- How important is hunting to the world and to society at large?
- How important is hunting in general to the Americans today?
Hunting Legends will continue to acknowledge the sentiments of non-hunters opposed to hunting, however, we cannot simply ignore the facts and the overall good hunting has done for conservation at large. If people and companies alike are willing to face the facts, then you may have no choice, but to acknowledge and recognize just how important a role hunting has and continues to play in our future.
However, we certainly do have issues to deal with in the hunting industry per-say and we have realized just how important public perceptions may be. What people perceive – they believe!
In the meantime, just take a look at the following statistical facts.
2 Responsive Management / National Shooting Sports Foundation
Surveys show that the opportunity to hunt and shoot is important to the American public, even though many of these individuals will never hunt or shoot themselves. In a recent study in the southeastern United States, 79% of these states’ residents said it is very or somewhat important that people have the opportunity to hunt in their state (58% said it is very important) (RM 2005a), and in another study in the northeastern U.S., 75% of residents said it is very or somewhat important that people have the opportunity to hunt in their state (53% said it is very important) (RM 2004a).
Sportsmen are essential to species protection and species management, as well. Game management programs, which are funded by sportsmen’s dollars, have brought back numerous wildlife species from unhealthy population levels, such as wild turkey, wood duck, white-tailed deer, beaver, pronghorn antelope, and Canada goose.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, there were approximately 650,000 wild turkeys nationwide, but thanks to wise wildlife management and aggressive reintroduction programs funded by sportsmen’s dollars, today there are an estimated 5.4 million wild turkeys nationwide (NSSF 2006).
Other numbers demonstrate that sportsmen have been a catalyst for wildlife conservation: from a low of approximately 12,000 animals, pronghorn antelope have increased to 1 million; from a low of 40,000, Rocky Mountain elk have increased to 1 million; from being rarely seen, wood ducks have increased to 5.5 million; and the trumpeter swan population has increased from a low of only 73 individuals to approximately 25,000 (NSSF 2006).
In addition to species protection, sportsmen are integral to habitat conservation. Wildlife management efforts and advocacy, funded and fueled by sportsmen, have conserved millions of acres of land, thereby providing vital habitat for both game and nongame wildlife.
For instance, sales of Federal Duck Stamps, most typically purchased by sportsmen, have provided revenue for the purchase or lease of over 5.2 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the U.S. (USFWS 2007a). Much of these lands are now protected in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System.
Sportsmen’s organizations also have protected millions of acres of habitat in the non-profit sector. Ducks Unlimited has conserved 11.9 million acres of waterfowl habitat throughout North America (Ducks Unlimited 2007). The National Wild Turkey Federation, using cooperative arrangements, has helped conserve 11.3 million acres of wildlife habitat (NWTF 2006). The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has protected 1,000 square miles of elk habitat (RMEF 2007).
Also, SCI has funded and managed many programs dedicated to wildlife conservation, such as work with private landowners in Alaska to provide enough suitable grazing habitat for moose to ensure the viability of the moose population.
Hunting has had major economic impacts on the U. S. economy, as well. The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife- Associated Recreation indicates that hunters spend at least $22.7 billion on hunting each year (USFWS/US Census 2007). It is estimated that hunters support 593,000 jobs (Southwick Associates 2007). Annually, expenditures related to hunting produce $5.0 billion in Federal tax revenue and $4.2 billion in state and local tax revenue (Southwick Associates 2007).
INTERESTING FACTS ….
Very few Americans are actively anti-hunting or hold an animal rights philosophy, as most of them hold a middle- ground viewpoint regarding the use and welfare of animals.
The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports 185
Attitudes toward hunting involve attitudes toward animal welfare and animal rights. As typically defined, animal welfare allows the use of animals, as long as the animals are treated humanely and with respect, but animal rights dictates absolutely no use of animals.
While very few Americans support animal rights, many of them support animal welfare. Indeed, Americans fall in the middle between no use of animals at all and complete animal utilization with no constraints. Figure 8.16 shows the results of a national study that examined animal welfare issues.
This study found that 18% of Americans agree that animals have rights like humans and should not be used in any way and, on the other side, 30% agree that animals are here for human use and can be utilized regardless of the animal’s welfare or rights. Both of these have much lower levels of agreement among Americans than does the middle ground—that animals can be used by humans as long as the animal does not experience undue pain and suffering (85% agree with this) (RM 2006b).
Another study suggests that only 3% of Americans actually live by an animal rights philosophy, meaning that they do not eat animal products and as consumers they purchase no animal products at all—including clothing (RM 1996).
Figure 8.16. Opinions on Animal Rights and Animal Welfare
Opinions on Animal Rights and Animal Welfare. (Adult Americans nationwide.)
Source: RM 2006b
This support of animal welfare colors Americans’ opinions on hunting, where issues related to humaneness and fair chase are important.
