Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I love Tred Barta AND Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent never saw a gun he didn't love or a bait pile he didn't want to hunt over. Tred Barta can't talk about bear hunting without bragging about his stone-tip arrows and complaining about people baiting bears with jelly donuts. That puts Ted and Tred about as far apart on the spectrum of hunting ethics as you can possibly get.

So why do I love both of them?

Let me start with Ted. I loved Ted Nugent as a teenager. His music was hard-charging, obnoxious and infectious, and his concerts were reputed to be the loudest around. (Fun fact: I saw him once at Selland Arena in Fresno and actually fell asleep during the concert. Not that I was bored - just exhausted from playing in a big high school tennis tournament that day.)

Now, as an adult who hunts, I watch his show, sometimes in horror, as he gleefully promotes some things I really don't agree with, like hunting over bait, which I would do in a subsistence situation, but find unappealing in times of plenty. Or when he tells viewers it's their "spiritual duty" to own guns to protect the bodies that God gave them.

Whoa. Really? I would never foist a gun on anyone who didn't want one.

And then there's Tred, who's willing to travel all over North America just to come home empty-handed because he's so stubborn that he wants to kill everything with his handmade longbow and stone-tipped arrows. And it's all gotta be spot-and-stalk, no blinds allowed.

On one episode of his show, he briefly succumbs to the urge to make a blind out of branches, berates himself like a recovering alcoholic who's fallen off the wagon, then tears it down. And of course, he ends his hunt without game.

Oh my. It must be nice to have the luxury of not caring about the outcome, but when I invest my time and hard-earned money in a hunt, it's really important to me to bring back some meat for the freezer. Not that I'm willing to do anything to get it - I know coming home empty-handed once in a while is part of the deal. But I'm sure as hell not going to tie my hands behind my back to prove a point.

So back to that question: Why on earth do I love both of them?

Two reasons:

One, they both strike me as utterly sincere about what they say. In a television environment where 95 percent of the shows are thinly veiled infomercials for bait, food plot programs, camo and weapon makers, I find that sincerity refreshing.

Sure, Ted touts his sponsors' products, but when he winds up for a Holy Roller-style exaltation of the Second Amendment, it is authentic Ted, not a canned speech laced with references to C'Mere Deer.

And yes, critics pick apart Tred for killing a pig with a knife ... while it's being held down. Or taking an long shot at some running deer ... with a long bow. But I never doubt for a second that he believes in what he's doing, because you can't really do product placement with homemade stuff.

But the second reason I love them both is the more important one: They both challenge me to consider options and ideas outside of my comfort zone, or at least to remain open-minded about them.

As a new huntress, it is my goal to improve enough each year that I can withstand greater and greater challenges. I've done some pretty easy hunts in my first two years, and I'd like to think I can grow tough enough to handle a multi-day hike in steep mountains to track mountain goats or bighorn sheep, or to use less and less sophisticated weaponry. Tred reminds me that this is a noble goal.

But Ted brings me back to my core beliefs about hunting: Humans eat animals, and to eat them we must kill them, and beyond science-based game management practices that ensure we don't wipe out any species, and beyond our universal desire for the cleanest kill possible, the methods we follow really are a matter of personal preference - nothing more. Attacking each other over these methods serves no one but the enemies of hunting.

It just doesn't seem unreasonable to me that the hunting community should have room for both points of view.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Tom Sorenson said...

Great post, Holly. I think the bottom line for me is like you said: sincerity. I can toss everything else out the window - what it all boils down to is here are two guys who believe in what they do and ain't nobody gonna tell them yes or now. It doesn't matter - they love what they do and they don't give a plugged nickel what anyone else thinks about it. Maybe that's overboard maybe it's extreme (ok - no maybe on that one) but all at the same time, it's refreshing. I like to know where a person stands - it makes me respect them regardless of where they stand. I don't like wishy washy and you won't find it with these fellas. Love your image at the beginning, by the way. :)

Tom Sorenson said...

* how 'bout - "nobody gonna tell them yes or NO." not now. my bad.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Um...I noticed you placed yourself on the "normal" part of the spectrum. Miss Holly, you are many thing, but normal is not one of them -- and thank heaven for that!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Tom, thank you.

