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A Pleasure to Be Here. 2

Ethics Are Everywhere. 3

Clarity. 4

Priscilla Feral and the Antelope. 4

Lessons to be learned from Black Rhino hunting. 5

Black Rhino. 6

Cecil the Lion. 7

Rhetoric: 9

Caring, compassion. 9

Trophy hunting. 10

North American Model 11

Mark Duda and Shifting Financial Support for Hunting. 13

Standing Up for Hunting: skills. 14

Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions: APHA.. 14

Polish Glider Pilot: An Exercise in Persuasion. 15

Namibia PH: stay under the radar 16

Concluding Comments. 17

Tell your stories. 17

Examples I Use: 17

Luke. 17

See Rod Slings notes. 18

Texas hunters donating food. 18



Focusing on the Big Picture

Saving Hunting Through Persuasion, Character and Honor

IHEA Texas

April 22, 2017

Michael G. Sabbeth


A Pleasure to Be Here.


I thank my friend and colleague Steve Hall for inviting me. He has been my mentor pertaining to much of my writing and lecturing on hunter education ethics and strategies for defending and advancing hunting. I have learned that under Steve’s folksy disarming demeanor is a Pentium processor brain with five terabytes of memory.

After meeting with many of you, I am enthused to share my ideas and receive your critiques of them.

I have done a fair amount of lecturing these past few months; gave a keynote speech to the Namibia Professional Hunters Association in Windhoek this past November; two presentations to the Saskatchewan Outfitters Association in Saskatoon this past December, then two presentations at the Dallas Safari Club and one at the SCI Convention. I share this background so you get a sense of what I stand for.  I share some of the themes and anecdotes I learned from those experiences. Hopefully I will offer an entertaining and thought-provoking half hour.

A Professional Hunter in Namibia asked why I spend time doing these lectures; thinking about these issues. The efforts are quite removed from my law practice. I thought, hmmmm. Good question! I told him I see the attacks on hunting, on the shooting sports, on possessing firearms, as part of a large movement… a larger ideology… and philosophy that loathes human rights, individual liberty, personal responsibility… the anti-hunting anti-gun movements are merely a subset of this larger pervasive and very dark ideology. Look at the fascism saturating college campuses, and I rest my case. I am here to play a small part, I hope, in going against this malevolent tide. And I feel the grains in the hourglass falling quickly. Listen, at my age, my friends don’t send me birthday cards; they send me Do Not Resuscitate forms.

I am relatively new to your discipline… your field… I don’t stand before you to lecture you about anything. I have met instructors who have taught more than thirty years; who have taught over 30,000 students. I am in awe of your accomplishment and your dedication. At best,  perhaps some of my ideas can be useful to you.


I am not an experienced hunter. I share my one significant experience. Kudu story: hunting in Natal, South Africa… quite an intereting experience because one of the celebrity hosts of the Orion Multi Media TV show was Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal and Lone Survivor. I shot a kudi: About 80 yards, straight shot. There was no suffering. The PH explained the characteristics of the animal: it’s dark lush cape, its polished horn tips; he was a dominant bull but was no longer biologically useful to the herd. ‘That sounds like me!” I exclaiomed. “I could go on his wall!!”

Ethics Are Everywhere

I fight to see the big picture. We live in curious times; confusing times. We are told there are different kinds of morality; that all values are equal; none is better than or preferable to another. As a culture we have lost confidence in what is right and what is wrong. That is another talk.

I start with ethics. I’ve interviewed many instructors… they tend to look forward to talking about ethics with the enthusiasm of having a root canal surgery…. Waiting for the tomatoes and cabbage to go whistling by their heads…

It shouldn’t be.. .ethics should be the most insightful and exciting part of the teaching curriculum.. .

I believe that, as a general rule, people know what is right and they know what is wrong; they know what is ethical and what is unethical. Doing what is right and ethical, this is not a matter of information but a matter of honor. Acting ethically is a matter of moral character.

Thus, ethics is character. Ethics is confidence.

--every aspect of hunting is drenched in ethics.. picking up the empty cartridges at the range or in the field, particularly on private land not your own…

Sighting in your rifle or bow; choosing the right ammunition; the right size shot; shooting at the right distance for your skill level… not being physically fit to track a wounded animal but taking a shot beyond your skill set… and thereby delegating your moral duties to others…


And what are the core foundational principles of ethical behavior? Honor… honor above all… self discipline; self control; mental toughness; pride…and again, honor…

Your mission is to persuade, inspire and motivate your students to be ethical hunters; indeed, ethical human beings. You accomplish that task, in large measure, by appealing to their honor; by teaching your students to see the big picture; to see beyond themselves; to see they are threads in a larger tapestry… to show them how to be great.. .how to be better people. You have extraordinary opportunities.

It’s all about ethics.




Clarity is one of my foundational concepts. In my engagement in the world of hunting, I came to realize the most productive strategy to defend and advance hunting is gaining intellectual and moral clarity about the issues, the policies and their consequences. It is especially important to gain clarity regarding the arguments and policies of anti-hunters.

Clarity enables us to understand the true beliefs of hunting’s opponents—not accepting a person’s words but analyzing the practical consequences of their beliefs. This insight enables us to craft the best arguments and strategies to defend and advance hunting.


Priscilla Feral and the Antelope

Here’s an example in Texas. Priscilla Feral was the director or leader of the Orwellian-named organization Friends of Animals that opposed the issuance by the U S Division of Wildlife of permits to hunt these three species. The superb legal staff, headed by Anna Seidman, of the Safari Club International Foundation, finally concluded successful litigation against this group.

The three species of African antelope — the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle — are already nearly extinct in their native Africa. But they are thriving on the plains of Texas, mostly on ranches where hunters pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of hunting them.

Texas ranchers had about 1,800 of the animals in 2004. With the exemption from the USFWD in place, those numbers swelled to more than 17,000 by 2011.

Feral didn’t care. She was an ideologue that sought to destroy life.

Priscilla Feral on TV program CBS News : Sixty Minutes:  “I would prefer they all die rather than inhabit their non-natural habitat in Texas.”

Feral  may be vicious; she may be spiteful; she may hate animals, but she was clear. She chose ideology over the lives of animals. Rarely are such motives so clear.

Lessons to be learned from Black Rhino hunting

Let’s look at a more complex example: the black rhino auctioned in 2014 by the Dallas Safari Club.  


Here are the facts.

Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, Texas recruited protestors to the auction of the black rhino hunt. She said hunting the animal was barbaric, even though it was old and incapable of reproducing, dangerous to younger rhinos, auction funds would have supported anti-poaching programs, habitat rehabilitation programs and clean water programs for the local population.  

Barbaric? Fine.

As a lawyer, I’ve learned never to argue with a person whose living depends on disagreeing with you

Let’s get clarity as to Oxley’s beliefs: what she values and what she does not value.

To her, dead young rhinos are not barbaric, less clean water and less food for the village populations, more poaching, less habitat. None of that was barbaric to Oxley.

By such an analysis, we gain clarity into her morality and the morality of her beliefs.  Thus we can develop strategies to refute her and to fight against her opinions based on consequences and morality.  Negating her arguments and emphasizing the virtues of hunting can be our most effective arguments to defend hunting.

Black Rhino

We can conclude that the person that opposes the black rhino hunt favors more poaching, more dead rhinos, less animal habitat and hungrier children.

How can you say that about us, they would scream? We care so much. We feel for the animals so much! We are so concerned! That’s why we oppose the hunt! We are so compassionate!


Clarity illustrates that the anti-hunter does favor these results.

A person is morally accountable for the consequences of his or her beliefs and actions and policies.

Every belief has a cost. This principle applies to anti-hunters everywhere.

More dead smaller rhinos, less clean water, more poaching, less development of habitat, less food for local villagers are the costs they are willing to pay for their ideology. The costs they are willing to pay for feeling good about themselves.

This is crtical to understand: To be more precise: these are the costs they are willing to have Africans pay; costs that they inflict on the animals. The NGOs in Europe, the NGOs in the USA, the anti-hunting European Union, the folks in New York’s Upper East Side, in San Francsco, in Brussels, Milan, London and so on will never pay those costs. They will never be accountable for the damage they inflict on people and animals.  In this case, the Africans pay the cost; and their animals pay the costs. Africa’s lifestyles and culture and health and future are at risk. Not theirs.

This is insanity: that hunting restrictions are imposed by people who will never pay a price for being wrong.

