Every day, our industry is barraged and berated by tofu-totting, granola-crunching anti’s who seek to dismantle the agriculture industry and establish a national ban on hunting. While I obviously and vehemently disagree with their positions, the animal rights activists should be commended. They have their beliefs (although misguided and ill-informed) and they take action upon their beliefs.
You won’t hear this said in the outdoor industry very often, but…Activism is good. Our country was founded on activism, when a small handful of freedom-seeking individuals defied conventional wisdom and public opinion. They set out for the New World and were labeled ‘radicals’. Of course, the terminology was different then, but there’s no question that the courageous men and women that first came to America were activists.
The same is true during the American Revolution. The ‘activists’ were the ones who changed the status quo. Through tea party protests and other actions — some legal and some not so legal — a motivated minority took action. And they changed the world.
This is an important lesson because this pattern repeats itself over and over. And it’s happening to us in the outdoor industry.
Hunting and agricultural pursuits were once mainstream. From the first day our Founding Fathers landed in the ‘New World’, hunting was a way of life. In fact, their survival depended on it every day. Can you imagine someone protesting against hunting back then?
But times have changed. Rampant urbanization, animal rights activists and other social changes have turned sportsmen into the minority class. There are more people in America who do not hunt, do not fish, and do not understand man’s inherent link to our natural world, than those who do. We are no longer mainstream. We are the odd balls, the exceptions. We are the endangered species.
Today, hunters are vilified. Our outdoor way of life is mocked and ridiculed by Hollywood and East Coast elitists. When I mention I’m a hunter, I’m often surrounded by more upturned noses than you’d see at a pork industry convention.
The psychological public lynching that occurs has gotten so bad that some of us are now hesitant to even mention we are hunters, or we’re afraid to put up a trophy mount in our office for fear of what the boss or the clients might think.
Well, enough is enough. It’s our turn now to demonstrate that we care about our American outdoor traditions just as much as the anti’s care about destroying them.
We must become the activists, and I strongly urge all hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to step up and become ‘Outdoor Patriots.’ If we want this industry to survive and prosper, we must change the way the general public perceives the industry. It’s the only way to make hunting and agriculture ‘mainstream’ again.
A large part of our Outdoor Patriotism should be targeted to the youth. Our children are more disconnected from nature than ever before in human history, and we must share and demonstrate our passion for the outdoors with the youth. Our children are the future of the industry. We must invest in them today and help them experience the joys of wildlife and learn the importance of responsible land stewardship.
Our activism should also focus on our message. Too often, we may do a good job, but we do a poor job of telling the world we do a good job. We walk on proverbial eggshells with the public and only talk about our accomplishments with others within our own groups.
WE should be proud to tell the world of our accomplishments. We are the ones that supply the conservation funding for states across the country. In 2010 alone, our license and permit fees delivered nearly $1.4 billion into state wildlife departments for habitat management; breeding programs and other conservation issues.
WE are the ones who have helped repopulate endangered species. The Scimitar-horned oryx, for one example, is extinct in his native land, yet sportsmen and ranchers have raised thousands of them here in the United States. Why? Because hunters supported these efforts. Not HSUS. Not PETA.. We did that.
WE are the ones that give our hard-earned dollars for wildlife. While HSUS sucks in millions of dollars every year on donations from well-intentioned, ill-informed people that want to help cats and dogs…HSUS doesn’t help cats, dogs or any other animals. HSUS does not operate one animal shelter, nor does it donate to one wildlife management organization. We are the ones that contribute to SCI, ADWA, Ducks Unlimited, Wild Turkey Federation and many more groups to support the land and wildlife.
We should be proud of who we are and what we do. And, we need to tell the world.
We’re hunters. We’re anglers. We are all Outdoor Patriots. And, we are the leading conservationists in the world, and it has been our hard work that has kept America the unique bastion of wildlife that it is. We need to shout it from the mountain tops.
Stand up for the outdoors!
John Meng is the host of Outdoor Patriot and is president of the American Deer & Wildlife Alliance.
Hear outdoor talk like you’ve never heard it on www.OutdoorPatriot.com.