It is said that the only constant is change, but we know another constant — the human drive to hunt has been a constant in the human condition since we lived in caves, it was hunting that gave humans the necessary tools to become humans.
Australia has changed fundamentally and irrevocably over recent decades. Along with the massive technological change, there has been a significant cultural change as our country has morphed from being a relatively regional society to being heavily urbanised. Ninety percent of us now live in built-up areas. As we have noted numerous times in this publication, the political consequence of this fact is that there are now more people in Australia who are culturally predisposed to being unsympathetic to activities like hunting than there are people who instinctively ‘get’ us.
The cold, hard reality is that our society has changed and it is not changing back. It’s not a matter of us all just being more unified, or of our advocates thumping some tables or of running media campaigns or of public relations blitzes. Nothing short of a time machine will take us back to where we were in the 1980s and it would be either naïve or dishonest for organisations like ours to pretend otherwise. The challenge in front of us not to fire up the DeLorean from the movie, Back to the Future, it is to get better at defining and articulating the role of hunters in our society as it is now, not as it was.
The place of hunters in society has changed constantly throughout human history. Through the transition from hunter gatherers to agrarians, to industrialists, to market hunters and then to the modern conservationist; our place in society has changed, but the fundamental innate human drive to hunt has remained.
The rise of veganism in Australia poses an existential challenge to how hunting is seen and, ultimately, regulated in Australia. The number of new food products labelled as vegan has nearly trebled over the past five years. More than twelve percent of Australians now have diets where almost all of the food is vegetarian. Generalisation’s are always dangerous, so here’s a generalisation — the ‘typical’ vegan is young, University educated and upwardly mobile. This puts them in a position of influence over public policy due to both access to a sympathetic political and media class and the requisite skill set to successfully advocate to them.
There are now three Animal Justice Party MP’s in Parliament (two in New South Wales and one in Victoria) and their influence is growing. They are a well resourced, well organised and well-run political machine. Whilst we have some common ground with these people on animal welfare issues, we are never going to talk them around to hunting, nor are we going to mute their voices.
What we can do, what we must do is tell a convincing story to the majority of Australians who are not diametrically opposed to the use of animals. It’s simple, it’s already there, its basis is the values we already hold. A commitment to Animal welfare, to sustainability, respect for our quarry and love of wild food are all values which are dear to us as hunters which the public can understand and embrace.
Browbeating people, talking up our divisions, engaging in identity battles and generally thumping our chests might play well to a few of the converted, but it does nothing to advance the image of hunting in modern society. We will still have big public battles and we do not resile from those fights — we tackle them proactively and directly.
At the same time, it is incumbent on us to bring the ‘new Australia’ along with us, to show people our values, to respectfully explain what we do and why we do it, to engage in some ‘venison diplomacy’ and share the spoils of our hunt with our family, friends and neighbours.
Our future is bright and it’s ours to shape. Hunting in the next fifty years will look different than it did in the last fifty — our challenge is to drive how that looks, not to pretend that we can somehow steer our DeLorean back to the ‘good old days’.