Here is the key: These are the arguments we should make. These are persuasive arguments. These arguments appeal to the decency of humanity. These arguments will resonate with the vast middle of humanity who are currently uninformed about hunting but who value human and animal life. You should repeat these arguments unceasingly in every forum and venue and media platform with such intensity as if your lives and those of the animals depended upon it, because they do.

I suggest these can be effective arguments for defending hunting and which will appeal to our students. Why? Because it makes them stronger people; it makes them more honorable people; it empowers them to stand up for what they believe.

Cecil the Lion

The Cecil situation could have been presented as one of the finest moments to educate and advance iconic game hunting. It wasn’t. We missed an opportunity.

Please see my article Eight Strategies To Effectively Handle The Next Cecil:

First of all, giving animals names, anthropomorphizing them—Bambi, Cecil-- infantilizes the animals and  trivializes them. It demeans the animals and it also denies reality.

Let’s look at the context of killing the lion, 

Let’s begin with the assumption that Walter Palmer acted illegally. He didn’t, but let’s assume he did.

What if Walter Palmer did the worst! The worst!!! He illegally lured the lion from the park with a plate of fresh gemsbok backstrap with a tomato cream Marsala sauce and then afterwards offered to do free dental cleaning on its teeth!

We should have asked this question, a question perfected from forty years of practicing law.. arguing to judges and juries… the one question that is among the most powerful incisive electrifying questions the human mind can conceive:

Here it is: Therefor what? Therefore what?  A crasser form of the question is: So what? What should we do as a consequence of that act?

 One hunter out of thousands illegally killed a lion. Therefore what?

Poachers kill tens of thousands of animals; thousands of animals die natural deaths including being killed by other animals. People commit tens of millions of crimes every day for all kinds of activities. Police make mistakes and do wrong, lawyers, doctors, airline pilots, politicians  sometimes commit crimes.

Therefore what?

Life is unfair. Therefore what?

Should we close down our hospitals? End all government? Eliminate air travel? Have no more police forces?

Well, if Palmer acted illegality, he should be punishment, No argument there.

But then, therefore what?

Legal or illegal: our strongest position should have been: what policy yields the most moral consequences?

We didn’t figure out the logic—actually, the lack of logic—of the attack against hunting. We allowed ourselves to be victimized by one of the most pernicious logical fallacies: extrapolating the single event into a general policy. The anti-hunting world argued that all lion hunting was bad—evil—because killing Cecil was bad. It is not a logical argument but it is an effective argument. And it was effectively largely because the hunters didn’t fight back logically, forcefully and intelligently.


Cecil and the black rhino offered us those opportunities. We didn’t take advantage of them sufficiently.

The anti-hunters are committed to a perverse romanticized abstraction of the lives of animals. The anti-hunters act as if they believe that life in the veldt is an Henri Rousseau painting depicting the lion and the springbok in lush green grass waiting for a meal of non-GMO, organic, locally sourced, gluten-free steamed broccoli and brown rice!

The reality, however, is quite harsh and to the contrary. The airline bans will kill more lions than a thousand Walter Palmers.

And, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, those who choose animal protection over sustainable animal conservation will get neither.

The reaction of the anti-hunter seems to emanate from the reptilian part of the brain, propelled by volatile, irrational emotion unmoored from mature, deliberative reason and an acknowledgment of consequence. . Those anti-hunters are the ideal target for Colonel Nathan Jessup’s ire, wjem, in the movie, A Few Good Men, he screamed at Lieutenant Caffey, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Their need to feel good about themselves and to feel morally superior blocks intellectual curiosity and moral reasoning.

And I suggest there is much truth in the statement by French Philosopher Blaise Pascal-- Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when done with a good conscience.

Teaching the skill to acquire clarity empowers our students. Clarity makes them stronger people and stronger advocates for hunting.


Words have power

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language; 1946; happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

Heed =Orwell’s observation: He who controls the language controls the argument and he who controls the argument wins.

Caring, compassion

You’ve heard the accusations: You hunters are murderers. You kill innocent beautiful creatures. You kill out of blood lust. You don’t care about the animals.

You have no compassion.. which in our tender therapeutic culture is a characterization equivalent to being a child molester or not recycling.

Think about the black rhino hunt; think about the consequences of the bans after the Cecil incident. Who has compassion? Which group’s actions keep the animals alive: the anti-hunter or the hunter? Which group has compassion? The anti-hunter or the hunter?

The answer is obvious.

Trophy hunting

Please see my article Trophy Hunting: the Use and Abuse of Terminology

Here are some of my key points: The phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is vague, and the quality of vagueness gives it its power. The phrase can mean whatever someone wants it to mean. If you try to pin down someone’s use of the phrase, the person can escape by saying, “that’s not what I mean.”

The phrase “trophy hunting” is weaponized to attack all hunting.

Another effect in the accusation of being a trophy hunter is the accusation focuses on intentions rather than consequences. This clever sleight-of-hand ignores the benefits of hunting by focusing on the assumed state of mind of the hunter.

Defending against the attacks by anti-trophy hunters requires skill and mental agility. These qualities are not so common.

The phrase “trophy hunting” is unethical and abusive. We don’t say “trophy soccer”, or “trophy boating” or “trophy skiing”. Why “trophy hunting”?  I have heard the phrase “trophy wife,” but that’s an entirely different lecture.

Gun culture: The reference to a ‘gun culture’ is another rhetorical attack on hunters and on people who own and or possess firearms. The phrase is intended to evoke thoughts of a dark malevolent proclivity of hunters / gun owners/ users to be enveloped by the power of a destructive philosophy or tendency, a culture. It’s the gun culture that compels all the inner-city kids to kill and maim so many.

How do hunters / gun owners fight back? I think of the scene in the Godfather… Moe Green attacking Michael Corleone, who responds… the Corleone family bankrolled your casino; the Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety… you want to talk business. Let’s talk business. And so, we hunters make an analogy: You want to talk culture, let’s talk culture. The culture of dependency; the culture of single mothers; the culture of absent fathers; the culture of anti intellectualism and ant education… all of these lead to gun deaths. If you respond to those anti gun ‘gun culture’ accusations that way, I assure you the only culture they’ll want to talk about is the culture in buttermilk and yogurt.

North American Model

The NAM is one of the foundational blocks of the hunter education curriculum. You all know it; you can likely recite it in your sleep.

Understanding the role of the NAM illustrates another example of – another application of The Big Picture.

Here are the elements of the North American Model:

Beginning in the late 1800s, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and other conservationist realized they needed to establish limits to protect rapidly disappearing wildlife, and assume responsibility for managing wild lands. These principles eventually became The North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which has been critical to the success of wildlife management throughout North America.

The North American Wildlife Conservation Model

  Wildlife is a public resource. All wildlife are held in the public trust and managed by government for the benefit of all people.

  Eliminate the market for wildlife. Strong laws and enforcement make it illegal to sell the meat or parts of any wild animal in North America.

  Manage wildlife through law. Hunters are allowed to harvest surplus wildlife. Laws and regulations exist to protect wildlife populations and ensure fair opportunity.

  Hunting should be democratic. In North America, every citizen has an opportunity to hunt and fish in compliance with the law. Hunting is not limited by private land owners or special privilege.

  Wildlife should only be killed only for legitimate reasons. There must be a balance between opportunity and regulation. Many states and provinces have laws and regulations protecting against the “wanton waste” of wildlife. In North America, the broad guidelines that restrain use are for food, fur and predator control.

  Wildlife species are an international resource. Wildlife management in one country will affect wildlife elsewhere. Working collaboratively, the United States and Canada manage land and wildlife to make sure that no country takes more than its share of the common resource.

  Use science to guide wildlife management decisions. Wildlife management based on population estimates and habitat research helps ensure stewardship and prudent decision-making.


What is the big picture? How does the NAWMC survive?

What has to exist before it can exist?

A unique political economy… capitalism… free markets, leisure time, laws that permit ownership and possession of firearms; roads and energy…

That’s the big picture. Educating students on this big picture will commit them to hunting and the shooting sports. It is the glue that will create a lifetime adherence to hunting. And it makes the students stronger; more articulate, more confident, more capable of defending hunting. It makes them proud.

What do I mean?

Recently there was an article in Forbes Magazine illustrating how capitalism is saving the animals.

How Capitalism Is Saving And Expanding Africa's Wildlife Populations

Recall one of the attacks in the Cecil incident.. characterizing Palmer as a ‘rich doctor’   trying to attack hunting through class warfare

I don’t know if Palmer was rich. He may have have saved all his life for that hunt… but, the animals would all be dead if weren’t for people who could afford to travel and participate. People who spend money on hunting conserve the animal species. It’s that simple. You want animals to survive? You need people with means to hunt them. Take your pick. There is no third way.

