This from Edmonton CTV
Sep 14, 2011
A well-known American hunter, who is already facing fines and jail time in the U.S., is also in some legal trouble here in Alberta. Jeff Foiles appeared in an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday on charges under the Wildlife Act and the Criminal Code.
Foiles is known for a series of hunting videos under the name "Fallin' Skies."
He pleaded guilty to eight charges under Canadian law, which included causing unnecessary pain and suffering to a bird.
The following is from Michael Sabbeth, who has been thinking, teaching and writing about values, morals and ethics for many years. He attended our recient Think Tank II and made the following comments on reactions to the Foiles incident. I post the following with his consent:
Consistent with several themes propounded at our meetings at McGraw, I read and re-read the email correspondence regarding the Jeff Foiles incident. I share my thoughts on this disgraceful event.
I begin with references to three emails: one from Phil, one citing Martin and one from Ed.
Phil wrote, in part:
“On the heels of our discussion of hunter ethics at McGraw, the "Jeff Foiles incident" broke in the news. I don't know if you are following this, but it is a major black eye for all hunters.”
Ed wrote, in part:
“I devote many days and long nights having moralistic discussions with fellow hunters about improving our hunter image and how to "sell" hunting to the non-hunting public as being morally right.”
And the quote citing Martin is:
“Martin Sharren, vice-president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, says Foiles gives ethical hunters a bad name." Unfortunately, people will look at this guy and say 'That is what hunters do',"
I address each of these statements. I draw different conclusions and would slightly modify those expressed by Phil and Martin and I elaborate on Ed’s statement.
Jeff Foiles’ contemptible behavior does not create a black eye for all hunters. His behavior creates a black eye for Jeff Foiles alone if not primarily. As I articulate more fully below, the only way Foiles’ behavior becomes a black eye for all hunters—indeed, for any hunter other than Foiles—is if, by our use of self-destructive rhetoric and self-deprecating preening, we allow the rest of the world to believe that we believe our collective eyes have been blackened.
If I learned my neighbor abused his child, it would not be a black eye on me or on all parents in Denver. Or in Colorado. Or in the USA. It is a black eye on my neighbor. Of course, I, as a citizen, should exercise whatever legal and moral power I have to punish that neighbor and eliminate his ability to hurt any child again. But my eyes are not blackened and, to the contrary, I weaken and diminish myself and my moral authority by making the assertion that they are blackened.
Thus, Foiles’ vile behavior gives black eyes to himself and, I readily admit, to those hunters and advertisers and promoters that buy and / or market his products and / or who revel in his work. But not to all hunters.
Certainly Foiles does not make hunters ‘look good.’ That belabors the obvious. I know what Phil is saying, but I spent a lot of time with Phil and we discussed many topics in depth. I know he rejects the implications of the ‘black eye’ theory. It’s just that the notion that ‘it makes us all look bad’ is such an easy default expression. That’s why we have to be careful with out words.
My point is that we gain nothing, morally or intellectually, by being defensive and self flagellating. Those are responses based on some perverted notion of collective guilt and the consequence of allowing emotion to trump intellect and reason. Foiles’ behavior blackens our eyes only to the extent we allow our eyes to be blackened.
We gain nothing by internalizing and owning Jeff Foiles’ unethical behavior, which we do by asserting that all our eyes are blackened. We will not be looked upon more favorably by the rest of the world if we concede a collective negative consequence to each of us as a result of the actions of one individual. To the contrary, we will look weak. We will appear to lack conviction in the strength of our morality and our ability to discern the vile from the ethical. More, we will look pathetic.
We gain no moral authority, no greater positive image, by berating ourselves and ascribing to the argument that the actions of one man tarnishes, demeans, corrupts or defames the actions of millions. Such an argument and such a mindset, are, dare I be blunt, insane and suicidal. They must be stopped.
One aspect of our response to the Foiles behavior, thus, should be a confident: “So what?”
If a person notified any of you, breathlessly panting, that an automobile driver somewhere in the United States didn’t stop for a school bus and hit a child crossing a street, I imagine your responses would be something like, “That’s terrible. So what do you expect me to do?” If the speaker then told you that your eyes, as a driver, are now blackened, you’d probably have some unkind words for the messenger.
This is not a matter of derisive flippancy. It is a matter of inquiring about the logical consequences, implications, resultant duties and impact on our ethos caused by Foiles’ behavior.
We can ask questions, of course, and, indeed we have a duty to do so. But the questions have to be prudent and aimed at productive resolutions. What policies, if any, would remedy the situation? How much control and limitation of freedom should be inflicted on millions as a consequence of one person harming a few birds? You can figure out more and better questions.
