Mar. 5, 2006

Deadeye Dick goes Hunting

When Dick Cheney shot that guy in the face last week, they were hunting pen-raised quail on a so-called "game farm." This isn't hunting, it's pure gratuitous slaughter.

The first precept of Buddhism is non-harming so good Buddhist don't hunt. I used to be pretty militantly opposed to all forms of hunting. But living in an area where it's part of the culture, and getting to know a few decent people who hunt I've softened my views somewhat. Thoughtful hunters make a couple of arguments that are hard to counter. First off, if you are not vegetarian you are eating meat that came from some living being. A wild deer or moose suffers a lot less than a factory-farmed pig or chicken. So hunting is kinder to the animal than farming (or more accurately, less cruel.) Second, these days agri-business (as it's more accurately called than "farming") pumps so much crap into the "product"; anti-biotics, growth hormones, even brains fed to herbivores until it (surprise) caused a horrible wasting disease. The only way to get healthy meat is to kill a wild animal.

We could add to these the social fact that hunting is a traditional part of many marginal economies. And in Canada that is not just the natives either, in many parts of the country wild game is an important part of the diet for the rural poor and has been for many generations.

Nevertheless, these defences only hold good in the limited area of food hunting. Also many, probably most, hunters have some sense of sportsmanship. Using bait is considered unfair, for instance.

Some forms of hunting are absolutely indefensible on moral grounds. Trophy hunting for one; people who take down a moose or an elk for the "rack" or a bear for the pelt for instance. I heard the other day that it used to be common practise in BC to dump moose carcasses in swamps after removing the rack. This was at one time a legal and accepted practise.

Bear hunting as it is practised around here fails on both counts. It is utterly unsportsmanlike because the bear is baited to approach an elevated blind. And it is wasteful because usually the only thing the hunter wants is a pelt as a trophy to put in his den.

Hunting penned animals on a game farm is also without any redeeming merit. I wonder what the fat quails Cheney blasted were fed on?

It is a disturbing thought that some people would find an afternoon of shooting helpless birds amusing. It is even more disturbing when these people are among the most powerful in the world.

Play the Dick Cheney Hunting Game online.

Read the Humane Society statement on canned hunts.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I find it hard to contenance hunting by anyone who hasn't an absolute dependency on the kill for sustenence.

I think that the act of hunting is necessarily harmful to the hunter, himself. Stalking an animal for the 'pleasure' of killing it has to lower a person's appreciation for the life of an animal that enjoys life, loves others of its species [certainly mammals and birds love], and has an array of emotions.

Surely, it is impossible not to identify with the animals of the wild. Watching them [or seeing them in Nature documentaries] is evidence that their lives are little different than ours. Imposing death on an animal as sport is no more defenseable than shooting one's dear pet dog and having him for lunch.

The bad practice of distancing ourself from others seems to be all of a piece: Seeing the poor as lazy and responsible for their own misfortunes; seeing undocumented Mexicans primarily as criminals in the US; or justifying animal pain as being, somehow, unreal.

I don't know that it is helpful to make a distinction between acceptable sportsmen's hunting and the mad slaughters that Dick Cheney seems to enjoy. Either requires a frame of mind by the being holding the gun that the animal is a target and that bringing it pain and death is fun.