist before it can exist?
A unique political economy… capitalism… free markets, leisure time, laws that permit ownership and possession of firearms; roads and energy…
That’s the big picture. Educating students on this big picture will commit them to hunting and the shooting sports. It is the glue that will create a lifetime adherence to hunting. And it makes the students stronger; more articulate, more confident, more capable of defending hunting. It makes them proud.
What do I mean?
Recently there was an article in Forbes Magazine illustrating how capitalism is saving the animals.
How Capitalism Is Saving And Expanding Africa's Wildlife Populations
Recall one of the attacks in the Cecil incident.. characterizing Palmer as a ‘rich doctor’ trying to attack hunting through class warfare
I don’t know if Palmer was rich. He may have have saved all his life for that hunt… but, the animals would all be dead if weren’t for people who could afford to travel and participate. People who spend money on hunting conserve the animal species. It’s that simple. You want animals to survive? You need people with means to hunt them. Take your pick. There is no third way.
Here’s a question for us to ponder: Since hunters keep the animals alive, is there a moral duty to hunt? What do you think of that question
Share these perspectives with your students.. show them the larger picture.. and show them they are part of this larger process… they will feel proud, honored to be a hunter…
This is one method to implementing The 3 Rs: get people committed to hunting, even if the person does not hunt, but persuading the person of hunting’s virtues.
Let us be practical; let us be persuasive.
Phronesis is a word derived from Greek philosophy which means ‘practical reasoning.’ We must be practical. We must evaluate the logic and morality of consequences of our actions.
Joke: Ours is prettier.
This is exciting material… this is a game changer;
This is the equivalent of the unifying field in physics…
Research finding from Mark Duda, and his company, Responsive Management
In contrast to hunters, who are familiar with how
their purchases connect to wildlife conservation,
we cannot assume that sport shooters will have the
same understanding. It’s likely that educational
efforts through coordinated partnerships will be
needed to ensure that non-hunting sport shooters
have a firm understanding of the goals of the PR Act
and how the funds are used to establish new shooting
ranges as well as manage wildlife and habitat
conservation in their state. These educational
efforts will be especially important in urban areas
where wildlife management is a less important issue
than the demand for adequate shooting ranges.
Again, to me, this data is a game changer, that can unify hunters with the larger shooting community. What an opportunity for modifying curriculum to include non-hunters who are firearms users. Every bullet helps build habitat! Every arrow helps protect elk and bear!
This is huge!
We might find it prudent to re-frame the scope of our educational materials and to build alliances with non-hunting organizations.
I attended the annual meeting of African Professional Hunters Association at the 2017 SCI convention. Wonderful dedicated all! However, one statement troubled me. Citing Cecil, an attendee said that “that the world will not tolerate unethical behavior.” I disagreed. There is no world in any unified sense, I said. Moreover, the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior. Indeed, the Cecil event proved my point rather than the speaker’s. Additionally, this so-called world has no interest in ascertaining ethical behavior or supporting it. A hunting community, I argued, that seeks to appease ‘the world’ and which acts upon the belief that the world will embrace hunting if hunters are universally ethical is doomed to commit suicide.
Please understand that truth is meaningless unless someone is persuaded that truth has meaning. Facts do not advance themselves. Arguments do not compel on their own. We must, therefor, persuade.
It is delusional to believe that the organized anti-hunting advocates—well-funded animal organizations and European and American NGOs—will come to accept elephant, rhino, leopard hunting and remove bans on trading ivory and rhino horn if only they knew the facts. This thinking is self-destructive. It is idiocy. They know what we know. They read the reports, the data, the arguments. Secrets do not exist. Rather, they don’t care. They have different agendas; they submit to different ideologies, they make their money based on different arguments. We must understand that reality if we are to craft winning strategies and rhetoric.
The anti-hunters are willing to impose on the world’s hunting regions, generally, and African hunting nations and their populations, specifically, costs that these far-removed wealthy elites will never pay. African hunting nations, specifically, find themselves in the untenable and frankly, absurd, situation of being dictated to by people who will pay no consequences for being wrong.
I had been reading the fascinating book, Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini
I wanted to see how persuasive I could be, if at all.
I asked him questions to establish a baseline: do you favor more animals than fewer? Do you concede animals can die brutal deaths from predation, disease, starvation, poaching? He acknowledged all of these facts.
