All posts by Garry

The Colour of Intolerance

By Garry Mallard:

The anti-hunting movement continues to assail responsible NSW taxpayers with intemperate and often highly offensive statements born of nothing more complicated than cultural intolerance. While we may have come to expect this contemptible behaviour, albeit reluctantly, from ill-informed and bigoted extremists, I have to ask the question – is it acceptable from taxpayer subsidised political representatives?

The Greens have become the standard-bearers for cultural intolerance in Australia. Failure to agree with the Green point of view can result in victimisation, public ridicule, misrepresentation and grossly offensive abuse, not only under the seal of Parliamentary Privilege, but also in the media, on the internet and in Party propaganda.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge thinks nothing of referring to hunters as “weekend warriors” and “thill killers”, terms that are highly offensive to people who strive, responsibly and in accordance with the law of the land, to preserve a cultural and to many a highly spiritual practice of many thousands of years standing.

Mr Shoebridge, his party and followers promote cultural hate statements in the community with impunity, and I have often wondered how long they would be permitted to do so if those statements targeted a more mainstream group – for example, the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church has been in the press for some years now, as the result of the actions of a small minority of ‘followers’ who have broken the law, ruining lives and even putting some lives at risk from associated substance abuse and suicide. Yet the absence of offensive tags such as “Christian perverts” or “Catholic rock-spiders” in Greens’ political rhetoric is noteworthy.

It seems that those who would apply derogatory epithets to hunters as a job-lot are more discriminating when it comes to the community’s sacred cows. Yet I wonder why, when, on the balance of evidence, the transgressions of Catholic Church representatives have been at least as numerous as those attributable to the most irresponsible ‘hunter’, and surely more heinous in nature.

The reason for the apparent double-standard is simple. Generally speaking, Greens are not hunters but some Greens are Catholic and so they are circumspect with regard to unreasonable and offensive generalisations. Of course the fact that any Party that set out to antagonise a section of the community as large and as influential as the Catholic Church would very likely be committing electoral suicide must surely be counted a relevant inhibiting factor.

I must point out that I do not, for one instant, suggest that anyone should attack the Catholic Church as a whole for the sins of a very few individuals who may call themselves Catholic. The detestable activities of these individuals are contrary to Christian doctrine and their actions must be judged as the actions of individuals. But in the same way, surely the actions of those who use weapons irresponsibly should be judged as the actions of individuals and not cited opportunistically as justification for an all-encompassing cultural hate campaign aimed at demonising all firearms owners and hunters?

The practice of maligning or ‘vilifying’ hunters, based on their cultural beliefs and practices is widespread among anti-hunting lobby groups. Their aim in using descriptors such as “weekend warriors” and “thrill killers” is clearly to sway community opinion against hunters, as is the Greens’ habitual practice of associating hunters with drunkenness, recklessness, dangerous irresponsible behaviour and cruelty, and it is my belief that this strategy may have legal implications for the perpetrators under, of all things, Australian racial hatred laws.

Australia is obliged under international human rights law to prohibit incitement to racial hatred (Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). The Commonwealth, every state, and the ACT (but not the Northern Territory) make racial vilification at least ‘unlawful’, and at times a criminal offence. In such laws the words ‘racial’ and ‘race’ are used not for a pseudo-scientific purpose, but as shorthand for the many ways that a person’s own and perceived identity turns on personal attributes such as their physical appearance, where they were born and raised, their culture, and their traditions. As a result, ‘racial’ vilification laws protect against hateful conduct that occurs because of, for example, a person’s nationality, ethnicity and culture. [Simon Rice OAM, Director of Law Reform and Social Justice at the ANU College of Law.]

The advice above may not only have implications for Australian indigenous hunters, but also for the many people from foreign shores who now call Australia home and whose countries of origin may have longstanding or even ancient cultural hunting traditions. Given Australia’s status as a “cultural melting-pot” I would be very surprised if a large percentage of Aussie hunters did not have some legitimate ‘cultural’ links to hunting as a practical cultural necessity as opposed to a simple sport. For those of us who are unable to claim such a link, the definition of “ethnicity” may also be of interest. Many believe, erroneously, that ‘ethnic’ means foreign. In fact the Oxford Dictionary defines ‘ethnicity’ as “traits, background, allegiance, or association.” Ergo, might it not be said that coming from a rural background and being allied with principles of feral animal management, in association with an Approved Hunting Organisation, hunting is in fact my ethnicity?

