In 1597, Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Ipsa scientia potestas est.” That's Latin for “Knowledge is power.” While it is a popular adage, in the case of British Columbia’s (B.C.) ban on grizzly bear hunting, which has been covered repeatedly by this website, the statement does not hold true. The B.C. ban, which went into effect Nov. 30, 2017, proves knowledge can be worthless. Unfortunately, ignorance can have great power—and it can give great power to others. The collective hunting community would be well advised to learn the lessons from the B.C. grizzly ban to craft more effective strategies to fight the anti-hunting, animal rights extremist mobs.
As affirmed in a B.C. Government press release in December 2017on the heels of reports from NRAHLF.org and other hunting and conservation media outlets, “The British Columbia government ended hunting grizzly bears throughout the province,” announced Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy,effectively ending the hunting of about 250 bears from a bear population estimated to be approximately 15,000.
The NDP/Green coalition government set up an “engagement website to consult on possible regulation changes to end the grizzly bear hunt. About 80 percent of the 4,200 respondents opposed grizzly bear hunting. That’s about 3,200 people out of a population of some four million. Despite this fact, “Through consultations this past fall, we have listened to what British Columbians have to say on this issue and it is abundantly clear that the grizzly hunt is not in line with their values,” Donaldson said.
The poll results are not surprising; indeed, they are a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the media saturates the public with falsehoods about hunting, only a twit would be surprised when polls show much of the public is opposed to hunting.
Michael Schneider, president of the prestigious Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia (GOABC), said, “It is truly disappointing that we throw history and science out the window for some urban votes. We expect our government to make informed decisions based on the best facts and science. Emotional decisions are not good for anyone.”
I fear Mr. Schneider’s expectations about government integrity are unjustified. He also fails to recognize that emotional decisions are very good for some people. Dallas Safari Club Executive Director and certified wildlife biologist Corey Mason said, “Science tells us that well-regulated hunting does only good things for grizzlies. This decision not only throws out science but discards reason as well.” True, Corey, but so what? Might as well place a tombstone over Bacon’s Ipsa scientia potestas est.
Regarding the government’s “consultations,” Scott Ellis, GOABC Executive Director, said that no one in his organization was consulted regarding the hunting ban. This omission is important. Not only did the government not want a contrary perspective; the government was too complacent and smug to even pretend to make the effort to reach out to the largest hunting organization in the province. The government could have surveyed the GOABC and then reject its perspective, using the same Orwellian language claiming that the GOABC was not “in line” with the province’s values. This omission not only reinforces the government’s deceit. It shows contempt for the hunting community.
Being “in line with their values” is now the standard upon which a government may ban some policy—hunting or otherwise. It belabors the obvious that “their values” is determined by a flagrantly unscientific and rather selective email process.
Democracy: Hunting’s Weakness The anti-hunting extremists have found hunting’s weakness: democracy. Wayne Pacelle, past president of the Humane Society of the United States, unambiguously stated: “If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would. Only seven percent of Americans are hunters. That means there are more of us than there are of them. It is simply a matter of democracy. The majority rules in a democracy. We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process in the United States… . We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state.”
The founding principles of the United States expressed the fear of the tyranny of the majority. Now, with social media distortions and an ignorant public almost all concentrated in a few urban areas, the hunting community must develop strategies to defend against the tyranny of a tiny but well-orchestrated and well-funded minority.
We see that actualization of the quote from the poem, “The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Lessons to be Learned First, for whatever reason, many hunters do not see the grizzly ban as a problem. They don’t think it will affect their favored hunting activity. I recall the prescient words of Martin Niemöller, the Protestant pastor who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler:
“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. … Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The truth is that the word “trophy,” which was the word anti-hunters used in defining how the anti-hunters referred to grizzly bear hunts during their grizzly bear ban campaign, can be placed in front of any wild game species, thereby drawing the toxic venom of the anti-hunting mobs. Every species is vulnerable to an attack and a hunting ban.
Second, as NRA’s Institute of Legislative Action and this NRAHLF.org have explained on multiple occasions, the hunting community should grasp that we are in a culture war. Make no mistake: the grizzly ban has nothing to do with saving grizzly bears, nothing to do with conservation. It has nothing to do with science, reason, logic, morality or, for that matter, reducing human injury and death by the bears. Rather, it is a raw ideological power grab. It has to do with some people’s “values.” As with any ideology, principles matter more than people. Or, in this case, more than animals.
Third, the grizzly ban means the hunting community must adapt its tactics, strategies and rhetoric to persuasively engage in an environment where truth, integrity, reason, science and consideration for consequences of policies do not matter.
In her illuminating book, “Cold Blooded Kindness,” psychologist Barbara Oakley writes, "During the 20th century, tens of millions [of] individuals were killed under despotic regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism."
A psychological process Oakley terms “empathic distress” can then lead to a pathological altruism as a means of relieving one's own distress by helping—or giving the appearance of helping—others, including animals. One of Oakley’s key points is that the need to feel good is so strong it subverts the moral discipline to evaluate whether any good is actually achieved. Feeling good becomes more important than doing good. Compassion becomes weaponized.
Oakley continues: “Pathologies of altruism and empathy not only underlie health issues, but also a disparate slew of humankind's most troubled features, including genocide, suicide bombing, self-righteous political partisanship and ineffective philanthropic and social programs that ultimately worsen the situations they are meant to aid.”
Fourth, in the words of “The Godfather’s” Michael Corleone, we need war-time consigliaries: people who know how to make winning arguments and undermine false attacks.
For those who missed it, NRA’s Chris Cox, Executive Director the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), put it best as the keynote speaker at last month’s Safari Club International Annual Hunters’ Convention when he said, “It’s a hunting game of high stakes poker because we’re playing for freedom.” Let us understand that freedom exists only when reason prevails over narcissism and corruption. I conclude with this statement by psychologist Carl Gustav Jung: “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” Jung asserts that idealism—including caring—can become a disease.
The grizzly ban is symbolic of the fight to save hunting’s future: Either we adapt or hunting dies.
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About the Author: NRAHLF.org contributor Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colo., and author of the book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. It is available at Amazon.com and through Kindle as an EBook.
*** Editor’s Note: I urge any American hunter who did not seen NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox’s keynote speech and his hunters’ call to action at the SCI show on Feb. 3 to view it here: https://youtu.be/O5dqXIkf7mg To read the NRAHLF.org article with key highlights from the speech, click here. Cox is ever on the mark as he addresses the collective hunting community’s need for solidarity and engagement in the do-or-die fight to save hunting—and the need for American hunters “to be as dedicated to fighting for it as the animal rights extremists are about destroying it.”