Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Hunting

This post was inspired by a single line of poetry that I wrote myself yesterday morning as I watched the hunters set out from the hunt camp/cottage next door.
"A sea of orange departs in the pale morning light in hopes of returning on a wave of red."
I never have, and never will, fully understand hunting as it is practiced in Western Civilization. I understand the concept, the means, the end etc. but I fail to understand the necessity. I'm not an advocate of killing in any sense (I take spiders outside and let them go) but I can't wrap my head around killing innocent animals for no good reason. I'm going to center on ruminants (deer and moose) but it applies to sport hunting of any kind.
In prehistoric times, hunting was necessary to maintain sustenance for our hunter-gatherer ancestors. But that hasn't been the case for centuries. At least in most of the civilized world. I don't expect Inuit to be vegetarians. But in the Western World, where anything thing we want is right at our fingertips, killing for sport just seems barbaric. We don't need the flesh for food, don't need the hides for warmth, don't need the bones to make weapons to defend against predators, don't NEED any part of the animals at all. But every year, thousands and thousands of people take time away from their jobs and family to go out in the woods in hopes of ending the life of an innocent deer. Deer are beautiful and majestic creatures just minding their own business in their own little world and people choose to destroy that. This is where the hunter's mentality really baffles me. They KNOW how beautiful deer are. You'll hear them talking the species up all the time. "Look at that one! Ain't she a beaut!" Yet they still want to kill it. It also appears, seemingly, that the greater the specimen, the greater the urge to kill it. This is man consciously working against natural selection. Survival of the fittest does not apply. Back in the day, the hunters picked off the weak and lame. Not only because they didn't have the means to take out the strongest and swiftest but because it made the herd stronger. A strong herd is able to reproduce better to ensure its survival. Eliminating the best specimens only serves to weaken the species as a whole. However, some hunters will be more than happy just to kill whatever they can. That's just blood lust. That's kind of frightening. A friend of mine bragged to me once about how him and his hunting buddies like to have a few beers, go down by the pond and shoot beavers if the hunt is not going well. Beavers! When I asked him why, he responded, "Well, we have to shoot something!" And this coming from one of the most Catholic people I know. It says right in The Bible, "Thou shalt not kill." It doesn't say specifically not to kill people. So when people go hunting just to kill something, it violates a rule in virtually every religion.
Now people may argue that deer hunting is population control. Last time I checked, deer are not running rampant across the continent destroying everything in sight like a swarm of locusts. I live out in the middle of nowhere and my neighbour is a full kilometer away and I can count the number of times I have seen a deer in the last year on one hand. If an abundance of deer leads to an abundance of their natural predators, nature will take care of that. The predator-prey, food eater-food source balance is in constant ebb and flow. Human intervention disrupts that. Call me ignorant, but I don't see deer being a major contributor to crop losses anyway. If that were the case, those losing crops should be responsible for protecting their own land. Some farmers have to much land to physically "police" or even fence but I still don't see that as being a justifiable reason for deer hunting in general. People of all sorts deer hunt. Not just farmers. All those Great White Hunters from the towns and cities never lost a damn thing because of deer but they are more than willing to kill them. Besides, hunting season is after the harvest! And most hunting takes place in the woods! Not empty corn fields! If crop control was a reason, then hunting season would be in growing season, would it not? So far, the deer have done nothing to harm people directly yet people still line up for the opportunity to kill them.
Speaking of the woods, let us talk about moose. People pay more money to go to more remote locations to kill animals of even more wondrous beauty. Any argument in favour of hunting holds even less true in the case of moose. Any nuisance they may cause on the roads or in gardens is only because we are encroaching on their habitat. So if choose to live in such an environment, a moose on the road or in our backyard is something that should be expected.
The majority of animals that are routinely hunted are gentle herbivores going about their own business posing no threat to humans whatsoever. I've never heard of a flock of ducks carrying off small children or a moose eating a baby. Deer, moose, ducks, geese, quail, pheasants, even bears, coyotes, wolves and cougars are more likely to react with a flight response over a fight response when they feel threatened. The most likely reason an animal would fight would be if it was cornered or defending its young. Are we any different? Even in the case of cougars or bears or wolves, they'd much rather keep away from humans but as humanity further encroaches on their natural habitat, encounters are inevitable. Driven by desperation and hunger, any animal will do what it takes to survive. Ultimately, it is all our fault.
 I guess what I am trying to say is that the only reason that would justify killing another living being would be in self defence or defending a loved one. Hunting down and killing an animal that has never and will never wrong you in any way is just plain wrong. Killing for sport and killing for sustenance are two vastly different things. Sure some of the deer or moose etc gets eaten, but it's just a treat more than anything. No one's diet will suffer without it. I just don't understand how people can destroy the beauty and innocence of nature just for fun. No matter what animal it is.
However, I must give hunters a little bit of credit. While shooting an animal that is either completely unaware of your presence or is running in fear seems pretty cowardly, (I'd be much more impressed if they killed in hand-to-hand combat so to speak) at least they know what they are doing. They are fully aware that their meal is a result of the death of an animal by their hands. Any guilt about that rests firmly on their shoulders. They are conscious of the chain of events that leads from living animal to meat on a plate. Whereas the average omnivorous consumer is able to distance themselves from that chain of events. To them, meat is a commodity. Buying meat bears no more weight on their conscience than a box of crackers or a piece of fruit. They have blinded themselves to death. They may not have killed the animal directly but they are responsible for its death. Their murder weapon is not a gun, but an appetite.


Rockin Rick said...

Very well wrote .

Matt Hinch said...

(shakes head) Oh Rick.....written.