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Great-Grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Speaks out on Hunting and Conservation

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The great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt has some cogent advice for anti-hunters. Listen to him explain how hunting IS conservation.

Theodore Roosevelt IV, the great-grandson of President and famed hunter conservation Theodore Roosevelt, has written an opinion piece on hunting and conservation. Roosevelt is an avid hunter and conservationist, as well as a member of the Governing Council of the Wilderness Society and a Trustee for the American Museum of Natural History.

The piece is titled “The Necessity of Hunting” and was published in The Washington Times.

The article is impassioned and logical, clearly stating what so many hunters already know: hunting is the backbone of conservation, and without hunting there would likely be far less of several animal species or none left at all.

The revenue generated by and the activity of hunters are what has made the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation so very successful. Other countries would do well to emulate it, and some in Africa have.

Theodore Roosevelt
LES Australia

Roosevelt speaks of hunting in reverent tones when he says,

For the best among us, hunting is a devotional activity. It is about complete immersion in our humanity; it is about the long trek of evolution; it is the heartbeat of our species; it is our souls, for lack of a better word.

But he conjoins the spiritual nature of hunting with practical reality when he says, “But not one of the best hunters among this tribe of sportsmen would continue if we were not also serving conservation and the very animals whom we hunt.”

This is most certainly true, and speaks to the seemingly odd juxtaposition that hunters occasionally must deal with: We love the very animals we set out to kill. I say ‘seemingly odd’ because that must be how it appears to the uninitiated. But it is not odd at all. It is, in fact, quite natural and very human.

After all, does a farmer not love the animals he raises knowing that they will eventually be slaughtered for food? Does an angler not love the fish he devotes his life to catching, knowing that they too will become food for him and his family? It is an easy conundrum to answer, if one is not disconnected from the source of our food, the source of life.

Theodore Roosevelt
Big Game Hunting Adventures

Roosevelt goes on to mention Cecil the lion and the outrage that incident sparked among well-meaning though ignorant animal rights activists. The Cecil incident reignited anti-hunting passion in the non-hunting public, who signed petitions by the hundreds of thousands protesting trophy hunting. Signing those petitions was, Roosevelt says, the least that these clueless animal lovers could do to express their rage.

“It is the very least, and the very worst,” he says. Why? “Conservation does not advance anywhere without ensuring the well-being and support of the people closest to the resource.”

Here’s more from Roosevelt:

Hunting is the necessary incentive that allows private landowners to expand territory for these animals beyond the limited acreage of national parks; it is the money that pays the salaries of the Africans on anti-poaching brigades; it is the money that compensates villagers for lost livestock in countries where rural hunger is a fact of life.

The money generated by sport hunting in Africa, as is the case here in the United States, supports the human part of the equation as well as the wildlife. Without the support of those people who live with wildlife, there would be no conservation to speak of. So many anti-hunting animal rights people do not seem to grasp that reality. But without the full support and direct involvement of the people on the ground, many wildlife species would be gone in short order. Hunting and hunting dollars ensure that support and involvement.

The disconnect between Cecil-lovers and the African people is astoundingly myopic. Says Roosevelt, “Africans whom I know are incensed by the public outcry over Cecil, when there is no outcry about young children in Africa killed by lions, no outcry about the starvation still so prevalent, no outcry about the joblessness or hardship.”

This is part of the problem with social media movements where people half a world away try to dictate how people in the affected areas should live and conduct their business. The arrogance and elitism of this attitude is breath-taking.

Kendall Jones with darted rhino - Theodore Roosevelt
Kendall Jones/Facebook

Roosevelt expresses his dismay with animal rights activists, who proclaim with certitude that their lofty ideals are the only right way, using nothing but their own half-baked opinions as support for their declarations against hunting.

“They did not talk to women like Susie Offord of Save the Rhinos International,” he declares. “who know that, but for hunting, white rhinos might be extinct now. Instead, their numbers have increased in South Africa from teetering on the brink to several thousand, thanks to hunting on private lands. She calls hunting a ‘conservation tool.'”

Offord’s statement echoes USFW Service Director Dan Ashe’s own comment on hunting being “a powerful tool” for wildlife and rhino conservation.

They did not talk to Catherine Spencer of Humanitarian Operation Protecting Elephants who reminds us that Kenya, after banning hunting, has lost 60 to 80 percent of its animals outside of national parks. She considers a ban on trophy hunting to be “catastrophic.”

Roosevelt shrewdly brings one of the founders of the modern conservation movement into the picture, Aldo Leopold, and sets the record straight on Leopold’s ethic:

One of our country’s great conservation visionaries was Aldo Leopold. His daughter wrote this about her father: “To him, hunting was an expression of love for the natural world; you might even say it initiated a kind of bonding with the land. To Aldo Leopold, hunting was not an abomination nor an inconsistency, but a way for active participation in the drama of life.”

Aldo Leopold believed strongly that conservation must rely on those people who understand the resource: those who work the ‘back forty,’ the farmers and ranchers, those who hunt and fish; those for whom nature is it not a photographic memory, but a necessity.

Leopold’s views and ethics on conservation were formed as a result of his life as a hunter. His hunting informed his conservation ethic. And his ideas and conservation principles are with us to this day. Roosevelt recognizes that Leopold’s vision runs antithetical to that of so many anti-hunters who claim to embrace it.

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These are wise words from Theodore Roosevelt IV. But I’m afraid that he is only preaching to the choir and that what he has said will fall on the willfully deaf ears of the anti-hunting community. I feel a combination of sadness and anger at their willful and arrogant ignorance. Sadness that they will seemingly forever embrace their disconnect with nature and will never know what it is to truly be a part of the natural world.

Roosevelt began his treatise with a quote from the Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset. I think it is fair to conclude with it:

One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

NEXT: Are Hunters the Earth’s True Conservationists?

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Great-Grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Speaks out on Hunting and Conservation