03 April 2012


Thanks to a kind soul named Geneva for the link to the dry wit in a brief video called At Home on the Range.  

I've commented at length in a number of previous posts regarding my views toward hunting, and in particular my views toward hunting predators.  A quick review ~

  • Predator and prey species in North America (or any other region you care to name) co-evolved in a state of dynamic equilibrium for millenia before humans invaded the territory.
  • The appearance of humans upset that equilibrium.  Humans wiped out fellow predators to eliminate competition, and overhunted many prey species to extinction or near-extinction (wooly mammoths, bison, passenger pigeons, tigers, elephants, edible fish, whales, sharks, to name a few).
  • Today, humans "manage" native wildlife primarily for the benefit of humans, not for the benefit of the animals, fish, and birds.  This translates to imposing hunting seasons which maintain populations at a level sufficient to satisfy the blood lust (oh sorry, hunting instinct) of humans.  Sometimes those prey populations, in the absence of natural predators, soar to such numbers that they overeat their own food sources, or become pests (witness deer in the Northeast, and elk in Yellowstone Park).
  • Native predator species, e.g. gray wolves, have been selectively re-introduced to portions of their former range, and have quickly adapted and thrived ~ so successfully that numbers of prey populations are being driven back to levels which the food supply can once again support.  This alarms human hunters, who never stopped viewing native predators as competition.  It also (with some justification) alarms area farmers and ranchers who fear for their livestock, but the non-lethal ways of preventing livestock losses are multiplying.
  • Human hunters tend to fall into one of two categories ~ subsistence hunters and 'sport' hunters.  The former use prey animals as an important part of their annual food supply.  The latter kill prey animals for bragging rights and mounted trophies.  There is a third category, commercial trappers, who don't belong in this discussion because they are harvesting rather than hunting.  The ethics of their trade is highly questionable.
Here's my philosophy ~ we do not own the planet or its inhabitants.  Rather, we share the planet with all other living things.  We have no right to kill, beyond any organism's right to physical survival.  Further, given our vast numbers and the territory we decimate to sustain us, and given the order-of-magnitude advantage conferred by our large brains, along with our ability to use language and tools, we have a responsibility to act as conscientious stewards of the land.  We have evolved far beyond being merely consumers and survivors.  

With that in mind, and recognizing the need to restore the natural world to its former diversity and expanse, I propose that we re-evaluate what is appropriate behavior for human hunters. 
  • Sport hunters can achieve the thrill of the hunt, and exercise field craft and a deep understanding of the prey and its habitat, equipped with a camera rather than a rifle.
  • Subsistence hunters, who are far fewer in number, can continue to harvest to meet their needs, preferably with bow and arrow rather than with a rifle and scope.
  • Both classes of hunters share the landscape with animal predators.  It is up to us to familiarize ourselves with their range, their habits, and their needs.  If this imposes greater physical risk on humans, so be it.  That's the necessary trade-off for venturing into wilderness.  Without the risk, it's not wilderness.
The human slaughter of predators and prey cannot continue.  Claiming it as a "heritage" is specious, and an insult to our supreme ability to adapt to changing conditions.  Rather than teaching our children that killing is natural, how much better would it be to teach them that caring for the welfare of all living things is our true calling.

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