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This past April I participated in the Texas Hunter Education Annual Conference in Abilene. Rarely have I been in the presence of so many dedicated creative advocates for hunting, hunting ethics and hunting instruction. My presentation included examples of persuading hunting opponents and those neutral about hunting that hunting has benefits, including conservation and the respectful treatment of animals. The text of my talk is available on my website: http://thehonorablehunter.com/index.php/articles/226-focusing-on-the-big-picture-sabbeth-presentation-texas-hunter-education-annual-conference .

 

After my talk, Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden Darla Barr approached me and shared an anecdote. Two anti-hunters disdainfully challenged Darla for advocating killing beautiful innocent animals. Darla’s response is a textbook example of effective persuasion. Her words transformed these anti-hunters into persons willing to give thoughtful informed consideration of hunting’s beneficial consequences.

 

Darla implemented her persuasion strategy with skillful precision. First, she elicited the values of her challengers. The opponents valued animal conservation, the preservation of habitat, acknowledged that animals die from causes other than hunting, such as from disease, injury and starvation and they valued reducing animal suffering.

 

Second, Darla described a typical hunt. One bullet, one arrow, is, in most instances, sufficient for the hunt. Not always, of course, but when it’s not, the ethical hunter will track the animal and end the suffering effectively. Darla also described reality in vivid detail. Starvation, disease and injury lead to brutal lingering deaths. The predators move in and rip the living animal apart. And the fire ants attack, savage merciless invaders that penetrate the eyes and nose and throat of the animal in excruciating fashion. Sugarcoating reality demeans the animals. Darla did not sugarcoat.  

 

Third, and most significant, Darla presented the ladies with a binary choice: hunt or do not hunt. Do you prefer a rapid ethical death or an extended painful one? Thirty seconds of pain or several weeks of pain? Darla demanded clarity of values from her audience. It’s either A or its B. You can’t have both. Which do you prefer? People tend to carve out exceptions or alternatives to reality to avoid making uncomfortable choices. This human tendency does not necessarily advance ethical thinking.

 

There is a tendency to romanticize the lives of animals, as if the mountain lion and the young fawn are lying together on a lush green forest floor as in an Henri Rousseau painting waiting for the arrival of gluten-free, locally-sourced, non-GMO organic broccoli and steamed rice. But that’s not life in Nature. Nature is death, disease, starvation and sometimes fire ants.

 

The young ladies changed their minds about hunting. They became educated. More importantly, Darla skillfully showed that hunting was consistent with their values. They opposed animal suffering and favored conservation. Even if the ladies will not hunt, their opposition disappeared. The fire ants may have persuaded them.

 

 

 

Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colorado. See his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. Available at Amazon.com  http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu

 

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