Thursday, September 29, 2005

THE UNGODLY TRUTH ABOUT HUNTING: A CLASSIC ESSAY

If you enjoy bloodsports, and killing is your forte - then you'll like America's fall hunting season. Armed and ready, millions of predacious sportsmen are flocking to the great outdoors, waging their war on wildlife. In terms of ethics, shooting wild animals is no different than killing domestic dogs and cats for sport.

Hunting is a form of socially sanctioned recreational violence practiced by approximately six percent of the U.S. population. Collectively, hunters resemble an army of under-trained, unsupervised amateur killers roaming around destroying 200 million animals a year, making it unsafe for hikers, campers and wildlife. The wholesale slaughter includes millions of animals that are left wounded and mutilated with their faces or stomachs destroyed. Many will die a slow agonizing death. A hunter's lack of feelings - empathy and compassion - for animals and lack of respect for nature go hand in hand. As a result of hunting, millions of game animals are wounded, wasted and mutilated. Entire ecosystems are damaged by this grisly hobby. How can hunters kill, cripple, and harass millions of animals without damaging the ecology?

The recreational killing of wildlife reflects a very utilitarian, invasive attitude toward animals and nature. But hunters still fancy themselves conservationists - the wily outdoorsmen claim to be improving the ecology. Basically hunters are interested in preserving their game-shooting habit - not in protecting the environment. For hunters to say they're conservationists is akin to thrift stores claiming to be Neiman Marcus.

Every autumn, hidden throughout our public lands, you can find hunting camps with hunters better armed than amateur mercenaries. Many of the camps use salt licks and bait stations to lure elk, deer and moose. This is not conservation. This is a giant state-run hunting preserve.

And don't forget grisly canned hunts perpetuated by thousands of game ranches. Even Internet hunting exists where lazy indoorsmen can shoot animals by remote control, using the Internet. Given a chance, hunters would gladly vote in favor of opening national parks to hunting and trapping - just imagine the fun of dodging bullets or watching animals writhe in agony while caught in traps. "Sportsmen" in Wisconsin recently voted in favor of legalizing cat killing, but fortunately, their insanely audacious idea was shot down by Wisconsin's so-called "Conservation Congress." Hardly a single newspaper columnist had the courage and conscience to speak out against the stupid and barbaric idea of shooting domestic cats. This is because newspaper writers have been far too busy pursuing easier prey like PETA.

Hundreds of people are killed and wounded each year by hunters in the United States. This happens because hunters get excited and shoot too close to houses and roads, and they can and will shoot stray cats or stray dogs. Some hunters will gladly intimidate landowners who post no hunting signs; this deliberate menacing is a common occurrence. Yet, newspapers would have us believe that hunters are conscientious conservationists who reluctantly slaughter animals to benefit the ecology, as if all this butchery benefits plummeting duck populations and controls white-tailed deer populations.

Indeed, it is rare to read in newspapers about landowners who have been injured, killed and/or intimidated by hunters. You will never read a newspaper editorial about how people are being harassed, intimidated, killed and/or injured by hunters. Newspaper editors continually coddle hunters probably because they fear losing readership among "sportsmen," and because hunters are an extremely vocal minority, vehemently opposed to antihunters.

Hunters believe that wild animals are merely moving objects waiting to die anyway. So why not just shoot them? They also claim to be providing a valuable ecological service by controlling wildlife populations. But many studies indicate that animals such as deer actually increase their reproductive rates in response to hunting. Of course, hunters encourage an overpopulation of deer. They want plenty of big game trophies and an overabundance of big game animals. Thanks to state wildlife agencies, this country's ecosystems are manipulated to provide a surplus of deer and elk.

Adding insult to injury, hunters have no consideration for nongame animals - including endangered species. Over half of this country's National Wildlife Refuges allow hunting. And they're called refuges! So-called "wilderness areas" which are managed with taxpayer money, permit recreational wildlife killing. Typically, 71 per cent of hunting license money goes toward enforcing hunting regulations. The remainder is used to improve and maintain state lands for hunting use. Lottery and income tax monies are used to supplement nongame programs because hunters don't want their license money spent on these projects. Hunters are not concerned about a balanced ecology or biodiversity and they'd love to see our national parks turned into hunting preserves.

State wildlife agencies are very clever at increasing game animal populations. They spend millions of dollars manipulating habitat by burning vegetation and planting shrubs to increase the food supply for deer and elk. Some wildlife managers favor clear-cutting forests and/or timber cutting to create browsing areas for deer. They also kill predators - or allow hunters to do it. Toxic herbicides are sprayed to destroy unwanted vegetation and promote the growth of low-level browse to encourage large numbers of deer for hunters'guns. Killing a large percentage of bucks also increases deer populations. These are all standard "deer management" techniques - methods used to produce an annual surplus of deer to satisfy hunters.

