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  • Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil

    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



  • ON MY HONOR: The Burden of Having Principles

    On My Honor

    The Burden of Having Principles

    Presentation to the Hunter Education Camp, Boy Scout Camp Gorham, New Mexico 

    September 16, 2016

    Presentation As Given

    This event is sponsored by four virtuous organizations; The New Mexico Division of Wildlife; the International Hunter Education Association, USA, the Boy Scouts of America and the , Safari Club Foundation.

    I am grateful to each of these organizations for contributing to this worthy event.

    A brief background about me:

    ·       Lawyer

    ·       Lecture on ethics and rhetoric and persuasion

    ·       Writer for hunting and shooting magazines

    ·       Lecturer: SCI, DSC, IHEA-USA conferences, IHEA-USA Master Education programs

    ·       A hunter and shooter

    I brought for each person here, as a gift, copies of my book, The Good, The Bad and the Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values

    Please visit my websites:  and  and  and


    And something a little off topic: tell me what you think but I found it a little deflating to drive on the road into this camp and to see a huge sign that said “Dead End”. I don’t consider this camp a dead end. Kind of funny.

    I will talk about scouting and hunting.

    Since this is a boy scout camp, I will use the scout oath and scout law as models for addressing the roll of honor in hunter education and in being ethical honorable hunters.

    But before I address honor, I share a few stories with you.

    1.    Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, New Mexico:  I attended Philmont Scout Ranch more than half a century ago. I didn’t have the money to buy a neckerchief and a patch. Thirty-five years later I took my daughter, Elise, to Taos, New Mexico on a school trip. I saw I was close to Philmont and visited it. I bought the neckerchief and the patch. I finally got them.


    2.    Kudu Hunt in S Africa with Marcus Lettrell: I shot a dominant bull past its prime. I told the professional hunter: That’s me! I could go on his wall! And one of his Navy Seal pals: tattoo: Honor Above All


    3.    Lady who worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife; wearing her uniform; went shopping; a man approached her and verbally attacked her: You are a murderer. She told me: Michael, I didn’t know how to respond!  And consider, she had been working in the industry for twenty years; she and her husband had been hunters for twenty years. And she didn’t know what to say! She didn’t know how to defend hunting.

    I will try to give you some words and arguments to help you defend and advance hunting.

    First: A question to class: have any of you been confronted or insulted because you like hunting or because you have hunted?

    Answer: no one raised a hand


    The title of my talk is On My Honor:

    Some of you are in scouting, so some of you, likely, are familiar with the phrase On My Honor.

    Here is the Scout Oath:

    Boy Scout Oath or Promise

    On my honor, I will do my best 
    To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 
    To help other people at all times; 
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

     --this is all meaningless if you don’t have honor…. Without honor, all these goals and promises will disappear like water from your canteen spilled in the desert.

     The Boy Scout Law

    A Scout is:

    • Trustworthy,
    • Loyal,
    • Helpful,
    • Friendly,
    • Courteous,
    • Kind,
    • Obedient,

    I confide I have a little trouble with obedience… the greatest cruelty has been done through obedience… obedience to evil is evil…

    • Cheerful,
    • Thrifty,
    • Brave,
    • Clean,
    • and Reverent.

    Trustworthy is a matter of honor. Brave is a matter of honor.

    Boy Scout Motto

    Be Prepared!  Preparation is a matter of honor.

    Here is the historical foundation of honor in the creation of this country:

    Declaration of Independence

    Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, .And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    Sacred honor… who speaks of honor these days? What politicians live their lives consistent with honor, sacred or otherwise, and noble character?



    The full title of my talk is: On My Honor: The Burden of Having Principles

    I ask the audience: why might having principles be a burden?

    Audience Answer: “Because if you have honor that means you try to act honorably and that means you might fail.”

    Excellent answer

    The Scout Oath says: On my honor I will do my best. Question: how do you know if you are doing your best?

    You have standards; you have measurements; you compare good, better, best; right from wrong; good from evil.

    You become a person of judgment.

    I share a few words from some first graders spoken in my first ethics classes in 1990:

    I ask: Why be honorable?

    First grade student: It makes life go easier.

    Another student: Yeah, and then your parents don’t have to hire lawyers!

    I say: Has there ever been a profession more misunderstood?

    So, why do I talk about honor?

    Because you are young hunter education students and young hunters. You are drenched in a commitment to honor. Because you are hunters, and thus live in an environment that demands the highest honor.

