The killing of Cecil the lion generated a seemingly unprecedented level of outrage, and public condemnation of the individuals involved.

The outpouring of anger, disgust, and vitriol on social media was akin to Lord of the Flies dystopian mentality, which resulted in the persecution of the hunter, without trial. It spawned many opinion pieces, such as Sandra Kyle's highly emotive All hunting is animal cruelty.

Those who argue against hunting and hunters often rely on emotive language, aspersions and convenient truths, and Kyle's piece certainly doesn't disappoint. References to beheading, destroying animals, painful lingering deaths, and disrupting natures patterns, is sensationalism and does little to bring perspective to the debate.

Hunting is an integral and necessary part of nature, whether it is man doing the hunting or another predator. In New Zealand we have no natural predators so hunters fill that role and they do play a useful part in pest control and helping to maintain healthy balanced animal populations.

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Ms Kyle's argument that, left to her own device, nature will balance out with natural predators killing the sickest and the weakest, doesn't apply here. Nor is it entirely true of other places in the world, because we now live in a highly modified environment and that Utopia no longer exists. Nature now also controls by population imbalance, disease and starvation.

The idea that hunters cause stress and fear to animals thereby compromising their immune systems and making it harder for them to thrive is nonsense. Fear and stress in the animal kingdom are the natural defence mechanisms that help keep animals alert and alive, and are necessary if populations are to thrive.

Animals are part of a natural order whereby everything that eats ultimately gets eaten, so to argue that hunting is cruel is drawing a long bow. The reality is that death by 'hunter' is generally quicker and less painful than death by natural predator.

Animal rights protagonists do try to distort the notion of hunter cruelty by bestowing human characteristics on animals, thereby making the act appear abhorrent. This is called anthropomorphism. An example is naming a lion Cecil and calling it a 'celebrity', thereby making it easy for people to make a human connection with it. It is, in fact, a wild cat with no human characteristics and no idea that its name is Cecil. Animals don't, can't and won't ever possess human attributes or qualities.

Kyle's tenuous reference to the psychology of hunters' motivation is weak and aspersions of narcissism, arrested development, suppressed anger, and a desire for domination, are spurious, inflammatory, and insulting. If that were the case, none of us would have passed our firearms licence test!.

The reality is that most hunters are intelligent, well-adjusted, successful, compassionate individuals who invest heavily in conservation and animal welfare. Worldwide, hunters' dollars contribute to animal preservation, habitat protection and restoration, animal recovery and breeding programmes, anti-poaching programmes, jobs, and local economies. Why? Because in order for hunting to exist, animal populations must be abundant and healthy. Hunting is not about the extermination of a species but sustainable off-take.

Contrary to Ms Kyle's belief, hunting is a highly skilled pursuit that requires a lot of an individual: ability, fitness, agility, tenacity, self-discipline, determination, marksmanship, leadership, co-operation, judgement, empathy, control, and a vast array of outdoor skills, to name a few. Hunting is also an important part of our identity as a nation. And let's keep it in perspective: killing is only a very small part of the act of hunting - it is the full stop at the end of the sentence. In order for us all to eat, something must die - no matter how you dress it up.

I would argue that the debate is not about cruelty, but that hunting offends some people's sensibilities - and that's okay, but it's not a reason have it banned. Perhaps animal rights groups would be better served working with hunters, rather than attacking them. After all, don't we want the same things: more animals in the wild, healthier populations and better habitat. Surely compromise is a better way to an end goal that serves all.

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Daryl Crimp is a Nelson-based, author, writer, cartoonist and hunter. He publishes The Fishing Paper & Hunting News.
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