By Susie Ekberg
“In a civilized and cultured country wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.” (who said this? Answer at the bottom)
Q: I maintain an ethic of “No killing.” Now that hunting season is upon us, isn’t it true that all hunters are just killers? I don’t see any way you can make this good.
A: First I’ll ask you a few questions. Do you eat meat? Do you wear leather? Do you kill mosquitoes? Spiders? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, you may want to redefine your description of killing. Killing is killing, yes, but we all kill in some way, and benefiting from things that have been killed (by eating them or wearing their fur or skin) isn’t totally innocent either, is it?
An animal rights activist friend sent me a message about the displaced puppy mill puppies rescued from a Scranton farm. The thread quickly turned to the evil hunters and how they were all unenlightened oafs. I initially read the thread silently, but soon felt the need to speak up. I care about the displaced puppies, yes, but when talk took that turn to the ”all” I could stay silent no longer.
I commented first to Rachel. “My husband is a hunter, and I know him to be a caring, compassionate, enlightened person.” She apologized. But then Ron and his “unenlightened hunter? HAH!” comment took me over the edge. “Ron – NOT cool to be unkind,” I said, and politely asked my activist friend who started the thread to please just e-mail me privately next time – this was not the thread I cared to be a part of.
When I sit back and think about what bothered me so much, I realize it’s that same old, “All ________ are evil/bad/stupid/wrong…” Fill in the blank. It could be Catholics, Democrats, whites, women, spiders. Whenever anyone starts a sentence with “All…” I can feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That’s the old energy of duality, of making sweeping statements without any personal experience to back it up.
I admit it – I don’t really like hunting. I don’t love guns, I don’t like killing animals, but you know what? I love my husband, and he hunts. And although I don’t like the idea of killing animals, I sure love my steaks and my leather coats, shoes, and purses.
When I was getting to know my future husband, I had several biases against hunting. He helped me understand more about what the majority of hunters have as their code of ethics. According to a hunting ethics website, http://www.huntingnet.com, “Every ethical hunter should practice personal ethics as a way of showing respect for his fellow sportsmen and the animals.”
Personal ethics is not just hunting ethics, either. It’s about how the hunter conducts him or herself in their personal life, as well. My husband’s father taught him to ‘eat everything you kill,’ and that killing anything beyond that is “murder.” Doesn’t sound like blatant killers, does it?
It’s easy to have opinions on something you have no experience with or knowledge of. It’s harder to stay opinionated on an issue once you can attach a specific person or experience to it. That’s how we can so easily hate – “they” aren’t real humans (whoever “they” is). Maybe one of our tasks is to remain soft, to remain open to other opinions and viewpoints. Maybe we can get interested in the opposition. Research it a little so we can better understand.
Unfortunately, there are less-than-savory people to be found in all areas of life. So if you encounter one drunk, rude hunter that’s shooting the crap out of everything he or she sees, it’s going to color your opinion of hunters. But not all hunters are like that. The same goes for animal rights activists. There are those that are almost lunatic in their zeal, which then makes the hunters look at the activists and say, “Geez – you’re all crazy!”
In answer to your question, yes, I guess the very nature of hunting is to kill, but there are an infinite number of scenarios. How do you feel about hunting rare species that are kept on fenced lands? People pay $40,000 to “hunt” on private land. I don’t consider that hunting, and yes, I’ve known someone who’s done that. He is not someone I respect very much.
How do you feel about hunters who help weed out the excess deer? Or the hunters who are wildlife supporters, giving not only their money to wildlife preservation organizations, but also their time? Again, I know people who do this, and I respect them very much.
So although hunters are ‘killers’ by the very fact that they kill their prey, I think it goes beyond the simple black and white. I invite you to investigate it for yourself. I took a gun safety class last summer and found it very empowering. Not that I’ll be toting a shotgun anytime soon, but it was good to touch a gun, learn how to handle it safely, and learn how it works. It makes the thought of guns less fearful to me. Knowledge is power.
We don’t agree with everybody else in the world, but I still maintain that overall people are good, and if we look beyond pat labels and assumptions we can find common ground with almost anyone. If you want to check out more about hunting, here are some websites to check out (thank you, Hubby). And the beginning quote? It was made by Theodore Roosevelt, one of our greatest presidents ever.
Surprised? So was I. But then after a while, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised about things anymore. Maybe we can start working under the assumption that people are good, and if we don’t agree with them, it may be because we just don’t fully understand them. Maybe it’s time to start wanting to understand more.
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