Boyfriend: "Normal" was the only place where there was any room. And honestly, I don't think a mere two-dimensional spectrum can accommodate me...

Terry Scoville said...

To each their own as far as methods employed. I do feel that the ways we are taught initially have much to do with how we mature and evolve, as hunters and huntresses. Also, there is not enough time (at least for me) to become proficient(and ethical) in all methods of harvest regarding weapons used. Hence, you have the Ted and Tred hunting in ways that they're passionate about. Me, I do love my 20 ga. and 7mm Rem. Mag.

Phillip said...

Good one, Holly!

I've always been equally annoyed by both the Motorcity Motormouth, and by Tred Barta... and for pretty much the same reasons as you. I don't care for the actions they sometimes demonstrate for the world to see, and make no bones about my disagreement.

But I have always been impressed by their dedication to the personas they project... and have to believe it's as real as it gets. This IS who these guys are. Real characters...
and, as you mention, that's just not real common these days.

Native said...

Alright Holly Go Lightly!
Couldn't agree with you more concerning the sincerity of Tred and Ted.

O.K. Heres the challenge which you might be looking for.
We have been doing some renovations out at the Priest Valley property (Bath/Shower) at our remote and rustic camp. Improving water holes etc. etc.

The property holds lots of animals (hogs in particular) but the terrain is rough and very steep. We have especially limited vehicle access.

I need for someone to do a hunt out there and give me an evaluation concerning (a roughing it hunt) where you will have to do some dragging after harvesting.

Let me know!

Rick Kratzke said...

Now, like you I know Ted Nugent from years of rock music and concerts and as of 2 or 3 years ago realizing how much of a hunter he is and his views on our rights as Americans I can only say "He has my vote if he ever runs for office".
Unfortunately I do not know much about Tred Barta but I will be doing some research.

Very nice post......

Josh said...

I'm with Phillip on this one, but in the past two weeks I've had two people in my life suggest I reconsider Ted Nugent (my sister is the other one.)

As for Tred, he is sincere in his show, but he does have an obnoxious line of products that the trad hunters may know about. My cousin loves the man, but still hunts with training wheels.

Terry's post really hit the nail on the head for me.

hutchinson said...

I agree about Tred. But Ted Nugent holds so many sadistic stances across the board -- animals, women, racial. He may be sincere. But just about anyone who's perpetrated twisted things in this world is sincere about their motives, however skewed those motives might be to the rest of us.

Historically, for example, look at the individuals who've based their discriminatory actions on genuine feelings or heartfelt beliefs. They were sincere. Effed up, but sincere. So for me personally, that argument doesn't wash.

My vote is clearly for Tred on this one. I don't hunt but I admire Tred for his real commitment to retaining a challenge in the hunt. He strikes me as the real deal. Frankly, as a non-hunter, I'd probably have very little issue with hunting if all hunters were like Tred.

Ted, on the other hand, is just a sick SOB, from my POV. Trust me -- as a non-hunter, you don't want Ted representing hunting interests.

Native said...

Alright Hutchinson,
I will give you the thing on Nugent because he is loud,outspoken and obnoxious and generally turns people off with his "don't care what you think about me" attitude.

But really, trying to make all of us hunters conform to Tred Barta's philosophies and style of hunting?

Each individual has their own, very personal and spiritual interaction with nature when it comes to the spirit and experience of the hunt.
Whether it be with Long Bow, Cross Bow, Long Range Rifle with Scope, Short Range Rifle With Open Sights, Hunting over a baited area from a stand (like the easterners do because of the thick under brush there).

Or be it in an enclosed animal preserve (like all legal hunting is done now in South Africa)

The list just goes on and on but, trying to make everyone conform to an image that you have created in your mind as the "Perfect Hunter" just asuage you fears that we are all just bloodthirsty killers, would be like saying that "If everyone would just practice simple fidelity and not argue, then all marriages would be perfect.

Do not get me wrong, I have great respect for Mr. Barta but, his way of hunting is not "My Way"!

