In the growing cultural assault on hunting, we know this to be true. Anti-hunters will say almost anything to divert attention from the fact hunting is almost always the highest and best use of our wildlife resources. Hunters know this. But when anti-hunting lies recently involved me directly on a global news broadcast, and without opportunity to rebut in a television “debate,” the sickening reality of the bias posed against hunters became personal.
At first the opportunity to debate a Humane Society International (HSI) anti-hunter on a worldwide cable news channel about the U.S. elephant import ban seemed like a dream come true. Communicating the virtues of sustainable-use hunting is one of my passions. But despite my confidence in the facts and science supporting the pro-hunting position, my naiveté prevented me from realizing the outcome already had been determined.
With a prompt from public relations firm Blue Heron Communications, China Global Television Network asked me to be part of a panel discussion on lifting the Obama-era ban on importation of elephant trophies on its Global Business Americaprogram. I hoped my opponent would be an emotional bunny-hugger I could dismantle with the facts about hunting. Instead, I drew a D.C.-based international trade policy attorney with Humane Society International (HSI), Masha Kalinina. A talented speaker, Kalinina’s ability to obfuscate and manipulate facts to support her anti-hunting position were obvious in the opposition research I conducted. This would not be an easy task. That realization become even clearer when I entered the studio.
While my opponent sat across the news desk from GBA host Rachelle Akuffo, I was relegated to sit at a remote broadcast studio in Oklahoma City. The studio lacked one critical element vital to a fair exchange of ideas: There was no video feed from the set in Washington, D.C.
Lacking the ability to see the host, my opponent or even my own image put me at a disadvantage in this adversarial broadcast. My only connection to the questions and nuance of the debate was the small speaker in my right ear. I was going in blind, and when the host’s voice crackled live in my earpiece, the situation quickly went from bad to worse.
Rather than pose questions alternatively to each side with the opportunity for rebuttal, questions were put to me first, then left for the anti-hunter to respond. Whether due to time constraints, the proximity of the speakers or inherent bias against hunting, HIS’s side was allowed the last word on all but one question. Propagandizing against hunting without fear of rebuttal, the HSI attorney spouted half-truths and falsehoods that I was not allowed to challenge … until now. For the sake of brevity, I will paraphrase her statements in italics. You can view the interview and judge for yourself by clicking here.
HSI:The meat issue is interesting. No one eats lion. No one eats leopard in Africa. And Africans don’t need meat handouts, what they need are jobs. FALSE, FALSE and TRUE
The meat issue is I have eaten lion and leopard. While the two are not the most sought-after game meats, they are often consumed by indigenous peoples.
Having harvested hundreds of African animals over the last three decades, I can tell you most indigenous Africans are in need of, and greatly appreciate, the “handout” of protein provided by hunters to enhance their starch-based diet.
Africans do need jobs. The irony of the statement is this is the exact sentiment I had just expressed. Especially in rural Africa, jobs are in short supply. In many places, hunting is the only source of commercial employment.
HSI:Most of them [trophy hunting operators] are located outside of national parks—outside of Hwange, outside of Kruger—because they are dependent on their healthy ecosystems to supply this endless conveyor belt of wildlife for hunters to slaughter. … maybe one percent of these operators are located in remote areas like Steve is talking about, but the majority are capitalizing on the places tourists are going.FALSE
Few outfitters are located next to national parks. It is a physical impossibility. The hundreds of hunting operators throughout mostly Southern and East Africa cannot physically operate on the outskirts of national parks. Common sense (or a map) reveals hundreds of operations in South Africa and Namibia are nowhere near national parks. In Tanzania, hunting concession land area is four times that of national parks.
One percent of hunting operations located in remote areas? I wonder if this woman has ever been to Africa.
HSI:Are there enough leopards to sustain this offtake for hunting? And what we found was South Africa in 2015 and 2016 prohibited the export of leopard trophies because they simply do not have an accurate count of this [leopard] population. Other countries that have a CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] quota are saying “We don’t have any leopards left. We want our leopard quota to be completely removed. PARTIALLY TRUE/EXTREMELY MISLEADING and FALSE
While South Africa (SA) did not allow leopard exportation in 2015/16, it was not because it did not have enough leopards to sustain a hunting quota. It does. It did not allow a quota because one or two provinces did not provide their leopard survey to SA Environmental Affairs. The fact is South Africa has an ABUNDANCE of leopards, which is apparent to anyone who actually spends time in the SA bush.
While some African governments may be against hunting and decline their CITIES quota for leopards, using hearsay as evidence that certain African countries “don’t have any leopards” is an intentional deception. Leopards are adaptive and resilient and do well in most African countries. They are found in all sub-Saharan nations.
So what is the take-away?
In hindsight I was naïve. I assumed a legitimate organization would not risk its reputation by making false and misleading public statements that would not stand up to public scrutiny. I was wrong. The public does not scrutinize much anymore. I suppose there is so much information available today—so much digital “noise” in the media environment that few people care or take the time to examine the statements made by such groups. Otherwise, why would HSI promote the same falsehood on its Twitter feed?
I wish I could have been a better spokesman for hunting. I was nervous and not nearly as articulate as I would have liked. My frustration over not being able to set the record straight contributed to my inability to expose the deception in such organizations, but that changes starting today.
The National Rifle Association has taught us about the power of a grassroots movement to preserve our Second Amendment rights. The fight to save hunting should be no different. You would not be reading NRAHLF.org material if you did not care about hunting. So how can you fight the well-funded anti-hunting organization? The collective hunting community does it together, and with information.
To help arm you for the fight, over the next few weeks we will take an in depth look at anti-hunting organizations that seek to abolish our sport and heritage. From the “pet shelter” kill factories of PETA to the HSUS, which, despite fundraising based on puppies and kittens, operates no pet shelters at all, we will examine the motivation and methodology, the morals and marketing tactics, and the money that is the primary motivator for many of these organizations’ existence. We will identify the deceitful nature of these businesses. In the process, we can begin to turn the tide of public opinion to embrace what we already know: Sustainable-use hunting is the only way for wildlife to remain viable in our 7.5 billion-person world.
The fight to save hunting will not be easy, but it is a fight that can be won if hunters work together. The NRA has shown us the way.
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About the Author Steve Scott is a reformed attorney, long-time university instructor and producer/host of the outdoor TV shows “Safari Hunter’s Journal” and “Steve Scott’s Outdoor Guide.” For more information, visitstevescott.tv.