When I was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, my graduate professor said something one day that that I’ve always remembered. At the time, he was embroiled in a particularly heated debate in the anthropological literature with another prominent anthropologist. While chatting in his office I noticed he was in the middle of preparing yet another response for publication and I somewhat flippantly asked why he was even bothering. “You’re never going to change Binford’s mind on the subject, why waste your time?”. His response has always stuck with me: “I’m not writing it to change Binford’s mind. I’m writing it so that those who don’t fully understand the issue aren’t deceived by the inaccuracies in his argument and his mischaracterization of the problem”. I think you, the reader probably get the point – know your audience. But there was much more inherent to the lesson my professor was trying to convey (with him there always was!). It was also about defining your terms and knowing the problem.
I use (and will continue to use) the term “anti-hunter” in these columns. But in a conversation with my dad and my daughter over the holidays it struck me that what I mean by that term may require clarification. When I think of people opposed to hunting (or who we, as hunters, THINK may be opposed to it), a couple of different groups come to mind. There are clearly people who don’t want us to hunt…period. Their motivations for this are varied (and worthy of further discussion – but this post is getting a little long-winded as it is!) but I have in mind those who want hunting banned and are not interested in any other perspective on the issue than their own. These folks are who I am talking about when I use the term “anti-hunter”.
Then there are those who simply do not want to harm other living creatures. They cannot emotionally consider that possibility. They may even follow through on that logic by being vegan (or minimally, vegetarian) in their diet, but these characteristics do not inherently make them anti-hunters. Many (in fact most that I know) recognize the connection between hunting and successful conservation efforts, support hunter conservation organizations, and otherwise support the hunting community in general. It’s easy sometimes to mistake these folks for anti-hunters, particularly in polite company when someone says “I’m not a hunter” and you don’t know the context in which they made that statement.
Then there are those who simply have never been exposed to hunting. They never had parents who took them hunting or even a network of friends who engaged in the sport. They are most likely urban (but not necessarily) and have probably never been exposed to anything but negative messages about hunting. These folks may express anti-hunting views but I would argue it’s not because they necessarily have a deep-seated, irrational objection to it – it’s more a matter of education.
By now you can probably see where I’m going with this. My professor’s advice tells me that it’s probably a waste of time and effort to engage with hard-core anti-hunters. I really don’t think there are huge numbers of these folks – but they spend a lot of time trying to get their message across to folks who don’t know any better. And it’s those who don’t know any better who we need to engage with in our messaging. I would suggest that this group is by far the largest portion of the perceived anti-hunting population.
And these folks come from all walks of life. It’s very easy for us, as hunters to limit our conversations with those who already agree with us and who share aspects of our culture. But if our hunting heritage is going to be preserved, it is necessary that we reach out to those with whom we may not share everything. There is a diversity of cultures out there, and when it comes to getting them supportive of (if not directly involved with) hunting, we need to adjust to their own cultural norms with our messaging. They may want to hunt because its organic, they’re more interested in which wine and cheese combination goes with venison, or they want to mirror a native lifestyle. Many may not want to hunt themselves but are open to being educated about why it’s important.
There are a lot of folks out there who are simply being misinformed by the real anti-hunting community. Let’s not discount them. Let’s educate them.