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Books by Michael Sabbeth

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Buy The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How To Talk With Children About Values or Michael's newest book The Honorable Hunter Instructor Training Manual on Amazon.

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Follow Honor, Not Your Feelings 

By Michael G. Sabbeth 

A Colorado hunter education instructor shared this anecdote. He and his hunting buddies went on their annual elk hunt. One of the buddies had a fetish for taking long range shots, often at distances beyond his skill level. On a particular hunt, against the advice of his buddies, the hunter took a long range shot and wounded his elk. The hunting group spent two days tracking the wounded animal, which was never found. The hunting trip was ruined.  

The buddies told the hunter he was no longer invited to join their hunting group. The instructor told me it was painful and difficult to disinvite his friend. “I felt terrible, but it was the right thing to do. The hunter wounded animals and jeopardized our hunts.” I mentioned he could lose a friend. The instructor replied, “Maybe, but then he would not have been much of a friend.” 

The honorable hunter loves the hunt; loves the outdoors; loves the challenges preparing for the actual hunt often as much as the actual hunt. But love is not enough. Good intentions are not enough. Love must be intertwined with virtue and duty. When love is divorced from virtue and duty, you have neither love nor virtue nor duty. You have chaos.  

In many of my lectures and articles, I talk about the black rhinoceros hunts auctioned by the Dallas Safari Club. In the briefest summary, the rhino to be hunted had killed several young rhinos. The money to be raised would finance anti-poaching programs, enhance local water systems, and enrich schools.  

The attacks on the hunting auction were intense. The hunt was described as ‘barbaric.’ Let us go beyond the words of the attackers and examine their values. They valued the life of a post-reproductive rhino that had killed young animals more than the lives of young rhinos, cleaner water for the indigenous population and anti-poaching programs that would have saved more rhinos.  

Hunters are often accused of lacking compassion. Those who favored the DSC rhino hunt had more compassion than the opponents—compassion for increasing rhino populations, for the lives of the local human populations and for combating poaching. To have value and meaning, compassion must be built on a foundation of moral virtue. Just feeling good about yourself is morally worthless.  

Following feelings can be destructive. You should follow your values, but even that suggestion needs qualification. To be worth following, your values must be based on virtue and wisdom. Wisdom requires judgment and self-discipline.  

Risking wounding an animal by making a shot beyond your skill level is not a virtuous value. Risking people’s lives by riding in a truck with a loaded firearm is not a virtuous value. Exceeding game limits by playing the odds you won’t get caught is not a virtuous value.  

The honorable hunter seeks truth, but truth is not an end. Truth is the jumping off point for moral action. As M said to Max Denbeigh in the James Bond movie Spectre: “A license to kill is also a license not to kill. You must be sure when you pull the trigger.” The honorable hunter always asks this question: “Is the world better because I am in it?”    

Michael Sabbeth is the author of the new book, The Honorable Hunter: How To Honorably & Persuasively Defend & Promote Hunting.  

Michael's Latest Article

Harvest versus Kill
Words Can Help or Hurt Hunting
By Michael Sabbeth

I begin with two questions. 1. When hunters describe taking wild game, which word best serves the hunting community: ‘kill’ or ‘harvest’? 2. Will selecting one word over the other reduce the intensity of anti-hunting rhetoric? Words matter.  Words have power. Words can convey confidence and weakness. Words convey values. Words affect persuasion. George Orwell wrote, “Words control the language, and the person who controls the language controls the argument, and the person who controls the argument wins.” 

Harvesting.  We harvest trees, wheat, timber, and corn. The word harvest indicates the action is for human consumption and will benefit humans. Therefore, one can logically and ethically argue that the hunter harvested an animal. I suggest, however, ‘harvest’ has other meanings, and those meanings undermine hunters and hunting. To say a hunter harvested a deer implies the deer, a living animal, is no different from a stalk of corn. The deer and the corn are morally equivalent. That equivalence devalues the once-living animal. The word ‘harvest’ is a euphemism that denies reality. A living animal has died. The refusal to acknowledge that reality seems defensive and apologetic. The denial of reality shows a lack of confidence in the morality of hunting. The hunter seems intimidated. Those are not strong positions for defending hunting.  

Kill. We know the meaning of ‘kill.’ The life of something living was intentionally or recklessly ended. We kill mice, mosquitoes, flies, and enemies. To say a hunter killed an animal affirms reality. The statement is confident in accepting moral responsibility. The word ‘kill’ avoids a euphemism that devalues the animal.  

Another aspect of the ‘harvest’ versus ‘kill’ issue arises. Hunters are attacked as murderers and killers. ‘Murderer’ and ‘killer’ are powerful accusations. Here, again, we see an example of moral perversion. By using the word ‘killer’ or ‘murder,’ the accuser is creating a moral equivalence between an elk, for example, and your child or parent or friend. The logical inference of that accusation is that, morally, your child is no different from a deer.  

An accuser who calls a hunter a killer or a murderer does not want to engage in a reasonable search for truth or moral trade-offs. The accuser wants to shut you up. The accusation is a strategy to dominate you and to announce moral superiority.  

The irony is that the person who accuses the hunter of being a killer is not opposed to killing at all. They have their hamburgers, Thanksgiving turkey, and BBQ. They are only opposed to killing selectively—against certain people and certain animals under specific circumstances. This opposition to hunting is not based on moral principle. It is based on moral smugness and, often, a willful ignorance. And, unlike hunters, these attackers don’t have the will or the courage to do their killing themselves. They outsource their killing to ranchers and farmers.  

One point I emphasize above all others. When hunters show a lack of confidence in their words, they show weakness, triggering the most fundamental law of human nature: weakness invites aggression. Weakness ensures that the attacks on hunting will continue and probably escalate. Hunters intending to use words that do not offend are acting defensively. The anti-hunter will never scream out: You are a harvester! How can you harvest those beautiful animals? They will call you killers. Thus, we must develop the confidence to use words that reflect reality.  

Which is the better word to use? You have read my arguments. You decide. However, I am certain that using ‘harvest’ as a substitute for ‘kill’ will not lead to greater acceptance of or respect for hunters and hunting. Appeasement never succeeds.  

Michael Sabbeth is the author of the new book, The Honorable Hunter: How To Honorably & Persuasively Defend & Promote Hunting . Please see 

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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."



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