There is of course broad approval of Indigenous cultural hunting rights and practices amongst the Green and anti-hunting camps, despite the fact that even in the most skilled hands, traditional weapons cannot match the accuracy or efficiency and therefore the ‘humaneness’ of modern bows and riffles. The Greens’ and the anti-hunting lobby’s apparent double-standard on this count is not surprising. Intolerant dictatorial regimes throughout history have reserved the right to degrade and ridicule whomever they choose, without regard for principles of natural justice, let alone logic.

Greens and the anti-hunting lobby acknowledge the broader cultural significance of hunting, if only in the most disparaging of contexts. They habitually refer to a ‘guns culture’ invariably associating that culture with the most deplorable acts of cruelty and antisocial behaviour, regardless of whether the legal firearms owner uses her/his guns for legal or illegal purposes. Simply being “one of them” is sufficient cause for Greens to incite community hatred of hunters, their culture and practices.

Examples of the distain with which these people view firearms owners and hunters is evident nowhere more than in the online discussion forum, where the self-appointed guardians of community and cultural welfare can register their prejudiced, bigoted and highly offensive statements in an instant and under cover of an assumed name. A recent opinion piece appearing in the highly regarded e-journal “On Line Opinion” is just one example.

An article by David Leyonhjelm, entitled “Disarming the good-guys will not prevent massacres” put forth a reasoned argument against knee-jerk gun reform in the US and Australia. I say reasoned not because I necessarily agree with Mr Leyonhjelm’s arguments, but rather because they were considered arguments, conveyed with sincerity and respect, without resort to emotive rhetoric, recrimination or abuse. If only the same could be said of society’s social and moral guardians who made their intolerance known in On Line Opinion’s associated discussion forum all but a few of them under assumed names.

The first comment accuses Mr. Leyonhjelm of being a cowboy, eager to shoot it out on the streets of Dodge City. The second accuses him of being ‘delusional’ and concludes that he must therefore be American. Another respondent accuses gun owners of being uncivilised, and another accuses men of fearing impotence if their guns are taken away. And of course there are the all too predictable references to phallus worship and intellectual impairment, along with the pervasive bigotry that is manifest in the great weight of anti-American sentiment expressed in the forum.

These passive aggressive statements have become the proud pacifists’ weapon of choice in the bid to insight community hatred of responsible weapons owners and hunters. Unsatisfied with the opportunity to express a reasoned counter argument they invariably resort to accusing the holder of any pro-hunting/gun ownership view with all manner of crimes against nature and society. What’s more troubling is the fact that On Line Opinion is a journal contributed and subscribed to by credible social commentators, politicians, social reform advocates and people who consider themselves to be of some robust intellectual stature, some of whom clearly consider that their intemperate abuse and intolerance of other subscribers’ views is reasonable and wholly justified nonetheless.

It is for this reason that we must be circumspect when responding to these ill-tempered and clearly prejudiced people. The media knows a story when it sees one, and the media will always see the story in the headline “Liberal Democrats Officer in favour of gun ownership” before it sees the story in, “Aggressive bigoted outbursts by gun control supporters a growing phenomenon”.

If we hunters, as a group of conscientious Australian citizens, have one common objective over and above sustaining our right to practice our hunting culture responsibly and without persecution or ridicule, that objective must be never to descend to the level of the passive-aggressive bigots who assail us daily, wherever their collective soapbox may stand.

Anyway, I’ll get outa ya way now.

