By Lorraine Lawrence
Like many people now days I was passing a few minutes while waiting for an appointment by skimming over some notifications from some of the groups I belong to on FaceBook. I usually don’t view too many video clips as it can drain the phone’s battery, but someone I personally know had shared a video, a rare activity for them as well. Curiosity had me clicking on the link. So often you are disappointed with some shaky clip of a hunt or something where the person holding the camera can photograph everything from boots to sky, but only give a few glimpses of the important parts. All typically very frustrating for someone who worked in media and production where getting good photography is important. I was very pleasantly surprised with the video titled “The Unheard Voice” On YouTube at a Safari Classics production. It impressed me enough that I not only made a comment but I shared it to a few other groups and my own “Lorraine Lawrence's Outdoors & More” page as well. Before long my friend Richard Cheatham had made a comment on one of the “shares” where I had mentioned my thoughts on the video. That short chat soon had me asking Richard to take a little of his time to have a conversation with me about conservation, hunting and social media and the Dallas Safari Club Foundation which he is president of.
For those of you that don’t know Richard, his easy going, friendly manner would not clue you in right away to the fact that he is an intrepid and widely traveled sportsman who is not only passionate about conservation but also about hunter’s rights and helping to change how the general public looks at hunting, hunters and conservation. Richard serves as the President of the DSC Foundation, the charitable arm of Dallas Safari Club https://www.biggame.org . DSC Foundation supports the Dallas Safari Club by raising funds and making grants to carry out the mission and vision of DSC. The DSC’s mission is to insure the conservation of wildlife through public engagement, education and advocacy for well regulated hunting and sustainable use. The Foundation also works at outreach work targeting youth and public education. Also in the field of advocacy, the Foundation provides support for hunting based policy initiatives.
He is no latecomer to the DSC, as a past president of Dallas Safari Club he still advises the Board of Dallas Safari Club on legal and conservation matters. Mr. Cheatham also co-founded DSC Frontline Foundation, a charitable organization with a mission to provided financial assistance to professional hunters, guides, and members of their staff who are injured (and the survivors of those who are killed) while providing professional hunting services. The mission of DSC Frontline was expanded three years ago to give assistance to the survivors of guides, outfitters, game scouts and rangers who are killed in the course of providing anti-poaching services. Richard also led the initiative to get Dallas Safari Club admitted to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and served as the DSC liaison to the IUCN from 2015 to 2017.
In telling me about “The Unheard Voice” video Richard explained about the impact social media has on hunting and conservation. DSC Foundation has been intently active in spreading the message of the benefits of hunting and educating. Much of this is involved with reaching a wider audience than just the hunting community alone. Putting forth a clear and factual message about hunting is vitally important in the modern world. Personally I have heard many people (not only hunters) express that without hunting and sustainable use many species and their habitats will simply disappear. This is not a message that so many ARA (Animal rights activist) organizations or individuals promote or ascribe to even though it is a scientifically sound. Hunters if we are at all concerned with conservation must step up to present this balance to the emotionally driven (and often deliberately inaccurate) information that is often put forth as ‘fact’ by these groups.
Our discussion moved around to the subject of the internet and some current events concerning hunting and hunters. Some had drawn a great deal of fire from anti-hunting groups. Richard talked about some of his own thoughts about ‘choosing battles’ saying “You cannot expect to change anyone’s mind about hunting but if you look for the right opportunities to educate, you can start a dialogue that can improve the non-hunting public’s understanding of what we do and how it supports conservation”. We both agreed that hunters need to be aware that often animal activists groups and anti-hunting factions intentionally “bait” or provoke social media ‘debates’ with the hope that hunters will ’step over the line’ and make inflammatory remarks or resort to some of the ‘low blows’ they use so they can turn public opinions against our viewpoints. Falling for this trap out of frustration when even the most simple of conservation concepts seem to defy the understanding of fringe extremists only makes it appear to the general public (who may be on the fence and and those we really should be working to educate and improve understanding with) that indeed hunters are as the activists say.
Indeed putting correct and polite information out there may help much more that we know. While I try not to let bad or incorrect statements about hunting concerns slide. Redirecting conversations about things like “Meat vs trophy” hunting is a prime example. Or about styles of hunting. While we as hunters do not see the damage the public airing of these opinions does the erosion of ‘good will’ that some non-hunters may have towards the concept of “sustainable” hunting when hunters themselves seem to be at odds with each other on these basic subjects does considerable damage. Like it or not for our sport to continue we do need for the sport of hunting to be viewed as favorable by non-hunting ‘John & Jane Public’. It is ingrained in our heritage and our history and should be preserved and available to future generations. It won’t be if we all stand idly by and allow those who would like to ban it completely to whittle away at it without even a fight.
Sharing not only our opinions and experiences of hunting but some of the thoughtfully produced pieces like “The Unheard Voice” video or another excellent one featuring my good friend Namibian outfitter Marina Lamprecht (also on the DSC Foundation website Facebook page and here: Be part of the “We hunt for life” series. Both videos have received a flood of interest and many of the views not only from hunters or Dallas Safari Club members but also from the general public and feedback has included many favorable comments.
While no one suggests hunters should refrain from using social media and posting material, or that they should walk on “egg shells” because others are easily ‘offended’ it does pay to continue to present a consistent and thoughtful message to the general public. This helps the non-hunting public understand what hunting is about and who hunters are. We are their friends, neighbors, and family. Promoting a high standard of hunting ethics, and educating about sustainable use and conservation are a good way to bridge the gap that sometimes form. The DSC Foundation has been working towards this better understanding and provides materials and educational opportunities towards that goal. Links to more information and a storehouse of on-line materials are always available at their website https://www.biggame.org and you do not have to be a member to access them, though your membership is a good way to support an organization that works for all hunters.
We hope you will please take time to view the videos that were highlighted in the article, enjoy them and share them with others.