Concrete skills exist that can change hearts and minds of anti- and non-hunters towards accepting hunting. I share an example from Darla Barr, Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden. I met Darla at the 2017 Texas Hunter Education Annual Conference in Abilene. She shared this anecdote on persuasion that occurred when two female anti-hunters aggressively challenged hunting and essentially accused hunters of being murderers.
Darla’s response is a model for winning over anti- and non-hunters to accept hunting. First, Darla, asked questions to establish the values of the attacking anti-hunters. Did they favor more animals than fewer? Did they favor healthier animals than diseased ones? Have they ever seen an animal die from starvation or disease? These questions influenced the ladies’ receptivity to Darla’s argument and also established that the ladies were ignorant about wildlife.
Darla asked questions that demanded a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. She forced them to commit to a preference: Do you want more poaching or less? Yes or no?
Then Darla gave a vivid example of what can happen to injured, diseased or starving animals: they may be attacked by fire ants. Darla was graphic: weakened by wounds or disease or starvation, the ants go into its throat, its eyes, its nostrils and devour the animal with excruciating pain. Nature is a rough neighborhood, Darla emphasized. Then Darla asked the most critical question: Is it more moral to have an animal die in a minute from a hunter or have it die an agonizing death over a period of weeks? Yes or no? Choose one answer. There is no third choice.
Finally, —and this is the key point—Darla showed that hunting was consistent with and advanced the anti-hunters values, which they admitted when answering Darla’s initial questions. The ladies could not rationally oppose hunting when they were forced to admit that hunting advanced their values. The two ladies told Darla that she had changed their minds and that they could accept hunting.
I believe most people are decent and want to do the right thing. They want to protect animals; they want to reduce suffering. Therefore, they will accept hunting when they are persuaded that hunting advances their values.
Darla did not try to convert the ladies into hunters. She wanted them to accept hunting in at least one situation. She succeeded.
Preparing questions and anticipating negative responses are difficult challenges. However, hunters must do the work if we are to effectively defend and advance hunting. We can succeed if we approach persuasion methodically and strategically.