The Hunter’s Creed
I wrote this as an assignment for a class. Thought I would share. I apologize for the lack of posts lately, not a lot happens on the prairie in winter. Going to the Red River Gorge, LRC, and Horse Pens 40 starting tomorrow, so look for a good post in a week or so! Take care and enjoy this piece on the argument between hunters and anti-hunters.
Since the dawn of mankind, hunting has been a necessity to survival and a vital aspect of all civilizations. To obtain meat, one had to hunt the wildlife that was so definitive of our cultures. It wasn’t until the domestication of livestock for food-use that a debate arose between those who hunted, and those who didn’t. The ever-progressive industrialization and urbanization of our culture steadily diminishes the number of individuals participating in hunting activities, and increases the number of those who are opposed. In consequence of this debate, we now have organizations such as the NRA, and PETA, which represent each side’s opinions and supposed rights. For those who take to the woods every year in pursuit of game, the tradition is in danger and needs to be protected. Contrastingly, those who view hunting as an unnecessary violent act and believe that wildlife is self-managed feel that it’s the animals that are in need of protection.
It is safe to say that hunters are operating in the minority. According to a study done by Stephen R. Kellert, people who have hunted make up 37 percent of the population. However, only 17 percent of those reported hunting in the last five years, and only 5.5 percent of those reported to have hunted often. The question to ask is; why do hunters continue to hunt? Kellert has narrowed the answer down to three main reasons: meat, sport, and contact with nature (1978). Some would argue that hunting for meat is no longer a necessity in modern society because we can all drive to Wal-Mart and purchase a package of beef instead of killing a wild animal. However, hunters will argue that it is their ordained right to pursue their food via wild animal. Hunting for meat is a tradition that has existed for thousands of years. In Richard Nelson’s Searching For the Lost Arrow the Koyukon Indians of Alaska demonstrate how hunting can be sustaining, yet carried out respectfully.
“The necessary killing of animals and harvesting of plants is not considered disrespectful. The natural order…dictates that humans and other animals must sustain themselves by taking other lives” (Nelson 1993, 213-214).
This is one of the many rules that the Koyukon people live by that allows them to have a naturalistic, utilitarian and moralistic outlook on hunting. How come modern day society can’t share the same views as our ancestors once did, and the indigenous still do?
The problem is that hunting for meat isn’t the only reason why all hunters take to the field. Some hunters are driven by the trophy that could potentially decorate the empty spot above their mantle, for the sport of killing. This may not be the only reason they hunt, they may still enjoy their experience in nature and eat the meat, but their primary reason is sport related. The sport hunter is the image the public focuses on. In the Sally Jesse Raphael video we watched, the anti-hunters expressed that humans should work towards being civilized, and they believe that killing an animal for sport is completely uncivilized. However, categorizing all hunters as sport hunters is simple naiveté. In combination, some anti-hunters rationalize that the consumption of domesticated meat is more civilized than sport hunting.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “civilize” as “to raise from a primitive state to an advanced and ordered stage of cultural development” (2004).
I agree that hunting is a rather primitive endeavor in the shadow of our technological society. However, should development and advancement lead to a complete abolishment of the activity? If we continue to mechanize every aspect of our lives, ultimately we’re going to eliminate all elements that connect us with our natural world. The development and advancement that has taken the place of hunting is the domestication of animals. In reality, domestication is just as primitive, if not more, than hunting is. The animals are raised on small portions of land in shoddy, unnatural conditions. Then, they are fed supplemental unnatural foods to increase weight gain and size. Finally, they are ushered into slaughterhouses where they are killed, butchered and transported to the supermarket for convenience. I enjoy eating all kinds of meat, but the reality is, this process is one of the most primitive and cruel ways possible of attaining meat. With hunting, the animal at least has a chance to survive all while living freely in its natural habitat. Sport hunting is the killing of animals followed by honoring the act and animal with a long-lived memorial in the form of a mount. The other “more advanced” option is to raise the animal without any chance of survival because it will simply be killed for food along with millions of others that will never be remembered. Sport hunting comes off as immoral, but the cruelty of domesticated meat is somehow overlooked by most meat-eating anti-hunters.