Here’s a question for us to ponder: Since hunters keep the animals alive, is there a moral duty to hunt?  What do you think of that question

Share these perspectives with your students.. show them the larger picture.. and show them they are part of this larger process… they will feel proud, honored to be a hunter…

This is one method to implementing The 3 Rs: get people committed to hunting, even if the person does not hunt, but persuading the person of hunting’s virtues.

Let us be practical; let us be persuasive.

Phronesis is a word derived from Greek philosophy which means ‘practical reasoning.’ We must be practical. We must evaluate the logic and morality of consequences of our actions.

Joke: Ours is prettier.

Mark Duda and Shifting Financial Support for Hunting

This is exciting material… this is a game changer;

This is the equivalent of the unifying field in physics…

Research finding from Mark Duda, and his company, Responsive Management

 In contrast to hunters, who are familiar with how

their purchases connect to wildlife conservation,

we cannot assume that sport shooters will have the

same understanding. It’s likely that educational

efforts through coordinated partnerships will be

needed to ensure that non-hunting sport shooters

have a firm understanding of the goals of the PR Act

and how the funds are used to establish new shooting

ranges as well as manage wildlife and habitat

conservation in their state. These educational

efforts will be especially important in urban areas

where wildlife management is a less important issue

than the demand for adequate shooting ranges.


Again, to me, this data is a game changer, that can unify hunters with the larger shooting community. What an opportunity for modifying curriculum to include non-hunters who are firearms users. Every bullet helps build habitat! Every arrow helps protect elk and bear!

This is huge!


We might find it prudent to re-frame the scope of our educational materials and to build alliances with non-hunting organizations.

Standing Up for Hunting: skills


Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions: APHA

I attended the annual meeting of African Professional Hunters Association at the 2017 SCI convention. Wonderful dedicated all! However, one statement troubled me. Citing Cecil, an attendee said that “that the world will not tolerate unethical behavior.” I disagreed. There is no world in any unified sense, I said. Moreover, the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior. Indeed, the Cecil event proved my point rather than the speaker’s. Additionally, this so-called world has no interest in ascertaining ethical behavior or supporting it. A hunting community, I argued, that seeks to appease ‘the world’ and which acts upon the belief that the world will embrace hunting if hunters are universally ethical is doomed to commit suicide.

Please understand that truth is meaningless unless someone is persuaded that truth has meaning. Facts do not advance themselves. Arguments do not compel on their own. We must, therefor, persuade.


It is delusional to believe that the organized anti-hunting advocates—well-funded animal organizations and European and American NGOs—will come to accept elephant, rhino, leopard hunting and remove bans on trading ivory and rhino horn if only they knew the facts. This thinking is self-destructive. It is idiocy. They know what we know. They read the reports, the data, the arguments. Secrets do not exist. Rather, they don’t care. They have different agendas; they submit to different ideologies, they make their money based on different arguments. We must understand that reality if we are to craft winning strategies and rhetoric.

The anti-hunters are willing to impose on the world’s hunting regions, generally, and African hunting nations and their populations, specifically, costs that these far-removed wealthy elites will never pay. African hunting nations, specifically, find themselves in the untenable and frankly, absurd, situation of being dictated to by people who will pay no consequences for being wrong.

Polish Glider Pilot: An Exercise in Persuasion

I had been reading the fascinating book, Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

I wanted to see how persuasive I could be, if at all.

I asked him questions to establish a baseline: do you favor more animals than fewer? Do you concede animals can die brutal deaths from predation, disease, starvation, poaching? He acknowledged all of these facts.

I told him about the black rhinos I had seen the day before… and the black rhino hunt auction of the DSC.. and the vicious anti hunt response.. death threats and so forth..

I told him that the large male black rhino had already killed five young rhinos. I explained the elements, the components.

I concluded by showing how hunting aligned with his values.

He said to me, with a soft voice: “I am not a hunter. I am against hunting. But one must keep an open mind. I would support that hunt.”

To me, that was a small triumph.

I hope I can teach every hunter the persuasion skills so we all can have these triumphs.

The animals need us to triumph.

So, how do we win the hearts and minds of non-hunters? How do we defend and advance hunting? Through persuasion, by showing how hunting fulfills the values they already hold; and by confidence. Every trial lawyer knows that confidence is often more persuasive than the facts.

Confidence and honor: instill these qualities in our students and they will be life-long hunting advocates.

Namibia PH: stay under the radar

I share another personal experience.

A Professional Hunter at the Veronica farm in Namibia asked what I was going to talk about in my speeches in two days. I summarized the themes of my talk.

He volunteered that hunters feel so beaten down they avoid any discussion about hunting; they try to stay under the radar. They fear attracting attention. He is not alone advocating this strategy. This is the perspective a many high-priced consulting firms: be silent; let the conflagration blow over.

I absorbed his words, let them marinate for a moment and then said, “No, that is precisely the wrong mindset.” You must re-frame the issue. You must fight back.

I told him that silence and avoidance show weakness and lack of confidence. And the most fundamental law of all fundamental laws of human nature is that weakness invites more aggression. Then I went to my room and added this story to my speeches.

Concluding Comments

Tell your stories

The collective wisdom and expertise in this room is stunning… vast.. encyclopedic. Use it.

Examples I Use:


Luke anecdote .. I met Luke at an Outdoor Buddies pheasant shoot. Outdoor Buddies offers outdoor activities to severely disabled folks. The hunt began and a dozen participants motored through the cornfields in their electric motor trakkers like silent tank divisions.

Luke was 10 years old. He told me how he began to hunt with his grandfather and then with his father. Then he spoke the money phrase, a nugget of pure gold: He said: “ I’d rather be out here hunting, helping people, being outside, not sitting home playing on the computer the way my friends do.” These youngsters can be reached with this message.

What a story!!!!!!!!!!! Now Luke’s story is your story.

See Rod Slings notes

-the experiences they had from enforcement duties… example: a hunter had just been shot..,,. And his interviews.. and … instructors are the front side of hunter education.. make the initial contact.,. and he is an investigator… and he comes in after the tragedy… where there was a failure of following what was taught on the front side… when you are not going to shoot your best friend when the pheasant rises… now more of a challenge.. when states have gone to administrators that were not enforcement…

Texas hunters donating food

Cliff Tulpa shared a link to the group: Hunting & Angling in the Northern Hemisphere....

With an abundance of wild boar in Texas, some hunters are making a difference and helping to feed the homeless with wild boar dinners.

These stories make your students feel connected to the larger picture. These stories inspire your students. These stories make your students feel proud.

--and then can share their stories.. with the passion.. of someone who has never seen these results … key: how the instrocutrs share their stories… to inspire them.. convince them of the importance of what they do.. a giving of their most important commodity, their time… the gift of the hunt…

--gives you greater weight, persuasive effect

Don’t be captive to the curriculum

Say… I read an article by Craig Boddington

I saw a video of a speech by Shane Mahoney

I chatted with a game enforcement officer…

-and always ask, what do you think?

Relate to my book… what makes you most proud?

The students want to feel your power; feel your passion; feel you commitment. They want flesh and blood

Your narratives engage more complex areas of the brain…

Administrators and instructors contribute mightily to the larger vision. We have a powerful persuasive message: We are a  “a nation with a culture” and “a reason for being.” We offer an experience worth fighting for.  

Your confidence and passion will influence students more than any curriculum.

Steve Hall told me that hunter education instructors are ‘givers’ but not all are very verbal. Remember, you are Socrates. You have the experience. If possible, I can help give you some words.

I hope some of my ideas are helpful. Reach out to me if you have ideas that can enrich my writing or the book I am writing for instructors and students

Thank you 

Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology

By Michael Sabbeth


“What's in a name?

That which we call rose by another other name would smell as sweet.”

Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

The history of the phrases “trophy hunting” and “trophy hunter” is imprecise, but whatever their history, their meanings have suffered an evolution from a morally neutral denotation to a phrase freighted down by vile connotations. In this essay, I assert that the phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is vague and essentially without coherent meaning, yet, its vagueness is the source of its power for attacking hunters and hunting. I offer levels of analysis of the phrase and show how understanding its unethical architecture can help us refute the anti-trophy hunting attackers and, thereby advance hunting’s interests.

I met Volker Grellmann, esteemed Namibian author, teacher and professional hunter, after my first presentation at the 2016 NAPHA annual conference this past November. He shared, with some lament, that he may be partially responsible for infusing the phrase “trophy hunting” into the lexicon when he attempted to distinguish non-commercial from commercial meat hunting.