    Why should you be honorable?

    Because animals die. It is a matter of life and death.

    The honorable hunter must show:

    ·       honor to the game you seek,

    ·       honor to the land,

    ·       honor to the hunting culture, and

    ·       honor to yourselves.


    Honor is the pervasive unifying theme, the unifying force in your universe for everything you do.

    My friend, Mark Duda, research firm, Responsive Management, is perhaps the finest researcher of data and opinions in the world of hunting and shooting. He talks about the  attitudes toward hunting… vs attitudes toward hunters. Generally, people have a higher regard for hunting than they do for hunters.

    Much of the public  does not have a high regard for hunters…they  break the laws, drink alcohol, take drugs, take irresponsible shots that have high probability of wounding.

    I state emphatically, these opinions may be based on thin air.. pure bias and ignorance.. but we have to deal with them… and that means, as a practical matter, hunters have to be highly honorable.

    Let’s talk about words for a moment. Mark Duda’s research shows that words are important. Words influence the public support for hunting.

    Trophy Hunting:

    Trophy hunting is a phrase people do not like.

    No one knows what trophy hunting means but nevertheless many people tend not to like that phrase and therefore tend not to like hunting. They think trophy hunting means an abuse of hunting, but they can’t describe why.

    Here is the important point: vague phrases can be used effectively to manipulate a person and an argument. A vague phrase can mean whatever the listener wants it to mean. It’s like speaking in code language. Vague language can be used to intimidate, abuse and, more importantly, to silence someone. This is a key concept.

    Example:        Attacker: I’m against trophy hunting.

                           Reply: What do you mean?

                           Attacker: killing beautiful animals

                           Reply: What if the animal is not beautiful.

                           Attacker: all animals are beautiful.

                           Reply: so trophy hunting means all hunting?

                           Attacker: No

                           Reply: so what are you talking about?

                           Attacker: just if you intend it to be a trophy

                           Reply: Huh??????


    Killing versus Harvesting: Lessons to be learned

    Here is another duo of words that lead to arguments and disagreements within the hunting community: Killing versus Harvesting.

    I have had heated arguments with many hunter education instructors about the selection and rejection of one of these words over another.

    I prefer the word ‘killing.’ That is what we do. We kill animals. Gorgeous, beautiful animals. That’s what hunting is, in large part.

    I ask the class if anyone sees a difference between the two words. One lady answered, “Using the word ‘harvesting’ is like you are trying to avoid what is true.”

    That was a very good answer. The word ‘harvesting’ does, in my opinion, deny reality. It makes us say something that is not true.

    Another student said: “It’s like the anti-hunter is telling us what words we cannot use.”

    That student made a brilliant point: the opponent is controlling the language. We can go back to the writing and thinking of George Orwell:

    He who controls the language controls the argument, and he who controls the argument will win the argument.

    Harvesting historically refers to food production: harvesting wheat, milo, corn soybeans and so forth.

    Referring to killing as harvesting does, in my opinion, do something that dishonors the animal: using harvesting creates a moral equivalence between killing an animal and cutting down some corn.

    Also, using the word ‘harvesting’ makes hunters that use that word and deny or try the reality of killing by using a euphemism, a word that does not seem as harsh and brutal, makes the person who uses the word ‘harvesting’ vulnerable to attacks by anti-hunters that the hunter refuses to admit what the hunter actually in reality does. It makes the hunter look like a fraud; and worse, it makes the hunter look like he or she has no confidence in the morality of what the hunter is doing. It’s as if the hunter is refusing to admit what it does. And it’s a good argument by the anti-hunters. The word harvesting makes hunters seem weak; makes hunters seem as if they have no confidence in the value of what they are doing and thus that they are trying to hide what they are doing.

    Words can indicate confidence and they can indicate the lack of confidence.

    Words matter. Confidence matters. Like the expression from Osama Bin Ladn, the 9-11 Mastermind, “people prefer a strong horse to a weak horse.”

    Words can make you look strong or they can make you look weak.  

    Back to honor: Honor is you. What you have; what you do not have

    Honor sets standards

    If you have standards, you have to live up to them. And living up to high moral standards is not easy.

    So you see, Honor is not easy

    Must work on it every day. Like your heart beating blood into your body, if it stops, you no longer exist.