Perhaps as I grow older and less enchanted with the kill (as Harland did in the T.V. series,Northern Exposure) I may even get a camera mounted upon my rifle stock and just simply take pictures of wildlife.

Until then, what I, and most all licensed and ethical hunters do is perfectly legal, within the limits of the set laws and as Nor Cal Cazadora says, puts good tasting and hormone free meat upon my table.

P.S. I have personally met and talked to and interacted with Mr. Nugent several times and the picture which you have painted of him as being: Chauvinistic,Racist and non-caring about wildlife is dead wrong!

hutchinson said...

Hi, Native -- No disrespect intended for those who hunt ethically by other means. My comment was obviously too brief to fully expound upon the Tred Barta issue. And it is, obviously, an opinion probably no one here will share with me. Consider me on hiatus from my usual web browsing. Nice of me to stop by, eh?

When I say "if all hunters were like Tred" -- yes, I personally wish that all hunters had a commitment to genuine fair chase and a sense of humane behavioral ethics that supersedes what's necessarily legal. Orgs like Boone and Crockett would suggest that what's legal doesn't necessarily constitute ethical practice. And I've met hunters who agree.

I spent many years in Colorado hunting country and that's precisely why I don't hunt or eat animals. I saw some pretty gruesome things.

At the same time, I've met some (what I would construe as) highly ethical hunters, some of whom were involved in wildlife management in my state, who were sometimes horrified by the very actions they had to police. I've never embraced hunting, but I appreciated what they taught me (and, unfortunately, showed me) about this issue on both sides.

As I see it, there's a paradox in promoting hunting as ethical, humane, respectful and necessary -- and then either advocating for practices like enclosed preserve hunts (many of which could easily be construed as glorified canned hunts), and baiting which, c'mon, violates any sense of fair chase.

I mean, if those are the practices hunters support, so be it. But I don't think you can have it both ways -- refusing to condemn the practices that aren't genuinely fair and humane -- but then expecting those who don't hunt to support those activities. The PR directed at non-hunters - the "hunting is good" and "it's for food" model then doesn't then match the reality of what some of us see out there in the way of wanton disregard and a diminished sense of genuine sport or challenge.

Shooting pen-raised birds, or stocked ranches, or using baiting or grasping every unfair advantage over your prey may be one's sport and how one enjoys playing it. But you'd have a tough time arguing that it's anything but an unfair exercise of power over another living being. At least among those of us who have spent a lot of time in the woods, too, studying and appreciating animal behavior. And so, from the perspective of many of us, it is not then really ethical.

If it's historical heritage and respect for hunting that people are looking to engender, then yeah, I think Tred Barta is an excellent example of someone who does his best to uphold the most respectful elements of the practice. Are there really that many who would disagree about that? It may be unattainable for most people, but why not aspire to the idea of it?

Ted Nugent on the other hand, may not be all that his comments make him out to be. I'll give you that. I haven't met him. But if his hunting practices follow in line with what he tends to promote verbally and in his books, then I'll stand by my original comment about Tred vs. Ted for the reasons I've already overstated by a long shot.

Albert A Rasch said...


I see I will have to print this whole comment section out to better understand what I am reading. Is it me, or does it happen to everyone else? I just can't see everything on the screen comfortably sometimes, especially when its important.

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh gosh, I step out for a day to go hunting and an honest-to-goodness discussion breaks out!

Hutchinson, I agree if all hunters were like Tred Barta, hunting would have a better reputation with non-hunters. And hunting would disappear because most people aren't rich like he is and can't afford to miss as much as he does.

As for what you said about Nuge, I clearly haven't seen whatever you've seen/read/heard, so I don't know. But Native travels in rock-n-roll circles, and I know that Native is neither misogynist nor racist - far from it, in fact - so I trust his judge of character.

Personally, I see Nugent caring very much about clean kills, but no, he's not like me, so he won't write 1,000 words sbout guilt over a bad shot or his concern for a merciful death. Most people don't bare their souls like I do on a routine basis. And from what I've seen on his show, he's really an excellent shot.

I've read what Nuge has written about women hunters from time to time and found and abundance of respect and no evidence of misogyny. Perhaps I've not seen the evidence you've seen - it's entirely possible.