I am a hunter. I definitely lean towards the more naturalistic side of hunting, but there are three European mounts on the wall behind me, and about 65 pounds of deer meat in my freezer. Statistically speaking, I land quite comfortably in the 5.5 percent of our population that hunts on a regular basis. However, I have my issues with the hunting community as well. To put it bluntly, the hunting community needs to undergo a major public relations overhaul before we sway the remainder of society into dissent against us. I’ve lived all over the United States, and have experienced all different views of hunting. The majority of our society is utterly clueless to all aspects of hunting. I like to refer to it as the Bambi effect. Urban and suburbanites grow up under the assumption that we kill Bambi’s dad every time we take to the field. The average societal outlook on hunting is that we perform a gruesome act with foam at our mouths and a smile on our face while we kill everything without respect to what we pursue (a dramatization of course). Unfortunately, some members of the hunting community contribute to these notions without realizing it.
The following paragraph is my assertion to the hunting community in hopes to initiate a reform of our tactics and our interaction with the 94.5% of society that either disagrees or remains clueless to our endeavors.
Today is March 1, 2012. The melting pot we established 200 plus years ago could now be more accurately described as a mosaic. Attitudes have changed towards us; naturally our attitudes must also change. The common hunter attitude of “I do what I want and I don’t care what people think of me” is archaic and outdated. The act of hunting itself isn’t what’s primitive; it’s our attitude towards the rest of society and towards our own selves that is primitive. There’s a reason Elmer Fudd carried a musket and never killed a damn thing, because society doesn’t want us to kill, and society has no idea who we are or what we do. You aren’t a die-hard warrior, and you’re not masculine or domineering because you killed a deer with a rifle from 200 yards away. The very integrity of our tradition is under attack and we need to stop feeding the stereotype. From this day forward, all hunters should follow this code of ethics:
- Upon harvesting an animal, the animal should be field dressed and the entrails should be hidden from view of non-hunting citizens.
- The harvested animal should be placed in/on the vehicle in an ethical manner that does not display the mortality to the world. This means tailgate up and/or the individual should be covered with a tarp. I know you want to show off your eight pointer to the whole state, but you can narrow it down to your fellow hunters at the Zip Trip.
- Perkin’s is not the place to use your theater voice to tell the story of how you’re first shot was low and you created a three-legged deer. From now on, all hunters will exercise common courtesy and discuss hunting endeavors in the privacy of other hunters, away from public ears.
- Hunting shows on television should choose more respectful names than “Bone Collector,” “Headhunters” or “Drop Zone.”
- Lastly, the testicles of whatever animal you killed do not belong hanging from any part of your vehicle, or the fencepost next to the road.
Once we begin to elevate ethical hunting practices, we can begin to create a more positive image for hunters. Hunting has always been a privilege, a tradition, and a severance from society that allows me to enjoy the natural world in a different way than most. To describe the serenity I feel from hunting would be completely impossible, and I feel blessed, as most hunters do, that I can find such exhilaration in nature. E.O Wilson describes our elation as biophilia, or the “innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other organisms” (1993). This one statement is the single most important argument for hunters. It is our duty to protect and preserve our emotional connection with the animals we pursue.
Our biggest threat is society, and therefore our interaction with society is of utmost importance. Hunters and anti-hunters will forever have contrasting attitudes; learning to live amongst one another requires simple compromise. Anti-hunters argue that we don’t need to hunt for meat, and that we are uncivilized. They think we all hunt for sport and that we are cruel and barbaric. The message we need to convey is that of Leopold’s land ethic in that we aren’t hunting to dominate, we are hunting to be a part of. “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect” (Leopold 1966).
Kellert, S.R. 1978. Attitudes and characteristics of hunters and anti-hunters. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 43:412-423.
Leopold, A. 1966. A sand county almanac with essays on conservation from Round River. Ballantine Books. NewYork, NY.
Nelson, R. 1993. Searching for the lost arrow: physical and spiritual ecology in the hunter’s world. Pages 201-228 in S.R. Kellert and E.O. Wilson, eds. The biophilia hypothesis. Island Press. Washington, D.C.
Sally Jesse-Raphael. No date. Video of television program watched in class.
Wilson, E.O. 1993. Biophilia and the conservation ethic. Pages 31-41 in S.R. Kellert and E.O. Wilson, eds. The biophilia hypothesis. Island Press. Washington, D.C.