    Lots of people don’t like standards; they resent them. Human nature being what it is, the dishonorable resent the honorable; the stupid resent the smart; the coward resents the morally strong person; the ignorant resents the informed person. It always was and it will always be.

    --doing good is not easy. Anyone who tells a child, any person, really, that doing good is easy; that being honorable is easy, weakens that person. Nothing is easy. Nothing worth accomplishing is easy.

    Honor is complex; made of many ingredients, blended like a perfectly made veal stock. Sometimes you don’t know all of the qualities—courage, intellect, emotional maturity, patience, dedication, willing to act alone, and so forth.

    Difficult to earn; easy to lose. Once lost, honor, your character, your reputation, your credibility, like the beautiful but fragile mountain flowers, may take years to recover, if ever.

     The Burden of Honor

     Being honorable is not easy. Not in our culture. Not now.

    If you have no standards, you can never fail; if you have no honor, you can never be disappointed with yourself.

    You have self-selected to live according to a code of honor. You will have challenges, therefore, that people indifferent to honor will never have.

    Ask the audience: what is the most important part of honor?

    Audience Answer: knowing right from wrong.

    Exactly: the honorable person must know right from wrong. Knowing right from wrong requires making judgments. Making judgments requires skills:

    ·       having information

    ·       knowing the value of the information

    ·       knowing if you need more information

    ·       drawing conclusions from the information you have

    ·       figuring out consequences that will result from the information

    ·       having the moral courage to do what is right


    Making moral judgments is not easy. But making moral judgments is the foundation of honor.


    The person who cannot distinguish good from evil is morally worthless.


    But there is another level to honor: a more difficult level.. much more difficult level: once you know what is right, you have a moral obligation to do what is right.

    That’s the scout oath: do your best; that is how an honorable hunter behaves.

    Knowing isn’t enough. Caring isn’t enough. Compassion isn’t enough. You must do. The honorable person is honorable because he or she ACTS honorably.

    Noble thoughts without noble action are cheap self-indulgent sentiments.

    To be honorable means you seek what is better,

    Remember your oath: On my honor I will do my best……

    That means you must have a method to measure what is best… good, better, best.

    You have criteria; you have standards; you have measurements

    You want better everywhere in every part of your life: better schools, better government, better politicians, and most important, a better self. The honorable person strives to be better.

    Now, in our culture, where honor often has as much substance as smoke at a campfire, good, better, best hardly exist. In many cases, the culture argues that the better does not exist. And, and here’s a key point, if you suggest that something IS better than something else, you are called the vilest names; you are condemned, you are alienated, you are shut up.

    You are told not to make judgments. But here’s the strangest point: telling someone that making a judgment is wrong IS A JUDGMENT!!!!!!

    Everything is equal; everything must be respected; no one’s values are better than any other person’s values; no culture, no matter have vicious, is better or worse than any other culture.

    And here’s a point lots of people don’t want to admit: If you believe that all opinions are equal, then you believe that your opinion is not better than anyone else’s, including your opinion that all opinions are equal!!!!

    If you hold that opinion, you have just admitted to the world that your opinion has no special value.

    You are admitting to the world that people who disagree with you have opinions that are equal to and as good as yours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What do you think of that?

    Is this making any sense?

    Audience nods ‘yes.’

    Indeed, achievement is condemned. Accomplishment and excellence are condemned. Sacrifice and forbearance are condemned. Not only condemned: they are denied:

    Being Judgmental

    It’s popular these days to say you should not be judgmental.  Being non-judgmental, the culture demanded, was a moral duty. Judging became immoral. Judging became evil.

    Of course, this is all idiocy. Everyone knows it. No one lives their lives that way. If you are in a car crash, bleeding all over, do you ask to go to a delicatessen? No. You ask to go to a hospital.


    But Judging and discriminating are the highest moral duties; they separate us from the primal ooze.

    If you judge, if you discriminate, then, well horrible things could be unearthed. Judging and discriminating might show you are a bigot. A racist. I homophobe. An islamophobe. A sexist. I can’t even keep track of all the phobes.


    And here is a key point: the non-judgmental person must… must… become an enemy of liberty, because liberty—individual freedom—all that which is good, right, successful—because liberty enables some people to be better than others and some people to be worse than others.

    A person who does not judge becomes an enemy of everything a scout and an honorable hunter believes. Everything they stand for: doing their best; being moral; being ethical.

    Here is a powerful example of what I mean;


    In every school I have been in, posters preaching Tolerance line the walls. Tolerance is considered one of the highest virtues.

