Bad news travels fast—even all the way from Africa—as I just got an email from friend and noted hunting-and-conservation writer Ron Thomson in South Africa asking if I’d heard the latest on “Cecil the lion.” As his link shows, anti-hunting extremists have announced plans for a “Cecil 2016” rally in Washington, D.C., on July 30. The goal, they say, is to "remember Cecil" as they try and manipulate public emotion while burying the scientific facts on hunting’s critical role in wildlife conservation and condemning trophy hunting. Clearly, this is a wake-up call for any American hunter who still believes that anti-hunting issues arising halfway around the world have no bearing here.
Of course, animal rights activists are relying on highly-charged controversies to force the public to focus on one animal at a time—in this case, Cecil—rather than on the general health of a species' population. And their other popular tactic? Purposely confusing poaching with hunting.
Need an example? In case you missed it, the live “Hunters Conserve Wildlife” debate in New York City on May 4put two noted hunter-conservationists up against two noted animal rights extremists to hash out whether hunting is conservation. Considering the winning side was decided by an audience vote at the end, the fact the antis came out ahead was no shock as the Big Apple isn’t known for being chock full of hunters and other conservationists who would vote based on scientific facts over emotional claims. Of course, results from the pre-event online poll showing that 69-percent voted that hunters conserve wildlife was not mentioned. In putting "Cecil" at the center of the debate, the antis found a way to obfuscate the facts and blur the lines between poaching as hunting.
Fanatical animal rights extremists are on the war path, waging a culture war on hunting from Israel to Spain and now Washington, D.C. Just two of the topics on the rally's agenda are "how to shake up policy makers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service"—likely displeased after last month's USFWS' news release commending hunters for helping to raise $1 billion for wildlife conservation in 2016—and "the legality of poaching." Poaching, of course, is illegal, but the extremists aren't about to confuse the public with facts. This rally is yet another example of why it is long past time for hunters to counter anti-hunting extremism and take a stand for hunting and its critical role in wildlife conservation.