Last week, word got out that Matthew McConaughey is a part owner of a canned hunting ranch. That's a ranch where, for a fee, people can shoot animals who are fenced in. According to Snopes, the ranch is primarily used to raise Angus beef cattle but includes a section where customers can participate in captive whitetail deer hunts. McConaughey's representatives have told TMZ that the actor sold his interest in the ranch in 2011. His family members, who own and manage the ranch, left his name and photograph on the website, presumably for publicity purposes.
The connection spread fast via tweets, blogs and Facebook pages, and soon media headlines read "Matthew McConaughey gets death threats from animal rights activists." Few legitimate activists would think such headlines are good for a movement that is trying to pave its way into the mainstream. But given the tone of many of the posts about McConaughey, the escalation into threats was predictable.
Famous people make easy and sometimes effective targets for our message. But what was the message here? That canned hunting is worse than other hunting? In this particular case the animals roam 22,000 acres, so men killing the deer, even near the ranch's feeding stations, may differ little from hunters who talk about their respect for nature while killing animals near watering holes in the wild. But if the ranch were small, I doubt the animals would care that their killers were lazy. The deer killed for dinner would be just as dead.