On to the larger issue - which has been quite thoroughly debated on Phillip's blog here. I read a lot of the work of the best thinkers in hunting. One author I've been reading lately is Andrea Smalley, an Illinois professor who does a lot of research on women in hunting.

One piece she did was about how women were "used" at the turn of the last century to clean up the image of hunting, which was under attack because unregulated hunting was allowing animals to be hunted to the brink of extinction. In addition to bringing women into the fold to clean up hunting's reputation, people and organizations also began forming codes of ethics - including fair chase - that would allegedly help their cause. The interesting thing was that anti-hunters 100 years ago used those debates to undermine hunters, because there was no agreement. For example, some people contended that still hunting was unethical, while others contended spot-and-stalk was unethical. Why would one be worse than the other? It makes no sense to me.

Of course, the same thing is happening now, which is why I contend that the foundation of hunting is that humans eat meat, therefore we kill animals. Various methods should be personal choice. Does the fact that you kill an animal on an island or in a 100-acre fenced preserve or in wide open wilderness change the fact that you have taken an animal's life so you can eat it? Of course not. All it changes is the degree to which you can brag about the challenge you faced, which is a matter of human bravado, not what's right and wrong about hunting.

I know that Nuge turns people off. Boyfriend and I watched his show at my Mom's house last month and she took an immediate dislike to him. That's fine - she doesn't have to watch him. But if I consent to exiling or marginalizing hunters whose methods are not my own, I am an accomplice to the demise of hunting. Period.

If I could draw the hunting code of ethics, it would be this:

1. Follow all hunting laws and safety rules.

2. Respect private property rights, taking care not to trespass, and care for
public property as if it were your own - because it is.

3. Do whatever is necessary to ensure the cleanest kill possible - instant or within minutes - and pass on shots where the likelihood of a clean kill is low.

I think it would be hard for anyone to disagree with these simple rules. Of course, I could be wrong. But that's where I draw my line - I am happy to condemn those who willfully violate these tenets and feel I can do so without undermining the legions of hunters who really do their best, day in day out, not always perfectly, but always with the best intentions.

And sorry Albert, I think I've just forced you to waste another piece of paper...

hutchinson said...

Holly, well now you've gone and done it with that provocative response. :) How do I leave this discussion now?

I guess we've seen different sides of Ted Nugent. Let's just say if I were a hunter, I would not want him representing me or my interests. But we can leave that there if you like.

I'd like to interject one line of defense as someone who doesn't hunt. I've spent some time at your blog -- and linking out to other hunting blogs as well. Some are exceptionally thoughtful and others are, well, let's just say the blogosphere is a free market.

There are many I've seen which completely contradict the principles a lot of hunters here are trying to establish. In fact, most of the blogs I visited have very callous and graphic ways of presenting their hunting endeavors.

I saw one, for instance, where every time the guy slammed the duck he yelled "rock star!" as if this were some kind of video game, not the taking of another living, feeling entity's life.

I've read anecdotes and seen (in my time) some pretty brutal and long kills without any semblance of understanding for the pain that animal must have endured. (This is across the board, hunting, ag, etc.) Even your recent post about the pheasant who wouldn't die. Other hunters see that as a humorous story of a hunting challenge. Viewed from my perspective, that was a living, feeling bird who experience genuine trauma. Again, I realize that's my perspective but that's what someone like me sees.

No matter what anyone may believe about an animal's emotions, intelligence or social structures (I happen to believe strongly they are much more sophisticated than we, as humans, allow) -- animal sentience, physical pain, and emotional states such as fear and stress are well established. So to ignore that facet feeds a negative stereotype.

Hunters might argue that these are isolated examples. They may not be the majority, but they are a healthy minority. I saw some of this in my time in Colorado as well. And I have pals like the one who grew up in Eastern Washington where, as a girl, her father took her out hunting. She never became a hunter, didn't like killing the animals. But she's told me many similar stories, of people shooting coyotes half-dead and leaving them there, popping prairie dogs like target practice -- shooting animals when they were well out of range -- littering, trampling the grounds.

So it may not be you. It doesn't sound like that IS you -- and I don't expect you defend all hunters in your personal blog. It may not even be the majority. But it exists.

