Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dispelling misconceptions – The hunting argument

The trophy hunting industry's dismissal of its opponents as ‘animal rightists' is just one of several misconceptions that do it no favours, says Ian Michler. It should perhaps be taking a more reasoned look at hunting in Africa and the growing opposition to it.

Last year a leading spokesperson for the trophy hunting industry in South Africa attempted to defend its poor image by blaming ‘fringe elements' and ‘animal rightist elements' for peddling ‘misconceptions' about hunting. His tone towards animal rightists and opponents in general was disparaging and he went on to say that they ‘play on emotion' and suggested that ‘a lot could be done to educate the urban public to the reality of hunting'.

‘Intolerance comes in many forms'
It is exactly this kind of response to legitimate questions that acclaimed American writer and editor Nancy Gibbs no doubt had in mind when she said, ‘Intolerance comes in many forms, arrogance being one of them, as is dismissing one's opponents as being ignorant or bigoted rather than drawn deeply to different principles or priorities.' Wrapped in a tone and an attitude that are commonly shared within the wider hunting fraternity, the spokesperson's comments are no less of a ‘peddled misconception'.

What's more, it is exactly this crass stereotyping of opponents that only serves to aggravate the industry's image problems. It's an approach born out of the intolerance that Gibbs refers to, which blinds so many hunters to the fact that other people have different principles and priorities in how they respond to the natural environment and how they treat its inhabitants.

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