You’ve got to hand it to them. Hunters are doing a really good job of marketing their passion for animal slaughter. Despite the number of hunters inexorably dwindling, despite the public relations debacle of Cecil the Lion, the general public opinion of hunting continues to improve year after year (see here).
This positive public impression is carefully crafted by companies like Danner boots (see here), who caters to gun-loving hunters, law-enforcement, and military types. They have been airing a pretentious series of commercials celebrating hunting. These commercials are reminiscent of those older Marine Corps recruiting commercials. It portrays hunters as the few, the proud and noble protectors of nature. According to the narrator speaking softly over slow-motion shots of hunters in the backdrop of gorgeous nature scenes:
“There’s not enough wilderness left, not on this Earth, nor in the hearts of man, so we hunt. To stand face to face with nature and hold it for as long as it’s allowed. We hunt for balance, for strength, and for a hope that the outdoors will thrive for years to come. Hunting is more than a sport, it’s a calling.”
That’s good marketing bullshit. And the hunting industry is playing a good game on offense too. If you search Google, you’ll find article after article attacking the critics of hunting. They all tout the reasonableness of “science-based” hunting, as if hunters are all thoughtful servants of the planet, out there in the wilderness tirelessly protecting the animals they love – by killing them. Their claim of “science-based” hunting is about as valid as claims of “theological science.” According to Jon Way at Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research (see here):
“State wildlife departments often say they use “science-based management” … their technical way of saying, we want hunters (a small minority of the population) to kill as many animals as possible and as long as they don’t go extinct … then it is science-based.”
Pro-hunting organizations have jumped all over this science-based™ claim to portray themselves as the informed, pragmatic, responsible parties. These organizations are highly visible and prolific at spreading all sorts of reasonable sounding arguments to rationalize selling equipment to pander to guys – and increasingly girls (see here) – who love to kill stuff. For example, in an article on Hunting Life, hunter Catherine Semcer makes the following arguments in support of trophy hunting (see here):
- Trophy hunting provides fresh meat to local people, improving the lives of children.
- Habitat loss is the REAL problem.
- Trophy hunting reduces illegal poaching.
- Those against hunting just want a “bumper sticker” on their Volvo while Africans suffer.
- Africans want trophy hunting, it’s not for people living in New York and San Francisco to decide for them.
Of course these are ridiculous arguments. They are all self-fulfilling partial truths, deflections, and red-herrings that pose false choices. The real truth of the matter is that hunters simply love guns and love shooting stuff with their guns – big living stuff. And the industry that supports them loves making money. As Bill Bryson documents in “A Short History of Everything,” so-called “naturalists” just like them have reveled in shooting animals to extinction for much of the last 200 years. Today’s generation of hunters is no more scientific and nature-loving than the self-proclaimed “naturalists” of the 1800’s who gleefully shot the dodo, the sea cow, and innumerable bird and animal species into oblivion.
Some of you may remember the notable TV series called “Wiseguy” that aired in 1987 (see here). FBI agent Vinnie Terranova goes undercover to infiltrate the organization of mob-boss Sonny Steelgrave. When Sonny is finally brought down, he rages with righteous indignation that the government is the real bad guys. They do far more harm than him. That without him much worse mobsters would have taken over. That he in fact actually helped many people by getting his hands bloody and doing what needed to be done.
Sonny’s rationalizations sound a great deal like the usual arguments put forth by hunters like Catherine Semcer to justify and legitimize what they do.
Not Buying It Sonny. You may want to believe you were a benevolent father figure, but in reality you were just a self-serving thug.
Not Buying It Hunters. You may want to believe you are misunderstood defenders of the environment, lovers of wildlife, but you are just pathetic losers who wanna kill stuff.
By the way, I grew up in a large extended family of hunters.