So what I don't fully understand is why there is so little internal questioning of these attitudes and practices. When, in the end, no matter which cogent points are brought up by the other side, hunters say -- well, it's our right and it's legal and we don't have to defend the kill because we eat animals. You know, that may be so. But I'm just saying it undermines ethical arguments, which, like it or not, are always going to be a facet of the discussion if you engage in a practices that results in the taking of a life.

In as much as you assert your right to do so, you're going to encounter those among the populace who don't see taking the life of a fellow earthling in the same manner. And guys like Tred Barta appeal to guys like me for that reason. Hunting in that context seems to strike a balance between all of those ideals to which you ascribe: tradition, sport, heritage, humanity, and fairness.

I realize there's a fear that if one practice is regulated, there goes the rest of hunting. But it's a Catch-22 (to slightly misconstrue Joseph Heller) because in as much as those examples are out there serving as visible reminders, the pressure against hunters, I believe, becomes stronger. What do you do?

I will tell you that personally, that although I don't like hunting, I've met a lot of people like myself who don't believe in killing animals for ourselves -- but who also don't see the practicality or the desirability to end all hunting. From our perspective, it just doesn't seem all that much to ask - if you're going to take this beautiful life, please take a minimal number of lives, acknowledge the abject pain an animal suffers by way of a bullet or an arrow or a prolonged death, and then, for decency's sake, show some semblance of respect, don't treat it like the prize in a shooting gallery. And if we saw major hunting organizations acknowledging those things, it would serve to at least make us believe that the best possible practices were being followed.

I'll tell you, all it takes is one incident that showcases the more cruel and thoughtless side, and it will turn a person from one of accepting hunting to an adamant non-hunter. This just happened to a friend of mine who's brother invited him to a "high-fence" hunt where they shot some raised, wild game on about 400 acres. He's never wanted to hunt but he felt he should see for himself.

He's been throwing up since -- I swear he's got PTSD. And he used to be a guy who could hang out with hunters and shoot the shit in a way that even I admired! He told me he can't listen to the rationalizations anymore, he's done.

You're dealing with people who feel an intimate connection to the feelings and the suffering of animals, often times not making a distinction between any of us living earthly, species when it comes witnessing an agonizing death (farming, hunting, etc). You all feel differently, I realize that. But I don't see how it would hurt to acknowledge that those who don't agree aren't "crazy" "lefty" "small-minded" (a Ted Nugent term) -- and perhaps just feel things in a way that leans toward giving the animals the benefit of the doubt.

And one last thing. I get the desire to have hormone-free meat, organic food. I live in a place where I have bountiful access to organic apples, and peaches and vegetables and I wouldn't have it any other way. If I ate meat, I would buy from a genuine, free-range (not fake free range), organic farm at minimum.

But if that's a primary affirmation of your need to hunt, then how do you rationalize at the same time, contributing to the practices of factory farming? In your blog and elsewhere, I read of hunters stopping for a burger after a hunt or having a regular life of grocery store meats in addition to hunting. That seems to really water down the viability of needing the organic meat.

You, Holly, seem to walk that talk (with the exception of those burgers). But it seems like a lot of people are contributing to both the cruelty of factory farming and to the killing of animals in the hunt. That kind of dilutes the organic meat take in my mind. But what do I know? (to quote Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer)

NorCal Cazadora said...

That's a lot to answer to; I'd like to address just a few things.

1. I've converted as much of my diet to hunted game and organic produce as possible. But I am not a monk able to devote myself solely to a single cause; I'm a person who works for a living to pay my mortgage, and who occasionally finds herself hungry when away from her freezer. I do my best, but I'm not going to be ridiculous about it and starve myself if I can't have meat from an animal I killed myself.

2. This is going to sound bad, I know, but reality is that the world is full of idiots. There are idiot hunters, and idiot vegans, and idiot TV personalities, and idiot students, and idiot professionals. I can't change that. And I don't believe in legislating around idiots, because it's impossible. You cannot possibly create enough guidelines, rules or laws to eliminate the impact of idiocy on our planet.

