Recently, animal rights activists and misinformed media have taken to using social media to attack sportsmen and women who hunt and fish. Even hunters and anglers within our community have attacked other hunters far too rudely. It is more than rude, offensive behavior. Some of it includes intimidation and even death threats. Some is purposefully aimed at harming the sportsman or woman and their business interests. This is going too far. There are legal remedies. It may be time to resort to those remedies to roll back some of the more organized, egregious conduct by wackos and agenda-driven journalists alike.
One instance was the November petition to deny Melissa Bachman future visas to enter South Africa because she posted a picture of herself with her Limpopo lion on Facebook and Twitter. Despite the fact that US citizens don’t require visas to enter RSA, tens of thousands of hate mails ensued over a lion hunt not unlike many hundreds of others in South Africa each year. South Africa has the second largest lion population in all of Africa, thus the world. But for the hunting, most of those lion would not exist. In short, as long as there is lion hunting in RSA, the lion there will be secure. Moreover, the hunting of lion is the single biggest producer of revenue of any game animal in the RSA hunting community – over 120 million rand in the last analyzed year (2012).
Another recent instance is the hate mail Conservation Force and the first US importer of a black rhino trophy received. That has been followed by the hate mail campaign and irresponsible media treatment of the black rhino auction at Dallas Safari Club’s Convention. (See the DSC press release at http://gametrails.org/death-threats-aside-dsc-forges-ahead-with-rhino-auction/).
One major media representative actually asked me sarcastically, “Isn’t the hunt of the auctioned rhino the same thing as poaching? I mean, isn’t both killing by human beings?” Of course, I explained that poaching was stealing from society and that the permitted, regulated hunt was part of the conservation system designed by the foremost experts to perpetuate the species. Poaching was the problem, while the permitted hunting was designed to generate revenue to control poaching and to incentivize local support. Poaching was for profit of the poacher, while permitted hunting under CITES was strictly for non-profit, personal use. Regulated tourist hunters are not thieves; their actions are legal, not illegal, and the funds they pay are a positive contribution, not a negative subtraction. (I have since heard it said that the difference is like a bank robber stealing and a bank customer when making a deposit.)
The ignorance of the media representative was truly incredible and was made worse by an underlying negative presumption that hunters take, not give. In that case, the media representative was not qualified for the interview, but generally the media is essentially a negative medium. That problem is made worse when the reporter has an agenda that includes your destruction or harm to you. Read on how you can protect yourself.
In some instances, hunters are their own worst enemies. In the so-called “social media” sportsmen can display the same rudeness and offensiveness to one another as the rest of society displays all too often. For example, a few years back Jim Zumbo was viciously hounded without mercy by fellow sportsmen despite a lifetime of leadership in the hunting industry.
What has alerted me as much as my first-hand experience with hate mail is an editorial by Editor Andy Crawford in the December issue of Louisiana Sportsman. His editorial entitled It’s Hunting, Folks, expressed his experience with a picture of a hunted bobcat on the magazine’s Facebook page. He received obvious anti-hunting protests, and he opines that the antis are reading pages as part of a “plan,” otherwise why would they be reading hunting/fishing pages in the first place? Good point. The same may be true of Melissa Bachman’s lion on Facebook. What the Louisiana Sportsman Editor found “surprising was the number of comments from Louisiana Sportsman fans…that thought the photo should not be used.” After citing some of the comments, Editor Crawford sagely points out “that nothing you or I do will ever make the anti-hunting crowd hold our hands and sing Kumbaya. Folks, they hate what we do. Period….So let’s stop being politically correct in hopes that we don’t offend someone….Instead, let’s celebrate the hunting sports and share the excitement….” To that I would add, let’s stop apologizing and overreacting to purposeful campaigns against the sporting way of life. Hunters need to avoid apologizing for hunting or attacking each other due to PR concerns. We can be our own worst enemy.
When the antis misrepresent the facts with malicious intent to damage a hunter, there are legal remedies. Letters to your business customers or supporters with misrepresentations is certainly actionable misconduct prohibited by law in almost every state. In some states, intentional torts entitle the victim to triple damages. You may be able to pick your state to sue. Under bankruptcy law, intentional misconduct is not dischargeable like other debts.
Any of the traditional legal remedies should provide protections. The first would be defamation (misrepresentation with malice), which can be both a criminal offense and also provide for injunction and monetary compensation in civil law. A second is civil liability for tortuous interference with a contract or business relations, as when the offender writes those you do business with. A third tort in civil law is intentional infliction of emotional distress. The wrongful conduct may also violate your state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act or state and federal Anti-Racketeering laws, RICO. There is little doubt this is where it has to lead if the antis and/or judgmental press with an openly displayed agenda to harm you keep up the firestorm campaigns. I can image one of America’s businesses, civic or social leaders, perhaps a billionaire, suing for hundreds of millions of dollars. One case could be enough. In fact, at this time a number of animal rights organizations are being sued for their campaign against the Ringling Bros. circus. One group settled a year ago for nearly $10 million dollars, Feld Entertainment, Inc. v. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, et al., Civ. Action No. 07-1532, United States District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit.