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  • Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil

    Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil

    By Michael Sabbeth

    Walter Palmer killed a lion bestowed with a name—Cecil. For a while, much of the hunting world, particularly hunting iconic African big game, imploded as if into a death star. For months people uninformed about lion hunting, who never heard of the Hwange Game Park and who couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map if their fat-free soy lattes depended on it, issued death threats on social media, threatened the person and business of the hunter, condemned much of hunting with broad-brush swipes and raised fortunes for predatory opportunistic animal activist groups.

    Drenched in ignorance, energized by a luscious sense of moral superiority and the need to feel good, they were unmoved by the damaging consequences their demands would have inflicted.  Unleashing a flash mob of hate, death threats and physical intimidation, they illustrated their deceit in purporting to value life.

    Another Cecil-esque event will occur again, either by the act of a hunter or by an event orchestrated by an anti-hunter in a propaganda hit. We must be prepared to mobilize factual and rhetorical defenses for that next event. I offer eight strategies for crafting our defenses.

    Strategy 1: Understand the Moral and Intellectual Terrain

    We are in a defensive asymmetrical war against people and organizations that do not value reason, logic or consequences. Indeed, reason, logic and consequences are an anathema to anti-hunting people and organizations. Ignorance is a virtue for it facilitates self-righteousness. Hunters tend to see defending hunting and conservation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy. Consequently, hunters over-value truth and facts. We tend to see the battle through a narrow lens. This small aperture stifles a comprehensive understanding of hunting’s opponents. We tend to ignore the complexity of human nature; its narcissism and need to feel morally superior, its cowardice, its lust for easy solutions, the avoidance of pain and the pervasiveness of predatory opportunistic greed.

    Our opponents operate on a more primal and effective level. They see anti-hunting in terms of power and the opportunity to advance anti-human and anti-conservation ideologies. Hunters value the research of South Africa’s Ron Thomson and are motivated by the stirring speeches of Shane Mahoney and the narratives of Craig Boddington. The anti-hunters disregard them totally.

    In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote that “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”  Eliot is partially correct. Often human kind does not care much about reality. Reality impedes their ideological advancement. The anti-hunters grasp this fundamental truth; the hunting community does not. Our failure to grasp this point jeopardizes our ability to effectively refute the anti-hunters.

    Strategy 2: Use Social Media More Effectively

    We know a picture is worth a thousand words and that a lie travels around the world before the truth gets out of bed. Social media has exposed several undesirable qualities of the hunting community: its aloofness from reality, its complacency, its inability to present a unified front and, worse, its lack of confidence. For example, powerful forces in the hunting community turned on Palmer before the facts were known.

    The new media era battle space is complex. We must be willing to fight fire with fire, as the expression goes. We must show the vile wires, snares and traps poachers use and the resultant loathsome injuries they inflict on animals. We must highlight the consequences of children with unclean water and food deprivation. Show the decapitated rhinos with a subtitle screaming: “This is what hunting bans cause!” We should have illustrated the vulgar immorality of the self-satisfied somber-faced American woman arrogantly carrying a sign “I am Cecil,” attempting to parasitically leach morality from the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris.  We must show the images; employ powerful iconography and trenchant rhetoric. We must change the social media paradigm!

    Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions:

    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.

    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.

    Strategy 4: Shift the Paradigm

    We should focus less on the virtues of hunting and focus more on the arrogant and deceitful character of those that oppose hunting. Extolling hunting’s conservation virtues is a necessary but insufficient process to persuade the vast middle ground.

    We know from studying the facts regarding Cecil the lion and the black rhino hunting auction orchestrated by the Dallas Safari Club that hunting saves animals and people. No rational decent human being can intellectually and morally refute these claims. Yet such hunting is opposed. What is the explanation? Let us not flatter ourselves. We do not have an exclusive divine link to wisdom and knowledge. I accept that many anti-Cecil protesters are decent but uninformed yet that is only a small aspect of their personality structure. What kind of person rejects a rhino hunt knowing that many young rhinos would be saved? What kind of person demands a ban on rhino horn trade knowing that the result is more poaching, more rhino deaths and more hunger for the local populations? These are the messages hunters must make. Data puts people to sleep. Mutilated animals inspire people to fight those that enable the mutilation.

    Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we know that those who choose animal protection over animal conservation will get neither. And we know that airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Palmers. We know that the feelings business is profitable and the thinking business not so much.

     

    Strategy 5: Focus on the Proper Audience

    Mark Duda of Resource Management estimates that as many as 60-80 percent of the population is non-committal regarding hunting in a general sense. My reading of Duda’s material leads to the favorable conclusion that most of these people can be reached by reason, ethical arguments, caring for native populations and passion. Thus, our strategy should be to forcefully refute the radical anti-hunters, not expecting to change their minds, but to persuade the large ‘middle’ of uncommitted people. This vast group will align with those that seem to have winning arguments. 

