The Dark Side of Hunting
*John James Audubon loved to paint birds...and shoot them.
*Charles Darwin described the natural world" while blasting away at it
*Theodore Roosevelt founded the National Wildlife Refuge program--while killing rhinos, hippos, elephants, lions and leopards.
When is hunting justified and when is it offensive, lethal braggadocio? The popularity of catch and release fishing and "camera" safaris show that Teddy Roosevelt-style rhino bagging and Audubon style "shotgun ornithology" are becoming rarer. Yet news coverage of dentist Walter Palmer's killing of Cecil the lion shows that trophy hunting for the thrill of killing is alive and well--unlike its victims.
Hunting in general is a declining sport, peaking in the 1970s and falling every year by as much as 10 percent, especially among the young. It is boring and not cool say young hunting drop outs. The problem is state Departments of Natural Resources' funding is predicated on hunter revenues--hunters buy licenses that pay the salaries of state wildlife officials who then create hunting opportunities so they can sell hunters licenses. This means they encourage all kinds of "hunting opportunities" that the animal-loving public generally finds offensive and unethical.
Many states, for example breed pheasants at taxpayer expense or partial taxpayer expense for "controlled" Dick Cheney-style hunts that provide sure shots. Some are open to children as young as ten. Controlled hunts "are the only places these young men and women can hunt and be assured of a good shot," Jerry Rodeen of Pheasants Forever, told the State Journal-Register. Some states also enlist young people in the fun hobby of raising the birds to be shot.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recruits adults and especially children to breed the birds in their own backyards. Participants in the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program "receive the pheasant chicks in April, May or June. The pheasants can be released when they are 8 weeks old or older and no later than the end of New York's pheasant hunting season, which varies according to region." Hey, kids: grow baby pheasants...and then kill them!
Most people decide the ethics of hunting on the basis of three things: what is the purpose, what is the method and what is the animal? When the purpose is braggadocio and the animal is majestic and endangered (like a lion), world opinion is clearly changing. Delta airlines recently announced it would no longer transport bloody animal trophies, for example, followed by other airlines.
When the animal is not endangered but the purpose is the fun of killing, opinions may be changing too, especially when kids are involved. Most parents would cringe at youth pastor Shawn Meyer's remarks on his website, huntwithakid, "Five-year-olds and under will get more out of an outing if it's plinking squirrels... or blowing a box of shells on doves than if it's sitting motionless for hours on end." What?
Still it is the arranged killing of lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards that has outraged the world--canned trophy hunting espoused by groups like the 41,000 member Safari Club International (SCI) which named former President George H. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf among its members. To remove emphasis on its killing of cherished animals, Safari Club International created Sportsmen Against Hunger and Sportsmen against Cancer. "Hunters are doing something they love and helping others at the same time" is how SCI lawyer Doug Burdin lawyer puts it.
Want to kill exotics? You can if the price is right by Martha Rosenberg
You do not have to go to Africa to kill African animals. Pre-ordained slaughter also occurs in the US. Hunters at "high-fence" hunting ranches like 2,000-acre Circle E in Bedias, TX where people can shoot exotic species like wildebeest and zebra for $6,500 a head.
"Don't call them hunters" wrote Port Huron Times Herald reporter Mike Eckert after viewing videotape from a high-fence game farm. "The enclosure wasn't bigger than my back yard. Sick and dying deer were propped in front of killers who paid thousands of dollars to shoot them. For customers who were really slow to aim and shoot, deer were drugged."
Another high-end canned hunting operation is Heartland Wildlife Ranches in Ethel, MO reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where "Hunters come from across the country to take aim at trophy animals such as whitetail deer, elk and zebra. A three-day hunt for water buffalo costs $4,000."
In Indiana, where high-fence operations flourish, Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon introduced legislation after a shocking a four-part investigative series published last spring by the Indianapolis Star. His bill has yet to receive a hearing and a proposed high-fence ban led by state wildlife officers was overruled in court.