First it was Cecil the lion and when he was killed, Cecilgate, that brought out global opposition to trophy hunting. Now it's African elephants and trophy hunting that anti-hunters are using to put hunters in their sights. Maybe we should call this "Tuskgate."
Safari Club President Paul Babaz, clearly a leader in the field of responsible trophy hunting, has tried to support the Department of Interior's decision allowing African elephant tusks, tails, etc. trophies to be imported into the US, by getting the facts to President Trump to change his mind on his decision to stop permitting elephant trophy imports from Zambia and Zimbabwe. http://www.theoutdoorwire.com/story/1511222034uugm3nxsey8
Babaz has recently been interviewed by CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a number of other newspapers and TV stations. His focus, he says, is trying to show how hunting and poaching aren't the same thing, and to get the facts out to the non-hunting public about hunters' role in conservation and economic support for the African people, including helping curb poaching.
But, voices against trophy hunting are cropping up in many places. Many of these aren't the usual rants by animal rights activists. Some are by people who are tolerant of other kinds of hunting. Some of the most recent articles are in The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-changed-his-tune-on-elephant-trophy-hunting-but-will-he-stop-there/2017/11/20/679a8c48-cbe7-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.110f41472cd6
The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/us/politics/trump-elephants-trophy-hunting.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news and from the New York Times Editorial Board. (Article)
Perhaps the most important article of all in the current debate about trophy hunting appeared in the Washington Post, when Rosie Cooney, chair of the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-voice-missing-from-the-elephant-trophy-debate-africans/2017/11/21/604a3228-ce39-11e7-a1a3-0d1e45a6de3d_story.html?utm_term=.237b8502e876 simply called attention to no one seems to be asking the Africans what they want.
Paul Babaz could not agree more and is working on getting together a voice of what Africans are saying about hunting elephants and big game. It's clearly a step in the right direction, but something else is needed.
Looking into my crystal ball, I predict that the debate about trophy hunting will go on for some time, even if hunting advocates and organizations present all kinds of facts about hunting and wildlife conservation. Solid facts certainly need to be communicated, but facts alone won't solve the problem.
Human consciousness runs on much more than just facts and rational-logical thinking. Carl Jung said that thinking was only one of four functions of the human psyche. The other three are: emotions, sensate-practical (the nuts and bolts of physical reality) and intuition.
More recently, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner has expanded the picture of the psyche to show how there are at least eight different types of intelligences http://www.institute4learning.com/resources/articles/multiple-intelligences/ including Naturalistic Intelligence, which is about perceiving and understanding the natural world. Someone like Teddy Roosevelt or Aldo Leopold would be an "Einstein" of Naturalistic Intelligence.
Recruitment and retention programs are important to the future of hunting. The success of the National Archery In the Schools program introducing millions of kids to archery illustrates how hands-on learning can lead to understanding weaponry, as well opening a door to considering hunting. Sport shooting is popular, and as people can understand it, it helps open the door to understanding hunting and fishing.
The Becoming an Outdoorswoman, and The Trailblazer Adventure Program, and others get more people outdoors, which has many benefits for their health, as well as increasing appreciation for nature and conservation. However, it is essential to reach mainstream audiences to build understanding about ethical hunting using more than just the facts.
We now live in "the Information Age," where the thinking mode prevails and all other intelligences get short-changed or ignored in school, so we graduate single-minded people who are prone to mental health problems, drug addictions and obesity. The Information Age has become the "The Age of Anxiety" due to News media of all kinds today being 10-17 times more negative and sensational than practical facts. The result, according to sociologist Barry Glassner is a "Culture of Fear."
For better or worse, the average person today spends eight hours or more of their time looking at electronic screens – TV, computer, movie theaters, smartphones, etc. These screens have become the new "sixth sense." Electronic mass media is not going away. The real challenge is how to make the best use of it. The hunting community needs to use the media to establish a dialog with non-hunters that leads to mutual understanding, and mass media is the place to do it.
The opponents of hunting are media savvy. They use all kinds of media to get their views out there to millions all the time.
News articles about hunting tend to almost always focus on accidents and poaching. Outdoor pages in major newspapers are virtually gone. Hunters now have more TV shows than ever before, but with the exception of a reality show or two like "Duck Dynasty" that once drew 11 million viewers (now off the air), most outdoor TV shows are seen only by small audiences of a few thousand hunters and fishermen, in contrast to the millions watching mainstream media. There is communication among hunters (Talking In the tent) and communication with non-hunters (Talking Outside the tent.) If hunting is to survive, there has to be more effective "Talking Outside the Tent" communication.
As a former psychology professor who hunts and fishes and works in the media, here's my list of suggestions of how to get more support for hunting and fishing and the American non-hunting public by using mass media:
1) Support mainstream TV programs and films that show hunters as heroes.
If all the 14 to 15 million hunters and their families in the US went to see a movie, it would be a box office hit, and that's what Hollywood likes. A single good film can make a significant difference. Three years after "A River Runs Through It" opened in the theaters in 1992, there were over 100,000 more fly fishermen wading in the streams, and the number of days spent fishing per year jumped from 27,567,000 in 1991 to 41,836,000 in 1994. Business in the fly fishing industry also doubled during the same time.
2) Give awards to mainstream TV and feature films that show what hunting and fishing are all about.