I do believe in promoting good ethics. But I'm not naive enough to think I can change the whole world. The best I can hope for is to give people a nudge in a better direction once in a while. That's what I try to do.

3. I disagree with your contention that there's little internal discussion of ethics or bad behaviors. Sometimes "internal" really is internal, a discussion that takes place behind closed doors.

Finally, I am not terribly concerned with changing the minds of non-meat eaters who deeply empathize with the pain of animals that humans kill and eat; I have to assume that those people are thoughtful individuals who have made up their minds, and who am I to tell them their personal decisions and beliefs are wrong? I am content to agree to disagree with them.

I am much more concerned with meat eaters who criticize hunting - about one in five Americans, if my grasp of the data is sufficient. Those are the people I challenge to examine how their diets fit into this discussion, because I don't appreciate sanctimony from someone who accuses me of bloodlust while conveniently ignoring what has to be done to put meat on his or her plate.

Now, I've got to get back to some of that pesky work that helps pay the mortgage.

Native said...

This individual will anthropomorphize an apple or an orange if you continue to allow him to do so.
I have encountered these very same type individuals when arguing the very valid and continued existence of the PIT BULL BREED OF DOGS.

These individuals are intent on CONTROL and nothing more and nothing less.

Animal. vegetable or mineral are all the same to them and, while I fully understand this rationale,(ala Ghandi) it does not fit into a realistic world of sentient beings who must live, breath. die and interact with one another.

Predator/prey, We are predators by nature and what we need for sustenance is, quite simply put, PREY.
I need not go into all of the well documented and scientific data to explain why we need meat or meat by-products in order to remain healthy and sustain a semblance of a quality life.
but, all of the rationale in the world will not change this persons ideals one iota!

He says his "limited" experience was in a small place in Colorado. That is just one, in a country of 50 states and a small molecule upon a grain of sand within the context of worldly experiences.
Nobody, is trying to have it both ways from what I see here at this blog or within the hunting community altogether.

Either you condone animal killing for your protein and B-vitamin intake or you choose alternatives.

NorCal Cazadora said...

"Either you condone animal killing for your protein and B-vitamin intake or you choose alternatives."


That's why I'd rather work on the hypocrits than those who simply disagree. :-)

SimplyOutdoors said...

Honestly, I love Ted. I think his honesty is refreshing and, for the most part, his way of thinking is right no and just makes sense.

Unfortunately, I don't know Tred, but from what you say of him I can understand the draw that he has.

And as always, you definitely created an interesting conversation from one of your posts.

hutchinson said...

Just for the record, I don't have "limited" experience. I didn't want to belabor my life story in the previous post, but I had exposure to hunting from a young age. I lived on a farm (in another country) where I saw plenty of [what I deemed] brutal slaughter.

I lived around hunters and trappers, one of whom caught my childhood cat in a leghold trap. We lost the kitty in the most gruesome fashion imaginable. I couldn't understand, as a child, how the people around me would be grieving so over the loss of our cat, but think nothing of another animal of similar constitution suffering the same fate.

That's my experience. Limited maybe, because I never lifted a gun to kill anything. But I witnessed plenty. And yes, those experiences did form my point of view -- in the same way that a young child's positive associations of spending time with dad, can form a bond with hunting as a result.

I've also lived around the United States, studying in a biology-related field. As you know, biologists often work with forest officials and outdoors officials. If my impressions seemed naive in my post, it may be because this is the first time I've actually explored the online world of hunting. I admit to being a bit shocked at what I've found. It's more illustrative than my "limited' experience would suggest, that is true. I have been struggling with my friend's experience (the one I mentioned in my previous post). And trying to find ways to assuage his distress.

So, sure, I'm not out hunting every weekend. But I'm not naive. Nor am I as close-minded as Native would suggest. In the past, especially camped out in the woods or the foothills, I've always been highly supportive of subsistence hunters, believing as I did that shooting one deer for the season was preferable to the other atrocities I saw out there.

You might be surprised to learn that the hunters in the areas where I've worked did not see me in the way you seem to. I've always worked toward preserving those very resources hunters suggest they want to preserve -- the wild lands, clean water, forests, and responsible governance.