    Strategy 6: Get Legislation and Enforcement

    We must develop strategies, including legal action, to combat the extreme anti-hunters’ sadistic fetish for violence and intimidation. Civil and criminal legal action should be taken in extreme cases by skilled lawyers. We should lobby state legislators to pass legislation assessing criminal and civil liability against those who make credible threats, whether in person or through cyberspace, against hunters, their families and their businesses. Paraphrasing Michael Corleone, we must become wartime consigliaris

    Strategy 7: Don’t Avoid the Fight

    I spoke with many people who advise hunters to maintain a low profile when confronted with a Cecil-like situation. “Let it blow over; don’t draw attention!” they say. This passive avoidance is self-destructive. Our strategy should be to make the anti-hunting attacker pay a price for its misinformation, greed, narcissism and the unethical consequences of its beliefs. Let us be guided by two of the most fundamental laws of human nature: avoidance is interpreted as weakness and weakness invites aggression. Unlike donors to the anti-hunting causes, the animals we fight to conserve do not live in a therapeutic utopian world. Nature’s one constant is life-and-death brutality. The lion does not co-habit with the gemsbok waiting for a dinner of locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten free, organic steamed broccoli. We must fight for reality if we are to conserve the animals.

    Strategy 8: Unify with a Central Resource

    Our focus must be on persuasion, which is not the same as spewing out data and making abstract arguments. We must identify and then use people who are smart enough and intellectually agile enough to deconstruct future anti-hunting attacks in concise, simple language. We must identify and emphasize the morality or lack of morality of the consequences of policies advanced by the anti-hunters.  We must give our hunters the words to fight back. We must craft arguments that align the virtues of animal conservation and human enrichment with the values of the larger audience. Strategic thinking and action offer the best hope for conserving animals and those in the hunting world who lives are affected.

    Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values, available atAmazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu

     

     

  • Lessons For Advancing The 3 Rs

    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.

     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.He is currently writing the book Proud to Hunt: Tips for Being an Effective Instructor and Student

     

  • Seeking World Approval Will Lead to Hunting’s Suicide

    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 atAmazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmuNow available as a Kindle EBook.

     

  • Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology

    Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology

    By Michael Sabbeth

     

    “What's in a name?

    That which we call rose by another other name would smell as sweet.”

    Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

    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:

    “Well-managed and sustainable trophy hunting is consistent with and contributes to species conservation, as it provides both livelihood opportunities for rural communities and incentives for habitat conservation, and generates benefits which can be invested for conservation purposes.”

    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:

    “However, legal well-regulated trophy hunting programs can—and do—play an important role in delivering benefits for both wildlife conservation and for the livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous and local communities living with wildlife. Well-managed trophy hunting, which takes place in many parts of the world, can and does generate critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and to carry out conservation actions, (including anti-poaching interventions). In many parts of the world indigenous and local communities have chosen to use trophy hunting as a strategy for conservation of their wildlife and to improve sustainable livelihoods.”

    Trophy hunting would seem to be an unqualified good for animal conservation and enriching human communities. Why, then, is trophy hunting so feverishly attacked by anti-hunters?  

    The Rhetoric of Trophy Hunting

    Words have power. Words show biases. Words frame issues. Word shape arguments. George Orwell wrote, “Those who control the language control the argument, and those who control the argument win!” Anti-hunters have controlled the language. I offer strategies to regain its control.

    I have written and lectured that a war of abusive words is being ferociously waged against hunters through the profligate use of the phrase “trophy hunter.” The phrase has become weaponized. For the anti-hunter, the phrase is the sordid equivalent of such thuggish accusatory phrases presently degrading our culture such as ‘racist’ or ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi.’

    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.  

    FOURTH:hunters have allowed anti-hunters to frame trophy hunting in terms of INTENTIONS rather than of CONSEQUENCES. This framing gives anti-hunters control of the language. Why should the hunter’s intentions determine the morality of trophy hunting if the consequences are virtuous—clean water, more food for villagers; reducing poaching, conservation of animals? An appropriate response to the accusation of killing an animal as a trophy is “So what?” It is immoral to assert that trophy hunting is wrong or unethical based on the hunter’s intentions when the consequences are virtuous.

     

    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.

