Ann Franklin made an astute comment to me at breakfast during the Alberta Professional Outfitters Society conference this past December, where I had given two lectures. “We outfitters have learned to think like the animals we hunt,” she said. “Now we have to learn to think like the animals that are hunting us.” Ann wasn’t referring to bear or lion or moose but to the anti-hunting activists and politicians that seek to shut down or reduce hunting.
The virtuous conservation consequences of hunting are known to every reader, consequences which manifest in North America, southern Africa, Pakistan and Asia and beyond. See websites of the Dallas Safari Club Foundation and the Safari Club International Foundation and SCI Hunt Forever https://huntforever.org, among others. Per the April 2016 Briefing Paper of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature):
“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.
See also the resolution at the 2017 CITES Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa:
No rational honest person can dispute the tsunami of data that demonstrates that hunting is critical for animal conservation, as well as for protecting animal habitat and for fighting poaching. Yet, anti-hunting forces are as politically powerful and well-funded as ever. I have been challenged by, indeed, plagued by, the question, “What kind of person holds opinions that so flagrantly conflict with reality and which damage wildlife?” My research causes me to reject the proposition that the anti-hunters’ beliefs are based on ignorance, for they have access to the same information as I do. Their ignorance is cultivated and protected with fortress-like effect. I reject the proposition that they are naïve, for naivete can easily be scuttled by the readily available galactic information justifying hunting.
Something else must explain these people’s views. Other factors, other forces within the composition of the anti-hunter must exist in order to explain their methodical orchestrated confident rejection of reality and morality. I admit my journey to understand these people is in its early stages although I have done research on this matter in preparation for my several lectures. I share, in very abbreviated form, the insights I have gleaned from people far smarter than I which impress me as credible for explaining this phenomenon.
The anti-hunter bases its assertions on morality, yet even a casual analysis of their positions illustrates irrefutably their moral bankruptcy. The greatest horrors in human history have been committed by people who believed lies and, as astutely observed by French philosopher Blaise Pascal, "Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience." These sad defective human traits apply to the aggressive anti-hunters. Understanding them facilitates strategies to counter the metastasizing of their pernicious propensities.
The following statements by prominent anti-hunter spokespersons enables any sentient human to ascertain their intellectual and moral defects. During phases of a brutal winter in parts of Colorado, the Division of Wildlife sought assistance from allegedly pro-animal groups to feed starving deer and elk. The pro-animal groups refused to assist, justifying their refusal on two arguments: that Nature should take its course without human intervention and that feeding the animals was self-defeating since hunters would kill them. The posturing pro-animal groups chose to ignore that only a small percent of an animal population is successfully hunted. They smugly refused, also, to recognize their selectivity regarding not interfering with Nature. Cancer is natural, as is tooth decay, accidents and crime, yet these selective non-interventionists would welcome—indeed, demand—every assistance the human species can offer.
Priscilla Feral, president of the so-called animal rights group Friends of Animals, had initiated multi-year litigation against the United States Fish and Wildlife Department to prevent it from issuing hunting permits in Texas for three species of African antelope — the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle — that were nearly extinct in their native Africa but were thriving on Texas ranches. On the CBS TV program: Sixty Minutes, Feral stated to correspondent Lara Logan: “I would prefer they all die rather than inhabit their non-natural habitat in Texas.”
John Jackson, my friend and colleague, a tireless advocate for conservation around the world and founder of Conservation Force, provided me with this unequivocal statement from a so-called “animal rights” lawyers made to the district court judge in the case Born Free USA, et al v. Norton, et al., D.C. 03-1497: that “given the choice, plaintiffs (his clients) would rather see the elephants euthanized and dead than in a zoo.”
A luminous example has been included in many of my lectures and articles because the immorality of and rhetorical abuse by these anti-hunters are so flagrantly destructive. The Dallas Safari Club auctioned a hunt in 2014 of a mature, non-reproducing black rhinoceros that had already killed five young rhinos. The hundreds of thousands of dollars to be raised would be allocated to anti-poaching programs, a clean water project and land reclamation. Toxic animal activist Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, Texas, organized protests against the auction in a virulent campaign that included sending a blizzard of threatening emails and social media posts to DSC personnel, threatening, among other things, to do to the DSC staff and to their families what the hunter planned to do to the aged rhino.
Oxley characterized the hunt as ‘barbaric,’ Not barbaric to Oxley, however, was dirtier water for the indigenous people; the increase in poaching, the diminished habitat reclamation and the foreseeable deaths of more young rhinos. Every consequence favored by Oxley was irrefutably immoral.
