In their never-ending quest to end hunting, animal rights extremists use many tactics. One such tactic on the rise is the issuing of pseudo-scientific reports and “studies” that put hunting in a negative light. As with so much of the anti-hunting movement in this country, the animal rightists are greatly aided by a mainstream media that takes these “studies” at face value.
The trend is potentially quite damaging, especially since once a media outlet reports on the newest animal rights “study,” others follow suit. Rarely do the reporters examine the possible motives of the authors or question the “science” used to generate data. In the process, wildlife management and hunting are portrayed as harmful to the general public and wildlife.
For example, National Public Radio (NPR) recently promoted a new “study” arguing that wildlife professionals and wildlife agencies in the United States and Canada frequently do not use science and scientific objectives when making decisions concerning hunting in favor of bowing to hunters’ wishes.
When given a quick read, the study even can appear objective, complete with statistics and scientific jargon. As NPR reported:
“Researchers, looking at hunting management policies across 62 U.S. and Canadian states, provinces and territories, found that a majority of those policies lacked ‘four fundamental hallmarks of science relevant to natural resource management’—measurable objectives, evidence, transparency and independent review. The researchers looked at 667 hunt management systems for 27 species and found that 60 percent of them had fewer than half of the criteria.”
What did NPR’s reporting omit? The “study’s” head researcher was Kyle Artelle, a biologist with the Canada-based Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Artelle and his group were staunch opponents of British Columbia’s grizzly bear hunt and worked alongside the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to shut down the season last fall. In the NPR coverage, Artelle specifically says he opposed the B.C. grizzly hunt because there was little to no science behind it.
NPR let that whopper of a misstatement slide. Yet, as NRAHLF.org reported, it was science that was completely left out of the B.C. provincial government’s decision to end the hunt. In fact, scientific data showed that B.C. had a healthy grizzly population estimated at 15,000 bears. In any one year, hunters only harvested approximately 250 bears—or 1.6-percent of the population. Science showed the bear hunt was utterly sustainable, but emotion and pseudo-science killed it.
To its credit, NPR did contact Ron Regan, the executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represents state wildlife agencies in North America. Reagan noted that those involved in the “study” were woefully misinformed. “Their characterization of science being less than ideally applied in making management decisions is just not true,” Regan said.
But NPR dropped the ball after that, not really explaining how wildlife science is in fact the guiding principle behind wildlife management decisions, including hunting. Unfortunately, NPR’s own report based on misinformation was widely disseminated across other media outlets and social media.
In the United States, HSUS also used a “report” to try and ban mountain lion hunting in Arizona. HSUS piggybacked “Report Reveals the Five Deadliest States for Mountain Lions” onto the pseudo “scandal” concerning the death of Cecil the Lion. The report itself was part of HSUS’ campaign to ban mountain lion hunting and trapping in Arizona through a November 2018 ballot initiative. As reported by this website and the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, efforts were suspended on Apr. 4 when HSUS announced it was falling far short of gathering the 150, 642 signatures required by July 5, leaving the state free to base wildlife management decisions on science rather than on a political agenda—for now.
Also addressing the issue was Brian Lynn, Vice President of Communications for the pro-hunting Sportsmen’s Alliance. “You’ll notice they use emotional language in the report and the press release announcing it,” he said. “But then notice the population data and harvest data. They're showing 10-year harvest data to 1-year population data. On a quick blush, it looks like hunters are killing more lions than there even are!”
He continued, “… you have to stop and think and do the math to realize what’s really going on here. Unfortunately, much of the public and far too many reporters aren't that diligent.”
And then there are the extremists at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA disseminates “fact sheet” after “fact sheet,” condemning meat-eating, zoos and farming, among other activities. Only problem is, its facts are wrong. Its fact sheet “Why Sport Hunting Is Cruel and Unnecessary,” for example, actually references and distorts data from state game and fish agencies and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to “prove” its case that hunting is both unnecessary and dangerous to hunters.
In truth, as the trade association for the shooting sports industry, NSSF’s data actually spotlights that hunting steadily has become safer. Similarly, the game agency data that the anti-hunters cited also would highlight the positives of hunting—if the information hadn’t been cherry-picked to suggest a different picture.
Now it would take a book-length dissertation to untangle this “report’s” misinformation and lies. Suffice it to say, for the reporter striving to support the anti-hunting narrative, PETA “fact sheets,” HSUS reports and the above-cited NPR coverage of a “study” make for a gold mine of fake news.
This is one reason the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) and NRAHLF.org exists: to help the collective hunting community take control of the narrative and tell the truth about hunters and hunting. This is how we hunters will counter the inaccurate and emotional messaging being circulated by animal rights extremists. NPR’s coverage of this latest “study” is a harsh reminder that we have much work to do.