Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The following essay is composed of excerpts from Joy William's book "Ill Nature." Instead of monitoring animals - many animals in managed areas are tattooed and wear radio transmitters - wildlife managers should start hanging telemetry gear around hunters' necks to study their attitudes and record their conversations. It would be grisly listening, but it would tune out for good the suffering as sacrament and spiritual experience nonsense that some hunting apologists employ.

For hunters, hunting is fun. Recreation is play. Hunting is recreation. Hunters kill for play, for entertainment. They kill for the the thrill of it, to make an animal theirs. The animal becomes the property of the hunter by its death. Alive, the beast belongs only to itself. Hunters like beautiful creatures. A "beautiful" deer, elk, bear, cougar, bighorn sheep. A "beautiful" goose or mallard. Of course, they don't stay beautiful for long, particularly the birds. Many birds become rags in the air, shredded, blown to bits. Hunters get a thrill out of seeing a plummeting bird, out of seeing it crumple and fall.

Hunters like categories they can tailor to their needs. There are the "good" animals - deer, elk, bear, moose - which are allowed to exist for the hunter's pleasure. Then there are the " bad " animals, the vermin, varmints, and "nuisance"animals, the rabbits and raccoons and coyotes and beavers and badgers, which are discouraged to exist. The hunter can have fun killing them, but the pleasure is diminished because the animals aren't "magnificent."

Many people in South Dakota want to exterminate the red fox because it preys upon some of the ducks and pheasant they want to kill each year. They found that after they killed the wolves and coyotes, they had more foxes than they wanted.The ring-necked pheasant is South Dakota's state bird and they're proud of it. A group called Pheasants Unlimited gave some tips on how to hunt foxes: Place a small amount of larvicide (a grain fumigant) on a rag and chuck it down the hole . . . The first pup generally comes out in fifteen minutes . . . Use a .22 to dispatch him . . . Remove each pup shot from the hole . . . Following gassing, set traps for the old fox who will return later in the evening . . . Poisoning, shooting, trapping - they make up a sort of sportsman's triathalon.

In hunting magazines, hunters freely admit the pleasure of killing to one another." Undeniable pleasure radiated from her smile. The excitement of shooting the bear had Barb talking a mile a minute." But in public, most hunters are becoming a little wary about raving on as to how much fun it is to kill things. Hunters have a tendency to call animals by cute names - "bruins" and "muleys," "berry-fed blackies" and "handsome cusses" and "big guys," thereby implying a balanced jolly game of mutual satisfaction between hunter and the hunted - Bam, bam, bam, I get to shoot you and you get to be dead. More often, though, when dealing with the nonhunting public, a drier, businessliketone is employed. Animals become a "resource" that must be "utilized." Hunting becomes a "legitimate use of that resource." Animals become a product like wool or lumber or a crop like fruit or corn that must be "collected" or"taken" or "harvested."

Hunters are increaslingly relying upon their spokesmen and supporters, state and federal game managers and wildlife officials, to employ solemn bureaucratic language and toss around a lot of questionable statistics to assure the nonhunting public that there's nothing to worry about. The program is under control. The mass murder and manipulation of wild animals is just another business.

Spectacular abuses occur wherever geese congregate, quietly notes Shooting Sportsman, something that the more cultivated Ducks Unlimited would hesitate to admit. Waterfowl populations are plummeting, and waterfowl hunters are out of control. A biologist with the Department of the Interior who observed a hunt at Sand Lake in South Dakota said, "Hunters repeatedly shot over the line at incoming flights where there was no possible chance of retreiving. Time and time again I was shocked at the behavior of hunters. I heard them laugh at the plight of dazed cripples that stumbled about. I saw them strike the heads of retreived cripples against fence posts."

Carnage and waste are the rules in bird hunting. Thousands of wounded ducks and geese are not retreived, left to rot in the marshes and fields. Cripples, and many cripples are made in this pastime, are still able to run and hide, eluding the hunter even if he's willing to spend time searching for them, which he usually isn't.

Hunters and their procurers - wildlife agencies - will never admit that hunting is responsible for the decimation of a species; instead they will deliver these familiar and litanic lines: Hunting is not the problem. Pollution is the problem. Pesticides, urbanization, deforestation, and wetlands destruction is the problem. And drought! There's been a big drought! While the Fish and Wildlife service is busy conducting experiments in cause and effect, like releasing mallard ducklings on a wetland sprayed with the insecticide ethyl parathion (they died - it was known they would, but you can never have enough studies that show guns aren't a duck's only problem), hunters are killing some 200 million animals and birds each year.

The black duck, a "popular" duck in the Northeast, so popular that game agencies felt that hunters couldn't be asked to refrain from shooting it, is scarce and getting scarcer. Nevertheless, it's still being hunted. A number of studies are currently under way in an attempt to discover why black ducks are disappearing, Sports Afield reports. Black ducks are disappearing because they've been shot out, their elimination being a dreadful example of game management and managers who are loathe to displease hunters.

Wildlife managers hate closing the season on anything. Closing the season on a species would indicate a certain amount of mismanagement and misjudgement at the very least - a certain reliance on overly optimistic winter counts, a certain overappeasement of hunters who would be upset if they couldn't kill their favorite thing. And worse, closing a season would be a victory for the antis.

Game "professionals," in thrall to hunters' "needs," will not stop managing bird populations until they've doled out the final duck. Illegal kill is a monumental problem in the not - so - wonderful world of waterfowl. Excesses have always pervaded the "sport," and bird shooters have historically been the slobs and profligates of hunting.

Most wildlife "restoration" programs in the states are translated into clearcutting the land to increase deer habitats (so that too many deer will require hunting . . . you wouldn't want them to die of starvation would you?) and trapping animals for restocking and redistribution (so more more hunters can shoot closer to home). Fish and Game agencies hustle hunting. It's time for them to get into the business of protecting and preserving wildlife and creating balanced ecological systems instead of pimping for hunters who want their deer/ duck/ pheasant/ turkey - animals to be shot.

Sport hunting is immoral; it should be made illegal. Hunters are persecutors of nature that should be prosecuted. They weild a disruptive power out of all proportion to their numbers, and pandering to their interests - the special interests of a group that just wants to kill things - is mad. It's grotesque that every year less than 6 percent of the population turns the skies into shooting galleries and the woods and fields into abattoirs. It's time to stop actively supporting and passively allowing hunting, and time to stigmatize it. It's time to stop being conned and cowed by hunters, time to stop pampering and coddling them, time to get them off the government's duck - and - deer dole, time to stop allowing hunting to be credible by calling it "sport" and "recreation." - By Joy Williams


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