     

    CONCLUSIONS

    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. He is currently writing the book Proud to Hunt: Tips for Being an Effective Instructor and Student

     

  • Winning the War Against Attacks on Trophy Hunting

    Winning the War Against Attacks on Trophy Hunting

    By Michael G. Sabbeth

     

    Trophy Hunting Is a Virtue

    In much of the organized hunting world, ‘trophy hunting’ denotes a virtue. For example, this past September at the CITES Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, a resolution on trade in hunting trophies was adopted unanimously recognizing that:

    “Well-managed and sustainable trophy hunting is consistent with and contributes to species conservation, as it provides both livelihood opportunities for rural communities and incentives for habitat conservation, and generates benefits which can be invested for conservation purposes.”

    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:

    “However, legal well-regulated trophy hunting programs can—and do—play an important role in delivering benefits for both wildlife conservation and for the livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous and local communities living with wildlife. Well-managed trophy hunting, which takes place in many parts of the world, can and does generate critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and to carry out conservation actions, (including anti-poaching interventions). In many parts of the world indigenous and local communities have chosen to use trophy hunting as a strategy for conservation of their wildlife and to improve sustainable livelihoods.”

    Trophy hunting would seem to be an unqualified good for animal conservation and enriching human communities. What’s the problem?

    Fighting Back Against the Abuse of Words

    “What's in a name?

    That which we call rose by another other name would smell as sweet.”

    Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

     

    Words have power. Words are elastic material with which one can make whatever one wants. Words show biases. Words frame issues. Word shape arguments. As the brilliant George Orwell wrote, “Those who control the language control the argument, and those who control the argument will win the argument!”

    I have written and lectured that a war of abusive words is being ferociously waged against hunters through the profligate use of the phrase “trophy hunter.” The phrase has become weaponized. For the anti-hunter, the phrase is the sordid equivalent of such thuggish accusatory phrases presently degrading our culture such as ‘racist’ or ‘homophobe’ or ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi,’ vile charges hoped long dead but which have arisen like the crabgrass in my lawn.

     

    As with all effective propaganda, the anti-hunter uses the power of imagery to besmirch the hunter. Negative false extreme stereotypes of the hunter as a beer-swilling tobacco-spitting knuckle-dragging   murderer joyously slaughtering innocent beautiful animals out of blood lust and vanity are cultivated like world-class orchids. Not food nor game management nor the quest for a unique experience inspires the hunter, only braggadocio.

    I offer verbal and analytical strategies to counterattack the derogatory ‘trophy hunter’ accusation.

    In the movie of that name, Shrek points out that ogres have layers. That may be true but assuredly 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 support hunting. But if asked if they support ‘trophy hunting,’  public support for hunting drops like an anchor. Why?

     

    We must understand the logical and ethical defects in this anti-hunting attack. I offer six examples how the phrase ‘trophy hunter’ is abused. I offer, also, suggestions for using these insights to refute the attacks and regain control of the language, the argument and how to win the war of words.

    FIRST,thephrase ‘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 enables easy attacks on the hunter’s morality. 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.

    SECOND, the phrase is morally flawed. It is a type of logical fallacy called a 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 to attack allhunters. An attack is made on one target and then the claim is made that another target was persuasively attacked.

     

    THIRD, hunters have allowed anti-hunters to frame the issue, thus giving them control of the language. Hunters allowed them to frame trophy hunting in terms of INTENTIONS rather than of CONSEQUENCES. Why should the hunter’s intentions determine the morality of trophy hunting if the consequences are virtuous—clean water, more food for villagers; reducing poaching, conservation of animals?

     

    FOURTH,we 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.

     

    FIFTH,there is a darker, more insidious aspect of trophy hunting analysis. 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.

    SIXTH,those who condemn trophy hunters; who call them murderers, have failed 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.

     

    A challenge for hunters is that the anti-hunting attacks are Darwinian—they continue because they work. I suggest the attacks are from the reptilian part of the anti-hunter’s brain which does not value reason, judgment, logic or consequences. They value emotion and succumb to the powerful need to feel good and morally superior about themselves, despite the reality that their policies lead to the deaths of animals and the impoverishment of those who depend on hunters’ dollars and animals for food, anti-poaching programs and habitat enhancement.

    In conclusion, I assert hunters can best defang this anti-hunting attack by understanding the components of the accusations against trophy hunting, see their defects and then craft arguments to refute them. 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. Let’s fight back!

     

    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. He is currently writing the book Proud to Hunt: Tips for Being an Effective Instructor and Student

     

     

     


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Michael G. Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. He lectures on ethics and rhetoric. He has written the book "The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values." & is now working on a book titled "No More Apologizing! Arguments to Defend and Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports."

Michael Sabbeth

Michael Sabbeth

Michael G. Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. He lectures on ethics and rhetoric. He has written the book "The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values." & is now working on a book titled "No More Apologizing! Arguments to Defend and Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports."

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