I told him about the black rhinos I had seen the day before… and the black rhino hunt auction of the DSC.. and the vicious anti hunt response.. death threats and so forth..
I told him that the large male black rhino had already killed five young rhinos. I explained the elements, the components.
I concluded by showing how hunting aligned with his values.
He said to me, with a soft voice: “I am not a hunter. I am against hunting. But one must keep an open mind. I would support that hunt.”
To me, that was a small triumph.
I hope I can teach every hunter the persuasion skills so we all can have these triumphs.
The animals need us to triumph.
So, how do we win the hearts and minds of non-hunters? How do we defend and advance hunting? Through persuasion, by showing how hunting fulfills the values they already hold; and by confidence. Every trial lawyer knows that confidence is often more persuasive than the facts.
Confidence and honor: instill these qualities in our students and they will be life-long hunting advocates.
I share another personal experience.
A Professional Hunter at the Veronica farm in Namibia asked what I was going to talk about in my speeches in two days. I summarized the themes of my talk.
He volunteered that hunters feel so beaten down they avoid any discussion about hunting; they try to stay under the radar. They fear attracting attention. He is not alone advocating this strategy. This is the perspective a many high-priced consulting firms: be silent; let the conflagration blow over.
I absorbed his words, let them marinate for a moment and then said, “No, that is precisely the wrong mindset.” You must re-frame the issue. You must fight back.
I told him that silence and avoidance show weakness and lack of confidence. And the most fundamental law of all fundamental laws of human nature is that weakness invites more aggression. Then I went to my room and added this story to my speeches.
The collective wisdom and expertise in this room is stunning… vast.. encyclopedic. Use it.
Luke anecdote .. I met Luke at an Outdoor Buddies pheasant shoot. Outdoor Buddies offers outdoor activities to severely disabled folks. The hunt began and a dozen participants motored through the cornfields in their electric motor trakkers like silent tank divisions.
Luke was 10 years old. He told me how he began to hunt with his grandfather and then with his father. Then he spoke the money phrase, a nugget of pure gold: He said: “ I’d rather be out here hunting, helping people, being outside, not sitting home playing on the computer the way my friends do.” These youngsters can be reached with this message.
What a story!!!!!!!!!!! Now Luke’s story is your story.
-the experiences they had from enforcement duties… example: a hunter had just been shot..,,. And his interviews.. and … instructors are the front side of hunter education.. make the initial contact.,. and he is an investigator… and he comes in after the tragedy… where there was a failure of following what was taught on the front side… when you are not going to shoot your best friend when the pheasant rises… now more of a challenge.. when states have gone to administrators that were not enforcement…
TEXAS HUNTERS STEP UP TO FEED THE HOMELESS!
With an abundance of wild boar in Texas, some hunters are making a difference and helping to feed the homeless with wild boar dinners.
These stories make your students feel connected to the larger picture. These stories inspire your students. These stories make your students feel proud.
--and then can share their stories.. with the passion.. of someone who has never seen these results … key: how the instrocutrs share their stories… to inspire them.. convince them of the importance of what they do.. a giving of their most important commodity, their time… the gift of the hunt…
--gives you greater weight, persuasive effect
Don’t be captive to the curriculum
Say… I read an article by Craig Boddington
I saw a video of a speech by Shane Mahoney
I chatted with a game enforcement officer…
-and always ask, what do you think?
Relate to my book… what makes you most proud?
The students want to feel your power; feel your passion; feel you commitment. They want flesh and blood
Your narratives engage more complex areas of the brain…
Administrators and instructors contribute mightily to the larger vision. We have a powerful persuasive message: We are a “a nation with a culture” and “a reason for being.” We offer an experience worth fighting for.
Your confidence and passion will influence students more than any curriculum.
Steve Hall told me that hunter education instructors are ‘givers’ but not all are very verbal. Remember, you are Socrates. You have the experience. If possible, I can help give you some words.
I hope some of my ideas are helpful. Reach out to me if you have ideas that can enrich my writing or the book I am writing for instructors and students
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Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology
By Michael Sabbeth
The history of the phrases “trophy hunting” and “trophy hunter” is imprecise, but whatever their history, their meanings have suffered an evolution from a morally neutral denotation to a phrase freighted down by vile connotations. In this essay, I assert that the phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is vague and essentially without coherent meaning, yet, its vagueness is the source of its power for attacking hunters and hunting. I offer levels of analysis of the phrase and show how understanding its unethical architecture can help us refute the anti-trophy hunting attackers and, thereby advance hunting’s interests.