Whatever his influence, research by Jan Manning, my dear colleague and skilled hunter education instructor, informs of earlier uses of the phrases.  In 1968 hunter and author Elgin Gates published a book titled, "A Trophy Hunter in Asia" and in 1971 a book titled "A Trophy Hunter in Africa."  The term "Trophy Hunter" was in regular use at the time, and, in fact, carried a degree of social status. The Boone and Crockett Club, founded in 1887, was then and is now best known for its records of North American trophies.  The British taxidermist Roland Ward started his "Records of Big Game" in 1897 to record the trophies taken primarily by British sportsmen around the world.  Sir Samuel Baker, who died in 1893, was widely known as an explorer and big game trophy hunter.

Trophy Hunting Is a Virtue

In much of the organized hunting world, ‘trophy hunting’ denotes a virtue. The incisive science-based writings of Ron Thomson, for example, irrefutably illustrate the virtues of trophy hunting. This past September at the CITES Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, a resolution on trade in hunting trophies was adopted unanimously recognizing that:

“Well-managed and sustainable trophy hunting is consistent with and contributes to species conservation, as it provides both livelihood opportunities for rural communities and incentives for habitat conservation, and generates benefits which can be invested for conservation purposes.”

The April 2016 Briefing Paper of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) addressed bans on trophy hunting imports. The Paper stated, in part:

“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. Well-managed trophy hunting, which takes place in many parts of the world, can and does generate critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and to carry out conservation actions, (including anti-poaching interventions). In many parts of the world indigenous and local communities have chosen to use trophy hunting as a strategy for conservation of their wildlife and to improve sustainable livelihoods.”

Trophy hunting would seem to be an unqualified good for animal conservation and enriching human communities. Why, then, is trophy hunting so feverishly attacked by anti-hunters?  

The Rhetoric of Trophy Hunting

Words have power. Words show biases. Words frame issues. Word shape arguments. George Orwell wrote, “Those who control the language control the argument, and those who control the argument win!” Anti-hunters have controlled the language. I offer strategies to regain its control.

I have written and lectured that a war of abusive words is being ferociously waged against hunters through the profligate use of the phrase “trophy hunter.” The phrase has become weaponized. For the anti-hunter, the phrase is the sordid equivalent of such thuggish accusatory phrases presently degrading our culture such as ‘racist’ or ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi.’

As with all effective propaganda, the anti-hunter uses the power of imagery to besmirch the hunter. Negative false extreme stereotypes present the hunter as a beer-swilling tobacco-spitting knuckle-dragging murderer joyously slaughtering innocent beautiful animals out of blood lust and vanity. Not food nor game management nor the quest for a unique experience inspires the hunter, only bloody braggadocio.

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, for example, support hunting. But if asked if they support ‘trophy hunting,’ public support for hunting drops like an anchor. Why?

To answer the question and to regain control of the language, we must understand the logical and ethical defects in this anti-hunting attack. I offer seven examples how the phrase ‘trophy hunter’ is abused. Only by understanding the moral defects of the attacks can we craft strategies to win the war of words.

FIRST: anti-hunters advance the misrepresentation, no doubt intentionally by many, that trophy or conservation hunters do not eat the meat.  In fact, very little if any of the animal goes to waste. Almost all meat is consumed, either by the hunter, the outfitter and his employees, or is donated to schools, villages, orphanages or old-age homes.

In British Columbia, Canada I interviewed Dr. Valerius Geist, renowned scientist, author, biologist and hunter. He offered a biologist’s insight into consuming meat taken by hunting. The biological value of an animal is an inconsistent guide to a meaningful definition of ‘trophy’ animal status, he told me. Geist explained that large ‘trophy animals’ in many species are shikars; defined as a lazy animal that does not reproduce. The animal’s biology prevents it from losing much body fat and, thus, although the animal and its horns get larger, it does not strengthen the herd. Many ‘trophy’ animals are too old to reproduce.

The value of a ‘trophy’ animal as a source of meat may be also misplaced. Geist noted that many “trophy animals” have terrible meat and thus would not be logically taken for consuming but could ethically be taken for other reasons. Also note, basing the morality of a hunt on the single criteria of eating the meat is deceitful and illogical. Other consequences are as much as or more relevant in determining the hunt’s morality.

SECOND: 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 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. Also, ambiguity enables the attacker to avoid responsibility for their beliefs while hiding their larger anti-hunting agenda. 

Here’s the key to unlock the intent of the anti-trophy hunter’s words. In his 1946 Essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell asserted that our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.  ‘Trophy hunting’ is a slovenly phrase. It leads to foolish thoughts. Its vagueness has strategic value: it becomes easier to make foolish and inaccurate accusations against a larger collection of hunting activities and it makes it more difficult for the hunter to defend him or herself. The slovenliness is employed not only to attack a certain kind of hunter but to attack all hunting.

THIRD:  the phrase is morally flawed by two logical fallacies. The first is the strawman argument. The fallacy works like this. Since anything negative can be described as a trophy, all things negative become the strawman. It is easy to successfully attack a highly negative abstraction. Then the successful attack against the strawman—for example, attacking a hunter who kills an exotic animal for the mount and leaves the carcass to rot—is used as proof that the attacker has successfully attacked all hunters because in some manner they are all trophy hunters. An attack is made on one target and then the claim is made that a different target was persuasively attacked. This logical fallacy is effective because it challenges the hunter to exhibit considerable intellectual and rhetorical skills to fight back while being on the defensive.

The second logical fallacy is using the singular event to condemn all events. An anti-trophy hunter might select a specific practice—which can be rare—he finds objectionable. By condemning that practice with the vague ‘trophy hunting’ phrase the opponent indulges in the logical fallacy of besmirching all hunting.

The phrase ‘trophy hunting’ is valued by anti-hunters because it enables them to appear discriminating and intelligent and thereby mask their irrational anti-hunting bias. It’s like covering a ship’s rotting hull with a fresh coat of paint.

The phrase stifles debate. Someone attacks trophy hunting and the listener must either make an informed logical rebuttal (in terms of skill, this is difficult for many to do) or continue the discussion with nit picking at examples but—and this is the key point—letting the opponent define its terms.  

FOURTH: hunters have allowed anti-hunters to frame trophy hunting in terms of INTENTIONS rather than of CONSEQUENCES. This framing gives anti-hunters control of the language. Why should the hunter’s intentions determine the morality of trophy hunting if the consequences are virtuous—clean water, more food for villagers; reducing poaching, conservation of animals? An appropriate response to the accusation of killing an animal as a trophy is “So what?” It is immoral to assert that trophy hunting is wrong or unethical based on the hunter’s intentions when the consequences are virtuous.


FIFTH: hunters and their advocates 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.

SIXTH: there is a darker, more insidious aspect of anti-trophy hunting assault. 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.

SEVENTH: those who condemn trophy hunters; who call them murderers, have failed in 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. Their behavior and words are mere moral preening and virtue signaling in pursuit of morality on the cheap. They are immune to human suffering, to animal suffering, to truth, logic and consequences. They are shallow smug people consumed by a need to feel good despite their behavior leading to destructive consequences. I am reminded of the statement by French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when done with a good conscience.” I argue these people have a moral duty to transcend their ignorance. The duty is particularly acute when animals and native populations are threatened and even more exigent when the attackers are relatively wealthy far-removed people who will never pay a price for their ignorance.



The anti-hunting attacks are Darwinian—they continue because they work. At the core of the anti-trophy hunting arguments, and the persons making the arguments, are the assumptions that the animals will always be there; that the infrastructure of government and legitimate conservation groups will always be there, and some force, unidentified, will save the animals from the policies the anti-trophy hunters want to implement. They want all the dynamics of hunting to change, yet they do not want the success of past policies to disappear.

The task of conservationists and hunters is to analyze the underlying logic and morality of the anti-trophy hunting attacks, identify their weaknesses in morality and logic and then use those deficiencies to craft strategies for fighting back. We can do so justifiably with confidence, logic and moral certainty. 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. The cost of failure is high, not so much for the hunters but for the animals. Once they are gone, after a generation they won’t be missed at all, and all of humanity will be diminished from that loss.


Michael Sabbeth is the author of The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. See He is currently writing the book Proud to Hunt: Tips for Being an Effective Instructor and Student





Atlanta, Georgia

August 3, 2016

Michael G. Sabbeth, Esq.


