I usually have a positive outlook on things.
But I'm concerned about the future of hunting.
It's not the die-hard anti-hunters that worry me.
What bothers me is how the folks in "the middle" are developing a distorted view of the lifestyle I treasure.
Specifically, I keep hearing the term "trophy hunting" being used as an umbrella term for all things evil.
And, politically, there are or have been moves attempt to limit hunting in the EU and here in the UK.
The problem, in my opinion, is a lack of education. It's our responsibility to help non-hunters understand that hunting is a force of good in nature.
And I think the Eiffel Tower is the solution. Crazy? Stay with me...
Here's the deal. I'm passionate about hunting. Always have been.
It's a lifestyle with many dimensions. Which means it can be challenging to explain to "outsiders".
Especially when it involves hunting abroad. Or just away from my usual area.
I have lots of friends who don't hunt but are ok with hunting. Generally speaking.
But as soon as hunting involves travelling abroad, they become sceptical.
On trophy hunting
We recently had friends over for lunch, and the topic of trophy hunting came up.
My non-hunter friends are comfortable with the type of hunting I talk about.
The one that involves nature, conservation and wild food.
But they wanted me to take a stand against the horrible concept that is trophy hunting.
You know, the cold-blooded killing of an animal, with the sole purpose of harvesting the trophy.
I could have told them I was ok with trophy hunting in general terms (for reasons I'll explain below).
That we should agree to disagree.
And left it at that. But that would have been a big mistake.
It would have been a big mistake because it would have left them with a wrong and negative view of hunting.
And I'm concerned that over time, if not addressed, such negative beliefs will lead restrictions on hunting.
We're already seeing signs of that agenda being pushed in the British government.
UK ban on import/export of trophies
In the UK, there is a consultation on controls on import and export of hunting trophies.
Let's just take that one more time.
There is an articulated concern in the UK government that hunting is a threat to wildlife and biodiversity.
And they're ultimately looking at the option of banning imports and exports of any kind of hunting trophy.
That's pretty serious. They also entertain other options for controls, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
But a complete ban is on the list.
And that's bad in many ways. What concerns me the most is the lack of data presented with the consultation.
Zero data in support of a ban
I think that any that preservation of wildlife and biodiversity is close to all hunters' hearts.
But let's be real about what's a threat and what's a force of good.
Here are a couple of thoughts that inform my opinion.
What would be achieved by banning exports from the UK?
In the UK, there is a challenge keeping deer populations under control.
In Scotland, deer managers have even been criticised for not keeping up with cull targets.
Stags and bucks are shot as part of deer culling.
The animals are not under threat of extinction.
Selling the trophies is a by-product of the culling.
One that creates jobs and supports the local economy.
A ban on the export of trophies will not improve biodiversity or protect endangered species.
It might be a well-meaning idea, but research suggests that it will hurt both local economies and conservation.
This is why I don't see any logic behind the DEFRA consultation.
I'm concerned it's based on an unfounded anti-hunting sentiment.
And, I'm concerned that such ideas will spread. If we leave them unchecked.
How can we share a positive message about hunting?
That leads me back to the lunch with our friends.
It's our responsibility, as hunters, to educate non-hunters.
We must help them understand that hunting is a force of good in nature.
To avoid governments ending up acting on false premises and anecdotes presented by anti-hunters.
That's easier said than done.
So, I'd like to share two specific tools you could consider in a similar situation.
What does available research say about trophy hunting?
The first one is purely on the concept of trophy hunting.
I think trophy hunting in the purest form is rare.
And by purest form, I mean a case where the hunter just wants a trophy to put on the wall.
I'll get back to why I think that's rare.
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent research organisation.
Their mission is: "... to build a fairer, more sustainable world, using evidence, action and influence, working in partnership with others."
IIED has conducted several studies on trophy hunting.
Here's a summary from one of their articles ("The baby and the bathwater: trophy hunting, conservation and rural livelihoods"):
"The authors conclude that, although the governance of trophy hunting needs reform in many countries, bans and import restrictions would undermine successful conservation and community-driven development programmes that are funded largely by trophy hunting."
I appreciate that some people don't see the appeal of having a trophy on a wall.
And I get that some people are uncomfortable with the act of killing an animal (even if it's natural).
But whatever peoples' preferences, the IIED research comes with a clear conclusion.
Trophy hunting is a benefit to conservation.
Having said that, most folks are removed from nature today.
What you and I find natural, is foreign to them. They buy their meat and vegetables wrapped in plastic.
They see animals portrayed as humans in cartoons all the time.
So, the research-based argument might not win them over.
That's when we need an example people can relate to.
That's where the Eiffel Tower comes into the picture.
The Eiffel Tower example
I use this example to help non-hunters understand why some of us like to hunt abroad.
Here's what. I told my friends.
Firstly, the trophy hunting portrayed in the "Cecil the lion" debate is rare, in the greater scheme of things.
It's simply too expensive for most of us. It's not bad for nature.
But even if you find it vulgar, it's an outlier.
And nobody should form an opinion on a topic, based on outliers.
Let's talk about hunting abroad, as experienced and done by 99% of hunters.
Think about holidays and souvenirs.
Nobody goes to Paris solely to buy a plastic model of the Eiffel Tower.
We go there to experience the culture, to get lost in streets full of atmosphere, to enjoy the sights and for the French cuisine.
Some of us bring a souvenir back as a memory. But it's not the souvenir we came for in the first place.
Same thing for hunting abroad.
We hunt abroad because we connect with nature, we engage actively with a different culture, we enjoy big and small adventures, and we relish wild food.
That's why trophy hunting is a misleading term.
And it's being hijacked to paint a negative picture of hunting.
Hunting is a force of good in nature.
And most non-hunters should be able to relate to hunting abroad, even if they wouldn't do it themselves.
It's not about winning... Did I convince our friends? Some of them.
But, it's not about forcing my view on them.
It's not about winning the argument. It's about winning them over.
So that even if they don't hunt, they will support hunting. I will continue to present hunting in a positive light.
Using examples like the Eiffel Tower story and IIED research.
I'm convinced, that step by step, conversation by conversation we can educate non-hunters.
And help them understand that hunting is a force of good in nature.
What's your view?
All the best,
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