(photo copyright Jim Robertson)
I grew up in the hunting and gun culture of rural Montana. Early on in my adult life, my views evolved toward conservation, and I became militantly anti-hunting. For a time I made certain ethical concessions to sustenance hunters and to traditional Native hunters. But these days I no longer do. We humans have slaughtered the biota of the natural world beyond recognition for anyone who lived here (North America) 500 years ago. We've wiped out not only entire plant and animal species, but also much of the habitat those species need to thrive.
Any well-trained, responsible ecologist or wildlife biologist will tell you that the health of an ecosystem can be measured by the health of its top predators. In regions where humans have destroyed natural predator populations, the ripples of consequence for the entire community are severe. Without predators to feed on the old and sick, prey populations skyrocket in numbers while their overall health declines. In turn, they tend to overgraze or overbrowse their plant sustenance, wiping out ground cover, generating soil erosion, and lowering biodiversity.
The opposite process has been documented in places like Yellowstone Park and other parts of the West ~ when predators are reintroduced (gray wolves) or protected (mountain lions and grizzly bears), they reduce prey populations to a sustainable level and force them to stay on the move, preventing overgrazing and allowing native plants to re-establish themselves. This approach allows all species to return to a state of dynamic equilibrium, without the intervention of humans.
Ah, but not all humans are willing to cede wilderness to wildlife. Encroaching ranchers worry about their livestock, and hunters are reluctant to give up their blood sport. Ranchers need not be concerned ~ there are creative ways for ranchers and predators to coexist. Most hunters, on the other hand, are not interested in coexistence. They're out for blood.
I've written often about the lack of necessity for hunting either prey or predators. If you want a truly meaningful trophy, and want to demonstrate your mastery of fieldcraft, don't carry a firearm or a bow. Carry a camera. If your skills are up to the challenge, you'll have a memento to be proud of, and your target will remain alive and free. But such a suggestion might as well be spoken in Swahili to most hunters, who are set in their assumptions and their "traditions".
Earlier today I browsed one of my favorite blogs, a site called Exposing the Big Game, written by Jim Robertson. Today's entry is cogent and to the point. With permission, here it is ~
Top 10 Retorts to Hunter Fallacies
Hunters' arguments and rationalizations for their sport are so repetitive and predictable that, to save valuable time and precious mental energy, it might help to have your responses printed out ahead of time like flash cards, and kept at the ready in your back pocket. Here, then, are the Top 10 Retorts to Hunter Fallacies you're most likely to hear the next time you debate a sportsman. (I would apologize to David Letterman, but this isn't meant as a joke.)
10) Hunting is sustainable.
In today's world of 7 billion people? Never mind, that's a joke if I've ever heard one. Do we really want to encourage 7 billion hungry humans to go out and kill wildlife for food as if wild animal flesh is an unlimited resource? The only way hunting could be sustainable for humans these days is if we drastically reduce our population and killed off all the natural predators. Overhunting has proven time and again to be the direct cause of extinctions, from the passenger pigeon to the Eastern and the Miriams Elk. Now wolves in the Rockies and Great Lakes are being hunted and trapped to oblivion ~ for the second time.
9) Animals kill other animals, so we can too.
That's an example of what's known as the naturalistic fallacy ~ the notion that any behavior that can be found in nature is morally justifiable. But wolves and other natural predators need to hunt to survive. Humans don't ~ for them it's nothing more than a thrill kill. Human beings have moved beyond countless other behaviors such as cannibalism or infanticide, so why can't some people tear themselves away from hunting?
8) Humans are meant to be carnivores, just look at our canine teeth.
Humans' teeth are designed primarily for chewing plant-based foods, like our primate cousins do. Human "fangs" are teensy compared to those of gorillas, who are strict vegetarians and only show them to appear fierce. Also, our intestinal tract is long to allow for the slow digestion of high-fiber foods, while true carnivores have short intestines as needed to process meat and dispose of the resulting toxic wastes quickly.
7) Wild game meat is health food.
All animal flesh is rife with cholesterol throughout, and the protein in animal flesh is acidic, causing bone calcium losses as it is metabolized. According to the American Diabetes Association, a diet high in animal products has been linked to obesity, diabetes, colon and other cancers, osteoporosis, kidney stones, gallstones, diverticular disease, hypertension and coronary artery disease. New studies have found that another culprit in causing heart disease may be a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the intestines after people eat meat.
6) Hunting controls animal populations that would otherwise go unregulated.
You'd really have to have no understanding of or faith in Mother Nature to make such a claim. She was doing a fine job of taking care of her own before Man came along and appointed himself "manager" and "game" keeper. No niche goes unfilled for long before some natural predator finds it and fixes a "problem" ... if we allow them to.
5) If we don't kill deer, they'll become a traffic hazard.
Two words. Slow Down.
More animals are hit by cars during hunting season than any other time of year, usually when fleeing from bloodthirsty sportsmen with guns. Besides, hunting deer makes them breed more, resulting in more deer, not fewer.
4) Hunting teaches respect for wildlife and an appreciation of nature.
Ha! That's like a serial killer claiming his crimes foster a respect for women. Tracking down and shooting something does not equal respect. Try using a camera or binoculars if you really want to respect them.
3) Hunting is a "manly" sport.
Hunting isn't even a sport. A sport is played by two equally matched, or at least equally willing, sides. And real men respect animals (see above).
2) Hunting licenses pay for wildlife refuges.
In truth, hunting licenses pay for hunter playgrounds, not true wildlife refuges. Take a look at how many "refuges" have been opened up to hunting, or just try to close an area to hunting for the sake of wildlife and hear the nimrods wail. If hunters hadn't hijacked all the refuges, most bird watchers, hikers and others who truly appreciate nature would gladly pay for a pass to frequent those places. Furthermore, non-consumptive wildlife watchers contribute far more to local economies than do hunters.
1) Hunting keeps kids out of trouble.
Sticking a gun in a child's hand and telling him or her to shoot Bambi is likely to leave lasting psychological scars, whether it's PTSD or a heart calloused for killing.
Bonus fallacy) God put animals here for us to use.
Don't flatter yourself.
That's the article. Click on the link and scroll down to view the comments ~ you'll find additional information and opinion. Also, check out groups like The Wolf Army and Anti-Hunting In America on Facebook for updates on attempts in various states to eradicate or protect gray wolves and other natural predators.
And next time you head for the great outdoors, don't forget your camera.