As Presented at the Conference










Table of Contents 




Introduction. 4

I will talk about: 4

To begin I share three  anecdotes. 5

The environment 5

Clarity: 5

Motivation: 6

Black rhino:  a case study. 6

Priscilla Feral and the gazelles. 7

Quote: Thomas Pain. 9

Caring, compassion and Empathy. 10

Gunnison. 11

It’s Not Natural! 11

Black Rhino and Feral: Who Has Compassion?. 12

Rhetoric. 13

Examples; 13

Gun Control 13

Gun Culture. 14

Safari: 14

Trophy hunting. 15

Moral Clarity: A Socratic Dialogue. 15

Sensible gun laws. 17

Debating. 17

Crucial Conversations 17

Fighting back. 18

Sandy Hook. 18

Cecil 19

Poaching in Botswana: 21

Craig Boddington. 22

Unity and Katie Couric. 22

Churchill quote. 23

Lessons: Fighting Back. 25

Author quotes and analysis. 25

James Swan. 25

Concluding Thoughts 26






I am honored to be among you

So many insightful comments and perspectives… I have tried to integrate many of your comments into this talk


You have devoted much of your lives to conservation, writing, hunting  advocating for hunting rights. I am a relative newcomer

Words are needed for conversations. I am here to share my thoughts on how to have effective conversations; persuasive conversations; conversations that advance our goals.

Words can persuade toward virtue and words can subvert virtue.

words spread truth and words spread lies. I

 I hope, to advance and defend hunting.

It is my hope Russian hackers who are hunters will take interest in these files on my computer.


I will talk about:

The environment in which we must operate

Factual and Moral Clarity

Rhetoric with an emphasis of not surrendering the language to our opponents


How to Use Compassion, Kindness and Altruism to Refute Anti Hunters

Arguments for Fighting Back

Katie Couric, Cecil the Lion and the Black Rhino Auction in Dallas

And some concluding thoughts

To begin I share three anecdotes


Mgs hunting kudu in Natal,  S Africa… with Marcus Luttrell   my only big game hunting experience

Lady Colorado Division of Wildlife

The Worm Story


The environment

John Storm: change is constant. Yes, but some things do not change. Human nature does not change. And that is important to us in crafting our messages.

Vanity, narcissism, wanting to do good but wanting to take the easy route… all that has not changed.

An era .. a culture where oten truth does not matter;

-where consequences do not matter

Political Correctness: the emphasis is on the political, as in George Orwell’s prescient 1946 essay Politics and the English Language : it’s about politics and politics is about only one thing… one thing: power: who has it and who does not; who controls others; who can hurt others and who cannot. Who defines the permissible language.




Clarity is vitally important. Clarity should precede agreement or disagreement because clarity illuminates values, contradictions, moral strengths or moral flaws of an argument or policy.

Only when you can master the moral and Intellectual foundations of an argument can you fully defend it or craft strategies to refute the argument.

Non hunting Examples:

minimum wage

If you favor a minimum wage, you favor increased unemployment for minorities and youth generally


 that was discussed.

Here are some thoughts

We are judged, according to many of our speakers, in part by our motivation for hunting.

Should we permit such a standard of judgment without fighting back?

If food from hunters is distributed to the needy, is the motivation of the hunter morally relevant?

If a village gets cleaner water from the fees of the hunter, is the state of mind of the hunter morally relevant?

Why is motivation important?

Why do they get to judge the merit of our motivation?

We have to fight that.

My point: why give the anti hunter authority to define the rectitude of our behavior?


Black rhino:  a case study

Such a powerful illuminating example on many levels…

I wrote an article for Fair Chase Magazine Boone and Crockett, Black Rhinos and Strong Horses: A Template for Applying Persuasive Arguments

I interviewed Simeone Niilenge Negumbo, the Republic of Namibia’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and his colleague, Elly Hamunyela, Namibia’s Deputy Director of Wildlife Utilization.


Aged rhino; non reproductive; was destroying other rhino and other animals; was destroying property; the money from the auction would be used for anti poaching programs, clean water programs, land reclamation, schools, and so forth.

Those are the facts.


Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, who was recruiting opponents to protest on Saturday, the evening of the auction, asserted it was barbaric to hunt and kill an animal just because it was old and unable to reproduce. Ms. Oxley’s assertion merits scrutiny.

Here is how I deconstruct her words.

Her character, her integrity—and those who think like her—are discerned not only by what she thinks is barbaric but by what she thinks is not barbaric. Herein lies the strategy for gaining moral clarity of her beliefs and which offers the most persuasive method to refute her positions.


Clarity: they prefer impoverishing children and consuming dirty water, increased poaching  and, by the way, killing the animals rather than get money from a hunt of one animal in a very unique class. Those are the consequences; There is no argument.


We now know with clarity their values.  That must be our message…


Priscilla Feral and the gazelles

The three species of African antelope — the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle — are already nearly extinct in their native Africa. But they are thriving on the plains of Texas, mostly on ranches where hunters pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of hunting them.

Priscilla Feral on TV program: Sixty Minutes:  I would prefer they all die rather than inhabit their non-natural habitat in Texas

Since 2005 an exemption to the Endangered Species Act has allowed ranchers to raise the three species, and hunters to stalk them, without a special permit. In all, Texas ranchers had about 1,800 of the animals in 2004. With the exemption in place, those numbers swelled to more than 17,000 by 2011.

CBS News aired a “60 Minutes” feature story about the controversy on Jan. 29. Priscilla Feral, president of the animal rights group Friends of Animals, told correspondent Lara Logan that she has waged a seven-year legal battle to get the exemption overturned.

Thank you, by the way, for the epic legal work done by our own Anna Seidman and the SCI legal team for defeating Ms. Feral’s legal attack.

: Feral was  using Danae’s word, blunt. And

about as subtle as having Lucca Brazzi wearing a tutu and dancing in Swan Lake ballet

-now, she may be vicious; she may be spiteful; she may hate animals… but whatever else she is, she is clear…

This, I suggest, comprises our strongest arguments in defense of hunting…

This should have been our finest hour

We should have spoken confidently…. Aggressively… and as any trial lawyer and any communications expert knows, confidence trumps content…. … that is not a political endorsement…

Confidence scares off people who are uncertain, which is most of humanity most of the time.

As Osama Bin Ladn pontificated, people prefer a strong horse to a weak horse. We became weak, I suggest.

Instead, we became defensive, reacting, letting the anti hunters define the context; frame the issues…

We missed an opportunity


Here’s a key point: we aggressively counter attack and refute the Oxleys and Ferals, not because we expect to change their opinions, but to influence the vast middle… the people who are open to reason, to facts, to logic, and who care about animals.

That is our target audience … not the strident anti hunters

A few thoughts here:

Quote: Thomas Pain

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. Thomas Pain


And, as we lawyers say, It is pointless to argue with a person whose living depends on disagreeing with you.

And, in terms of persuasion, As a general proposition, people do not thank you for pointing out how stupid they are.

Here is the skill: focus on the consequences – not the platitudes.. that’s how we can make the best arguments to defend and advance hunting and be most credible for that vast middle ground


 focus on reality; not abstractions;


Nature is not a Rousseau painting, where the lion lays down with the lamb waiting for a meal of tofu and steamed broccoli

We need to be practical; to think practically: What the Greek philosophers called practical reasoning: phronesis:

Here’s a joke that illustrates phronesis:

Here’s a joke that embodies practical reasoning.

Our’s is prettier

Don’t wear anything expensive


Caring, compassion and Empathy


Every form of addiction is bad, whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. Carl Gustav Jung

Barbara Oakley: Cold-Blooded Kindness,   a study of a murder of her husband by a woman who took advantage of people’s decency: P. 206


But, as polymath science fiction writer David Brin observes, this feeling of certainty can feel so good that it can sometimes become an addiction. We can see this addiction first hand in self-righteous people, who are keen to wallow in the wonderful feeling that they are right and their “opponents are deeply, despicably wrong. Or that their methods of helping others is so purely motivated and correct that all criticism can be dismissed with a shrug, along with any contradictory evidence.” Good intentions don’t somehow elevate us above this personal conundrum.


We can be accused of this defect also.. but the accusation is fallacious. We seek truth; we act based on consequences; we make corrections when evidence dictates. That’s the difference between us and them.

And also: p. 212

McGilchrist goes on to point out that left-hemisphere dominance seems characterized by “denial, a tendency to conformism, a willingness to disregard the evidence, a habit of ducking responsibility (and) a blindness to mere experience in the face of overwhelming evidence of a theory.”