We have the OSCARS, the EMMYS, and the animal rights folks have the "Genesis Awards." Outdoor TV show folks give awards to their own TV shows, and outdoor writers organizations give awards to members. Once upon a time many feature films and mainstream TV shows showed hunting and fishing in a positive light, like "American Sportsman" that ran on ABC from 1965 to 1986 and was hosted by Curt Gowdy. http://jamesswan.com/article-villians_fools_and_heroes.html
Today, the film or TV show for mainstream audiences that shows hunters and fishermen as heroes is an endangered species. Two recent films I'd recommend for a "Teddy" or an "Aldo" are: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_for_the_Wilderpeople the warm-hearted New Zealand film starring Sam Neil that has been a world-wide box office success; and "The Eagle Huntress" http://sonyclassics.com/theeaglehuntress/ a documentary about a 13 year-old Mongolian girl who learns to fly eagles and uses them to hunt.
One surprise in a popular TV show, "The Good Wife," was when Christine Baranski's character marries a ballistics expert who likes to hunt played by Gary Cole, and they go hunting. Christine shoots her first deer, and when her guide asks how she feels, she grins and says "I like it."
A few years ago, Morgan Spurlock's "I, Caveman" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2067569/ reality show showed a group of people set free in the wilds learning to survive, and how they learned to catch fish and ultimately hunt down an elk for food. And Werner Herzog gave us a beautiful documentary, "The Happy People: A Year In The Taiga" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_People:_A_Year_in_the_Taiga that follows a group of people in Siberia who live off the land hunting and trapping without social media or TVs and enjoy it.
For a list of some of my other favorite hunting movies see: https://www.americanhunter.org/articles/2017/2/28/top-15-movies-for-hunters/
3) Script writing contests for films that show hunters and fishermen as heroes.
One of the hardest parts of producing a film is getting your script read by people who could turn it into a real film or TV show. The winner would be guaranteed that certain sympathetic producers would be given the script to read for consideration.
3) Film Festival
– There are a growing number of environmental film festivals; the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival perhaps being the OSCARS for wildlife films. I've been a judge four times and have yet to review a film about hunting or fishing. The organizers say they are open to them, but very few are ever submitted. A festival goes beyond just giving awards. It involves networking, panel discussions, and a chance to meet reps from networks and agents, and build teams.
–Art Dubs, creator of "The Wilderness Family" film series, produced his own films (12 total, including one Oscar-Nominated) and then went to theaters, rented them, advertised, and took all the box office – giving the theater owners the popcorn and drinks business. And Art made a lot of money. http://www.ardubsfoundation.org/history/
Another version of "Four Walling" could be screenings of hunter hero films at major conventions. Perhaps the actors and film-makers could be invited to be there to introduce the films. One film I'd recommend for "four-walling" is the documentary "In The Blood: First Kill" by George Butler, http://whitemountainfilms.com/films/intheblood.html who also produced "Pumping Iron." "In the Blood" is a recreation of Teddy Roosevelt's 1909 African safari, with Tyson, George's son, being guided by the noted guide Robin Hurt, on his first big game hunt. Hurt knows how to explain all the senses involved in hunting, as well as giving respect to any animal taken. http://robinhurt.com/ (An important fact: to date, Robin Hurt's Safaris have distributed well over a million dollars to local villagers in Tanzania.)
5) Hedge Funds that invest in films featuring hunter and fishermen as heroes.
There are hedge funds for just about everything, including making movies. Sure, it's gambling, but so are most investments. These funds would attract producers seeking to make movies about fishing and hunting. "A River Runs Through It" was made for $12 million and the film grossed $43,440,294 in the US domestic box office. The production budget for "Hunt for the Wilderpeople was $2.5 million and the world-wide box office is over $20 million and going strong.
6) Support Hollywood and Nashville celebs who are wiling to say that they hunt and fish.
You can see some lists online. https://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/10-celebrities-who-are-shockingly-pro-hunting/ Honor these folks at conventions.
7) Screenwriter workshops
for established writers to get the facts right and tell the stories that need to be told. Military, FBI, police departments conduct writer workshops to insure writers get their facts right.
– In Colorado, the Wildlife Council http://hugahunter.com/ , a coalition of hunters, anglers and conservationists, produce warm-hearted commercials and social media recognizing hunters and fishermen for their conservation work and economic boost to the state's economy. http://hugahunter.com/ The program is funded by a 75 cent surcharge on each license sold, and polls show there has been a 30% increase in support for hunting and fishing in the state since the commercials began airing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaNEuURErYE
Hunters, and fishermen for that matter, are a minority group, but less than 3% of Americans are vegetarians and .5% are vegans, and research shows that over 80% of vegetarians and 70% of vegans return to eating some meat. If you eat meat, someone has to kill a fish or animal. Hunters and fishermen do get their hands dirty and bloody to put organic food on the table. Presented the right way, this builds understanding of the basic role for hunters in the food chain, or as mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, "flesh eats flesh is what makes life go on." And with this recognitions comes the spirit of thanksgiving that moves ethical sportsmen to support conservation.
Conserving hunting and fishing and the organizations that support them requires the use of mass media to reach the 94% of the public who are non-hunters and 87% who are non-fishermen https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/new-5-year-report-shows-1016-million-americans-participated-hunting-fishing-wildlife so everyone understands that what hunters and fishermen are doing is ethical, it teaches where some of our food comes from, builds affinity for nature, and shows why hunters are leaders on conservation because hunting and fishing teach respect for the food chain that you just can't get from facts alone, and sportsmen are important to the economy. In 2011, roughly $23 billion was spent on hunting, and roughly $35 billion was spent on fishing. Add in license fees, which support state and federal conservation agencies, and those facts add up. No hunters and fishermen, and fish and wildlife will definitely suffer.
Facts are important, but in the end the most powerful way to help people understand and appreciate hunters and fishermen is when those facts get woven into some good stories that millions can enjoy.
---James A. Swan, Ph.D.