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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Know Hunting: Truth, Lies and Myths by David E. Samuel

For Hunters, Non-Hunters and Anti-Hunters
by Steve Sorensen
Published by Know Hunting Publications, Cheat Lake, West Virginia, 1999; 298 pages, 17 chapters. Paperback.
Recreational hunting has saved wildlife,
and hunting provides the only viable
economic incentive for wildlife management.
If you're a hunter who finds your favorite pastime under attack, your summer reading time will be well spent with "Know Hunting: Truth, Lies and Myths" by Dr. David E. Samuel. If you're a non-hunter who hasn't thought much about the pros and cons, "Know Hunting" will be very informative. And if you're an anti-hunter, "Know Hunting" will give you the deeper truths about hunting and conservation.

Written in a straight-forward, easy-to-read style by a professor of wildlife management (now retired) from the University of West Virginia, "Know Hunting" is a comprehensive defense of hunting. Published in 1999, it's still very much up to date.

The debate about hunting in America is loaded with emotion on both sides, but Samuel doesn't succumb to the temptation to sling mud. He truly wants to understand those who oppose him -- and to be understood by them.

Samuel discusses a broad range of issues related to hunting and the anti-hunting ideology that competes against it. He believes urbanization is at the heart of the contrast between these ideologies. He explains that urbanized people lack first-hand exposure to wildlife and that few of them recognize they are part of the predator-prey system. He reveals the profound difference between "animal rights" and "animal welfare." He contends that once the public understands this distinction -- that animal rightists are the real extremists, and that hunters care more and do more for animal welfare -- it will be positive for hunting.

He describes how recreational hunting has saved wildlife and how hunting provides the only viable economic incentive for wildlife management -- not only in North America but everywhere in the world. He says that anti-hunters make a shallow argument when they say that what hunters do for wildlife is so that they can kill more animals. He shows how a decline in the number of hunters is bad for all kinds of wildlife -- not just game species. And he makes a strong case that ethical hunting fights the anti-hunting movement.

He surveys the enormous impact of the dollars contributed by hunters to the welfare of wildlife through the sale of hunting licenses, and also through one of the most successful pieces of federal legislation ever passed, the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937. Hunters and the hunting industry lobbied for a tax on guns and hunting equipment that would be dedicated to wildlife management and distributed through the states. It has produced billions of dollars. Neither non-hunters nor anti-hunters offer any comparable source of funding for wildlife, so the financial contribution of non-hunters is miniscule compared to that of hunters, and the financial commitment of anti-hunters to the wildlife they presume to protect is almost non-existent.

And hunters' support of wildlife is not simply through dollars spent. Hunters also do something anti-hunters almost never do -- they support wildlife through time invested in habitat improvement, which helps non-game species as well as game animals.

Samuel answers more questions than can be listed here: Why animal rights advocates cannot be considered environmentalists. Why some of the alternate methods of animal population control are actually inhumane compared to hunting. Why voter referenda on wildlife management are bad. How vegetarians are responsible for the deaths of animals. Why bans on hunting cannot end the killing of wildlife. Why the biblical injunction "Thou shalt not kill" does not apply to hunting.

Samuel argues that hunting should not be considered a sport, and I'm leaning his way. In responding to the dictionary definition of sport, he says, "Hunting isn't play or frolic. It's not done for simple amusement. It isn't a game…. Hunting is not about winning and losing. Sporting games usually have an audience, hunting does not…. Hunting is solemn. It is private."

Two things could help this book. One is for it to be reprinted with some new case studies. The other is the addition of an index to make the enormous amount of information in this book more accessible.

In the recent past, the wildlife manager was accountable only to hunters. Today, his job is much more difficult because he answers to a variety of people with competing worldviews. This difficult job would be made much easier if everyone would read "Know Hunting."

There is so much in this "must-read" that very little can be mentioned in a review. Anyone who reads it will be better informed about wildlife issues. If hunters and non-hunters alike would read "Know Hunting," we'd probably see fewer "No Hunting" signs on private property. "Know Hunting" by Dr. David Samuel is well worth reading, and reading again. Perhaps the best thing you can do for hunting is to Order a copy of "Know Hunting" from and read it so you can pass on the information in it.