I search for explanations for the lust for dead animals and the willingness for lethal consequences unambiguously exhibited by so-called pro-animal groups. I confess my search for satisfactory explanations of their perverse behavior is on-going. I researched the concept of cognitive dissonance. The condition describes how the human mind deals with competing conflicting ideas or values or philosophies. How do Oxley, Feral and the anti-hunting Colorado folks justify their positions which are inimical to wildlife welfare? They choose a comforting if simplistic abstraction over reality such as human intervention with wildlife is evil. A superb non-hunting example is the espousing of a $15.00 minimum wage, even though the data is overwhelming that the increased wage causes employment to decrease and hurts the poor mostly
Several factors influence the degree and strength of the dissonance, one of which is quite illuminating: those thoughts—cognitions—that are more personal, such as beliefs about the self—tend to result in greater dissonance. This may be the motherlode of insight. It explains that the dissonance tolerated would be greater in a person that strongly needed to believe he or she was good, moral and caring. So, the person that drives the electric car to feel good about him or herself will suppress the knowledge of or refuse to become informed that the electricity and battery production and battery disposal and transport of parts may cause more pollution and environmental damage than driving a gasoline car.
Cognitive dissonance, however, does not address a critical question: what kind of person is susceptible to the cognitive dissonance as opposed to the person that will deal with conflict in the pursuit of truth?
Jordan Peterson, a psychologist, a professor in Canada, author and YouTube superstar opines that human beliefs and biases derive from what he calls a person’s axiomatic substructures and fundamental presuppositions. These are the world views which form the foundations for opinions. As I understand Peterson’s explanation, an example would be that an anti-hunter’s substructure of beliefs could be that Nature is pristine, idyllic and self-regulating and that it can remain that way only if humans do not intervene. Thus, hunting would be contrary to Nature and should be condemned. Or a substructure could be that the reality of death and suffering is too painful for the anti-hunter to process and, thus, must be repressed, thereby justifying an anti-hunting belief.
A person might favor a demonstrably bad minimum wage increase because his or her fundamental presupposition is that the world’s unfairness is caused by others that have more. When they don’t like reality, they change reality rather than change their beliefs.
In his best-selling book, People of the Lie, the late M. Scott Peck describes certain deceitful behavior as evil. Peck speaks of how people of the lie attack others instead of facing their failures. People of the lie seek out positions of power and want to appear morally superior to others. This observation validates Thomas Sowell’s statement that: “It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.”
A different context of the desire to appear morally superior and a different insight into the mental and moral structure of a person is offered by author and researcher Barbara Oakley, who coined the brilliantly provocative phrase “pathological altruism,” a condition where a person’s need to feel good and altruistic is so powerful that it blocks out the actual harm that is done by actions generated by those feelings. This feeling, Oakley writes, can become an addiction, which she observes is seen in self-righteous people who wallow in the wonderful feeling that they are right. Oakley’s analysis harmonizes with a statement made a generation before by the eminent psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung: “Every form of addiction is bad, whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”
Idealism when seen in the framework of a narcotic or a pathology begins to offer a credible explanation for these kinds of people that use morality to justify immoral consequences.
Idealism is dangerous because it ignores reality and consequences. Idealism is not self-correcting based on evidence. The brilliant Dennis Prager identifies several essential components of idealism that make it destructive, often lethally destructive. The idealist purports to have good intentions, but as Prager persuasively argues, good intentions are morally meaningless. Similarly, meaning well is irrelevant and morally meaningless.
Several factors explain idealism’s attraction. Among them are you don’t have to do anything to feel good other than virtue signal. You can feel good without doing good. The person can tell other people what to do and can influence their behavior and pull off the illusion that the person is not selfish because the person is advocating on behalf of all humanity. Force people to live in tiny houses or to drive electric cars because you are selflessly trying to save the planet! Nice work if you can get it! However, idealism’s greatest attraction, the golden nugget, may be that it covers up for and masks laziness, stupidity and ignorance. That’s quite a payoff: be stupid, say a few words as if buying penance and you then can bask smugly in your own moral superiority.
These characteristics, singly or in combination, give insight into the anti-hunter and help fulfill Ann Franklin’s quest to understand those that are hunting us. I do not ascribe these characteristics to those who are lukewarm about hunting but say they could never kill an animal. I ascribe these characteristics to the threat-makers, the aggressors, the pontificators and anti-hunting hustlers. Understanding these characteristics will enable the hunting community to craft ethical, fact-based arguments that support hunting and neuter the pathological anti-hunter.
Michael Sabbeth is a Denver-based lawyer, lecturer, consultant and author of The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. See Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu. He is completing his soon-to-be-published book The Path of the Honorable Hunter: A Call to Action to Defend and Advance Hunting