By Bob Ferris
One of the things that Americans respect about John Hancock is that he signed big and legibly. He wrote his name bravely and owned his actions with honesty and integrity. That is why this billboard campaign (above, photo by Hank Seipp) in Eastern Washington is so disappointing and so un-American.
It is hard to for me to take this effort seriously, as it reminds me so much of the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where women wearing beards are trying to crash a stoning. We all know they are women and the beards are ridiculous.
Livestock organizations should have someone working to maintain a media presence and convey agriculture's message, says Jamie Henneman, who represents several Eastern Washington associations. Environmental and agenda-driven groups take advantage of the absence of information coming from agriculture, she said. Jamie Henneman quote in the Capital Press
Why would I compare this action to this iconic and silly scene? Well let’s look at the details. First we see that the billboards were put up by Washington Residents Against Wolves. Wow, that sounds like something legitimate—the citizens of Washington are scared and protesting wolves. Heck, we should sit up and take notice. And then we dig a little deeper and find that this group—actually an LLC (limited liability company)—is fronted by Luke Hedquist currently sergeant-at-arms and on the board of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council—as well as holding memberships in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International. In essence his affiliations indicate that he is a trophy hunter. Perhaps more interesting is that Jamie Henneman is the media person for this LLC. She is the woman quoted above two months ago and has strong ties to a number of livestock interests.
“My cattlemen, I know who they are, I know they’re not going to waffle on stuff — they’re direct, they’re clear and they play hardball,” Henneman said. “Their messaging needs to reflect who they are, but at the same time be very clear. Don’t try to diminish the unique things about them that have kept them in business this long.” Jamie Henneman quoted in the Capital Press
The imaging and messaging on the billboards and associated facebook and web pages are pure bull and mountainous molehills. These are blatant and not all that artful scare tactics, but I think that I would have a lot more respect for the view point if it was done honestly in a “John Hancock” kind of way (i.e., this is who we are and this who we represent or are associated with). As it stands, it is sort of cowardly in that those who are behind it cloak themselves in the flouncy petticoat of anonymity through an LLC while they peddle fear and myths like flapjacks, instead of the above referenced waffles.
I have known many hunters and ranchers over the years—many of whom I respect and admire. I have talked with them openly about real problems in proper respect for the gravity of those problems and in efforts to collaborate on developing fair solutions. But that is not what we see here by a long shot. Those behind this do themselves and the organizations they are affiliated with no credit at all and likely some harm with this obvious charade.
These groups—livestock producers and trophy hunters—would be better served by engaging in honest, fact-based dialogues with those who co-own the lands and wildlife they impact and use. These billboards are sophomoric and lead to nothing other than discord and mistrust.