by Brian McCombie - Thursday, August 10, 2023
A European hunting and conservation organization is moving in the direction that the National Rifle Association and the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum have been focused on for years here in the United States: to educate the larger public about the conservation benefits hunting provides for wildlife species, wildlife habitats and the environment as a whole.
As has occurred in the United States, hunting in Europe is increasingly under attack as extremists push emotional and non-scientific arguments, accusations and misinformation about hunters and hunting. Although unfounded, these attacks have had a negative effect on public perception of hunting and present barriers to its cultural acceptance—despite its role in feeding those less fortunate, serving as a vital wildlife management tool and generating funds that aid game and non-game species alike.
Recently, the Austrian hunting and conservation group Jagd Österreich stepped up to change all that with a new information campaign titled “Das ist Jagd”—or “That is Hunting.” The campaign is being supported by the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, or FACE, made up of 37 hunters’ associations from various European countries.
The Austrian group’s campaign is right in step with the long-term efforts of the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) to promote cultural acceptance of legal, regulated hunting. As the Jagd Österreich website notes, “For some years now, alienation from nature has been steadily increasing, while knowledge about hunting has become less important, especially among the urban population. This leads to a lack of awareness, prejudice and ultimately a lack of understanding of hunters and hunting. In order to counteract this development, Jagd Österreich has decided to raise public awareness of the benefits of hunting and is launching an Austria-wide information campaign.”
The campaign kicked off on July 4, 2023, in conjunction with Austria’s “Independence Day of Hunting,” comprised of events held in multiple locations around Vienna. It generated positive media coverage for hunting and was attended by key leaders in Austrian and international hunting and conservation organizations, as well as local and national government representatives and politicians.
“Nature and hunting are often discussed emotionally,” explained Lutz Molter, deputy secretary-general of Jagd Österreich. “This has led to prejudices and myths over the years. We see a need for action to communicate clearly the services of the hunting community for nature, the environment, and wildlife in a broad and effective manner. Of course, we achieve this best using online communication today, with attention-grabbing subjects and creative actions.”
Amid animal rights extremists’ push to end all hunting, campaigns in support of hunting are paramount worldwide. In Great Britian, for example, legislation is currently being considered to ban the import of taxidermy, antlers and horns into that country. Proponents of the ban have attacked hunting as cruel and barbaric, but legal, regulated hunting is just that: legal and regulated. As noted in the NRA HLF book How to Talk about Hunting: Research-Based Communications Strategies, there are rules and regulations in place to ensure legal, regulated hunting “protects wildlife populations as a whole.”
“This campaign is an excellent example for other countries in Europe to follow,” noted Tristan Breijer, FACE’s policy advisor for social acceptance. “It’s crucial to measure and enhance the social acceptance of hunting to ensure a strong future for hunting and conservation in Europe.”
Of course, improving the public’s understanding of hunting’s many benefits is an ongoing effort in the United States. As the NRA HLF website, NRAHLF.org, shares: “This approach is not new for the NRA,” said Joseph P. DeBergalis, executive director of NRA General Operations. “Recognizing that ongoing public support of hunting is essential, in 2014 the NRA launched the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) to address the escalating cultural, political, demographic and social challenges to hunting in the 21st century. In 2016, the NRA HLF hired Responsive Management to conduct the nation’s first-ever groundbreaking study accessing Americans’ attitudes toward hunters, hunting, animal rights and animal welfare.”
In addition to tracking the threats to hunting’s future, the NRA HLF website, NRAHLF.org, also tells the story of the hunter. In addition to news articles monitoring the issues on the state, national and global levels, material explains hunting’s many benefits as a food source and conservation tool and celebrates how hunting is a mainstream American way of life and a right.
The reality is that the way non-hunters view hunting is an important factor in keeping hunting and wildlife conservation strong. Non-hunters vote. They are also the target of extremist animal rights groups like PETAthat continually and loudly denounce hunting to the mainstream media and general public.
Unfortunately, as DeBergalis also noted, a more recent study conducted by Responsive Management found that public acceptance of hunting in the United States has slightly decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic, including for the purposes of wildlife management, protection of property and obtaining locally sourced food. This is why the NRA and NRA HLF continue to lead U.S.-based efforts to share the truth about hunting and its vital connection to wildlife conservation, keeping wildlife populations in balance while providing a great source of organic protein. Thank you, Jagd Österreich, for also working to raise awareness of hunting’s many benefits and why we hunt.
About the Author
NRAHLF.org contributor Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian enjoys hunting hogs, shooting 1911s, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats, Peanut Morgan and MikaBear.
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