Here are some quotations that provide a useful framework to think about the rhetoric of caring and compassion:


"Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience." Blaise Pascal,

Recently wrote an article on this topic for Scott’s Mountain Hunter Magazine


The rhetoric of Compassion Caring, Empathy: these are the current God like terms in our culture’s nomenclature… caring… I feel your pain… not caring is the equivalent of child molestation or not recycling aluminum cans…


--deer and elk freezing; starving; hunters and Colo Div Wildlife made heroic efforts to feed the animals asked for help from so called animal rights groups, so called conservation groups --- they all refused to help: they gave primarily 2 reasons for refusing to help:

         Why should we help you save animals that you are going to kill?

         It Nature’s way


Let’s examine the arguments:

Kill animals.. how many? Which will yield more animals?

Nature’s way: an orthodoxy they don’t believe

It’s Not Natural!

Romanticized notion of Nature: the lion sitting with the lamb, as in a Rousseau painting, waiting for a dinner of tofu and steamed broccoli

Nature is death; Nature is disease; Nature is starvation; Nature is cruelty


If they get cancer, get into a car crash, get attacked during a crime.. they don’t care about Nature anymore. They want the best medical care; unrelenting prosecution of their attacker;

They made a calculation.. a moral and financial calculation.. that they would prosper better if the animals died

Why do they make such false arguments?

Because they work

They are Darwinian: they survive because they are useful

Why do such false arguments survive?

Because, in part, we have not been effective in refuting them and shaming them and humiliating them.

The argument: who has compassion? Hunters or so called animal rights group?

The hunters have compassion and the anti hunters choose to kill the animals.

That’s the argument


Black Rhino and Feral: Who Has Compassion?


That’s the argument we must make: the facts are on our side; morality is on our side; consequences are on our side. We just need to step up our game in the rhetoric field.


True, most people want to do something; they want to do good. But wanting is not enough. And here is a point we must make: motivation does not matter. Either you do good or you do not do good.

A person is morally responsible for the logical consequences of his or her policies and beliefs.

They want to do good, so they say, but they are actually doing harm.

We can state this message gently or harshly, but the message must be communicated. Intent is not enough.



Mark Duda said “It’s not what you say that counts; it’s what people hear.”

Well, he’s technically correct. But certainly what you say and how you say it dictates in large measure what people hear.

Aristotle’s teachings on rhetoric: ethos, pathos, logos: focus on the audience

Rhetoric is persuasion. But it’s a lot more:

It’s how to refute; how to stop an argument; how to counterattack


One of the hunter education instructors I interviewed said this regarding the anti hunter: first, shut them up, then push them back and then have a reasonable conversation.

That requires skills in rhetoric




Gun Control

What does the phrase mean?

Wayne LaPierre: I told him.. the NRA should present itself as the most effective gun control organization in the nation…

So should the NSSF etc..

What does the phrase mean?

What is the effect when we commit to using words that have no meaning?

Who opposes gun control?

The rhetoric exhibits the logical fallacy of the Straw Man argument: it creates a false target and then seeks to gain moral authority and intellectual credibility by destroying the false target.



Armed teachers is not the answer: logical fallacy: strawman argument: it is not the answer.. true… but the question is: is it a partial answer?


Gun Culture

Put with Gun Culture and Michael Corleone…. The Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety…

It is dangerous to use phrases that have no meaning; it is more dangerous to allow people to demagogue by using phrases that have no meaning.

I think of the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone responds to Moe Green’s challenge to ‘talk business.’ Michael Corleone: “The Corleone family bankrolled your hotel; the Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety. You want to talk business, let’s talk business.”

You want to talk about gun culture then let’s talk about lots of cultures. Let’s talk about the culture of dependency; the culture of fatherless families, the culture of violence Each one of the cultures leads to social decay and crime, including crimes with firearms.

So, you want to talk culture, let’s talk culture. If you can make such a rhetorical connection, I assure you the only culture your opponent will want to talk about is the culture in yogurt!


Evidently safari now has a negative connotation

Our responses:

Safaris save animals

Safaris provide for schools

Safaris feed needy people


We have to be very cautious when we allow opponents dictate what words we can use. Recall Orwell and political correctness


Trophy hunting

The word ‘trophy’ seems to be causing a lot of misery for us, especially when the word precedes ‘hunting.’

Well, there are sports trophies; even trophy wives, and now we have trouble with trophy hunting.


What does the phrase mean?

Ponder this:

If you kill an animal and give the meat to the needy, is that trophy hunting?

Think of my words regarding motivation

If you kill an animal and thereby allow for greater reproduction by younger male animals, is that trophy hunting?

If you hunt and consume the meat but mount the head etc on the wall, is that trophy hunting?

If killing an animal thereby helps sustain a village, is that a defilement of the animal?

If not, what is the stigma to trophy hunting?


Moral Clarity: A Socratic Dialogue

         You want to preserve the animals?

         You are in favor of policies that preserve the animals?

         Preserving the animals is your main value?

         You are against trophy hunting because it slaughters the animals for no purpose than to display it and you think it reflects the hunter’s vanity?

         If I demonstrated that hunting saves the animals, would you change your mind about hunting?

         Give data

         If the animal is eaten, does it matter if the animal is eaten by the hunter?

         Do you now accept the reality that a trophy animal for one participant may be needed food for another participant?

         Do you accept that trophy hunting preserves animals?

         Do you now accept trophy hunting as legitimate?

So: ponder this: you are accused of being a trophy hunter.

Your response: damn right, and proud of it.

There effect: defang the attack; take away their power.

The anti goes apoplectic: I’m trying to insult you and you agree with me?

Perhaps my next article will be: Proud to be a Trophy Hunter!!


Again: the danger here is allowing the anti hunter to control our language.


And for whatever it’s worth, not using the word ‘trophy’ won’t change the minds of the anti hunter. Most likely, they will see us as weak. Strong horse and all.


Dealing with Wayne Parcell strategy: in the debate, changing topic to lying tobacco experts. How dare you!!

How dare you make a moral equivalence between shooting an animal and methodical lying about human health.


Andy Dufresne

We have to find the wit and will to break through the rhetoric of the mass culture, kind of like Andy Dufresne slogging through all that sewage in the Shawshank Redemption…. We might have to get a little dirty…


Sensible gun laws

reasonable gun controls;

We are using words and phrases that have no meaning; thus, they mean whatever the audience wants it to mean; it’s like tofu… you make out of it anything you want

Again, words that have no meaning… this is important to understand, because it affects our ability to persuade and to get people over to our side or at least make people neutral who previously were opponents:


Example: in a debate: I have seen.. pro gun pro hunting people with more brains in their urine sample debating anti hunting / gun folks and they get creamed… I saw it.. how people from the audience gathered around the anti speaker and ignored the better informed and better qualified pro speaker… because the anti spoke in terms of being reasonable and sensible.. and who stated, I think gratuitously, that he really didn’t want to restrict gun rights.

There is a point to be learned here: debates: don’t do it.. unless you have extraordinary skill. Don’t enter a debate with the mindset: we’ll each tell our side and we’ll let the audience decide. That’s a recipe for total disaster. It’s a model for losing. Don’t enter a debate unless you totally confident you can destroy the opponent as if you ran him or her trough a Cuisinart. Anything less is a defeat.

You are a murderer!

How can you kill those beautiful animals?

Do you know how many animals there would be if you hunters didn’t kill them?

You knuckle dragger clinging to your guns and your religion and your anti immigrant sentiments!!!

That question was thrust in the face of a hunter education instructor friend of mine. He had the good sense to grittily reply: Zero. He shut her up.

Crucial Conversations

Here’s the point: if we are going to have conversations, crucial or otherwise, then we better have a method, a goal, a measure whether our conversations are effective and we better be persuasive. That is, we better win. Otherwise, the conversation has not advanced our cause: defending and advancing hunting.

We must use the language of compassion, caring, empathy; being offended; saving lives; helping little children; developing clean water systems; Describe ourselves as animal rights activists.

We propose fair rules and policies; reasonable rules and policies.

Fair and reasonable are words that have substantial rhetorical power.

Use them


Fighting back

Sandy Hook

Just because there’s a subtext doesn’t mean the actual text isn’t important.. and the killings were horrific and needed to be addressed on their own terms.. and then the subtext had to be addressed

I suggest our response should have been : what can we do to join forces .. with anyone… any group… to increase the odds of preventing this from ever happening again… we’re all in this together. We are all parents and someone’s children.

