OK, so you just read the title of this article. You might be thinking, “What the hell is this guy talking about? Anti-hunters aren’t winning.”
By some figures, you’d be right. According to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Study, the number of Americans purchasing hunting licenses is trending upward for the first time in 25 years, as 13.7 million hunters drove $33 billion in revenue. The sale of guns and ammunition for hunting continues to roll along, and the economic engine fueled by those dollars funds over 600,000 jobs annually. Not to mention there’s more hunting-oriented content in the media marketplace than ever before—a show about a crew of redneck hunters beat out American Idol in cable TV’s ratings battle.
But that’s not the whole story.
Behind groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Center for Biological Diversity, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and In Defense of Animals (IDA), the anti-hunting movement is strong…real strong. PETA’s efforts to coerce, threaten and downright harass hunters is at an all-time high, and their sadistic misinformation campaigns continue to persuade independents that ethical hunting is the enemy.
We need to fight back harder and with a smarter tone. Resting on our laurels is not an option, and neither is ignoring the ways antis are winning. Here are five examples of anti-hunting successes that can’t be ignored and how we can fight back.
While we take pride in stars like Justin Tuck, Shaq, Tom Brokaw and Bo Jackson publicly enjoying hunting pursuits, it’s just not the same as stripping down for a buck-naked photo shoot. PETA’s celebrities go all out for the cause, including the famous shot of a bikini-clad Pam Anderson labeled and ready to head to the butcher’s table.
Take, for instance, PETA’s annual Sexiest Vegetarian Contest. They line up and trot out dozens of celeb carrot eaters for an online vote and advertise the heck out of the promotion. Almost every celebrity entered tweets or posts to Facebook in support of the effort, further widening PETA’s pop culture reach. It’s that reach and committed advocacy that sets this anti-hunting group apart from their opponents. While many high-profile athletes, politicians and country singers kill animals and eat meat, few take their passions to the airwaves with as much tenacity as PETA’s Tinseltown followers. Those that do—including former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan— are often met with public pushback. That needs to change.
That’s how PETA gets the job done. They bake their message into a non-endemic, lowest common denominator message that everyone can’t help but watch. Then, as if almost by osmosis, non-hunters are thinking about veggies.
That’s where I fault the outdoor industry’s media contingent (myself included). We preach to the choir way too much.
Of course, I understand that the Petersen’s Hunting brand has always been catered to the hardcore hunter, and that’s how it should stay, but I think we often miss the chance to reach independent folks. These are non-hunters who have never tried, but probably would if presented with a logical cost-benefit analysis. Our continued efforts here at HUNTING will be to reach the folks in the middle. And as far as PETA’s concerned, sometimes you’ve got to fight fire with fire.
New Jersey’s annual bear hunt is one stark example. The headlines in the local and regional newspapers led not with the hunters’ efforts of conservation or the economic impact that the third annual black bear hunt provides, but with the fact a few dozen individuals were protesting outside the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area office in Fredon. The antis had a permit granted by the Department of Environmental Protection that allowed them to begin at 10 a.m., and came right on time holding “Peace on Earth” signs and shouting at passers by.
Same thing happened in Las Cruses, N.M., in February at the 2013 Predator Masters Annual Hunt & Convention. No news stories about how well the convention went or how many ethical and conservation-minded hunters were able to enjoy the day; instead we have to read about 65 folks who disagreed with the reason for the event. This protest also further promoted House Bill 316, state representative Nate Cote’s bill aimed at banning mislabeled “animal-killing contests,” in reference to some coyote hunting contests held in the state.
HUNTING favorite Melissa Bachman saw the full muscle of these attacks last year when over 14,000 people signed a petition started on Change.org to prevent her from taking part in the National Geographic show on Alaskan adventure and survival. Nat Geo eventually gave in to the pressure from groups labeling Bachman —a lifelong hunter who has found great success in recent years as a outdoor TV producer, writer, personality and advocate for women in the field—as a blood thirsty trophy hunter who kills for sport.
These same social media extremists started the Facebook page “Corey Cogdell Is Not Welcome In Africa,” in which some less-than-civil criticism was levied against the Olympic shooter for posting a grip-and-grin with a kudu (pictured here). They also attacked the Trump Brothers in the media for a completely legal and ethical hunt in Africa.
These stereotypes are what antis thrive on, and when all the public sees in controversy, the heart of the hunting issue is drowned out for good.
The list of debates in hunting is as long as our history and, for sure, everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. But I’ve had more debates about high fences, fair chase, crossbows, long range shooting and Sunday hunting with other hunters than I’ve had about how we should best go up against PETA.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good debate about the ethics and reasoning behind our pursuits, and I don’t think that should go away. I do think we should table those ideas sometimes for a larger debate, like how we combat Pam Anderson’s naked rear-end and a chick rubbing up on some asparagus. We need to defend our own and maybe next time we can help Melissa Bachman keep her spot on cable TV—just some food for thought.