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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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Fun and Knowledge Are Not Enough to Sustain Hunting
by Michael Sabbeth
In 1597, Sir Francis Bacon wrote: Ipsa scientia potestas est. That's Latin for "Knowledge itself is power." If only!! I have begun many lectures with Bacon’s quotation, and then argued Bacon was wrong. Having knowledge is not enough to have power. If hunting is to survive, the hunting community must grasp the limitations of the value of knowledge. Young hunters should be taught that knowledge can lead to power if it leads to wisdom and is used in virtuous action. Without action infused with wisdom, power may be possible but, likely, the power lacks virtue.
Examples of what I mean are helpful to understand my point. I have asked dozens of young people why they hunt or shoot clay targets. Almost all answer: “It’s fun!” Nothing wrong with fun, of course, but I then ask, “What does ‘fun’ mean?” Most youngsters shrug and a glazed look descends over their eyes. The reply, “I don’t know.” I realize they haven’t thought why they like hunting or clay target shooting. They have a sensation—it’s fun—a good sensation by the way, but they don’t have knowledge. They don’t have insight into their actions.
The key point I make here is that simply having knowledge or experiencing ‘fun’ is not the most effective way to get youngsters—anybody, really—committed to being a hunter, or, for that matter, anything else. Beyond fun, insight and wisdom must be cultivated. Wisdom and insight strengthen a person’s character. They are the foundation for confidence and competence. Wisdom and insight are valuable because they inspire and motivate virtuous action. The greater a person’s competence and confidence, the greater the probability the person will act ethically and virtuously. That means, the greater the likelihood a young hunter will stay engaged in hunting and will defend and become an advocate for hunting.
My recent interview with Erika, Athina, Lili and Evelyhn on an outing proves my point. They were participating in an event sponsored by the marvelous foundation, City Kids Adventures, founded two decades ago by Leticia and Leon McNeil. They emphasized that knowledge is acquired over time, that knowledge from experience leads to confidence, and that knowledge inspires them to hunt responsibly. They were all having ‘fun,’ but understood that ‘fun,’ properly taught and mentored, leads to knowledge, the motivation to hunt ethically and to promote hunting.
Erika shared a poignant illuminating personal experience. Her participation in hunting often led to being insulted and intimated by her classmates. She was called a murderer. But Erika had the competence, confidence, and motivation to use her knowledge to defend hunting and to persuade her classmates that hunting had positive values. “I feel proud when I put meat on the table because I am helping my family,” Erika said. She explained the reality of conservation and wildlife management. “Now,” Erika exclaimed, “my classmates think I am cool!”
Tyler, an eleven-year-old from Houston, Texas, said he enjoyed hunting because he spends time with his family. But Tyler’s enjoyment was tempered by his mentor, David Baxter, teaching him to be respectful of the land and to be an ambassador for the “camouflage community.”
Knowledge is essential for growing as a person, and fun is fine, but knowledge and fun are not enough to keep youngsters engaged in hunting. The art is to show how hunting can create virtuous character in young hunters and to make them stronger people. If those goals are attained, hunting’s future is ensured.
About the Author: Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, author and consultant in Denver, Colorado. His email is email@example.com Buy his new book , The
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Diversity and Inclusivity Will Ensure Hunting’s Future
by Michael G. Sabbeth
“When I wake up here, I see acres of land. When I wake up at home, I see concrete,” Erika said emphatically. Her eyes expressed her earnestness; her furrowed brows indicated her search for her most expressive words. Erika was among several young hunters Leon McNeil arranged for me to interview by Zoom on a youth hunt in Devine, Texas. Awed by the quiet and tranquility of the ranch, Erika expressed her gratitude for her gracious hosts.
McNeil is an educator at the San Antonio Academy and founder of City Kids Adventures, which sponsors hunting opportunities for about one-hundred and fifty inner city youth each year. McNeil and Leticia, his wife, have been involved with youth hunting for twenty-four years.
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Personal Note:I met Kai-Uwe Denker when I gave two presentations to NAPHA in Windhoek, Namibia in November, 2016.
I have a signed copy of his book, Along the Hunter’s Path
True Meaning of Hunting: Presentation to EU Parliamentby Managing Editor | Apr 15, 2020 | Conservation in Action, We Hunt For Life, Wildlife Conservation
Dallas Safari Club Game Trails Newsletter
Presentation given in front of EU Parliament in Brussels by Past President of NAPHA (Namibia Professional Hunting Association) and renowned fellow hunter Kai-Uwe Denker. It expresses what hunting means to those to know it and and important service to the public good.