    What does tolerant mean? Think about it. It doesn’t mean much. Tolerance doesn’t determine honor or what is good or better or worse? It just means you put up with something. You endure.

    Tolerance is a treacherous idea. It can mean whatever a person wants it to mean.

    Eli Wiesel: a survivor of Auschwitz, among the most evil places in the history of the world, said:

    Tolerance always favors the aggressor, never the victim.

    Tolerance becomes indifference and then tolerance becomes aiding and abetting.

    Tolerance is  not a virtue… not offending someone is  not a virtue… some things should not be tolerated; and some people should be offended. Multiculturalism and respecting other cultures: what is the moral basis for that? Aspects of some cultures should not be respected… And consider this: respecting others, tolerating others who do not respect or tolerate you is not a virtue; it is suicide.

    Should you tolerate a hunter that abandons a wounded animal?

    Should you tolerate a hunter that is intoxicated and can’t shoot accurately?

    Should you tolerate a hunter that kills animals illegally?

    Of course not.

    Here’s my point: to be honorable, you must be a thinker, and not just any kind of thinker: you must be a moral thinker.

    Back to non-judgmental:

    Of course, no mention is made that judging might indicate you have wisdom, prudence, compassion, decency and moral courage.

    None of those virtues are even considered.


    So all this non-judgmental tolerance talk is just so much empty blabbing.

    It is a tale

    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

    Signifying nothing.

    Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5:

    Loss of Confidence: The Ultimate Defeat

    But there is yet another level; another layer of the issue of non judging. And it is a vile layer; a pernicious layer: it is that the attacks erode confidence of what is right and good.

    That is the worst aspect: a loss of confidence in the values and actions that made this country great; that made this country the destination that people swarm to get into.

    It is easy to get beaten down; intimidated.

    . In the name of non-judgmentalism, we have the most vicious judging.

    All of this leads to a subversion of what used to be known and admired as the American character.


    Next, non judgmentalism is a judgment. That’s the irony. I judge that it is not good to judge.

    Next,  non-judgmental advances moral cowardice. Everything becomes an excuse to do nothing. Non-judgmentalism creates passive people.

    There is no honor in not judging. It is the mindset of cowards.

    What is one result when you lose confidence in your beliefs? In your values?

    I ask the audience: Answer: You can get pushed around. You can get manipulated.


    Telling you to be non-judgmental is applied selectively

    But the most important insight to be learned by being non judgmental is that it is applied selectively. All tyranny, all bullying, all control, is done selectively. One group is favored; another group is not favored. One group benefits, one group gets hurt.

    If you can learn that, particularly at your young ages, you will have learned a profound lesson that can usefully guide you your entire lives.

     You want to advocate for minority right? Consider this: the smallest minority is the individual. You cannot advance minority rights without advancing individual liberty. That is, personal freedom.

    Individual liberty is the fertile soil for honor.

    No doubt you have heard the phrase politically correct, in one form or another. Know this: political correctness is not about correctness. It is about politics, and politics is about power. Who wins and who loses; who gains and who gets deprives.

    And know this also: whether one person disagrees with you or whether one hundred million people disagree with you has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are right or whether you are wrong; whether you have the more moral case or whether you do not. Morality is not a numbers game. It certainly is not a popularity contest.

    Measuring Honor

    Let’s talk about words for a moment.

    We know it’s good to do good and bad to do bad that tells us nothing about choosing between goods when there are trade-offs or conflicts, weighing costs against benefits, comparing short-term attainments with long-term risks, or reckoning second-order effects. 
    You strive for wisdom… and wisdom is knowledge applied for a noble purpose

    And so our principles of fairness, of honor, of valuing the truth… can be used against us and weaken us… what an irony!! 

     Every Aspect of Hunting Demands Honor

     Hunting and scouting are drenched in ethical considerations.

     you have committed to principles that affect life and death… yes, hunting can be a rich spiritual experience.. the sunrise, the sounds of winds caressing trees, seeing magnificent animals .. but much of hunting is about killing… and everything about that process is drenched in ethics.. and being ethical is a matter of honor.

    Being prepared for the hunt;

    Long range shooting..

    can you track your wounded animal

    sighting in rifle..

    selecting proper ammunition

    standing up to peer pressure…

    being able to correctly identify the animal for which you have a tag… male or female bear? Rooster or hen pheasant?

    it’s all a matter of honor…

    You have to be strong.

