How to confront Anti-Hunters on Social Media
By A. Maxwell
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 6% of Americans are hunters or anglers. The 2011 report, which is summarized here, states that roughly 13.7 million men and women over the age of 16 took to the field hunting, while 78.1 million others participated in some other form of wildlife related recreation.
The study is a stark reminder that we are a very tiny minority in the grand scheme of things, and in this country the majority rules. Thirty years ago, the photos and stories of our success in the field was only shared with a very close group of like-minded friends. That is no longer the case in today's world of social media. We have seen hunting slandered and attacked over and over again where some video of a kill shot or a picture of a hunter with their kill goes viral, and millions of non hunters see it and make a quick, often uninformed judgement. It's easy to just try and ignore these things, but there comes a point where we will have to defend ourselves.
The danger that comes from the bad rap that hunting gets goes back to our small standing in the modern world. With us being such a small minority, we are honestly at the mercy of non-hunters. If you don't believe that, take a look at the Grizzly Bear hunting ban that was just put in place in British Columbia. An article from CBC News outlines the new regulations. Read that article here. The BC Grizzly ban was not a result of population declines or any ecological factors. The ban was put in place solely because the citizens of BC didn't like the idea of hunting, so they changed the laws. Many of the people who voted for the ban were likely influenced by posts they saw on social media. We hunters are our own ambassadors and if we don't fight to protect what we have we will lose it all.
What can we do about all this? Connect with people. Let them know what hunting is really about. When you see a controversial post that involves hunting, get in the comment section and start working to sway opinions in our favor, as silly as it may seem. Just the other day, I came across a video of several whitetail does eating fruits and vegetables off a table in someone's backyard. The video had over 13 million views, and the majority of the comments were about how horrible hunters are for hunting and killing such beautiful animals "just for fun". As hunters we know that could not be a more incorrect statement, but someone without an opinion of hunting may see comments like that and be swayed to become an anti-hunter.
It is important that we let people know that we don't just go out and "shoot Bambi for fun". For many of us, hunting is about the time we spend in the woods, the procurement of food, and the act of being caretakers of the land. We know that, but non-hunters don't. There is no way they will ever know that unless we get out there and explain it to them. All they know about hunting comes from things they have seen or been told. Actually talking to and getting to know a hunter could make all the difference to someone with a negative opinion of hunting. Not only is it important for us to tell them our true motives, but it's also important that we convey the fact that hunting is not just a hobby. It is a lifestyle. We need to engage in these conversations in our own posts on social media, as well as viral posts.
Another key fact in our argument is that Hunting is conservation. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters fork out approximately 200 million dollars in excise taxes every year that go directly to wildlife conservation (a link to that page here).
"Each year, nearly $200 million in hunters' federal excise taxes are distributed to State agencies to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands open to hunters, and hunter education and safety classes. Proceeds from the Federal Duck Stamp, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters, have purchased more than five million acres of habitat for the refuge system (2005 statistics only); lands that support waterfowl and many other wildlife species, and are usually open to hunting."
"Local hunting clubs and national conservation organizations work to protect the future of wildlife by setting aside thousands of acres of habitat and speaking up for conservation in our national and state capitals."
Those quotes are directly from US fish and wildlife. Cite these sources while making your case to a non-hunter or an anti-hunter. Anti-hunters can say what they want about our motives, but they can not deny the role we play in wildlife conservation. Nobody gives more to conservation than hunters. The numbers cited in the article above don't include the massive amount of money that hunters pump into the economy when we travel to hunt or buy our hunting gear like stands, calls, and camo.
One of the greatest testaments to our dedication to wildlife and wildlife conservation is the Pittman Robertson Act passed on September 2, 1937. So in 1937, during the Great Depression, we hunters pushed to tax ourselves 11% for the sake of wildlife conservation. That is something that no anti-hunter can argue against. This act put an 11% excise tax on all sporting arms and ammunition. Those tax dollars pay for things like improvement of wildlife habitat, introducing wildlife into sustainable habitats (restoration of whitetail deer in Alabama or the restoration of elk in Kentucky are great examples of this), research into problems with wildlife, and developing access to lands for public use.
Anti-hunters may argue that the people who pushed for the elk restoration in Kentucky only did it so they could hunt elk there. The problem with that argument is that most of the people who helped with that project will likely never draw a Kentucky elk tag. They didn't do it for some kind of blood lust like the anti hunters want to believe, they did it because they are true gamekeepers and caretakers of the land.
Everything we say to non-hunters and anti-hunters will mean nothing if we don't say it in the right way. It is vital that we present our argument in a nice and professional way. Name calling and arguing will get us nowhere. Even if you can't sway the opinion of an anti-hunter with your story, other people will likely see the conversation you had with them. If you deliver your side of the story effectively and politely, there is a chance you could sway the opinion of someone else who reads the conversation.
Nobody will make our argument for us. We are in charge of our own fate, and the time to act is now. I encourage you to do some research, see how much hunters paid for conservation in your home state, and pass that along to people who may not know it. Be a good ambassador for hunting, if we all sway just one opinion on hunting we would double our support!
-side note: I encourage all my fellow Alabamians to check out Hunting Works for Alabama, they provide us with some great information on the economic impact we hunters have in Alabama. Its free to join, and the information they put out is a great tool to use in your conversations with non hunters!