Most of us who hunt and fish and eat red meat wonder, when we hear of the ridiculous behavior of antis, how anyone could be so clueless. To those with the facts, who understand that hunters and anglers pay the great majority of the cost of preserving wildlife habitat and enforcing game laws, it’s obvious that without us wildlife would suffer, and some species would disappear. We can’t understand how someone can claim to care about animals and still oppose hunting and fishing.
The answer, in just about every case, is ignorance. Granted, there are probably some who know the facts and still believe hunting and fishing is wrong, on religious or moral grounds, but the great majority just doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.
It would be easy to dismiss these people as stupid or crazy, based on their strange behavior, but that is seldom the case. Most peta members are probably normal, intelligent folks, except for their lack of education about the outdoors.
Sue Watkins used to be such a person. Growing up in California, Sue loved animals, and wanted to help them any way she could. She became an animal trainer, joined peta, and regarded all hunters as cruel animal haters. Sue never went so far as to march in protests, or harangue people wearing fur or leather, but she was definitely, firmly, ensconced in the anti camp.
And then, at a trap shooting event, Sue met a man who happened to be a big game hunter. She immediately placed him on her mental list of undesirables. She never had anything to do with people who had so little regard for animals that they would go out and shoot them.
But Sue and the hunter became friends anyway, and even started dating. They argued about hunting and animal rights, each with the righteous conviction of the just. Finally the hunter gave up on arguing, but he gave Sue some information about where wildlife funds come from, and asked her to look up the facts for herself. To her credit, she did.
The light is painful at first, to those who have lived their lives in the dark. The more Sue learned about wildlife conservation, the more the knowledge grated against her long-held anti-hunting beliefs. She resisted but, because she respected the hunter, and cared enough to want the truth, she persisted.
When the dust had settled, Sue had learned that animal rights activists do little or nothing for animals, and that hunters and anglers pay more of the wildlife conservation bill than the rest of society combined. She learned that most poachers are caught because honest hunters alert wildlife officials to their activities. She learned that peta, and other animal rights groups, spend most of their money on propaganda, and almost nothing helping animals. She learned that hunting actually improves wildlife health and habitat, and that without it many animals die far more painfully from starvation during the winter. She learned that animal rights activists don’t really care about animals, they only care about control over their fellowman. She learned that animal rights groups lie to their members and the rest of society, in order to keep them from learning the truth.
She learned she’d been wrong.
Sue was appalled about her discoveries, and realized that, in order to actually help wildlife, she would have to support hunting and other conservation efforts, whether she actually hunted herself or not. She also decided that others who had spent their lives in outdoors ignorance needed to learn what she knew, so that they, too, could make informed choices, instead of continuing to believe the anti-hunting lies.
So Sue got involved. She realized she had a responsibility, as do the rest of us, to help educate the next generation, so America’s outdoor heritage could be preserved. She decided to do whatever she could to expose the lies, and encourage kids to get outdoors.
Sue’s book, ‘Getting Involved! A guide to Hunting and Conservation for Kids,’ is one of the finest examples of the conservation effort I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t just tell children they should hunt or fish, it explains the entire concept of the conservation philosophy, in terms young readers can understand, and uses facts that prove the necessity of hunting and fishing to the health of wildlife. It encourages kids to look up the facts themselves, instead of automatically believing what they’ve been told.
The book also stresses gun safety, and features kids who have excelled in outdoor sports through 4-H and other programs. It’s full of pictures and illustrations that make the outdoors come alive, and should give children a desire to get involved themselves.
Sue ended up marrying the hunter who changed her attitude about hunting, but without such a relationship she doesn’t believe she would have made the effort to learn the truth. Still, the issue is too important to just give up. We all need to do our part to educate others about the outdoors, especially kids. A good way to do that would be to give them a copy of ‘Getting Involved!.’is available for $12.95 from Safari Press, or directly from Sue Watkins at 916.417.2382
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856. ‘Getting Involved!’