Submitted by Garry Mallard

hunting The Greens 300x254 The Colour of Intolerance

The great bait debate

Hunting’s opponents claim that the term ‘conservation hunting’ is evidence of hunters’ intention to conserve populations of feral species in the environment for their own ends, rather than striving to eradicate them. In fact the term conservation hunting describes a strategy aimed at the conservation of native species and habitat, through the control of feral species.  Hunting’s opponents also claim that conservation hunting will not achieve this objective and that is absolutely correct. The suggestion that hunters claim that it will, is nothing more than a convenient deception promulgated by those who would have hunting of all kinds banned. Such people have demonstrated time and again that they will do anything – including wilfully misleading the public – to achieve that end.

Game Council NSW has never claimed that conservation hunting is the solution to Australia’s growing feral animal problem, nor would any informed hunter make such a claim. It is simply one component of a range of initiatives that must be implemented if we are to first contain and then control a growing national epidemic. In fact, most of the academic wisdom suggests that it may be impossible to eradicate many of our feral species, which have been here for so long and are now so well adapted to the Australian continent, that they will likely be tomorrow’s natives species, but at what cost? Nature has only so many bio-niches, and if feral species are destined to be the ‘natives’ of tomorrow, it is logical to suggest that other species will have to make way for them today.

Hunting’s opponents claim that there are more effective and humane ways to control feral animal populations. Trapping and baiting are among the alternatives they promote and it is vitally important that the wider community should appreciate their possible consequences; in particular, the consequences of baiting.

A great deal of deception has been employed by interests who would have the public believe that baiting can be targeted at a specific species without consequence to other birds, animals and insects that share the same habitat.  It is difficult to source reliable studies that objectively document the impact of baiting on non-feral species. The little that is available reveals some very compelling evidence that baiting may have far reaching consequences for native animal populations, but from the layman’s perspective such studies are often far from reader friendly.

The long term future of conservation hunting will be determined by the court of popular opinion and the voter, and in the absence of easily digested objective facts the voter’s opinion is determined by a combination of urban myth, emotional manipulation and political hype. It may never be possible to convince the dyed-in-the-wool anti-hunter that hunting is no more or less ‘cruel’ than the end nature has in store for feral species, but it may be possible to enlighten the public as to the collateral consequences of the anti-hunters’ preferred options. Perhaps by doing so hunters can foster a greater public awareness of the complexities associated with non-hunting control strategies, such as baiting.

With this end in mind, I encourage the reader to view the GrafBoys’ exposé on baiting, entitled “Poisoning Stewart Island – is it ecocide” which can be seen here

While not an Australian production, this brief New Zealand exposé does raise many questions that are relevant to the use of baits in Australia, especially those used to control non-carnivorous species. New Zealand and Australia share many invasive animal species and environments in common, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that we may also share similar outcomes in relation to the collateral toll baiting can take on native species, especially carrion eaters.

The exposé features the environmental impact of baits containing the second generation anticoagulant Brodifacoum, and it graphically demonstrates that the use of a non-hunting control measure does not automatically make it more humane for its intended victim, or less injurious to native species.

NZ is in fact the world’s largest consumer of Sodium Fluoroacetate, the poison known as 1080, which has been used to great effect in the control of New Zealand’s introduced mammals. However, it must be remembered that unlike Australian, which has many native land mammals, NZ has only two, both of them bats.  As a result, NZ is afforded the luxury of being able to adopt something of a scatter-gun approach to feral mammal control, because all but two of the country’s mammals are, by definition, feral.  Australia enjoys no such luxury and whether 1080 is in fact a humane poison remains a very contentious issue.

The RSPCA’s website advises that it has conducted a review of the available science on the ‘humaneness’ of the effect of 1080 and as a result its policy position is that 1080 is not a humane poison. However, the RSPCA acknowledges that in many circumstances there is “currently no alternative effective control method available”. This begs the question, if the effectiveness of a poison it considers ‘cruel’ mitigates the RSPCA’s opposition to its use, why is the RSPCA so vehemently and publically opposed to recreational hunting? But that’s a question to explore another day…

I hope you will find “Poisoning Stewart Island – is it ecocide” interesting. More importantly, I hope you will consider sharing the link with others in the hope that doing so will result in a greater appreciation of the many complexities associated with the use of poisoned baits for the control of Australia’s feral species. I believe that education is the key to achieving an objective public appraisal of conservation hunting’s true value in the control of feral pests.  Resourcing the public with the information required in order to ask the right questions and make informed decisions, is a practical strategy we should all participate in.