    As Scouts and as hunters, self-discipline ranks among the highest virtues. Indeed, self discipline is the basis of all morality.

    Here’s a great story.

    Nilgai hunting in s texas… with friend Kevin.. he had a new rifle, a Verney-Carron .500 Nitro Express double side-by-side rifle. Gorgeous rifle. Kevin badly wanted to have a successful hunt. He stalked the nilgai,  got to within 60 yards or so in thick brush. Kevin was bleeding from being slashed by catclaw thorns. He saw a large bull.. he raised the rifle.. but he didn’t take the shot because he did not know precisely the point of impact with the new rifle. He was unsure of his skill at that distance. Kevin was ethical, of course, but his ethics were the consequence of his honor.

    You are honor bound to do your best all the time. Not just when you feel like it; not when it’s easy; not when it’s convenient. No. You do your best every moment of your life. Not just when no one is looking, such as turning in the lost wallet when no one sees you picking it up. No, it’s being brave, courageous, when the entire world is watching you. That’s when your character is tested.

    You do your best: honor the animal, the land, the public trust and honor yourself.

    Drunk friend story

    Here’s an event that really tested me.

    Will I stand up and do what’s right?

    I had a party at my home. A friend got drunk and walked to his car to drive home. I made up my mind that he would not drive his car. Things got nasty. My feelings were hurt. Issues: what is a good friend? What kind of friend allows a drunk to drive a car? What kind of friend was my friend to me? Moral courage requires acting when many people are watching you. It’s more than returning a lost wallet which no one know you found.



    We hunters are accused of being murderers.

    We are accused of having no compassion for animals.

    One arrogant person verbally attacked a friend of mine, a skilled hunter education instructor: “Do you realize how many beautiful animals there would be if you hunters didn’t kill them?”

    “Yes,” he answered sharply. “There would be none!”

    He’s right. And he knew how to argue back.

    Do honorable hunters have compassion?

    How do we know it? How do we judge it?

    Here are two events that make profound points in favor of hunters.

    Black rhino

    Audience Discussion: How to analyze and evaluate arguments:

    Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, who was recruiting opponents to protest the auction by the Dallas Safari Club of the black rhino hunt, asserted it was barbaric to hunt and kill an animal just because it was old and unable to reproduce.

    We are thinkers in this room. So let us think. If Oxley thinks it is barbaric to kill an aged black rhino, what does she NOT think is barbaric?

    Increased poaching: not barbaric;

    Less food, dirty water, less habitat, more killing of younger animals: none of that is barbaric to Oxley

    Gunnison, Colorado 2008:

    About 2008, a brutal winter in the Gunnison area of Colorado. Elk and deer was dying from lack of food. Hunters and the Division of Wildlife were heroically trying to feed the animals. The hunters reached out to so-called pro animal groups for money and assistance. They were turned down.


    Because saving the animals would only provide more animals for hunters to kill.

    And the deaths were a consequence of natural forces.

    Think about these rationalizations.

    Are they logical?



    Who has compassion? The hunters and the division of wildlife folks? Or the so-called pro animal groups who chose to have the animals die?

    Their reason: why help hunters kill more animals. Analyze the argument: conclude: factually and morally bankrupt

    For them, feeling good was more important than doing good.

    Perhaps you are familiar with the Cecil the Lion episode. All the wrong lessons were learned

    As a consequence, all the lion hunting bans and airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Walter Palmers.



    In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or when the doer of a deed could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and come short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have tasted neither victory nor defeat.  Teddy Roosevelt

    What can bring us together?

    Honor. On my honor. Honor can bring together people who should be brought together.

    Judging people, as MLK nobly stated, by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.

    My Mossberg 144 LS

    One last story

     I was dove shooting two weeks ago a little north of Denver. I had two hours or so between the morning and the afternoon hunts, so I drove to Cabela’s north of Denver. Looked around in the used firearms section. Found the Mossberg 144 LS   rifle my dad bought for me when I was 12.

    I  used that rifle to get my first merit badge.. marksmanship… on my way to Eagle Scout..  I loved shooting.. I remember as a little fellow my parents took me to the boardwalk in Far Rockaway and Coney Island on Long Island. I  loved the shooting galleries. I remember going to Nathan’s at Coney Island and getting a huge hot dog, a large root beer and the best French fries on the planet… for 25 cents. Those are great memories. That was pure joy for me. Good times.