Consider too, that loud noises created by rifle and shotgun blasts are a major cause of unnecessary stress to wildlife. Wildlands are fragmented and exhausted from the battalions of wildlife killers who invade public lands. Yet, hunters claim that shooting and massacring millions of animals somehow improves the ecology! What's next, land mines?

Hunting is a real money-maker. In the United States, hunters spend $21 billion dollars a year on licenses, equipment, and lodging. Recreational killing is an industry, not a necessity and commercial wildlife exploitation exists mainly because of avarice. Wild animals living apart from human interference are commercially non-productive. Therefore, the present system of "management" creates a lucrative resource by artificially manipulating a naturally balanced ecosystem.

The hunter, on one hand speaks of his spiritual experience, of the sense of communion and elevation that accompanies his sport, and on the other, he identifies himself as just another predator fitting in where he belongs, culling away as the wolf and the lion cull. Man, however, is not a predator in an ecological sense, he's a despoiler. Thundering into wild areas with ATVs, spewing exhaust fumes, while carrying high-powered rifles, and scaring every living creature into headlong panic is not communion - it is ecological harassment. Hunters are ecological opportunists who gladly take from the land and give nothing in return. Unless, of course, you consider killing and crippling millions of animals a form of repayment.

Hunting is a morally bankrupt activity with no biological or ethical justification. Every day, suburban sprawl destroys thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. Hunters, while declining in numbers, are still a threat to wildlife populations and ecology. Certainly, this country doesn't need more hunters - it needs fewer hunters and more wildlife sanctuaries.

Its been said that kindness to animals is the hallmark of human advancement. A truly progressive society has no need to persecute the helpless or show contempt for the lives of sentient beings. Eventually, recreational killing may die a natural death, slowly fading from sight as more humane public attitudes develop. There's no such thing as a kinder, gentler hunter. The very essence of the sport demands violence and violence is devoid of compassion.


MORE ABOUT HUNTING AND WILDLIFE "MANAGEMENT"

The famous "conservationist" Aldo Leopold described game managementas the art of making land produce annual crops of wild game for "recreational" (hunting) use.

Wildlife managers (game wardens, wildlife biologists) manipulate deer and other "game" animals as follows:

* Restriction of hunting
* Predator control
* Setting aside land for hunting
* Environmental controls (providing food, cover, and water)

Unfortunately, as long as public hunting, trapping, and fishing exist and as long as hunters, trappers, and fishermen are paying most of the operating expenses of state fish and game agencies, wildlife agencies will continue to maintain maximum populations of game animals and "sport" fish.

Colorado is a case in point. Colorado has one of the largest - if not the largest - concentrations of elk in North America. According to the book "The Elk of North America," Colorado had 24,000 elk in 1943. In the year 2004, Colorado had 280,000 of these animals. How did Colorado increase its elk herd by 250,000? Answer: "elk management." Over a quarter million elk congested in Colorado seems excessive - but it's not enough to satisfy the 300,000 hunters who assault Colorado's big game every year.

HOW DO WILDLIFE AGENCIES CREATE A SURPLUS OF GAME ANIMALS?

Many species of mammals - such as deer - react to hunting "harvests" with an increase in reproductive rates. Also, killing more bucks than does will increase deer populations. When a high percentage of bucks are killed, more nutritious forage is available for the remaining bucks, does, and fawns. This improved nutrition results in higher ovulation, birthrates, and healthier fawns. In many states, hunting results in the death of at least twice as many bucks and male fawns as does. The main purpose of "deer management" is to maximize fawn production.

1.) Bucks are killed by hunters
2.) Does produce extra offspring (fawns)
3.) Fewer bucks means more nutritious forage for fawns and adult does
4.) Habitat is manipulated (burning vegetation, timber-cutting, etc.) to provide more food.
5.) Predators are killed
6.) Abnormally high populations of deer result year after year
_____________________________________________________________________

State and federal wildlife agencies spend millions of dollars every year manipulating deer habitat. Deer will thrive wherever they find sufficient food, water, and cover; therefore game managers routinely burn vegetation and plant shrubs to attract deer. Logging and clear-cutting forests also provide browsing(forage) areas. Game wardens and hunters kill predators in a misguided attempt to increase big game populations. All of these practices are ecologically destructive. They result in a "top-heavy" ecosystem containing too many deer, while other animals - such as predators - are reduced in numbers.