Anyway, I’ll get outa ya way now…

 

Ol’ dads and the al dente paradox

By Garry Mallard

Ol’ dads can make their sons very proud sometimes. There are magic moments when something they say or do – sometimes both – can make an 11 year-old feel like he’s in the company of a superhero. These moments and the feelings they evoke will stay with us until we’re ol’ dads ourselves, recounting stories of the ‘olden days’ to our grandkids that will pass into family legend. My ol’ dad was one such man and he left me with a wealth of stories that I cherish and recount with great joy and pride to this day.

My ol’ dad was a toolmaker by trade, for whom precision was both a religion and in his hands, an art form. In his later years he turned his hand to the gunsmith’s arts and in doing so turned me off shooting and onto archery. The thing is, by the time my ol’ dad got through bedding an action, floating a barrel, tweaking a trigger, loaded the shells, honing the mounts and mounted the scope, all of it had been done with such perfect precision that failing to hit a bullseye was 100% down to human error, and who wants a riffle that’s raison d’être is to make its owner look like a bloody idiot?

Bows, on the other-hand, are built with the obfuscation of incompetence in mind – traditional bows doubly so. There are all those wonderful vagaries associated with the myriad types of wood that arrow shafts are available in, and there’s the argy-bargy of conflicting opinion about what arrow spine is just perfect for what draw weight. Then you need to decide what types of feathers you’ll use – left or right-wing – and whether it really matters as long as you don’t mix them. Should you use parabolic or shield cut feathers and of what length, and should they be attached straight along the shaft with sinew, or are they best glued in place in a helical formation, and if the latter, should it be a left or right helical. Finally, if we ever manage to guess all that stuff right with such consummate precision that we’re in imminent peril of clevering ourselves right out of things to blame for the odd lousy shot, we archers can always rely on the ever-present mitigating companion know as the “archer’s paradox” as an excuse – hallelujah!

The archer’s paradox is complicated science and, woe is me, I was away they day they did science at school, but in a nutshell it goes something like this. When a wooden shaft is fired from a bow the stresses of acceleration result in the rear-end impatiently trying to accelerate faster than the front-end. Unfortunately, because the rear-end’s blinkers are out, it can’t pull into the right-hand lane and overtake the front-end in an orderly manner. Instead it tries to overtake the front-end by passing through it. Of course this is not possible because…of more science, and the result is a sort of bumper-car effect without the bumps per se. The rear pushes, and the front, not being in any particular hurry to get out of its way, allows itself to be pushed ever so slightly slower, while the bit in the middle, trying its level best to maintain some semblance of decorum, bellies and twists as it takes the brunt of all the resulting …science. The end result when viewed via the wonders of modern slow-motion cinematography, is an arrow that speeds determinedly towards its target in a sort of horizontal wriggling action reminiscent of a piece of spaghetti sneezed from the nose of the only animal with sinuses long enough to accommodate 28 inches of 5/16 diameter al dente pasta i.e. a giraffe.

My point is this; it’s really hard to turn a traditional bow and arrow into a precision instrument in quite the same way one can tweak a riffle and scope to deliver minute-of-angle accuracy. As a result, when I miss a target’s A-zone in competition, snagging a B-zone instead I simply examine the recovered arrow and say, in learned and considered tones, “I’m not certain I’m entirely satisfied with these new spruce shafts”, safe in the knowledge that my buddies will reassure me that a B-zone shot in the field would mean fresh game on the table nonetheless, and that’s all that really counts.

But the fact is, I know that were he still with us today, within a few hours of putting my bow and arrows in the hands of my ol’ dad, the two would be working in such perfect harmony that the Archery Alliance of Australia would be holding crisis talks to institute a new zone in the centre of the A-zone, which they would no-doubt christen the “bloody Mallard!” zone.

There was one occasion I remember very clearly, when my ol’ dad’s skill at tuning a riffle not only made me proud, but also made me realise that, in the parlance of the 1960s, he was ‘way-cool’ too.

