Saturday, October 25, 2008

On The "Sport" of Hunting



This morning, I left for work just after dawn. I poked my head out my front door, and was greeted by the staccato pop! pop! pop! of shotgun fire from across the channel: Sportsmen taking potshots into the great flocks of game birds wintering in the wetlands on and surrounding Sauvie Island. That sound never fails to grip my heart and squeeze.

I hate guns.

My dad owned a pair of pistols and a rifle. They weren’t loaded, they weren’t kept at the ready in case some hoodlum broke into the house in the middle of the night intent on murdering us in our beds. In fact, the pistols were locked up in a metal strongbox.

Dad was brought up with guns; he grew up in a small town in Oregon where guns and hunting were part of the culture. He spoke proudly of earning enough money on his paper route to buy his first rifle when he was twelve years old. He treasured his guns as a connection to his roots, a memento of a time and place far away and fondly remembered.

But he respected their potential to create mayhem in the wrong hands…knew they really had no place in the sleepy, mid-century exurbs of Chicago. Dad’s guns lived in the back corner of my parents’ bedroom closet. We girls were sternly threatened never, ever to touch, look at, or interact with those guns in any way. Ever. So sternly that I don’t remember even being tempted to burrow into their hiding place to look at them. So began my hate affair with guns.

I’m no longer that frightened little girl, totally cowed by the demonic presence hiding in the dark reaches of her parents’ closet. But even in adulthood I have not acquired any love for or acceptance of the role of firearms in 21st century society. “Guns don’t kill. People kill.” Small comfort, really, when you think about it.

Today, with the sound of shotgun fire echoing in my ears, I wondered about mankind’s fascination with guns. And with killing.

Killing the animals over which, the Bible says, we were given dominion. And killing each other. For the hell of it.

What is wrong with us? Why must we kill? Why are we the only species on earth that has constructed such an elaborate ritual around the senseless killing of other animals? We call it “hunting.” We do it for sport. Not because we need the food. Not because these animals are capable of, or interested in, killing us if we don’t kill them. They don’t come looking for us. We take it to them.

We kill because we can. Because we want to. Because it gives us some kind of perverted feeling of power.

How sick is that?

Fall is my favorite time of year to walk on the dike. I go to see those stunningly huge flocks of birds flying in shifting waves across the marshes to the island. I go to hear their chaotic barking and honking. That sound always stirs up something wild and restless in me.

And when I think of some idiot dressed in camo with his designer dog at his heel, pointing a blunderbuss into those great wild flocks and blowing the life out of bird after bird for sport…for the fun of it…

I wonder where to hand in my resignation from this race that is truly beyond hope.

18 comments:

Michelle said...

Some do hunt because of need. Growing up I had a friend whose family was so poor the only meat they ever had was what her Dad hunted.
My husband hunts. We don't NEED the meat exactly but it is a wonderful supplement to our grocery budget. The meat from one deer can save me hundreds of dollars.
I won't even go into population control.
I respect your point of view, I just hope you can see that most hunters don't hunt for sport and don't take killing an animal lightly.
Michelle

emmapeelDallas said...

I'm with you, Lisa. I hate guns, and I hate hunting. I understand there are people, like Michelle's family, who eat what they hunt, but seriously, how many people make up that group in the 21st century in America? Precious few, I'd guess. I have a friend who's a river guide, and he used to "assist" in designer hunts, because he could earn a lot of money doing that. After just a couple of seasons, he stopped, though. There was no sport involved; just a bunch of idiots who felt like they were really something when they held an expensive gun and shot some poor animal. And yet I admit I do eat meat, and I'm not sure how to reconcile that with these feelings about hunting...

sunflowerkat321 said...

I grew up around guns...and I hate them also. They were kept (unloaded) in the house with the ammunition locked up seperately. We got all the stern instructions never to touch them, but dad also took us out to shoot them...both a rifle and a pistol. I know his intention was to demystify them, and hopefully scare us. And I'll tell you, the force of the kick back from those guns was enough to do just that. I could feel how powerful they were. I've never had the desire to touch a gun again.