If what Holly says is true, that this discussion happens effectively behind closed doors, it's a shame. Because it would be enlightening for those of us genuinely and sincerely grappling with all facets of the practice, to know and to hear. What I personally have heard, in the context of the officials I know, is dismay that they didn't have more power and manpower to police these issues. They're often hunters themselves, in clear distress over what they see. I rarely hear them express a defense of these practices as I often see on these boards. But then maybe rangers and other such professions aren't clearly representative. It could be they're on the much more conservative end of the hunting spectrum than are most hunters.

As far as me anthropomorphizing an apple or an orange, Native, maybe you're on to something. I don't waste anything. I do believe in a certain respect for all living things in terms of not squandering what's around us. So yes, my personal life ethic, as I live it, is to reduce my harmful impact as much as possible. Notice I say "reduce" because I'm not deluded enough to believe we can live harm free. But I do believe in minimizing that harm. That's my belief system, it's been in my family, yes, I'm indoctrinated with it and recognize it as such.

If that falls into the realm of anthropomorphizing, so be it. But in suggesting that my ascribing pain or feeling to an animal that does, in fact, have pain and feeling -- if that's what you mean by my tendency toward anthropomorphizing, that's simply inaccurate. Granted, those who would like to maintain that animals do not share some our our physiological sensibilities can argue that there's no "proof." But without common language, it would be difficult to prove that we humans experience those same conditions.

As far as eating commercially processed animals, that wasn't really my point. It's just that when hunters argue that they are, in fact, contributing to a more compassionate ethic by hunting instead of eating factory-farmed food, that could be true. If they weren't eating factory farmed food. It becomes a moot point.

It's a shame that my presenting what I believe to be some valid counterpoints, admittedly pointed, yes - but still a shame that it would be reduced to ad hominem suggestions about what type of person I must be or what type of control issues I must have. Holly effectively argues the points and I really respect her for that.

The equivalent for me would have been to suggest some emotional motives for why people feel the need to hunt in the way some do. I didn't do that. I was questioning the viability of a respectable framework for hunting, while allowing the less respectable elements to remain -- to change all perceptions, essentially change the rules of the game.

After all of that, I suppose I should just delete without posting -- because ultimately, I do think Holly's right that there may be no budging anyone's perspective. It's a sadness for me, because it's not just about opinions on politics. These are, literally, life and death issues. You would say your life, your rights. And I would say balancing those rights with compassion toward others.

I would hope that even those of us from opposing camps could agree that some practices in the taking of those lives, just shouldn't be condoned. I guess I was wrong. And I really wish I did have something hopeful to show for my friend who is genuinely struggling with this issue.

Native said...

A very poignant and genuinely heart felt closing statement Hutchinson!
I commend you for explaining yourself with such beautiful and articulate descriptive.

You are obviously well educated, I myself, had to drop out of school at the tender age of 12 just to support myself and sometimes find it difficult to express my feelings and emotional grounding as clearly and as precise as you are able to do, due to that very lack of education.

But I do know and understand when someone will express such hatred for a philosophy and way of life, that they would rather see a person such as me or Ted Nugent or any other person, cease to exist, as opposed to an "Animal"!
Putting animals into the same category as a human being and to censure the basic principles of a coexistence with these animals goes against the very laws of survival itself.

I have witnessed such hatred coming from the very individuals who, like yourself, propose to be such progressive thinkers that you truly believe you have elevated yourself above most all other doctrines.
And this, coming from a group of people who claim to have such compassion for a fellow earthling that they just cannot understand how a human can bring harm and suffering to another living creature.

This process of over thinking something so simple as Predator to Prey relationship, becomes an argument of semantics and starts to resemble the verbiage found in a set of documents carried around by a lawyer.

Please, tell us just exactly what happened to your "friend" that traumatized him/her so much that now all hunters are precariously perched upon the brink of extinction because of their differing philosophies concerning the circle of life!

I am not trying to sound condescending, I truly would like to know because, I would not wish to make the mistake and trample upon the blessings of liberty of any individual. And this would include non-hunters as well.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hutchinson, it's hard to help you soothe your friend without knowing what he saw. And it's hard to address what enforcement officers have seen and found atrocious (that's apparently defended here) without knowing what you're talking about.

