Hunters are accused of lacking compassion, of being heartless uncaring murderers of beautiful animals. These accusations are among the most vicious in our hypersensitive culture, comparable to saying someone is a racist or doesn’t recycle. Hunters’ neck hair sticks up like striking cobras as they try to fend off the assaults. “My money preserves habitat; my money manages game animals! I care!” they soulfully cry out. Hunters are correct yet they lose.
I have seen pro-hunter / pro-firearms debaters, who have more brains in their urine samples than their opponents have brains, lose the debates. We have the facts, logic and morality on our side, yet we lose! Why? Because most hunter advocates have not learned this important skill: how to fight back by evaluating the consequences of anti-hunting policies using the language of the attackers. When we use this technique, we undermine the attacks and turn the tables on the attackers.
Do hunters lack compassion? An examination of three situations shows conclusively that hunters have compassion and anti-hunters do not.
1. The brutal winter of 2008 in Gunnison, Colorado risked the deaths of a majority of deer and elk. Government agencies, hunters and businesses contributed money to buy and distribute food. Appeals for assistance to so-called ‘animal rights’ groups, PETA, HSUS, among others, were rebuffed. The rationale of the refusing organizations: they would be saving the animals only so hunters could kill them later.
2. In 2014, under the auspices of The Dallas Safari Club, an auction was held to hunt one mature non-reproducing black rhinoceros in Namibia. The proceeds of the hunt would fund anti-poaching programs, clean water facilities, protect younger vulnerable rhinos and provide food for the villagers. This auction was viciously attacked by anti-hunters with tactics that included death threats to DSC staff and to hunters.
3. The demagoguery following the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe created a “Cecil Effect” of losing hunters, revenue, food for orphanages and the need to cull two hundred lions which generated no revenue but which increased poaching.
What can we learn? Increased animal deaths, poverty, poaching and revenue loss result from the anti-hunting policies. But more profound lessons can be learned. Compassion, born of Latin roots, has two components: a feeling of sympathy for another coupled with a desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion, then, requires both empathy and a desire to act on that empathy.
You see the problem with compassion? Compassion, a noble concept in theory, is easily abused and manipulated because it doesn’t require anyone to do anything! You can be judged as compassionate based on feelings alone. Compassion can be morality on the cheap. As Aristotle wrote, “It is easy to be moral in your sleep.”My key point: hunters are accused of lacking compassion because they kill animals, yet the anti-hunter smugly views himself as compassionate without any regard to the destructive real-life consequences of his actions and beliefs. In the examples above, more animals died and more animals will die (and human suffering increases) as a direct consequence of the so-called compassion of these anti-hunting pressure groups. But the anti-hunter does not care! Reality and truth are irrelevant. Feeling good is more important than doing good. Keeping animals alive is the measure of compassion for animals. Hunters possess true compassion. But we need to make the best arguments to show why we deserve to win the debate.