We were living in the suburbs of what was then Sydney’s outskirts and we’d regularly pack-up the car and journey into dairy country to shoot a few conies in a little farming community known as Camden. My ol’ dad would carry one of his numerous .22s, while the trusty Browning .22-short was my riffle of choice and, coincidentally, the only riffle in my ‘collection’ at the time. I would come to refer to that old Browning as ‘Lightning’, not because it was fast, but because like lightning it rarely hit the same spot twice.

One day we pulled up at the farmer’s gate in Camden and while preparing our gear for the day ahead, another car arrived. The driver saw that we were also shooters and came over to introduce himself. A brief conversation about which direction we were headed in and what time we planned to return to our cars ensued, and it was decided that in the interests of safety all shooting should cease promptly at 10am to allow both parties a safe return. OH&S issues sorted, off we went to bag a bunny or two.

As we wandered off into the field I happened to glance back to find the other hunter looking at us over his shoulder with a snug little grin on his face. I reported this observation to my ol’ dad who, completely unphased, told me it was known as the ‘shotgun smirk’. Apparently the shotgun smirk comes with the purchase of expensive guns such as the Bentley centre-fire, and is pre-set to leap from the breach onto the new owner’s face where it surgically implants itself the very first time he manages to hit what he’d previously been unable to hit with “a proper gun”.

The day was very productive. My ol’ dad took ten young bunnies and as luck would have it, another two does whose Prozac scripts had run out, very accommodatingly leaped in front of Lightning with suicide-aforethought. With the freezer topped-up and the dogs sorted with food for a few days, we headed back to the car to get stuck into the business of dressing the day’s take.

As prearranged we arrived back at the car just after 10am, as did the Smirk to his credit, and as we searched the car for our field kits the Smirk opened an old and bloodied sugarbag and began laying out his day’s take on a nearby fallen tree that had been used by generations of hunters as a cleaning table. Like my ol’ dad, the Smirk had taken a total of ten bunnies, which he proceeded to lay out at strategic intervals calculated to impress. Field kits retrieved from the car, we proceeded to the same fallen tree and began to set-up, and it was at this moment that the Smirk set in motion circumstances that were about to make a little boy very proud of his ol’ dad.

“You were shooting rabbits, then” inquired the Smirk?

“Yes, rabbits, that’s right” replied my ol’ dad.

“Only, I don’t shoot rabbits with a riffle. Riffles is for foxes and pigs and such” the Smirk informed us.

“Oh really” said my ol’ dad with a wry note of incredulity in his voice, “and why’s that” he inquired?

“Well, .22s leave rabbits all bloody and bruised inside and no good for eating at all” said the smirk, and as my ol’ dad pulled his ten young rabbits from his bag and laid them out neatly on that fallen log, he calmly uttered the words that would burn themselves indelibly into an 11 year-olds memory for life:

“Well yes, a .22 can bruise them up a bit, you’ve got a point there…still, I don’t eat the heads!”

And there they were, ten bunnies every one of them taken cleanly with a single shot just behind the eyes.

To this day I cannot walk past a fallen tree without harking back to the day my ol’ dad taught me two very important lessons; the importance of remaining calm when confronted by an idiot, and the effectiveness of understatement back-up by raw talent.

I miss my ol’ dad!

Garry Mallard

Hunting and the Fight Against Truth Decay

hunting Garry Mallard 300x240 Hunting and the Fight Against Truth Decay

Responsible hunters continue to be assailed by irresponsible Green extremists, myopic social commentators and journalists who have little or no interest in exploring, in depth and objectively, why people in the 21st century still want to hunt.

It is difficult to get ‘equal time’ and even when time is offered hunters are challenged to justify their culture and practices in ways that the anti-hunting lobby is rarely, if ever, tasked to do.  For example, hunting’s detractors are fond of citing examples of extraordinary cruelty, which they claim are intrinsic to hunting practice. But have you ever heard an interviewer ask the very simple question, “Upon what expert and objective research is your accusation of extreme cruelty based?” Of course you haven’t. It is enough that there may be a perception of cruelty – albeit born of profound ignorance – an emotive statement and perhaps even tears to punctuate it.