Kathy said...

How to word this? I have great respect for the responsible use of guns for hunting (need based) and yes, even target shooting or skeet shooting at a club.

What I don't get is the need for a person to carry one with him/her in a concealed fashion just because they can.

But then ... that is probably the point of that.

I don't hate guns. I was taught the proper care and handling and yes, even shooting of guns when I was very young. But I do not have a permit now, nor do I own a gun. I have no reason to.

And after the death of my friend Louie, accidentally, at the gun club ... I can't imagine wanting one.

Lisa :-] said...

Ladies, I do not necessarily have a problem with need-based hunting. If someone needs to hunt to put food on the table, to keep from starving or to have a decent diet, fine. We are omnivores...we need animal-based protein to remain healthy.

But how many folks do you know who really NEED to hunt to put food on the table? Don't know the actual statistics, but I'd bet there are way more folks out there that hunt for sport than hunt out of need. Just because you eat the animal you kill does not mean you were not hunting for sport. It just means you didn't waste it once you killed it.

Population control? I don't buy it. Nature can control her own populations...was doing it for eons before humans learned how to hunt. And even if population control is a legitimate concern, we just use it as an excuse to go out in the woods and kill things...because we want to. I'm sure there would be more humane ways to cull or redistribute animal populations if that was what we really wanted to accomplish.

I acknowledge that there are people out there who are as mystified by my aversion to hunting as I am by their desire to go out in the woods and do that. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, I'm afraid.

Kathy said...

I don't disagree with you on this Lisa. I don't like hunting for sport either and like you, I doubt the numbers for need-based hunting are terribly high.

Like everything in this brave new world, money is the key. Money, money, money.

But hey! At least it's not politics. ;)

Cynthia said...

This is an issue I'm very torn on. I don't have a problem with responsible, ethical hunting. The men in my husband's family have all been hunters and gun and knife collectors. My husband gave up shooting years ago and often went out with a camera instead. We've allowed hunting on our family farm. I also grew up with Daddy's unloaded gun in the closet but never remember any don't go there lessons or any curiousity about it for that matter. Apparently however my parents taught me that guns were dangerous worked. I don't remember not knowing that. Whether or not the hunting is actually need based, if the hunter uses the meat from the animal they've killed, respects the land on which he or she is hunting, respects the law and the rights and needs of other people who also use the land, I don't have a problem with hunting. If the meat from the hunt is used, that's still a little less meat in the fridge that comes from a CAFO slaughterhouse. I've known too many sport hunters who were just showing off their machismo with their other penis. I have no use and no respect for macho dickheads who just want to kill something. I've also known hunters for whom hunting -- all of it, the tracking, the kill and the subsequent meat preparation -- while still a sport in a certain sense, was also a deeply reverent activity. I've known hunters who've prayed to honor the life of every animal slain and to receive it with gratitude. Big difference between that attitude and "Yee-hah, look how much I bagged."

Lisa :-] said...

Cynthia--

Rituals pertaining to killing animals were developed by cultures which needed to hunt for sustenance. Native Americans often had very elaborate and respectful rites surrounding hunting. They respected the animals. They gave thanks, to the Creator and to the animals themselves, for the lives they took to give life to themselves and their families.

As much as 21st-century hunters would like to think that they follow all those respectful paramameters, the fact is, the need is not there. They are not absorbing the life force of the animal because they need to do that to survive. What they do is, at, best, a pale imitation of the actual spiritual exchange...

Cynthia said...

Lisa, for some, it's very deep and sincere. Do I think it's widespread? Hell no. But neither do I think that respect for much other than self and true spirituality is widespread. There are those for whom the sacredness of the hunt is very real though. That so many have cheapened and distorted that angers me. Whether we buy out meat at the grocery or kill it in the forest, shouldn't we all respect that this was a life and that it's giving us life. Heck, I know that 99.9% of the time, I don't really think about it or want to. I'm not trying to get on a high horse here. I have the gift of food without the responsibility of the actual taking of the animal's life, and that distances us somewhat from truly appreciating what our dinner actually means. Good hunters, and the emphasis is on the good, know this.