Ed wrote about his laudable efforts to “improving our hunter image and how to "sell" hunting to the non-hunting public as being morally right.”
Ed’s proposition was extensively discussed in our McGraw meetings. I summarize my answer to Ed’s proper inquiry: we ‘sell’ hunting etc through honorable behavior and by linking hunting to the larger issues of personal independence, conservation, liberty, game management and risk taking. The Foiles incident must be treated in an intellectually and morally credible manner but once that is done, all consequences and implications flowing from the disgraceful event must be founded in practical reason, not in emotion.
Let me be clear, as a current US political leader might say, Foiles’ behavior is beneath contempt. He has violated technical hunting laws which, presumably, have merit, and, infinitely worse, he has thuggishly and contemptibly, in Nazi-like fashion, inflicted pain and torment on helpless living things and derived pleasure from doing so. Foiles fulfills my definition of evil.
It impresses me, for whatever it’s worth, that the punishment imposed on Foiles is absolutely appropriate and just. More severe punishment would not bother me. However, let us keep in mind a sense of perspective and proportion. The punishment imposed on Foiles is, in a sickeningly number of instances, greater than the punishment imposed on drunk drivers that cause less than fatal injuries and greater than imposed on many persons convicted of burglary, robbery, assault, child molestation and fraud.
According to one email, “Martin Sharren, vice-president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, says Foiles gives ethical hunters a bad name." Unfortunately, people will look at this guy and say 'That is what hunters do',"
I addressed the ‘gives ethical hunters a bad name’ allegation above in my comments about the black eye charge. My remarks here address the “that is what hunters do’ comment.
People will say and think ‘that is what hunters do’ approximately only to the degree we do not make our case that hunters, in an overwhelming majority of instances, do NOT do those things. People will believe, ultimately, what they want to believe, based on biases and prejudices and history that they have assiduously cultivated or that may be wholly unknown to them. Some people are beyond the point of reason and, thus, facts and truth have no impact. That’s life, and it would be a fool’s errand to try to alter the beliefs and perceptions of those people.
If we are to take up the challenge of influencing and negating the perceptions and stereotypes sprouted by the behaviors of the several Foiles in the world, our actions and our rhetoric must be prudent, forceful, focused, harmonized and unrelenting.
I do think we should respond in our own way and in our own venues to Foiles’ offensive behavior. By ‘we,’ I mean each of us personally and with our colleagues and on behalf of our organizations and their constituencies.
So, what do we do? How do we respond? Our responses should have several shared themes and arguments. Here is just a brief list comprised of ideas that leapt immediately to my mind:
· First, our response must be measured and thoroughly analytical and fact based. Our statements should include a concise narrative of the facts, as we know them, including details of the crimes, the punishment, the behavior of the majority of hunters and the punishment inflicted upon those that commit other unrelated crimes.
· Second, I think the golden rule of ‘less is more’ applies: we don’t need an pontificating exegesis on hunting ethics to permeate every news outlet and website.
· Statements should assert our moral authority by expressing our moral outrage at Foiles’ actions.
· We should advocate policies that create disincentives for such behavior including swiftly and unambiguously imposing punishment for such behavior.
· Statements must emphasize that few hunters act that way and
· We must create a context for this kind of event. We should ask, in a rhetorically persuasive manner, who else gets held to such a high standard of behavior? We should challenge audiences with questions such as what other classes of human activity are purer or devoid to a greater degree of malevolent behavior? Driving? Hardly. Parenting? I wish. Political leaders? If only. Athletes? Yeah, right. You get the point.
Based on my anecdotal evidence, I would not be surprised to learn that there are fewer unethical hunters per the hunting population than there are unethical automobile drivers per the driving public.
My overarching point, if you will, is that hunters and shooters and sportsmen/women must stop acting defensively. We must stop using the rhetoric of guilt and apology and defensiveness. We will be given no moral credit by our opponents for self-inflicted and self-effacing posturing.
We must fight the easy tendency to make concessions to collective guilt by making glib admission that all sportsmen are tarnished and that all eyes are blackened. Such language creates a destructive self-fulfilling prophecy: if WE say we are all tarnished and blackened, than we give legitimacy to hunting opponents to proclaim that all hunters are tarnished and have blackened eyes. In brief, by such a mindset, we provide the rationalization for our own destruction.
Ironically, unless our rhetoric is prudent and disciplined, the consequence of our noble effort to be introspective and to acknowledge and then extricate unethical actors from within our midst will be to thoroughly empower the people already inclined to be against us and enable them to add new members to their cause.
If we legitimize the irrational musings of non-thinkers and biased thinkers and uninformed thinkers, we will undermine ethical hunters and the sport far more effectively than the anti hunters ever can.