I am comfortable with the food chain, and I’m no PETA-belonging tree-hugger. I eat meat, wear leather, smush bugs, and own pets (dogs and cats, maybe an aquarium soon). I try to choose products like free-range chickens and eggs from nesting hens, and I eat beef because it seems that most cows have a pretty cruelty-free life (up to the last part, at least). I stay away from things like veal and pâté, which can’t be produced in non-cruel ways, and I don’t wear (nor buy as presents) any type of fur, since most fur bearing animals are raised solely so that their fur can be harvested for adornment, whereas the vast majority of leather comes from cows that were processed for meat, which is a necessity of life (sorry, vegetarians).
So, while I believe that man has the right to exercise his place at the top of the food chain, I also think that it is the very definition of humanity that we not objectify the natural world or feel that we have to right to do anything we want to animals, no matter how cruel or selfish, just because they are animals.
There’s a summary of my animal politics. I’m pretty much in the middle of the pack, in my experience, and I’m certainly not an extremist of any stripe.
David the Deer, Meet Goliath the Goober
However, I cannot even begin to understand “sport” hunting. In fact, I assert that there is no such thing as “sport” hunting, as sport implies some sort of contest between competitively matched opponents, and the last time I checked deer hadn’t started carrying high-powered rifles, or even wearing bullet-proof vests. No, in today’s world hunting is nothing more than ritualized killing. Slaughter for pleasure. Torture for gratification.
I can hear some of you out there saying that I don’t understand hunting (or fishing). But I do. I was raised in South Texas, and the opening of deer season was a national holiday for the males (and some of the females) in my family. Also, my family members ate what they shot or caught (for the most part), and were all from an income bracket where the game and fish brought into the household helped extend the meager family budgets. As a boy I had pellet guns, shot birds around my house, went hunting with my uncles, and fished 2-3 times a week in the summer. However, as I got older (mid-teens) I lost my taste for it, realizing that I did not experience the “thrill of the hunt”, and instead started to question my own humanity because I was attempting to kill simply for sport.
Bloodbath and Beyond (turn of phrase courtesy of The Simpsons)
And that’s really what it comes down to. Hunting is about killing. Period. Hunters can try to rationalize that it is about being outdoors, applying skills that allow the hunter to get close enough for the kill. But you can do all that without killing. Take a camera with you – no zoom lens – and try to take a close-up of the animal you used to try to kill. Taking a picture has every single other element of hunting except the kill. So, if it’s not about killing, then don’t kill. So simple, yes?
No. Some hunters will say that since they use a bow and arrow, they’ve leveled the playing field. Actually, what bow hunting does is lead to more wounded animals running off to die from painful infections or to be caught by predators because they are slowed by their wounds. Is bow hunting more “fair” than high-powered rifle hunting? Yes, but that’s beside the point, because the point is actually why do you feel you must kill innocent animals?
Other hunters will say that the natural order of things puts man at the top of the food chain, and the soul-less, un-self-aware animals are there for us to terrify/torture/slaughter as we see fit. Now, I partially agree with this, in that I think that the human body was designed to need meat to be healthy, and I’m okay with animal husbandry that puts meat on my table. However, the assembly-line slaughter of meat-producing farm animals, while certainly not pleasant, is in no way comparable to a self-aware human who willfully chooses to spend their time hunting down and attempting to kill simply for their own gratification and blood-lust.
No Reasonable Doubt
I’m pretty open-minded, and can usually see both sides of most hot-button issues, but in this case I really see no way that anyone can dispute that sport hunting is solely about taking pleasure from killing. Some say that there is a challenge involved that gives satisfaction, and it’s not about the kill. To them I say why not go camping in the woods, find an old stump, and face down the challenge of trying to dig up the stump. Now there’s a challenge for you.
If you need the thrill of the hunt, then try paint-ball against humans. If you need to prove your sniper-like rifle skills, take up the biathlon (for the goobers who think this involves lesbian action, the biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing with target shooting). If you think you must hone your hunting skills to be able to survive the coming collapse of civilization, please seek professional help. If you think you’re doing good by helping to control the animal population, that’s a crock, unless you hunt reluctantly and with great remorse, and even then you must have some sort of psychopathic bloodlust to pick this one area in which to practice your philanthropy.
The One Exception
The only justification for hunting, in my book, is survival. But then it is not “sport” hunting, it is a survival skill. There are people of limited means who actually can’t afford to put enough store-bought protein on their dinner tables, and must hunt in order to make ends meet. They are exempt, in my opinion, from any condemnation of “sport” hunting.
But with that one exception, I ask all “sport” hunters to ask themselves why they hunt. Why they feel the need to use incomprehensibly advanced weapons and tactics against innocent beings. Why they cannot take joy simply by being outdoors and experiencing nature instead of having to destroy it. Why their own lives make them feel so powerless or weak that they must somehow demonstrate their power and strength by killing defenseless creatures.
Study after study have shown that there is an irrefutable link between violence against animals and psychotic, sociopathic tendencies. A hunter who can desensitize himself to the obvious terror and pain he inflicts on his prey also becomes desensitized to violence against humans, most frequently his own family.
So, stop the cycle. If your father taught you to hunt, you may have nostalgic feelings about it, but that still doesn’t make it right. Hunting does not “make you a man”. In fact, it makes you sub-human. So stop. Don’t teach your children to hunt. Don’t tell them that it’s what men do. Don’t take glory from the carcasses adorning your wall. There is no glory in slaughter, only shame.