We are always reacting.. on the defensive… the shootings—Orlando, San Bernadino, Sandy Hook, Charleston Church… our response should be;

         We are open to any argument that will advance policies that will reduce or eliminate these horrific killings

         We will work with any organization .. whether we have agreed or disagreed with them in the past… that will help create policies that will eliminate or reduce the likelihood of such horrific actions

         We are willing to reassess any positon, any policy, any argument, that we have advanced in the past in order to reduce these horrific crimes

         We want reasonable controls; things that work; common sense solutions… use the language of the attacker…. Sensible controls

         We want what works


Wasn’t done

Talk about the economic impact of hunters, gun purchases, rights, Second Amendment are not effective responses.

And that’s what it should be when the next psychopath does something horrible



The analogy Cecil is the Twin Towers of Big Game Hunting

Very powerful


Cecil: should have been our greatest triumph; could have been our finest hour…

I call it the lost opportunity


Walter Palmer: a dentist; an employer; a tax payer; a conservationist; a man who spent tens of thousands of dollars hunting and thereby preserving animals…

Class warfare


He tracks a wounded lion 14 hours or so… .and it was legal…

True: one of the audience made the very astute point: we didn’t know the facts, so we didn’t respond as quickly.

But not knowing the facts didn’t stop the anti hunters and immediately the attack reached tsunami force

Our response: we should have been more agile with our rhetoric.

So, we should have immediately shifted from the specific—Cecil—to the general:

We don’t know the facts… but:

Have you ever seen a lion starve to death?

What do you value more? An aging lion or food for a village?

An aging lion or medicine for a village?

An aging lion or anti poaching efforts?

We should have challenged them immediately: What are your values?

Why didn’t we ask the questions:

         Have you ever seen a starving lion?

         Ever see a lion die from hunger or disease:

         Ever see a lion ripped apart to death by younger lions?

         Ever seen the huts and shacks these natives line in?

         Ever drank dirty water rather than your Perrier or what have you?

         You will be able to think of better questions. Let’s use them… stop the anti hunters in their tracks; get them out of their comfort zone;

         Speak in terms of their moral weaknesses and inconsistencies

         These are people who would rather feel good than do good.

         Clarity: do you want animals to survive?

         Would you agree that policies that increase the survival of animals are good policies?

         Do you accept that people who enable animals to survive are doing good deeds?

         If a ban on hunting or a ban on importing ivory or a ban on importing animal skins led to more deaths of animals, would you still support the ban?

This would have been the textbook case of shutting them up, pushing them back and then offering to have a reasonable conversation.


                     I Am Cecil:   Jes Sui Charlie…

                     Smug middle-aged woman carrying a poster: “I Am Cecil,” a vile loathsome leeching a moral stance off the dead and wounded in the Charlie Hebdo Magazine attacks by muslim killers on the publishing office in Paris, France, January 7, 2015, and the #JeSuisCharlie" placards. Contemptible loathsome moral leeching.. a country she never heard of; the life cycle of an animal she knows nothing about;

                     And the point here: people believe so intensely in matters in which they are totally ignorant.

                     How much has she contributed to conservation? How many impoverished natives of Zimbabwe did she elevate?


                     The perverse morality of affluent leisured westerners arrogantly unconcerned about the consequences of their policies.

                     They attack us on our photos.. we should have done the same with this moral outrage .. in this unique instance.


The problem with Cecil.. we stopped.. we were first and goal on the three-yard line and we stopped; we didn’t get the argument over the goal line.  A few great essays, editorials, newsletter commentary… and we stopped… we didn’t make the best arguments and we stopped; we lost an opportunity. Will we be ready for the next opportunity?

And here is the key message point:

And now the self righteous airline bans… why don’t we have a unified message: Lufthansa or whatever kills more lions than a hundred Walter Plamers!!


Poaching in Botswana:

The poachers’ camps; the landowners will poison; the farmers will kill them. Allowing hunters to take their trophies ensures much needed monetary input into these very very poor countries who derive an incredible amount of revenue from Elephant and Safari hunters alike. Not to mention the 10s of thousands of lost jobs. The hunting and import of ivory by sport hunters is a win / win scenario. The ban on ivory imports by viable Sport Hunters is a lose / lose. It’s that simple. Hunters stop poaching- Not governments

-everyone in this audience knows of the poaching that flourishes as soon as a hunting ban is enacted.

Why didn’t we have a unified aggressive policy position on that?

Our messaging should have  been:

Poachers love hunting bans!!

Poachers Thrive; Animals Die!!!


Craig Boddington

Craig Boddington explained that the leopard populations have rebounded with estimates of between 700,000 and 2 million animals, which increase is specifically the consequence of the value that hunters have placed on the leopard.


Unity and Katie Couric

Katie Couric’s execrable loathsome deliberate altering interview footage of gun owners…

Katie Couric accused of deceptively editing gun documentary

May. 26, 2016 - 2:22 - Gun rights activists seem to have difficulty answering questions in the film

“Under the Gun,” Monday.

“I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League,” Couric said in a statement.

At one point in the film, Couric asks the Virginia Citizens Defense League, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

Read more:

Strategy Note: VCDL President Philip Van Cleave …Other scenes in the documentary, says Van Cleave, “accurately” represent the input of his fellow gun owners. But not the exchange on background checks. Van Cleave says he has audio of the entire interview with Couric — a backstop against bogus editing that he learned from his dealings with the media. “I do that as a matter of course when I’m doing things like that,” says Van Cleave. “It has saved me a few times.”

And then the obligatory apology when caught.. but the damage is done…


TV does not illustrate reality

The manipulate the media; they lie; the omit and edit. They are bereft of ethics and integrity. They abuse the public trust. They are not there for illumination and education. They are there to destroy us; to humiliate us. If any of us cannot grasp that reality, it is best that person has no conversations at all.

And any of our spokespersons who cannot grasp this reality will hurt us.

Katie Couric lied.. people died…


Churchill quote

Churchill; the lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets out of bed in the morning.


Gives us all a black eye

And Tom Opre’s statement: we are no better than our lowest common denominator:

Tom, with respect, I gently disagree

What is the message: that we hunters give moral legitimacy to be judged and attacked by the worst hunter offenders.

We would be saying.. I am no better than the worst out there.

I agree to have every hunter judged by the measurements of the worst among us.

I don’t accept that


Imagine what would happen if a thousand lawyers attending an American Bar Association conference were told: if even one of you overcharges a client, we all have back eyes!!

Are you kidding me or what?

The lawyers would rush the stage and beat the speaker to death with his $1,000 Italian shoes!!


What should hunters nurture this suicidal impulse?

As any trial lawyer would do, We should acknowledge our shortcoming, condemn bad behavior and then move on.

Don’t condemn the mass collectively.


I was part of a discussion several years ago at a conservation organization near Chicago. Beautiful place. Some unethical hunter did something terrible.. I forgot what… and the torrential self-flagellating began: this hunter gives all of us a black eye.


Not at all.

What other profession, activity, field of endeavor would accept that categorization? None


Only we can give ourselves a collective black eye.

Like the common trope from anti hunting anti firearms folks: The NRA gets blamed for crimes none of its members commit.


Lessons: Fighting Back

Lesson: this should have unified every gun and hunting related organization, newspaper, magazines, speaker, lecturer, writer…

If Wayne LaPierre says it, fine… if NSSF writes an  email to its members, fine… but if twenty million twitter, facebook, websites, have a unified message; a powerful confident hard-hitting message, then you have something..


Make them pay a price for their dishonesty.. that makes the cost increase and we will get less of their dishonesty.


Issue: do we have the brain power to identify these opportunities and then use them to advance our cause?

If not, how do we get that brain power?


Author quotes and analysis

James Swan


“We need to nourish ourselves with meaning as much as with food, especially in a modern world where meaning continually seems to be set aside in the name of convenience, progress and conformity…… In the act of hunting, we rekindle what Carl Jung called our “ancestral soul,” which is that primal part of us shared with all human history.”


“As the Hunter’s Moon rides across the autumn sky, the pulses of nature quicken, and so too do the souls of humans, even among those who do not hunt. What is right for one time, place, and person may not be appropriate for another. The primal energies of the hunt live it within us, as well as in the natural world around us, and they can be expressed in many ways. Our personal challenges to learn to do the right thing for us to be whole, individually and as a society. In learning how to respond to the magic and mystery of hunting in modern times we may find important keys to happiness, health, and peace, as well as ecological balance and proper relationship among species. The hunt can be a great teacher of much more than just the technique of killing.”

Concluding Thoughts

-you are part of a larger process.. the big picture.. you are helping manage wild game.. helping preserve wild game.. you are keeping the culture alive; you are keeping the animals alive…have your clients see the big picture… elevate them… in your advertising, your brochures….

