BloodSport
Saturday July 10, 2018
Denying CWD is a Problem Doesn’t Make it True

Thank you to National Deer Alliance CEO, Nick Pinizzotto, for sharing this article with Archery Wire this week. CWD is a much debated issue – so much so Pinizzotto just spend two full days discussing and deliberating CWD and all of its issues. I don’t know enough about the disease to speak intelligently about it – so guess what I do? I rely on experts, like Pinizzotto, or my state’s wildlife biologists. Like he says below, “We can decided who’s information we trust, and who we allow to influence us.” I’m not here to influence you…but I hope you do see all the Wires as something to trust. 

Read more from NDA at http://nationaldeeralliance.com - Michelle Scheuermann, editor, Archery Wire. 

It’s amazing how therapeutic 20 hours of driving can be. I had the pleasure of joining 14 other conservation and science professionals in a remote area of the Adirondack Mountains for a two-day meeting to discuss chronic wasting disease (CWD). This was the initial step in developing a comprehensive strategy at the federal level to address this hideous issue, which I have been referring to as a monster with many heads. It was also a great way to follow the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding for working on CWD with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

With the 10-hour drive to the meeting, I had ample time to consider the scope of the task ahead, and on the 10-hour return trip, I contemplated all that we had discussed and started to envision what a solid plan forward might look like. For the better part of four straight days, my mind was dominated by thoughts of CWD, and what it is going to take to control its spread to ensure a bright future for deer, hunters, and overall wildlife conservation.

As much as our group was energized by the discussion, there was a bit of a dark cloud hanging over us in the form of a recent barrage of bad information being put out about the disease. The sources ranged from misleading and false statements included in published documents disguised as credible research papers, to uncontrolled rants by hunting television personalities that spread uninformed misinformation and attack the very wildlife agencies charged with managing deer and the disease. Regardless of how you feel about your state wildlife agency, deliberately aligning yourself in opposition is not an effective strategy.

To add insult to injury, I spent the better part of Monday morning reviewing the results of our recent survey on CWD, and hunters’ attitudes toward certain inconveniences they might face as a result of managing the disease. If you’re a regular participant, you are aware that each question allows for the respondent to leave a comment, and this is where I focused most of my attention. I won’t provide a detailed analysis of the comments here, but I do want to point out that the level of education and acceptance of CWD is greatly varied. For every person who acknowledges that CWD is a critical issue and is willing to do their part to help slow its spread, there is another person who says the entire thing is made up by insurance companies that want to kill all of the deer. Only your imagination will limit the boundaries of what outlandish accusations others made.

Sadly, much of the false information and utter nonsense being promoted by some eventually finds its way into hunters’ comments, whether it be in our survey results, on message boards, or in conversation at the local gun shop. Why? Mostly because the people preaching that CWD is nothing to be concerned about are spreading the type of message that we all prefer to be the truth. We’re all naturally biased in that way. I’m guessing you don’t know too many people who enjoy getting bad information. We are all susceptible to cognitive dissonance, which essentially entails our wish to believe information that is more convenient to our desires. An added factor is affinity bias, which means that we tend to believe people we admire or look up to, and discount those that we don’t, sometimes even when confronted with facts that dispute our beliefs. Probably the best example of this is politics where regardless of left- or right-leaning beliefs, most will side with their party affiliation, facts be damned.

It’s almost a perfect-storm scenario where hunters who may not trust their state wildlife agency and are inconvenienced by CWD will begin to deny it’s a problem because they’re hearing from people they admire that it’s nothing to worry about. Believe me, I’d love for CWD to be nothing to worry about, too, but no matter how much we all want that, it’s time to recognize that hope is not a strategy. While there is room for debate on some aspects of the disease and more that we need to learn, good science has shown us enough to recognize that we can’t just sit back and do nothing. It’s a real problem, and it’s a big one.

We all have choices regarding our personal level of education and acceptance of CWD. We can pretend that it’s not a problem and hope that it goes away, or we can acknowledge the issue and look the monster in the eye. We can decide what level of personal responsibility we will take, and whether or not we want to be leaders or followers. We can decide whose information we trust and who we allow to influence us. That said, I wouldn’t recommend getting your advice from those whose rants include, “I just don’t understand the whole thing and haven’t done a lot of research on it.” 

- Nick Pinizzotto, CEO, National Deer Alliance 

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