I met Volker Grellmann, esteemed Namibian author, teacher and professional hunter, after my first presentation at the 2016 NAPHA annual conference this past November. He shared, with some lament, that he may be partially responsible for infusing the phrase “trophy hunting” into the lexicon when he attempted to distinguish non-commercial from commercial meat hunting.
Whatever his influence, research by Jan Manning, my dear colleague and skilled hunter education instructor, informs of earlier uses of the phrases. In 1968 hunter and author Elgin Gates published a book titled, "A Trophy Hunter in Asia" and in 1971 a book titled "A Trophy Hunter in Africa." The term "Trophy Hunter" was in regular use at the time, and, in fact, carried a degree of social status. The Boone and Crockett Club, founded in 1887, was then and is now best known for its records of North American trophies. The British taxidermist Roland Ward started his "Records of Big Game" in 1897 to record the trophies taken primarily by British sportsmen around the world. Sir Samuel Baker, who died in 1893, was widely known as an explorer and big game trophy hunter.
Trophy Hunting Is a Virtue
In much of the organized hunting world, ‘trophy hunting’ denotes a virtue. The incisive science-based writings of Ron Thomson, for example, irrefutably illustrate the virtues of trophy hunting. This past September at the CITES Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, a resolution on trade in hunting trophies was adopted unanimously recognizing that:
The April 2016 Briefing Paper of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) addressed bans on trophy hunting imports. The Paper stated, in part:
As with all effective propaganda, the anti-hunter uses the power of imagery to besmirch the hunter. Negative false extreme stereotypes present the hunter as a beer-swilling tobacco-spitting knuckle-dragging murderer joyously slaughtering innocent beautiful animals out of blood lust and vanity. Not food nor game management nor the quest for a unique experience inspires the hunter, only bloody braggadocio.
Words and arguments and concepts have layers. The phrase 'trophy hunting' has layers. Research by Mark Duda of Responsive Management discloses that the vast majority of Americans, for example, support hunting. But if asked if they support ‘trophy hunting,’ public support for hunting drops like an anchor. Why?
To answer the question and to regain control of the language, we must understand the logical and ethical defects in this anti-hunting attack. I offer seven examples how the phrase ‘trophy hunter’ is abused. Only by understanding the moral defects of the attacks can we craft strategies to win the war of words.
FIRST: anti-hunters advance the misrepresentation, no doubt intentionally by many, that trophy or conservation hunters do not eat the meat. In fact, very little if any of the animal goes to waste. Almost all meat is consumed, either by the hunter, the outfitter and his employees, or is donated to schools, villages, orphanages or old-age homes.
In British Columbia, Canada I interviewed Dr. Valerius Geist, renowned scientist, author, biologist and hunter. He offered a biologist’s insight into consuming meat taken by hunting. The biological value of an animal is an inconsistent guide to a meaningful definition of ‘trophy’ animal status, he told me. Geist explained that large ‘trophy animals’ in many species are shikars; defined as a lazy animal that does not reproduce. The animal’s biology prevents it from losing much body fat and, thus, although the animal and its horns get larger, it does not strengthen the herd. Many ‘trophy’ animals are too old to reproduce.
The value of a ‘trophy’ animal as a source of meat may be also misplaced. Geist noted that many “trophy animals” have terrible meat and thus would not be logically taken for consuming but could ethically be taken for other reasons. Also note, basing the morality of a hunt on the single criteria of eating the meat is deceitful and illogical. Other consequences are as much as or more relevant in determining the hunt’s morality.
SECOND: the phrase ‘trophy hunter’ and its variants are vague. In terms of rhetoric, this is an important characteristic. Paradoxically, the quality of vagueness is the source of the phrase’s power. It can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean—hunting an aged animal, hunting just for large horns, killing for joy, feeding your family, leaving the dead animal to rot. Whatever! Vagueness facilitates intimidating hunters because they don’t know the terms of the attack.
Vagueness shuts down discussions because the aggressor has control of the language and most hunters are not trained to respond under such an assault. Also, ambiguity enables the attacker to avoid responsibility for their beliefs while hiding their larger anti-hunting agenda.