Part of the big picture is learning how to use words; and using those words to craft winning arguments and to refute immoral or illogical arguments. If we don’

My opinion: if you want to change hunter’s behaviors, appeal to their honor; to their integrity;

-make them aware of the big picture: that their actions will influence whether or not hunting survives.

Thus, we must be unrelenting, inexorable, unified, unapologetic, confidence is more persuasive than content…

Our conversations must have a purpose. Winning the conversations; converting people to our cause with our conversations; defending and advancing hunting and our heritage are the goals of the conversations. Thought, skill and preparation are the foundation for effective persuasive crucial conversations.

I hope my words have helped toward those important goals.

Thank you.


Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil

By Michael Sabbeth

Walter Palmer killed a lion bestowed with a name—Cecil. For a while, much of the hunting world, particularly hunting iconic African big game, imploded as if into a death star. For months people uninformed about lion hunting, who never heard of the Hwange Game Park and who couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map if their fat-free soy lattes depended on it, issued death threats on social media, threatened the person and business of the hunter, condemned much of hunting with broad-brush swipes and raised fortunes for predatory opportunistic animal activist groups.

Drenched in ignorance, energized by a luscious sense of moral superiority and the need to feel good, they were unmoved by the damaging consequences their demands would have inflicted.  Unleashing a flash mob of hate, death threats and physical intimidation, they illustrated their deceit in purporting to value life.

Another Cecil-esque event will occur again, either by the act of a hunter or by an event orchestrated by an anti-hunter in a propaganda hit. We must be prepared to mobilize factual and rhetorical defenses for that next event. I offer eight strategies for crafting our defenses.

Strategy 1: Understand the Moral and Intellectual Terrain

We are in a defensive asymmetrical war against people and organizations that do not value reason, logic or consequences. Indeed, reason, logic and consequences are an anathema to anti-hunting people and organizations. Ignorance is a virtue for it facilitates self-righteousness. Hunters tend to see defending hunting and conservation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy. Consequently, hunters over-value truth and facts. We tend to see the battle through a narrow lens. This small aperture stifles a comprehensive understanding of hunting’s opponents. We tend to ignore the complexity of human nature; its narcissism and need to feel morally superior, its cowardice, its lust for easy solutions, the avoidance of pain and the pervasiveness of predatory opportunistic greed.

Our opponents operate on a more primal and effective level. They see anti-hunting in terms of power and the opportunity to advance anti-human and anti-conservation ideologies. Hunters value the research of South Africa’s Ron Thomson and are motivated by the stirring speeches of Shane Mahoney and the narratives of Craig Boddington. The anti-hunters disregard them totally.

In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote that “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”  Eliot is partially correct. Often human kind does not care much about reality. Reality impedes their ideological advancement. The anti-hunters grasp this fundamental truth; the hunting community does not. Our failure to grasp this point jeopardizes our ability to effectively refute the anti-hunters.

Strategy 2: Use Social Media More Effectively

We know a picture is worth a thousand words and that a lie travels around the world before the truth gets out of bed. Social media has exposed several undesirable qualities of the hunting community: its aloofness from reality, its complacency, its inability to present a unified front and, worse, its lack of confidence. For example, powerful forces in the hunting community turned on Palmer before the facts were known.

The new media era battle space is complex. We must be willing to fight fire with fire, as the expression goes. We must show the vile wires, snares and traps poachers use and the resultant loathsome injuries they inflict on animals. We must highlight the consequences of children with unclean water and food deprivation. Show the decapitated rhinos with a subtitle screaming: “This is what hunting bans cause!” We should have illustrated the vulgar immorality of the self-satisfied somber-faced American woman arrogantly carrying a sign “I am Cecil,” attempting to parasitically leach morality from the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris.  We must show the images; employ powerful iconography and trenchant rhetoric. We must change the social media paradigm!

Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions:

I attended the annual meeting of African Professional Hunters Association at the 2017 SCI convention. Wonderful dedicated all! However, one statement troubled me. Citing Cecil, an attendee said that “that the world will not tolerate unethical behavior.” I disagreed. There is no world in any unified sense, I said. Moreover, the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior. Indeed, the Cecil event proved my point rather than the speaker’s. Additionally, this so-called world has no interest in ascertaining ethical behavior or supporting it. A hunting community, I argued, that seeks to appease ‘the world’ and which acts upon the belief that the world will embrace hunting if hunters are universally ethical is doomed to commit suicide.

It is delusional to believe that the organized anti-hunting advocates—well-funded animal organizations and European and American NGOs—will come to accept elephant, rhino, leopard hunting and remove bans on trading ivory and rhino horn if only they knew the facts. This thinking is self-destructive. It is idiocy. They know what we know. They read the reports, the data, the arguments. Secrets do not exist. Rather, they don’t care. They have different agendas; they submit to different ideologies, they make their money based on different arguments. We must understand that reality if we are to craft winning strategies and rhetoric.

The anti-hunters are willing to impose on the world’s hunting regions, generally, and African hunting nations and their populations, specifically, costs that these far-removed wealthy elites will never pay. African hunting nations, specifically, find themselves in the untenable and frankly, absurd, situation of being dictated to by people who will pay no consequences for being wrong.

Strategy 4: Shift the Paradigm

We should focus less on the virtues of hunting and focus more on the arrogant and deceitful character of those that oppose hunting. Extolling hunting’s conservation virtues is a necessary but insufficient process to persuade the vast middle ground.

We know from studying the facts regarding Cecil the lion and the black rhino hunting auction orchestrated by the Dallas Safari Club that hunting saves animals and people. No rational decent human being can intellectually and morally refute these claims. Yet such hunting is opposed. What is the explanation? Let us not flatter ourselves. We do not have an exclusive divine link to wisdom and knowledge. I accept that many anti-Cecil protesters are decent but uninformed yet that is only a small aspect of their personality structure. What kind of person rejects a rhino hunt knowing that many young rhinos would be saved? What kind of person demands a ban on rhino horn trade knowing that the result is more poaching, more rhino deaths and more hunger for the local populations? These are the messages hunters must make. Data puts people to sleep. Mutilated animals inspire people to fight those that enable the mutilation.

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we know that those who choose animal protection over animal conservation will get neither. And we know that airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Palmers. We know that the feelings business is profitable and the thinking business not so much.


Strategy 5: Focus on the Proper Audience

Mark Duda of Resource Management estimates that as many as 60-80 percent of the population is non-committal regarding hunting in a general sense. My reading of Duda’s material leads to the favorable conclusion that most of these people can be reached by reason, ethical arguments, caring for native populations and passion. Thus, our strategy should be to forcefully refute the radical anti-hunters, not expecting to change their minds, but to persuade the large ‘middle’ of uncommitted people. This vast group will align with those that seem to have winning arguments. 

Strategy 6: Get Legislation and Enforcement

We must develop strategies, including legal action, to combat the extreme anti-hunters’ sadistic fetish for violence and intimidation. Civil and criminal legal action should be taken in extreme cases by skilled lawyers. We should lobby state legislators to pass legislation assessing criminal and civil liability against those who make credible threats, whether in person or through cyberspace, against hunters, their families and their businesses. Paraphrasing Michael Corleone, we must become wartime consigliaris

Strategy 7: Don’t Avoid the Fight

I spoke with many people who advise hunters to maintain a low profile when confronted with a Cecil-like situation. “Let it blow over; don’t draw attention!” they say. This passive avoidance is self-destructive. Our strategy should be to make the anti-hunting attacker pay a price for its misinformation, greed, narcissism and the unethical consequences of its beliefs. Let us be guided by two of the most fundamental laws of human nature: avoidance is interpreted as weakness and weakness invites aggression. Unlike donors to the anti-hunting causes, the animals we fight to conserve do not live in a therapeutic utopian world. Nature’s one constant is life-and-death brutality. The lion does not co-habit with the gemsbok waiting for a dinner of locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten free, organic steamed broccoli. We must fight for reality if we are to conserve the animals.

Strategy 8: Unify with a Central Resource

Our focus must be on persuasion, which is not the same as spewing out data and making abstract arguments. We must identify and then use people who are smart enough and intellectually agile enough to deconstruct future anti-hunting attacks in concise, simple language. We must identify and emphasize the morality or lack of morality of the consequences of policies advanced by the anti-hunters.  We must give our hunters the words to fight back. We must craft arguments that align the virtues of animal conservation and human enrichment with the values of the larger audience. Strategic thinking and action offer the best hope for conserving animals and those in the hunting world who lives are affected.

Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values, available at



Thanks for checking out my site! Please come back soon for more interesting news!

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."

Michael Sabbeth

Michael Sabbeth

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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