My wife and I were out with a group the other night, some of the people we knew some not. A friend asked how my turkey hunt out in California had gone, and before I answered a woman at the table said “hunting is disgusting, do you hunt”? Well I could guess her position and was going to move the discussion in a different direction, when her husband joined in saying “all hunting should be banned”? Ok, now I would engage as I saw my wife and a few friends roll their eyes with a “here we go” look. I asked them why the held this opinion, and the response rolled right off their tongues; it’s cruel to innocent animals, it damages the environment and threatens species, it’s unnecessary, and barbaric in today’s society.
I started by mentioning that as we had just finished a steak dinner (which I noticed they’d eaten with zeal) they were not against killing all animals, just specific ones? They said that was different because cattle were raised to be eaten. So you’re OK with the fact that land is cultivated and repurposed so other (wild) animals are excluded, predators and pest species removed, and then an animal that has been raised in artificial surroundings slaughtered and brought to market I asked? Well we have to eat, he responded, and you don’t have to kill an innocent deer to do that.
I choose to eat venison I said, as you choose to eat beef. Is a deers life more valuable than a cows? How do you determine the hierarchy of importance of animal life? Is it by the size of the animal, it’s intelligence, the condition under which it was born? Animals born into the wild are different than those specifically raised to be eaten. I asked do you eat fish? You do, OK let me ask how much of that fish do you think was born wild in the sea and how much was farmed? So animals born into the wild shouldn’t be eaten …….. Unless they are fish?
But let me come back to another statement you’ve made a couple times about “innocent” animal. I think you’re anthropomorphizing, how can an animal be innocent or guilty? An animal does what an animal will do, no right or wrong. Do you think hunters hunt and kill animals because they believe them guilty or evil? Well I guess it might seem that way for pest control, in that pigeons for instance are “guilty” of eating feed and pooping in the barn. But shooting them is not for retribution but rather to stop the damage they are doing to something we as society feel is more important ….. Feeding cattle so they could be turned into your dinner tonight.
I went on to say that you could argue, the three year old buck that I shot, processed and ate had a much better life than the beef, chicken, hogs and other livestock raised for this couples food. The woman said with some contempt “it’s wild but then you shoot and kill it which is cruel”. I asked, do you think the domesticated animals at some point fall into packaged select cuts to be shipped to the supermarket? Stammering with no response, which I took as an invitation to continue on. And wild animals, do you think they go to a hospice and quietly fade away under heavy sedation? They generally will be hunted down and killed by predators when too young, old or sick to escape that fate. Do you think this is less traumatic than a one shot kill from a hunters gun or bow?
Sensing this would go nowhere and wanting to move into less contentious territory, I made a statement; Hunting is a natural part of the human condition. You say I don’t have to hunt to eat, and that is true. However something must die for me to live, and I don’t hide from that. I have to hunt because that’s part of who I am, and the way I hunt and the species I hunt for, makes a direct contribution for people like you who eat beef but want no responsibility for a life taken. I remove the predators and pest species that would drive up the prices and limit the availability of the food you eat. And by hunting, and the fees I pay to do so, I am the on contributing to maintaining terrain and the wildlife you say hunters are putting sat risk. We are also, besides footing the bill, the ones driving the most important aspects of the environmental movement towards a sustainable balance. Honestly what have either of you contributed to or done to benifit the outdoors. He said, but you do that to support your own interest. And rather than argue I asked, what does that matter, it gets done.
The acid test to morality for a lot of people, hunters included, is did you eat what you shot? It is a good thing to do that, however what is most important is that there is a wildlife management imperative at play. If you kill a protected animal to eat it….. that is wrong. If you kill an overpopulated species to protect the environment and don’t eat it…… that is right. Those viewed as “trophy hunters” have an additional vile spewed at them. But here is the point, if a guy hunts because he wants the horns, the meat is still used. I hunt more deer than I can eat every year, but between friends and hunters against hunger nothing is wasted. The hunters motivations don’t matter, driven by horns or meat doesn’t matter, what does matter is that from a game management perspective it was the correct action and game wasn’t wasted.
At which point the woman said “I just don’t think it’s right to kill innocent animals”. So after all this we were right back where we started. And it hit me that, if I were to meet with an anti-hunter that could crisply articulate why hunting is wrong, they could not sway my core belief that it is natural and correct behavior for at least a subset of humans. And likewise these two had a fundamental belief that hunting was bad and nothing I said would change that. So not wanting to continue a dead-end debate we switched to something less contentious, Hillary verses Donald.