For instance, many people, hunters included, approve of hunting in general but do not approve of hunting over bait, which is perceived as not providing fair chase and is antithetical to animal welfare. Indeed, Phase III found that there are much lower levels of support for hunting over bait relative to support of hunting in general. Another case in point comes from a statewide survey in Mississippi, where only 28% of the public supported legalizing the hunting of white-tailed deer over bait, a much lower percentage than the percent (89%) who approved of hunting in general (RM 2005f, 2005g).
Of course, that small percentage of Americans with an animal rights viewpoint will not support hunting.
A very important lesson to all “legal hunters” and a number of positive action items we can all pay attention to …
(The following extract is all part of research done for the Hunting Industry and commissioned by the NSSF: http://www.responsivemanagement.com/huntingreports.php )
COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC ABOUT HUNTING AND SHOOTING
GENERAL STRATEGIES ABOUT COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC
Discussing hunting and shooting can be emotionally charged; some communication strategies are useful in these discussions.
- Be prepared for potentially extreme reactions and emotions when discussing hunting and shooting. However, do not respond back in an extreme, contentious, or emotional manner (while, at the same time, avoiding a condescending tone).
- Understand the social context and competing values that people have. An example is the opinions on Sunday hunting: there are many who support hunting in general but not on Sundays. It is important to understand their values (in this case, religious) that affect their opinions on hunting. (Although this example pertains to hunting, understanding the social context applies to shooting as well.)
There is a difference between acceptance of hunting and shooting and actual participation in them. The strategies in this section for the most part address the former, not the latter.
- Keep in mind the difference between fostering public acceptance of hunting and shooting, which these communication strategies discuss, and fostering greater participation in hunting and shooting, which the strategies in this section do not address.
COMMUNICATING ABOUT HUNTING
There may be a tendency to think that hunting is not widely accepted among the general public; those who oppose or disapprove of hunting may be quite vocal.
- Keep in mind and communicate to others that the large majority of Americans support or approve of hunting.
The terms “hunting” and “legal hunting” have an important difference. The latter term is much more acceptable than the former to non-hunters, as the former term can include (particularly in some non-hunters’ minds) illegal hunting.
- When discussing hunting with non-hunters, use the term “legal hunting” or “regulated hunting” to ensure that the non-hunters are not reacting against illegal hunting, as focus group research has indicated that some non-hunters include illegal hunting in their concept of “hunting” when the term is not otherwise stipulated.
There is a difference between animal rights and animal welfare; while very few Americans support animal rights, nearly all support animal welfare.
- Be clear on the distinction between animal rights and animal welfare. Note that animal rights typicallyis defined as absolutely no use of animals and that only about 3% of Americans live by this belief.
- On the other hand, note that animal welfare means that some use is acceptable as long as animals are treated humanely and with respect.
- Because the overwhelming majority of Americans (85%) agree with the animal welfare philosophy, not the animal rights philosophy, it is important to portray the “caring” side of wildlife management. Presenting facts in discussions about hunting is vital; however, it is also vital to show the listener how much wildlife professionals care about wildlife and the wildlife resource. Anti-hunters should not be allowed to commandeer the “we care about wildlife” message as theirs.
Hunting has many ecological benefits.
- Communicate that hunting keeps wildlife from harming critical habitat. There is high support—nearly 4 out of 5 Americans—for hunting to protect habitat from being damaged from overpopulation of deer and other species.
- Emphasize the role that hunting and hunters play in wildlife management, and emphasize that management entails protection of wildlife populations. Note that there is high approval—more than 4 out of 5 Americans—of hunting for animal population control and hunting for wildlife management.
- Emphasize that wildlife management today is a science—that hunting is part of the scientific management of wildlife, which entails the work of trained biologists to ensure the protection of wildlife populations as a whole.
- When discussing hunting with non-hunters, note that, in general, ecological benefits (e.g., hunting to protect habitat) resonate better than human benefits (e.g., hunting to protect personal property, hunting to protect crops), with the exception of hunting to protect humans from harm.
- Focus on facts, but do not forget the heart. Non-hunters may not perceive hunters (and hunting and shooting professionals, for that matter) as caring because, simply put, they shoot game. Emphasize that hunters (and, again, professionals) deeply care about wildlife.
Hunting does not endanger wildlife.
- Realize that there is an erroneous perception that must be countered: nearly half of Americans think that hunting as practiced today in the U.S. causes some species to become endangered.
- Indicate that no species in the U.S. ever became threatened, endangered, or extinct from legal, regulated hunting. (In fact, note that past hunter-fueled extinctions happened in an era when there were no agencies to protect wildlife and, therefore, no controls on hunting.)
- Educate the public on the North American Model of Wildlife Management, which includes hunting and the funding hunters (and shooters) provide and which, furthermore, has made North America arguably the best place in the world for wild animals. Preliminary research indicates that very few people are aware of the North American Model of Wildlife Management.
Hunting for the meat is highly accepted.
- Approval of hunting for the meat had the highest approval of nine possible motivations discussed in a nationwide survey of Americans: 85% of Americans approve of hunting for the meat. Therefore, communicate that the overwhelming majority (97%) of active hunters consume the animals they hunt.