If necessity is the mother of invention, the lack of necessity could be considered the mother of the perception of cruelty, and we should remember that of all the life-forms on planet earth the perception of cruelty is peculiar to human beings alone. The crocodile does not consider the welfare of its prey, nor does the lion, and even in the case of human predators the definition of cruelty is ever-evolving and highly subjective. Does the Green extremist protest the Amerindian’s use of the poison dart to paralyse his prey so that it will plummet 30 metres or more from its treetop refuge to the forest floor?  Does the Green extremist mourn the death of the poison dart frog that loses its life to give the dart its efficiency?  Of course not, there are no supermarkets or styrofoam trays of meat in the jungle, so what might be considered cruel in the developed world, becomes an acceptable necessity in the jungles of South America. Moreover, the practice is considered intrinsic to an ancient culture and therefore worthy of preservation.  Greens will in fact lobby worldwide for the preservation of rainforests because the Amerindians depend upon them for their food, and voila, hunting is suddenly kosher!

Open minded objective analysis is sorely lacking in the debate. We are plagued by reports of incidents of perceived cruelty and hunter wrongdoing, in which conclusions are drawn based on ‘evidence’ so flimsy as to be farcical. I recently read a report in which it was claimed that a hunter had shot a deer on a property adjoining a state forest. The inference was clear; hunters cannot be trusted to respect boundaries, and as this amounts to an accusation given voice in the vehicle of the media, I believe the driver of that vehicle had a responsibility to ask a very remedial, yet important question, “How do you know the deer was shot on private property?”

The deer may have been found dead on private property, but as everyone save non-hunters espousing half-baked theories knows, deer seldom fall exactly where they’d stood prior to being shot. They sometimes travel considerable distances before they succumb; they may even cross fence-lines in the process, so all the position of its carcass demonstrates is where the deer died, and not where the fatal shot was fired, which is surely the issue?

In another report, featuring a disturbing picture of a joey with an arrow piercing its lower leg, animal welfare workers claimed hunters were the culprits. The sole ‘evidence’ for this accusation was the fact that a nearby forest had recently been opened to bowhunting. “What chance do our native animals have?” a rescuer emoted. What chance indeed? I could commit reams to comparing the odds of joeys surviving licensed hunter encounters in a limited number of national parks, with, say, the odds of them surviving encounters with the cars that travel the roads surrounding and traversing them. But let’s stay on track and look at the evidence we have, and we have little evidence except that revealed by the picture which accompanied the story http://begaarchers.com.au/?p=5058

The joey has been shot through a part of the leg that lays flat on the ground when a macropod is at rest. This might suggest that the arrow skipped along the ground before penetration.  It is not a fatal injury, nor one that would prevent the animal from eating, and this makes it very difficult to ascertain how long ago the incident may have occurred. Its rescuers claim it took two nights – and presumably at least one full day – to catch the wallaby, which suggests that the injury did not catastrophically inhibit mobility. How far might the wallaby have travelled from the point of impact before coming to the notice of its rescuers, and from where…another private property some kilometres away perhaps?

Finally we have the clues surrendered by the arrow itself. It looks to be a very light, cheap & nasty arrow of the type readily available on eBay, but perhaps most importantly, it is a target arrow, not a hunting arrow. For the benefit of the non-hunter let me explain the difference.  A target arrow is fitted with a ‘point’ the tip of which is pointed, but in no way sharp. It is designed to enable the arrow to penetrate a paper, cardboard or a very soft plastic target only sufficient to hold the arrow in place long enough for a score to be recorded. A hunting arrow differs in that it carries a very large and often razor sharp head, intended to maximise penetration and cause as much internal damage as possible to ensure a swift kill. Whether you are pro or anti-hunting, there is one thing I’m sure we can agree on. The objective of hunting an animal is to kill it. By virtue of the point they are fitted with, target arrows are utterly inefficient and unsuitable for hunting and I know of no hunter – legal or otherwise – who would try to take game with a target arrow. So allow me to propose an alternative to the “bloodthirsty, irresponsible hunter shoots protected species in state forest” scenario, developed with due consideration to the limited evidence at hand.

