Chad Love: Would Wildlife Conservation Model be Accepted Today?

A recently-released poll finds a wide divergence of opinion exists among American, Canadian and British citizens on the issue of hunting.

From this story on UPI.com:

_Two-thirds of Britons would outlaw hunting, while only a third of Canadians and a quarter of Americans ban it, a poll released Wednesday indicates. The survey by the Canadian polling firm Angus Reid Public Opinion found a high level of agreement on one proposition, that using animals for food, clothing and even entertainment is not wrong as long as needless suffering is avoided. Sixty-six percent of Canadians, 63 percent of Britons and 62 percent in the United States said yes. But British respondents were far more likely to view specific actions as cruel with 79 percent opposing killing animals for fur, compared with 66 percent in the United States and 55 percent in Canada.

__In addition to the 66 percent who oppose hunting in Britain, more than half would support a ban on circus animals (53 percent) and on the use of animals to test commercial products (51 percent). Angus Reid polled 1,006 Canadian adults, 1,024 in the United States and 2,013 in Britain Sept. 8-15. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points for the Canadian and U.S. samples and 2.1 percentage points in Britain._

Interesting results, but before you start the Brit-bashing and self-congratulatory chest-thumping, consider this: the reason - and the only reason - we still enjoy a relatively high level of support for hunting in this country is due to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which ensured the democratization of hunting by classifying our wildlife as a public resource available to all, regardless of social class or title. The distinctly egalitarian nature of American hunting culture springs directly from that model. British citizens were, of course, never afforded that luxury. And it is axiomatic that very little opportunity generates very little support.

Which brings up two very interesting questions for a little Friday discussion:

One, do you think if it were proposed today that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation would be accepted, or would taking the ownership of wildlife out of private hands and placing it into the public trust would, in today's political climate, be decried as a Socialist plot?

Two, do you think the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is being threatened or eroded by things like lease and high-fence hunting, loss of public lands access, the auctioning of tags to the highest bidder and the general commercialization of hunting?

In other words, if hunting doesn't remain true to its populist roots, do you someday think those poll numbers will change to our disadvantage?