How I Let You Down
Many anti-hunters lie.
In the growing cultural assault on hunting, we know this to be true. Anti-hunters will say almost anything to divert attention from the fact hunting is almost always the highest and best use of our wildlife resources. Hunters know this. But when the anti-hunting lies involved me directly on a global news broadcast, and without opportunity to rebut in a television “debate,” the sickening reality of the bias posed against hunters became very personal.
At first it seemed like a dream come true. Given an opportunity to debate a Humane Society anti-hunter on a world-wide cable news channel about the U.S. elephant import ban, I was brimming with anticipation. Communicating the virtues of sustainable-use hunting is one of my passions. But despite my confidence in the facts and science supporting the pro-hunting position, my naiveté prevented me from realizing the outcome of this particular debate had already been determined.
With a prompt from public relations firm Blue Heron Communications, China Global Television Network asked me to be part of a panel discussion about lifting the Obama-era ban on importation of elephant trophies on their Global Business America program. Deep down, I hoped my opponent would be an emotional bunny-hugger I could dismantle with the facts and science of hunting. Instead, I drew a D.C.-based international trade policy attorney with Humane Society International, Masha Kalinina. A talented speaker, Kalinina’s ability to obfuscate and manipulate facts to seem to support her anti-hunting position were obvious in the opposition research I conducted. This would definitely not be an easy task. That realization become even more clear when I walked into the studio.
While my opponent sat across the news desk from GBA host Rachelle Akuffo, I was relegated to a tiny remote broadcast studio in Oklahoma City. The studio would serve its purpose, but it lacked one critical element vital to a fair exchange of ideas; there was no video feed from the set in D.C..
Lacking the ability to see the host, my opponent, or even my own image put me at a terrible disadvantage in this adversarial broadcast. My only connection to the questions, tenor, and nuance of the debate was a small speaker in my right ear. I was going in blind, and when the host’s voice crackled live in my earpiece, the situation quickly went from bad to worse.
Rather than pose questions alternatively to each side with the opportunity for rebuttal, the questions were put to me first, then left for the anti-hunter to respond. Whether due to time constraints, the proximity of the speakers, or inherent bias against hunting, the Humane Society side was allowed the last word on all but one question. Given free rein to propagandize against hunting without fear of rebuttal, the HSI attorney spouted a litany of half-truths and falsehoods that I was not allowed to challenge…until now. For the sake of brevity, I will paraphrase her statements in italics, but you can look at the entire interview here and judge for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaF0cP0sxsc
HSI: The meat issue is interesting. No one eats lion. No one eats leopard in Africa. And Africans don’t need meat handouts, what they need are jobs. FALSE, FALSE & TRUE
The meat issue is interesting. I, for one, have eaten both lion and leopard, and while it is not the most sought-after of game meats, it is often consumed by indigenous peoples.
Having harvested hundreds of African animals over the last three decades, I can tell you without reservation most indigenous Africans are in need of, and greatly appreciate, the “handout”of protein provided by hunters to their starch-based diet.
Agreed. Africans do need jobs. The irony of the statement is this is the exact sentiment I had just expressed. Especially in rural Africa, jobs are in very short supply. In many places, hunting is the only source of commercial employment.
HSI: Most of them (trophy hunting operators) are located outside of national parks; outside of Hwange, outside of Kruger, because they are dependent on these healthy ecosystems to supply this endless conveyor belt of wildlife for hunters to slaughter. …maybe one percent of these operators are located in remote areas like Steve is talking about, but the majority are capitalizing on the very places tourists are going. TOTALLY FALSE
Very few outfitters are located next to national parks. It is a physical impossibility. The hundreds of hunting operators throughout mostly Southern and East Africa cannot physically operate on the outskirts of National Parks. Common sense (or a map) will reveal hundreds of operations in South Africa and Namibia are nowhere near national parks. In Tanzania, hunting concession land area is four times that of National parks.
One percent of hunting operations located in remote areas? I wonder if this woman has ever been to Africa.
HSI: Are there enough leopards to sustain this offtake for hunting? And what we found was South Africa in 2015 and 2016 prohibited the export of leopard trophies because they simply do not have an accurate count of this (leopard) population.
Other countries that have a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) quota are saying “We don’t have any leopards left. We want our leopard quota to be completely removed . PARTIALLY TRUE/EXTREMELY MISLEADING & TOTALLY FALSE
While it is true South Africa did not allow leopard exportation in 2015/16, it was not because they did not have enough leopards to sustain a hunting quota. They do. RSA did not allow a quota because one or two provinces did not provide their leopard survey to SA Environmental Affairs, so while they did not have a full survey from every jurisdiction. The fact remains South Africa has an ABUNDANCE of leopards. This truth would be readily apparent to someone who actually spent time in the South African bush.
While some African governments may be against hunting and decline their CITIES quota for leopards, using hearsay as evidence that certain African countries “don’t have any leopards” is an intentional deception that flies in the face of the facts. Leopards are an extremely adaptive and resilient species which are doing extremely well in most African countries. Leopards can be found in all sub-Saharan nations.
So what is the take away?
In hind sight I was naïve. I assumed a legitimate organization would not risk their reputation by making false and misleading public statements that would not stand up to public scrutiny. I was wrong. The public does not scrutinize much anymore. I suppose there is so much information available today; so much digital “noise” in the media environment that very few people even care, much less take the time to examine the voracity of the statements made by groups like Humane Society International. This must be true, otherwise why would this group promote the same falsehood on their own Twitter feed? https://twitter.com/HSIGlobal/status/974030734473203712
I wish I could have been a better spokesman for hunting. I was nervous and not nearly as articulate as I would have like to have been. My frustration with the circumstances and not being able to set the record straight contributed to my inability to expose the deception in organizations such as this, but that aspect changes starting today.
The National Rifle Association has taught us about the power of a grass-roots movement to preserve our 2nd Amendment rights. The fight to save hunting should be no different. You care about hunting. You would not be reading NRAHLF if you did not. So how can you as a hunter fight the well-funded anti-hunting organization? We do it together, and with information.
To help arm you for the fight, over the next few weeks we will take an in-depth look at anti-hunting organizations which seek to abolish our sport and heritage. From the “pet shelter” kill factories of PETA to the HSUS that, despite fundraising based on puppies and kittens operates no pet shelters at all, we will examine the motivation and methodology, the morals and marketing tactics, and importantly, the money that is the primary motivator for many of these organizations existence. We will identify the deceitful nature of these businesses and lay them bare for all to see. In the process, we can begin to turn the tide of public opinion to embrace what we already know: sustainable use hunting is the only way for wildlife to remain viable in our 7.5B person world.
The fight to save hunting will not be easy, but it is a fight that can be won if hunters work together. The NRA has shown us the way.