A child, given a cheap archery set for Christmas or a birthday, enjoys shooting targets on private property owned by her mum and dad. One morning she spots a wallaby eating mum’s veggie patch and, grabbing her bow & arrow from her bedroom, she takes a pot-shot that is well outside the effective range of her little fibreglass kiddie-bow. The arrow falls short, but maintains enough momentum to skip across the ground, just managing to penetrate the joey’s leg at ground level. The wound, while painful, is not catastrophically debilitating, and mother and joey hop away. Joey is found some days and perhaps many kilometres later, by animal welfare activists. Because they believe that an end to hunting on public lands is an outcome devoutly to be wished, they have a stake in considering only one of a dozen possible scenarios; namely the one that suits their agenda. The rest is history.

Do I consider my scenario more likely that theirs? I do! Not because I believe it is correct, but because it is every bit as possible as the alternative, and because it was developed in consideration of the available evidence, or at least the lack of it, and that’s the basis upon which all guilt or innocence must be determined.

Where am I going with this? I’m glad you asked!

Put on the spot, often during a media ambush, we have become unnecessarily defensive in our responses to allegations of hunter cruelty and illegal practice. There is no need to be. Rather, it is essential that we become skilled at listening carefully to the allegations and, instead of expressing indignation we should adopt the approach of challenging the media and others to justify their manufactured scenarios and fanciful notions. We should calmly suggest considered and plausible alternatives and, based only on the available evidence, challenge our accusers to demonstrate why their assertions are more plausible than ours.

There is a well known maxim in legal circles, “he who seeks equity must do so with clean hands.” The hunting fraternity could do worse than to adopt this maxim in the struggle for hunters’ rights. In a nutshell it means, don’t whine about injustice if you’ve also been unjust, and I think this particularly applies to the intemperate statements some of us make in blogs and online discussion groups. This is where I get controversial.

I am both pro-hunting and pro-hunting on public lands and over the last few months I have become a frequent visitor to discussion fora. I have lost count of the compelling arguments I’ve seen lost, unnecessarily, by ill-considered, intemperate and totally self-indulgent comments lobbed like grenades into otherwise productive discussions. Make no mistake, the anti-hunting lobby and the media haunt blogs and threads looking for violent, inflammatory statements to justify their portrayal of hunters as gap-toothed, inbred, banjo-playing rednecks straight off the set of Deliverance. And all too often we accommodate them by reading from the script. We will lose the battle for as long as we believe that our only threat lies from without!

We should keep in mind at all times that our objective is to sell a product that a large percentage of the population doesn’t want to buy. This is a huge and complex responsibility that will take time and patience, and there is no room for self-indulgent outbursts that can only serve to undermine our hard-won progress.

If we are to convince the voting public that we are not monsters, we must conduct ourselves in a moderate and responsible manner in all our activities, not just in the field. This includes ensuring that we leave no smoking guns of sadism or intolerance on the net that may be used against us.

Finally, we must guard against falling into the trap of commenting on topics we are not sufficiently familiar with to offer sage advice. This is particularly relevant to the debate about whether the public will be safe in NSW national parks that are opened to hunters.

It is tempting to make all sorts of assurances, but we cannot be drawn on the topic, simply because there is so much that is yet to be settled. We don’t know how many hunters will be permitted in a national park on any given day. We don’t know how many hunters might be permitted per x-hectares of bush. We don’t know how parks will be signposted or how their closure for hunting will be managed and conveyed to the public. The list goes on…  What we do know is that the bodies responsible for developing policies to ensure public safety are aware of the controversy surrounding hunting in parks, and they have everything to gain by ensuring that policy is robust and serviceable.

It is in our best interest to share our thoughts and ideas with bodies such as Game Council NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and to give them our full and active support as they strive to ensure that in the long term, hunting on public lands is revealed to be safe and therefore sustainable for many years to come.