Lisa :-] said...

Maybe the lesson, here, is that we need to honor the lives we take to sustain our own.

Which brings up the issue of modern mass-produced animal protein...

Perhaps the prevalence of "mad cow," e-coli, salmonella and other deadly curses in our protein supply is The Universe's judgment on our intentional distance from the animals we eat.

Which does not excuse or explain the ideology of sport hunters...

Silverdoe said...

I have read this posting three times now-left twice thinking to myself that, no I am not going to comment. However, as a person who has an opinion and a right to my beliefs, here I am.

I am one of the so-called "idiots" with a gun and I hunt. I hunt, my family hunts and we teach gun safety. I'll ask you this, how many of the kids or young adults running around shooting each other do you really think hunt?? Do you think any of those people really have any respect for animals since they show little respect for the human race. I take great offense to being called an idiot from someone who is obviously not educated in what happens in the wild. Been to a park lately and walked through piles of goose poop? Any idea of the disease that is possible there? Do you have a clue as to how many deer are hit by vehicles because they have been pushed out of their natural habitat by the construction of yet more housing or office complexes?? Do you know of the diseases that are created by humans putting out feeding stations so that they can watch the wildlife from their homes?

What is idiotic is people who do not look at the whole picture and condemn others for doing something that they don't believe in. Yes, I am out hunting and I am here to say I don't have a "preverted feeling of power" when I do kill. I'd try and explain that moment to you but because of the pre-concieved ideas and closed mind of people who are anti hunters I know it will not make a difference. Honestly, I and the hunters I know, when a kill shot is made it isn't a beat on our chest moment.

I do wonder though, the anti hunters, what are they doing for wildlife? Do they pour millions of dollars into habitat to make sure we take care of the wild animals? Pretty sure they don't but I know who does. Hunters.

Cat said...

Interesting debate. I'm in the middle of this one, as I hate gun(because they are loud and loud noises make me anxious) but I don't have any moral opposition to hunting. Love to eat the pheasant, duck, venison, bear, moose, etc. Have a problem with the irresponsible hunters, like the local man who mistook his small boy for a turkey last year and shot and killed him.

For the sake of arguement, wouldn't fishing be equally as morally reprehensible as hunting with a bow or gun?

Lisa :-] said...

Silverdoe--

Perhaps "idiot" was a poor choice of words. As I said in an earlier comment, I know there are people out there who are as affronted by my aversion to hunting as I am by their attachment to it. And we will just have to agree to disagree about it.

Still, there is some kind of cognitive disconnect to me when someone can say, "I want to take some time to go out in the woods and commune with nature. Guess I'll go out and kill something..."

Hell...our hospitals are full of people suffering from goose poop disease and deer fever. I'd better run out and buy a shotgun and do my part!

Disease, overpopulation, maintaining the wilderness--these are all "noble" reasons that die-hard hunters have compiled to justify what they do. Okay, you believe those things. There is nothing I could say or write to dissuade you from that, anymore than I could change your religious views or your political affiliation, or you could change mine.

But the fact of the matter is, you take a gun out to where other creatures live and you kill them, not because they are a threat to you, and not because you need to eat them to survive. And I just can't get my head around how that can possibly be justified.

Silverdoe said...

It is awfully presumptuous of you to "know" whether or not my family needs the meat we hunt to survive. I agree that we will have to agree to disagree-but that is the beauty of this world-people can disagree and it is o.k. - at least it is for me. I'm alright with people having a different view than mine and you will never see me marching with a sign telling someone who has a different view than mine that they are wrong to have a that view. As I see it the real problem is that so many refuse to look at the whole picture and only use what will justify them in speaking out on something that they are truly not educated about. I believe that to be typical of people who are "anti" anything. The true fact of the matter is that I do not have to justify to anyone why I hunt. People who know me find it hilarious that I even defend the right to hunt so much since when I hunt-more times than not I forget that I am hunting and never do shoot. I enjoy being in the woods, and I enjoy cooking,serving and eating wild game. Not only that-ya know that big juicy hamburger you had for lunch?? That cow didn't threaten you at all!! And neither did the chicken whose breast you so carefully cook. I am certainly not trying to change your mind or anyones view on the right to hunt or not. I simply try to let people see the other side-get a grasp of all the facts. Never does work very well though-how much did you say you are doing to save the wildlife and the habitat again?

