Recent studies show a steady increase of hunting and fishing participants since 2006. Couple that with the public’s approval of hunting at 79 percent and wildlife populations abundant and growing, things seem to be looking up for sportsmen. Unfortunately, these facts have not deterred the animal rights lobby and sportsmen are finding themselves in the crosshairs now more than ever.
Why are sportsmen facing more opposition considering these facts?
“It really comes down to some segments of the public not understanding why all hunting is important and key to conservation programs here and abroad.” said Nick Pinizzotto, USSA President and CEO. “Hunters are providing vital funds and services to protect wildlife globally and are also the most effective and efficient group to control burgeoning wildlife populations. That fact has been lost to the general public to some degree. Simply put, a lack of education is at fault.”
The irony of this opposition to hunting is that hunters are providing an invaluable service at no cost that benefits all citizens. Here and overseas, hunters play an important role in controlling ever growing animal populations that have caused an increase in automobile accidents, health threats including the spread of Lyme disease and rabies, increased crop damage, etc.
As reported by David Von Drehle in a recent TIME magazine article titled “America’s Pest Problem: It’s Time to Cull the Herd,” the population of animals in the U.S. has increased to over 30 million and shows no sign of slowing down.
Drehle cites whitetail deer populations that are now larger than during the 13th century according to the National Wildlife Research Center. Wild hogs have reached five million strong and can be found in 48 of the 50 states, and turkeys, beavers, coyotes, and bears are just a few of the animals Drehle writes of having far exceeded their target goals in many areas.
The increase in animal populations has led some states to take action by increasing hunter bag limits, extending hunting zones and stretching shooting times to earlier and later in the day. This has led to more hunters entering the field, but with that has come more opposition, with a number of high profile organizations and hunters being targeted.
For example, the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) is under scrutiny after announcing plans to auction one black rhino hunting permit on behalf of the government of the Republic of Namibia. Proceeds, estimated at $250,000 or more, will be returned to that African nation. Scientists and conservationists have shown support of both the auction and the hunt, stating that funding is crucial to the future of the long-revered African game species threatened by habitat loss and poaching.
Despite this, there has been a wave of opposition to the auction including email and social media death threats to Ben Carter, DSC Executive Director, and his family.
“We expected our announcement to surprise some people, but we didn’t anticipate that level of hate.” Carter said in a recent Outdoor Wire article. “People who see themselves as more evolved and as beacons of compassion, were threatening to kill my children.”
Threats included “If this happens, Ben’s kids are dead” and “The winner of this hunt will find himself in the crosshairs.”
Carter and his family are certainly not alone.
Host of the “Winchester Deadly Passion” TV show, Melissa Bachman, recently came under attack after posting a photo of a male African lion she legally harvested while on a Safari. Anti-hunters quickly took to social media to attack Bachman, labeling her as an “animal murderer.” Other posts included “I hope you die alone – losers. “I wish to have some money and kill you all myself” and “If I have the opportunity I will put a rifle inside Melissa’s mouth and I will shoot.”
Similarly, bronze medal Olympian Corey Cogdell was harassed and had her life threatened during her 2012 Olympic appearance after anti’s discovered her hunting history.
The latest high profile anti target is Olivia Opre, host of Extreme Huntress, a program showcasing women hunters. She has had her Facebook page disabled by the social media site due to an overabundance of cyberbullying by the anti-hunting community.
Opre, Cogdell, Bachman and Carter are just be some of the current individuals or organizational targets of anti-hunters. With the ever-growing world of social media and email, the animal rights lobby is able to express their radical opinions and disagreements easier and quicker. Average hunters posting photos of kill shots are also finding that the expanding social media world can lead to criticism from individuals they have never met.
For example, Nikki Vee a Wisconsin trapper and hunter, trapped a wolf shortly after the state’s second wolf season opened this year. She has paid the price since. Anti-hunters have been relentlessly harassing Vee online and calling her place of employment after Vee posted a picture of her harvest on Facebook.
Some think the threats made by the anti-hunting community these days are not just bullying, but also illegal. As reported by Lydia Lohrer in her article titled “Outdoors: Cyberbullies Preying on Women Who Hunt,” cyberbullying is a criminal act.
Lohrer sites Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, who calls cyber threats hate speech, which is illegal due to its intentional infliction of emotional distress. Patchin encourages victims to attempt to locate IP addresses of the bullies and take action rather than allowing the illegal activity to persist.
But the question remains: Is there a clear answer to why the increase in animal rights threats in spite of the large public support and an abundance of wildlife? Probably not.
Maybe the answer lies in the expansion of the environmental movement globally or maybe it is rooted in the explosion of social media platforms available to us today.
What we do know is that wildlife in this country will continue to be abundant as long as hunters continue paying the cost. We also know that hunters are the most effective and efficient group to control populations for the benefit of all, regardless of the increase of threats from anti’s today or in the future.
By: Kali Parmley, USSA