- Discuss programs such as “Hunters for the Hungry” and SCI’s “Sportsmen Against Hunger,” which provide food for others, and emphasize the value that the meat from hunting provides for others.
Hunting for deer, wild turkey, or waterfowl is more acceptable among the general population than is hunting for predators or species perceived as exotic or less common.
- Note that approval of hunting for deer (78% of Americans approve), wild turkey (75%), and waterfowl (69%), is much higher than hunting for elk (60%), black bear (47%), or mountain lions (42%). Communication strategies among non-hunters should keep in mind the lower acceptance of hunting for these latter species.
- Note that approval of hunting for mourning dove is low in some parts of the country, perhaps because inthose parts of the country, people think of them as backyard songbirds rather than game birds.
Approval or support of hunting is affected by discussion of specific hunting techniques.
- Note that overall support for hunting (more than 73%) was higher than when any condition was applied to hunting, such as hunting with dogs (57%) or hunting on Sundays (41%). In some contexts, communications to non-hunters would be best in general terms.
- In particular, avoid discussing hunting techniques that infringe on the public’s perception of “fair chase,” such as hunting using high-tech gear (only 20% of Americans support), hunting over bait (27% support), and use of special scents to attract game (36% support).
THE ERRONEOUS PERCEPTION OF A LINK BETWEEN HUNTING AND ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
Some anti-hunters have tried to establish a connection between hunting and anti-social and deviant behavior, but no research has shown that hunters are more likely to commit violent crimes or display aggression than are non-hunters.
- Communicate that participation in hunting does not cause anti-social behavior (and that there is research backing up this assertion that hunting does not cause anti- social behavior).
COMMUNICATING ABOUT SHOOTING
While the shooting sports do not get directly involved in animal rights or animal welfare issues, the shooting sports are tied up in firearms issues.
- It is important to stress the safety of the shooting sports—relative to countless other sports, shooting has a very low injury rate.
- Continue efforts to ensure that shooters are ethical and safe. Note that, unfortunately, 19% of Americans agree that “most target and sport shooters carelessly handle firearms.”
There may be a tendency to think that shooting and firearms themselves are not widely accepted among the general public; those who oppose or disapprove of shooting and firearms may be quite vocal.
- Keep in mind and communicate to others that the large majority of Americans support or approve of shooting and accept the legitimate use of firearms.
Some messages pertaining to shooting resonated better than others among the general public.
- Note that one message that resonated very well is that shooting can be a way of fostering and improving concentration skills. Use this message when communicating the value of participating in the shooting sports.
Public acceptance of rifles and shotguns is greater than acceptance of handguns, the latter having some negative connotations for some individuals in American society.
- Efforts to promote acceptance of shooting sports should focus on rifles and shotguns.
- Avoid communications imagery that shows people shooting at human silhouettes. Be aware that there is much resistance among the general public to target shooting at human silhouettes, and images showing this will not be as well-received as alternative images (e.g., a person shooting at a standard bull’s eye target with a rifle).
A HUNTING AND SHOOTING CULTURE AMONG NON-PARTICIPANTS
One way to counteract the negative news about hunting and shooting is to foster a hunting and shooting culture.
- While this is an obvious strategy—fostering a hunting and shooting culture—there are concrete actions that can be taken. In particular, encourage more hunters and shooters to talk about these sports to non-participants. There is a strong relationship between knowing a hunter or shooter and supporting these activities. The more hunters and shooters are out talking about the positive aspects of hunting and shooting, the more support there is for these activities.
- Encourage hunters and shooters to become involved in local conservation projects or other local projects for the good of the community. This has two benefits (in addition to the benefit of the local project itself): it allows a mixing of hunters and shooters with non-hunters and non-shooters, thereby fostering the hunting and shooting culture, and it also bolsters the reputation of hunters and shooters as caring individuals.
There are differences between public attitudes toward the sports themselves (hunting and shooting) and the attitudes toward the participants (hunters and shooters).
The overall attitude toward hunting and shooting is made up of both components—the attitude toward the sports themselves, and the attitudes toward their participants. Indeed, research shows that there is more support for hunting than for hunters, and a few illegal or unethical acts by just a handful of hunters can sully the name and reputation of hunters as a whole and erode support for both hunting and hunters, and the same applies to unethical conduct by shooters.
- Encourage additional hunter and shooter ethics programs to increase support for hunting and shooting.
- Clearly communicate to hunters and shooters that their future is in their own hands regarding the image of these sports. Hunters and shooters, more than anti-hunters and anti-shooters, hold the key to future public opinion regarding hunting and shooting.
- Ensure that hunters understand that attitudes toward hunters and their behavior have a direct effect on the opportunity to engage in the activity itself: keeping open private lands on which to hunt depends on good hunter behavior.
- Note that perceptions of the safety of the sport of hunting are also directly tied to hunter behavior. Unfortunately, nearly a third of non-hunters (32%) disagree that “hunting is a safe recreational activity.”