Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Followup on "A Word (or two) about Duck Hunting"

Yesterday, after Rich Rieger introduced a hunting issue on the Virginia birding listserv, I posted to VA-Bird a link to my blog. The discussion of hunting is strictly forbidden on the listerv, but no such rule prevails here. I received a comment from Bob Adamek, a hunter, who expressed an opposing view. I have continued the thread with my response. If interested, refer to the comment section following “A Word (or two) about Hunting,” below.

I invite comments and none are censored or deleted. Mistakenly, I set my preferences allowing only registered Google users to be able to comment. I have corrected this so you can also use “Name/URL,” or “Anonymous.”


Aloysius Horn said...

Is this thread going to die just as it's getting interesting?

I am not a hunter and it's obvious to me that some (many?) hunters lack the ecological ethos of an Aldo Leopold (witness our ex-VP Cheney and the whole "canned hunting" industry). However to equate the pleasure hunters derive from their activity with sadism is off the mark.

Someone who derives pleasure from inflicting torture (a sadist) will necessarily strive to draw out the distress of his victim. I invite the correction of any hunter reading this, but my impression is that you guys aren't awarded extra points for inflicting a slow, agonizing death of the sort that would delight a sadist. On the contrary, the hunters I know take pride in selecting the shot that will drop an animal immediately where it stands (or flies). I suspect that's nearly universal. The life and death of a wild animal taken in this way is to my way of thinking far better than that of every cow, pig, chicken or turkey raised by commercial agribusiness, whatever improvements you make to the abattoirs.

So while the killing is obviously central to the hunter's enjoyment, the suffering of the animal is not. Why some people love hunting is an interesting question and no doubt the answer is bound to be complex. But I don't think it's advancing our understanding of the hunting impulse in some of us to confuse it with sadism.

Bob Adamek said...

Aloysius, thank you for your considered post. I was going to refrain from further posting on this subject for risk of being a bore. However I was struck by how well you understand hunting for a non-hunter. The kill in hunting is most often immediate and I don't know personally any hunters that don't strive to make the kill as quick and ethical as possible. I never intend to inflict suffering on whatever I hunt and am remorseful in the occasional circumstance where a quick kill was not given. This is born out of how much love and respect we have for what we hunt. I would also add that my wife and I, and both of my children sleep under thick down comforters made from the feathers and down of the birds I've killed. They will last, in that regard, beyond my lifetime.
You are also correct, why we hunt is a complex issue and most probably has as many answers as there are hunters. I also have a great respect for smart people and you, Paula, and all who have contributed to this debate have my respect, thanks - Bob

MR said...

What a great discussion. I'm one of those that catches house flies in a glass and takes them outside, so as you may imagine i don't hunt and tend favor Paula's side of the debate. But i can respect the hunter side too. I only wish more folks had convictions this well thought out -- that more people were as informed as those that have posted here. And i wish more were as considerate and respectful as you all have been towards each other. Hats off to you all. Now let's have garden burgers!

Paula Sullivan said...

I’m glad that a couple of new voices were heard and I would like to respond to Aloysius Horn. He does sound like a learned fellow. He objects to my characterization of the enjoyment of hunting and killing as sadistic.

Let’s just get to the heart of the matter. A violent death is a brutal death, and taking pleasure in being the instrument of a totally unnecessary, brutal death is cruel. Enjoying that death is sadistic, and only more so if it is slow and agonizing. Hunting is voluntary. It is recreation. It is fun. If killing is fun, it is sadistic. To say “hunters take pride in selecting the shot that will drop an animal immediately where it stands” only means that hunters take pride in their marksmanship. They know damn well that even the most skilled among them “leave a piece in the field” occasionally. In their heart of hearts they know it is more often than occasionally. The reality is that a goose, duck, or deer is not a “piece in the field.” It is warm-blooded, sentient animal that feels pain and struggles and fights for its last breath just as the hunter himself would if the tables were turned. Humans are good at rationalizing almost everything they do and to say that they can choose to be predators for a day and, by so doing, just become a part of the way the ecosystem works in its natural state is a transparent rationalization.

Playing the role of “predator for a day” is a glorified, romantic view of what it was like when both animals and humans were in a natural state. A contemporary, American hunter can return to the past for a few hours, pretending he is a predator, relishing the memory as he ends his day driving home in a warm SUV, listening to satellite radio, looking forward to a steak and a beer. Real ife in its natural state was quite different as described by Thomas Hobbes in 1651: "Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short." Recreational hunters live out a childish, idealized, fantasy when they hunt. They can’t imagine such a nasty, brutish, and short life for themselves, but they enjoy delivering it to a duck.