Lisa :-] said...

Silverdoe--

I am not anti-meat-eating, and I am not anti-killing animals to eat them. I am anti-hunting. So throwing the steak I ate yestereay or the chicken I will eat today in my face is a non-sequitur. Human beings are meat-eaters. It's where we are on the food chain. I don't have a problem with that.

Certainly there are practices in our farming/slaughtering/butchering traditions that could and should be changed, too. We should have much more respect for anything we kill and eat, whether the animal is grown for food or not.

The fact that you say that you "sometimes forget to shoot" is a pretty good indication that you don't need to hunt to survive...

You say you want everyone to know ALL the facts. It's a bit sticky, in situations like these, to discern between actual scientific facts and beliefs. I accept that you believe what you believe. I accept that you believe that there are facts to support what you believe. But you also seem to believe that my belief is based on...nothing. Or that I have fabricated any facts I may cite just to enhance my own argument. Back at ya...

What have I done to preserve wildlife? I don't go out into the woods and shoot them. If you have given thousands of dollars beyond what you spend on hunting licenses in order to preserve habitat, I applaud you.

Silverdoe said...

First I have to say-if it were up to me-my family might very well starve. Hunting is not as easy as non-hunters think. Sitting and being totally motionless and silent for hours in freezing weather is not the easiest thing. The animals gain ground there, and lots of it-they are naturals at surviving the elements. Their sense of smell also tends to get the better of me-those poor lil creatures seem to smell even my deodorant (which is hidden under 25layers of clothing) before I even know they are anywhere near. I,on the other hand, cough, sneeze, sniffle and continually move around creating noise. And sometimes the wonder of seeing something so amazing just overcomes me and I don't think to pick up the gun I just lugged 5 miles through thickets and brush. So that just shows you-another benefit of having a husband, he remembers to shoot and so far I have never seen him beat on his chest afterwards but I have seen him with a tear in his eye when he has made a kill shot. We believe that when you lose the passion for the animal it is then that you stop hunting (I know you will never "get" that ). We take only what we need and are not wasteful-but the only thing left up to me is the cooking. Otherwise, yes some winters it has been slim and hunting was our only source of meat.

I will concede that there are hunters who are unethical and do not practice fair chase. Just like there are people who drive drunk and endanger innocent human beings. I am not a member of the NRA because I believe they go way over the line. I am not some gun crazed hillbilly-but instead have legitimate points on this subject that if I could only just make people like you understand.

My family has donated thousands but mostly through purchasing our licenses and permits. The money part was not the point I was trying to make though-I only wanted to make the point that by being an anti-hunter you could quite possibly be doing more damage than I. Because writing about idiot hunters and protesting the hunt really does nothing to benefit the animal. If the people who are anti anything would put what they believe to a positive use then I could understand-but by doing nothing other than condemning does nothing positive for the causes which people stand up and protest.

It should also be noted the amount of people in the United States who are put to work thanks to the hunting industry. All kinds of manufacturers, the restaurant and hotel industry are just a few of who survive because of hunting. Yep, that is why we are top on the food chain-you may not actually go out and shoot but you do benefit.

Lisa :-] said...

Just for the record...I have been asked to open the cafe earlier to accomodate the early-rising hunters.

I...declined. :-]

alphawoman said...

My Pop never had guns, Being a city kid from Manhattan, but Joe does and I am always nervous and a trifle fearful around them. Yet, I know a lot of people who hunt and yes, it is a sport. But, I do know a ton of people who eat what they kill, from duck to venison and even fish!! And I think there are other species who kill for the hell of it. Some apes in Africa maybe some sharks and bears. Lions and tigers and bears...oh my.