Mar. 13, 2006

The Abhidhamma of Hunting

Tom made some cogent points in his comments on my "Deadeye Dick" post. It was certainly not my intention to post a defence of hunting. It's just that I am not so judgemental as I used to be. All kinds of people don't live up to the precepts in all kinds of ways, and it's probably better in general to work with people where they're at and hope they'll improve. Is the person who occassionally hunts or fishes any worse than the occassional drinker or someone who indulges in illegal downloads of music?

Tom is quite right when he says that the act of killing is always wrong. According to abhidhamma theory, we would call it an "akusala kamma," or unskilfull act. That is, one stemming from an unwholesome mind-state and leading to a bad destination. Again according to the orthodox theory; killing an animal stems from the root of ill-will.

I had an interesting discussion once with a fellow monk who had hunted as a layman. (I never have, only fished a very few times and didn't like it.) He maintained that the root in the case of most hunters is really greed. He said when he hunted it was greed for venison which motivated him. I put up a stout defence of the orthodox theory at the time, but now I'm not so sure. Other men I've known have said their motivation for hunting is desire for some particular meat, such as moose (which is admittedly delicious) or pheasant.

The last-ditch defence of orthodoxy would be that there must be at least one mind-moment of ill-will when the trigger is pulled; one hates the deer for running off with all that yummy venison I suppose. I would question Tom's assertion that hunting is "for the fun of killing." It may be so for some pathological types, not mentioning any vice-presidential persons by name, but I don't see that in the guys I've known over the years who go hunting.

And I think it is hard to refute the argument that hunting is far less cruel than factory-farming.
The industry's practises these days are an absolute moral abomination.

One final issue; I don't but the hunter's argument that their activities are neccessary to control the numbers of species like deer. This is true only in the immediate short term and is a symptom of very bad wildlife policies, must of which are driven by the hunting lobby. Predator species like wolf are controlled or even eradicated. Up until fairly recent times there used to be a bounty on wolves in Ontario, and there is still an open season. There is really no reason to kill predator species at all. If we let the wolves alone they'd control the deer just fine without us.

Which brings up the point that most wild animals end up as somebody's lunch whatever we do or don't do.

1 comment:

Rod the Pacifist (almost) said...

When I was 20 I actually bought a gun, a rifle with a telescopic site; main reason I suppose was that I came from a country where guns were never seen, let alone owned. I drove everywhere for a whole day to shoot something, and ended up taking three shots at a signpost. While the idea of having a gun was something new, I did not have it in me to willfully take another critter's life. When I got back home I sold the gun.

Later, when I came across some rednecked policemen, I kinda regretted my decision. Although I wouldn't shoot corrupt redneck cops either, I am somewhat neutral on these (along with corrupt politicians), and would probably have difficulty remembering what happened if I ever witnessed someone else do it.