Here’s the key to unlock the intent of the anti-trophy hunter’s words. In his 1946 Essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell asserted that our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. ‘Trophy hunting’ is a slovenly phrase. It leads to foolish thoughts. Its vagueness has strategic value: it becomes easier to make foolish and inaccurate accusations against a larger collection of hunting activities and it makes it more difficult for the hunter to defend him or herself. The slovenliness is employed not only to attack a certain kind of hunter but to attack all hunting.
THIRD: the phrase is morally flawed by two logical fallacies. The first is the strawman argument. The fallacy works like this. Since anything negative can be described as a trophy, all things negative become the strawman. It is easy to successfully attack a highly negative abstraction. Then the successful attack against the strawman—for example, attacking a hunter who kills an exotic animal for the mount and leaves the carcass to rot—is used as proof that the attacker has successfully attacked all hunters because in some manner they are all trophy hunters. An attack is made on one target and then the claim is made that a different target was persuasively attacked. This logical fallacy is effective because it challenges the hunter to exhibit considerable intellectual and rhetorical skills to fight back while being on the defensive.
The second logical fallacy is using the singular event to condemn all events. An anti-trophy hunter might select a specific practice—which can be rare—he finds objectionable. By condemning that practice with the vague ‘trophy hunting’ phrase the opponent indulges in the logical fallacy of besmirching all hunting.
The phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is valued by anti-hunters because it enables them to appear discriminating and intelligent and thereby mask their irrational anti-hunting bias. It’s like covering a ship’s rotting hull with a fresh coat of paint.
The phrase stifles debate. Someone attacks trophy hunting and the listener must either make an informed logical rebuttal (in terms of skill, this is difficult for many to do) or continue the discussion with nit picking at examples but—and this is the key point—letting the opponent define its terms.
FIFTH: hunters and their advocates have allowed the anti-hunter to link an object—a trophy—with a process—hunting. They are unrelated. Either a hunting practice is justified by morality, sportsmanship and economics or it is not. The trophy aspect is irrelevant. We don’t use phrases like trophy soccer or trophy rugby or trophy tennis. We do have a phrase ‘trophy wife,’ but that’s a more complicated article.
SIXTH: there is a darker, more insidious aspect of anti-trophy hunting assault. Anti-hunters have conflated trophy hunting with poaching. The two activities have nothing in common. They are ethically opposite. The linkage is morally obscene. It cannot be accidental. But, it is effective for undermining hunting and for vilifying hunters.
SEVENTH: those who condemn trophy hunters; who call them murderers, have failed in their moral duty to learn the facts and master the truth about hunting and its relationship to animal conservation and community development. By this failure, the anti-hunters are no more than smug uninformed bullies. They are frauds. Their behavior and words are mere moral preening and virtue signaling in pursuit of morality on the cheap. They are immune to human suffering, to animal suffering, to truth, logic and consequences. They are shallow smug people consumed by a need to feel good despite their behavior leading to destructive consequences. I am reminded of the statement by French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when done with a good conscience.” I argue these people have a moral duty to transcend their ignorance. The duty is particularly acute when animals and native populations are threatened and even more exigent when the attackers are relatively wealthy far-removed people who will never pay a price for their ignorance.
The anti-hunting attacks are Darwinian—they continue because they work. At the core of the anti-trophy hunting arguments, and the persons making the arguments, are the assumptions that the animals will always be there; that the infrastructure of government and legitimate conservation groups will always be there, and some force, unidentified, will save the animals from the policies the anti-trophy hunters want to implement. They want all the dynamics of hunting to change, yet they do not want the success of past policies to disappear.
The task of conservationists and hunters is to analyze the underlying logic and morality of the anti-trophy hunting attacks, identify their weaknesses in morality and logic and then use those deficiencies to craft strategies for fighting back. We can do so justifiably with confidence, logic and moral certainty. We have the better arguments. Truth is on our side. Our arguments appeal to the decency of humanity. They will resonate with the vast middle of humanity who are currently uninformed about hunting but who value human and animal life. The cost of failure is high, not so much for the hunters but for the animals. Once they are gone, after a generation they won’t be missed at all, and all of humanity will be diminished from that loss.
Michael Sabbeth is the author of The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. See Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu