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A few weeks ago I was asked to attend a symposium prior to the opening ceremony to the CIC (Council for International Conservation). The intention was to gather journalists, hunting and non-hunting alike, from various media sectors, to discuss how we can better communicate information and messages from within the hunting community to the greater public. It is something I have touched on here before, and certainly a topic I have repeatedly discussed on the podcast. It is a key question in our quest to enlighten to the world to the role hunting has to play in the modern age.
The twenty or so participants discussed freely a number of topics, some of which I will come back in other writings, but I wanted to share with you my opening statements from the first round table introductions and discussion about our motivation. This is what I said:
“I have been acutely aware for some time, that what we as the hunting community have done, and are doing, is not and has not worked; as far as to say we are losing our position to show that hunting is relevant in the modern world. It frustrated me that our narrative. The story we tell, and is consumed by the great, non-hunting public, has until very recently been skewed so far from anything, which can be considered a positive enforcement of the true values of what hunting is, and the benefits it offers.
Our scriptures and film are a very long way from the thoughtful, heartfelt, all consuming eloquent wonderment of nature, which flowed from the pen of Aldo Leupold. So much of the content we as journalists produce today, in written word, picture and film, is focused on the kill and materialistic junk. Even our primitive ancestors, painting on cave walls, never left artefacts of gleaming hunters over a motionless body. The end of the hunt was never the focus. Today it is. It’s frankly sickening how far we have fallen. It is sad that our community couldn’t see the shift in our narrative over the preceding decades. A shift where the most important aspect was no longer the majesty of the animal. It’s contribution and impact. The habitat, the trees, the plants, the smells. The raw emotion of having the honour to trade footsteps with these wild beings. It became less about experience, and far more about the kill. Grip and grin. Inches and points. This has to change, and I think, to be fair slowly it is.
We have, for far too long focused on the controversial aspects of hunting, where conflicts arise in points of view. Differences of opinion and resulting controversy run through every aspect of life, but it is very poor judgement for us, as hunters, to focus all our energy to fighting that battle. We have missed the greatest threat, marching slowly by with little pausing the push. The greatest threat is in-fact the relevance of hunting. Today. Right now. Why do we need it? The thing we should fear most is irrelevance, for it is these aspects of life, for which there is no longer a defined, useful place, which are confined to museums.
The ability to do this is at our finger tips. Buoyant waders numbers of managed grouse moors, including IUCN red listed species. The return of an almost extinct species of Markor in Pakistan. The failure of game populations in Kenya. Science is on our side. BUT. We should not be so argent to push hunting into every corner of every country. We have to be bold enough to accept the places where hunting is not the solution. Our primary concern should be the wildlife, the land and their interaction with the indigenous people of that place. More often than not hunting can play a beneficial role. But it’s not the only solution. This needs embraced.
The hunting world has been slow to change, while social views flow and shift with increasing speed. Pick anything from the previous century, from woman’s rights to the change in the way we view sexuality, what society accepts and embraces has changed. We need to get away from the notion, that the issues we face are driven solely, by the loud voices of anti-hunting bodies and individuals. Our issue is that society is not what it was a 50 years ago. We need to give people a reason to believe in hunting and hunters, and I want to go from here, knowing that this generation will leave no stone un-turned, to ensure the very origin of what made us the humans we are today, is not lost.”
The primary issue was how can we communicate better? Not something I can solve here in the limited words I have left to finish this article, but these were the thoughts I penned while waiting for my turn to talk in the second round.
We have to educate our own hunting community alongside the public. We need to provide hunters with tools they need to have level headed discussions. Indeed this is the very reason we started our podcast – it was about cataloguing intelligent, open debate.
We also need to concern ourselves with species out with those which we have a benefit to conserve. If we truly own the mantra as guardians of wildlife, landscapes and conservation, we should be just as concerned with chimps in the Congo, suffering from poaching and the pet trade, or pangolins being shipped out whole sale for Asian medicine. How much time do we really spend thinking about species and environments we have no hunting benefit to gain from?
Above all else it is necessary to rebuild the general disconnect with food. Make what we do relatable. Help people understand the wild harvest of meat and the comparisons/contrasts with farming meat. This has begun, but it hasn’t really come from hunters.
Within our own ranks, we need to find common ground with organisations we would normally call enemy. I don’t see any way forward without that. There are always aspects we can agree on, as indeed I pointed out last month. Can we be brave enough to make the first move?
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