Winning the War Against Attacks on Trophy Hunting
By Michael G. Sabbeth
Trophy Hunting Is a Virtue
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, 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 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.
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