I am told that U.S. hunters simply don’t believe that their right to hunt within the U.S. is threatened. Think again! A few days ago, an Arizona newspaper announced the beginning of a campaign to ban the hunting of all wild cats in Arizona. This is right in SCI’s backyard!
The campaign is being run by one of the most avid anti-hunting/anti-SCI organizations in the world – the Humane Society of the United States. The campaign coordinator says that, “there is strong public sentiment opposing hunting cats for sport,” and that “people [don’t] have the stomach for trophy hunting.”
Arizona hunters are organizing to beat this campaign. They note that mountain lion populations are rebounding and that some other cats, such as jaguar and ocelot, are protected as endangered species and cannot be hunted at all.
However, this campaign has nothing to do with wildlife populations or wildlife management. It is about the antis selling the idea that there is “strong public sentiment opposing hunting.”
You might think that as a Western state Arizona residents support hunting, but that cannot be presumed. Arizona has two major population centers, and both are inhabited by people who are, to a great extent, far removed from the cycles of life in which hunters and wildlife participate. This is the pattern that prevails in most of the U.S. It is also the pattern in British Columbia where grizzly bear hunting has just been banned, for emotional reasons. That should be a lesson to us.
Statistical research tells us that majority of people are neither for hunting nor against it. This is the group that must be reached to keep them from being converted to anti-hunters. Most of these people have no knowledge about wildlife, hunting or wildlife management. More importantly, they have no stake in the game, and therefore they don’t care that much one way or the other. That makes them easy prey for the emotion-based arguments of the antis. SCI and other hunting groups need to learn how to speak effectively to these people. We need to learn how to make statements about hunting that make sense to these people.
At the same time, we also need to get hunters out to vote in order to beat initiatives such as the one in Arizona. We need to supply the truth about wildlife populations and game management for sustainability. But if this is all we do, then we run the risk of losing because we are not addressing the emotional aspects of the issue. Statistics on game populations and management rules are not likely to sway someone who has become convinced that there is just no good reason to hunt wild cats such as mountain lions, and particularly when the hunting is for the sport and the trophy.
SCI is actively working on this part of the problem. We are developing an “advocacy communications” program to deliver the truth about hunting.--Rick Parsons, CEO Safari Club International