     Finding that rifle prompted me to look on the Internet at Camp Wauwepex, Nassau County, Long Island, New York…  saw photos of the camp I attended when I was 11, 12, 13 .. satellite view of the lake where I got my swimming merit badges; the roads I walked… those moments brought joy to my heart… I sat at the computer and smiled.. grinned.. I had wonderful moments at Wauwepex. I hope you are having wonderful moments.. capture them; embed them in your minds and souls… for one day you will be sixty, seventy, eighty years old.. more even… and you will have these moments. Impossible? It happened with me. You  will remember the campfires; you will remember the sunsets; you will remember the jokes.. even the people you didn’t like… you are investing in memories… you adding richness to your bank accounts…

    I remember evening I was inducted into Order of the Arrow. The scout master spoke these words:

    No man is as tall as when he stoops to help a child.

    I remember those words vividly. And that was perhaps 55 years ago. You folks were very young then, yes? 


    Treasure these days. And think of the volunteers that gave their time to you. They gave their time because they wanted to help you become better people. Remember that.

    Make a better world:

    Freedom is always one generation from extinction. Freedom and the love and value of liberty are not passed on genetically. They are passed on by instilling values which includes the value to fight for liberty. They are passed on by honor.


    Here is a statement of profound insight by my friend, Alice Abrams:

    “In life, as in dance, grace glides blistered feet.”

    Think about that statement. Alice is saying that beauty and grace come from hard work. Remember, nothing worthwhile is easy.  

    We are living in difficult times… irrational times… where contradictions are welcomed… rewarded if they advance the causes of the powerful:

    ·       Celebrities and other super rich tweet and text from their multimillion dollar private jets about the oppression and injustice in this country

    ·       People of different nationalities wave the flags of and scream the virtues of the countries they never want to return to and vilify and attack this country that they never want to leave

    ·       A superstar athlete who makes more money in one month than most Americans will make in their lifetimes refused to stand for the national anthem because of this country’s oppression and injustice

    ·       Pampered lazy, stupid and bigoted university professors condemn this country for being racist, homophobic, islamophobic, sexist, colonial and other idiocies from the safety of their immunized privileged and highly paid positions

    Lots of talk about following your heart. I have my doubts about the wisdom of that advice. Generally, the heart is not a good indicator of right and wrong. If you choose to follow your heart, you better have a virtuous heart.

    We have read about chicken soup for the soul. That’s good as far as it goes, but it does not go very far. What you need more than chicken soup for the soul is tempered steel for the mind.. something you can count on; something that will hold an edge, something that gives direction, values, measurements to guide whether you are good, bad, right or wrong.


    So, closing thoughts about honor.

    --do not trade away your honor to get along… to be accepted, to be liked… if you do, you will have neither…. Recall the words of Winston Churchill regarding Neville Chamberlin negotiating with Hitler:

    He traded his honor for peace and got neither.

    Don’t trade on your honor. Never.

    -honor is earned hour by hour, event by event, like the drip drip drip in a cave that builds up a strong solid stalagmite… ..  getting into shape.. day by day.. tedious, painful, difficult… risk, error, failure, getting up… Rocky Balboa… not how hard you can hit but how hard a hit you can take and still get back up…

    Self-discipline is the foundation of all morality

    And you fight for that honor.. inch by inch, person by person, shot by shot, animal by animal, situation by situation, moment by moment, you fight for honor. And then you will have fulfilled the noble vision of your scout oath and of being an honorable hunter: you have done your best.

    Look for beauty; fight for beauty and nobility; nurture the seeds of greatness within you… be a great child to your parents; a great contributor to your school, your community; Honor among all else…


    Be a better person. It starts with you.

    Want to make a better culture?

    Be a better person.

    Don’t lose confidence in your values. Your values are good and decent and virtuous.

    Don’t let anyone shake your confidence in what is right. You examine; you make judgments; if necessary, you make changes and corrections.

    Don’t worry about making mistakes or being wrong. You could devote your entire lives to making mistakes and you could not cause as much evil as many people in this world do in one hour.

    Don’t let this conflicted culture defeat you.

    Don’t work on the world so much. Work on your own character. Work on perfecting you own honor.

    Your honor is you. Your honor dictates your future. You choose.

    Your honor is sacred.

    Thank you. 

  • Trophy Hunting: The Use and Abuse of Terminology

    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


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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