Nearly every state has a deer "management" program designed to keep deer populations abnormally high. Entire ecosystems are unbalanced - and damaged - by hunting and so-called "wildlife management."

Private landowners along with state and federal agencies are working in cooperation with state wildlife departments.For instance, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are launching an ambitious 25-year "deer management program" designed to increase herd sizes. Basic strategies involve burning vegetation, spraying herbicides, timber cutting, mowing and grazing management. While these practices may increase the food supply for mule deer, the overall quality of the ecosystem is altered - and damaged.

In a misguided attempt to further increase deer populations, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (1999) considered shooting coyotes - which prey on fawns - from low-flying airplanes. Representatives of the Colorado Division of Wildlife give lectures at hunters' meetings encouraging them to "do their part" by killing coyotes. But the real problem is not predation from coyotes, but ecological destruction caused by too many hunters, loss of habitat, etc. Shooting coyotes, manipulating habitat, and deliberately increasing deer and elk herds hardly qualifies as conservation.

ISN'T HUNTING NEEDED TO CONTROL DEER POPULATIONS?

Basically, no. A deer herd - or any animal population - cannot increase indefinitely. Lack of food, bad weather, disease and predators are nature's way of regulating animal populations. Also, as outlined above, heavily hunted (and managed) areas actually produce an excess of deer - therefore hunting is not necessary.

The most visible weakness in the assertion that hunting is necessary to control deer populations is that it has largely failed to do so in the last two decades. If there's enough hunters prowling around the woods, and they are shooting a high proportion of does, deer populations will be significantly reduced. Am I advocating shooting female deer? NO! But shooting a large percentage of bucks - instead of does - is one of the main reasons some areas have too many deer.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH HUNTERS?

Various bloodsport magazines allow us insights into the hows and whys of hunting. Outdoor Life (Dec./Jan.2002) featured an article titled "Coyote Men of the Hinterland," about three grown men with nothing more intelligent or productive to do than shoot coyotes. A similar spread appeared in Petersen's Hunting Magazine (Dec. 2002/Jan. 2003) about an avid coyote killer who's been killing coyotes for over 40 YEARS and claims to have killed six coyotes in one day! Apparently, for some people who lack self control, killing animals is habit forming and addictive.

Another popular how-to-kill magazine, American Hunter, ran an article about three grown men (physically, not mentally) who have a nasty habit of shooting crows. The author advises readers to visit Crowbusters.com and he claims the website is "great fun." Crowbusters.com offers a ridiculous rationale for slaughtering crows: "the crow has and continues to exhibit behavior that ranges from simply annoying to highly destructive." And hunters wonder why their grisly hobby is under attack.

Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, wrote: "Sadism may take a socially acceptable form . . . I have in mind, for example, grouse shooting, fox hunting, duck hunting, deer stalking . . . and other varieties of so-called 'sport' while not identical to the horse - whipping pattern . . . these all represent the destructive and cruel energies of man directed toward more helpless creatures."

PETA's book "You Can Save the Animals" says that Dr. Karl Menninger described hunting as the product of "erotic sadistic motivation." Dr. Joel R. Saper, a University of Michigan professor believes hunting "may reflect a profound yet subtle psychosexual inadequacy." Clinical psychologist Margaret Brooke-Williams theorizes: "Hunters are seeking reassurance of their sexuality. The feeling of power that hunting brings temporarily relieves this sexual uneasiness."

The book "Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life" (pg. 562) states, "Perhaps more directly relevant are experiences in which individual infliction of pain on an animal or another person has given rise to sexual excitement. We have noted elsewhere the connection between strong emotional and sexual stimulation . . ."

According to Ron Baker's book "The American Hunting Myth" Dr. John D. Copp, a California psychologist says: "Hunters reported feelings of great elation after shooting a duck." According to Copp, "They described the state immediately following a kill as . . . a kind of high. This heightened sense of arousal seemed to have a particularly profound effect among the younger hunters."

Some people may hunt partly becuse of a suppressed desire to punish animals for what the hunters imagine them to be. The proverbial animal hater falls into this category. To her a big buck is a "wary critter," a bear, a "monster," a wolf "wicked," a raccoon a sort of masked bandit that cannot be trusted, etc. Other people, such as ranchers, perceive nature as a hostile threat to their physical well being. Therefore, nature must be fought and conquered.

It is obvious to everyone but hunters that the hunting community enjoys traumatizing animals. A revealing letter in North American Hunter (Oct. 1997) stated that once trapping is in your blood " it becomes an addiction." The author noted that each year hunters travel thousands of miles just to hunt and trapping is even more important to those so addicted.

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