If your friend saw someone shoot a deer badly then laugh about it and pop the top off a beer and chitchat while the animal died a slow death for 30 minutes, I'd say yeah, that's atrocious behavior. If your friend saw someone shoot a deer and was distressed to see it bleed out for a minute or two before dying, no one here is going to get up in arms about that, because we understand that dying usually isn't the instantaneous event that Hollywood has trained us to think it is. We understand that; we have accepted it as a part of hunting; that acceptance means we often don't belabor the thought.

Same goes for the officers' experience. What are they seeing that horrifies them? If they're horrified by hunters killing a deer, taking its head and leaving the carcass in the field, so are we. That's unconscionable, and in California, it's illegal, rightfully so. If they're horrified by hunters passing on a perfectly good buck to take an even bigger buck, then no one here is going to get upset about that.

If you want to read about hunters' pain associated with the kill, check out this post and the comments on FS Huntress. But I have to tell you, most people aren't going to share stories like that because they're hard to talk about.

Also, skip some of the trash on the Internet - trust me, I see it too - and pick up a book like, "A Hunter's Heart," edited by David Petersen. There you'll see an honest, thoughtful exploration of hunting.

I'm actually pretty surprised that you are looking so hard for comfort for your friend. Given what you've said about how you've reached your own opinions, I would definitely put you in the immovable category. If you feel that much empathy about animal pain and suffering, I don't see how any amount of human remorse can make you feel better. But if that's what you want, it's out there.

If you want to see the internal discussions about behavior that's not condoned, though, you're probably out of luck. There's plenty I'll say - and have said - here in my blog, but quite honestly, when criticizing people who are on my side of an issue like hunting, I tend to do it privately and look for ways to be effective, not assaultive. Castigating someone publicly is an ineffective means of bringing about change because all it does is make that person defensive; criticizing privately leaves the opportunity for someone to make change without having to combat public humiliation.

And I stand by what I said in this post: Once we have made the decision to hunt and kill - as individuals or as a society - we have made the most serious decision there is in the matter. Whether we kill over bait or from a tree or hidden with the best gear or in the most primitive fashion possible does not change the fact that we have made the decision to kill. Therefore, dividing ourselves over methods seems counterproductive.

Despite the fact that you've sparked some disagreement here, though, I thank you for your thoughtful inquiry. Don't know that I've helped at all, but I really do appreciate thoughtful disagreement. Beats the hell out of some of the nastiness I've seen out there on both sides.

Phillip said...


Apologies, Holly, but this response may be a long one.

Some good stuff, even though, as always, emotion tends to overwhelm logic.

Interesting too that it ties directly back to a premise that I've made that this repeated emphasis on "fair chase" by the pro-hunting agenda is becoming a noose around our own necks. People like Hutchinson recognize the logical flaw in the very idea of "fair chase", and while I won't lay the agenda at Hutchinson's feet... those who DO have an anti-hunting agenda definitely exploit the logical flaw. Worse yet, those who might otherwise care less see it as pure hypocrisy.

The problem is the individual nature of any definition of ethics, and the fact that many folks (including myself) have too often fallen back to using the "we believe in ethical methods" as a justification for blood sport... even though each and every one of us holds a different twist on the definition... and our actions often seem contrary to our stated positions.

Tred Barta is a perfect example, and since he's part of the original discussion, why not lean on him a little bit.

Tred is an avowed traditional archer. He even eschews modern, metal broadheads and aluminum or carbon arrows. By his choice and his stance, he has embraced a method of hunting that requires the highest levels of discipline, since even an expert with his chosen tools is limited to ideal shot opportunities at ranges generally inside 20 yards. For anyone who has hunted, with gun or camera, they should be able to appreciate how close 20 yards is. When you're talking about un-fenced, un-baited big game, that's CLOSE...and it is a very big deal.

All of this, of course, elevates Tred's standing in the eyes of hunters and non-hunters alike. He's challenging himself with primitive weapons, and giving the animals a real "fair" chance.

This is who he "Says" he is. But his actions, televised to the world, indicate otherwise. I stopped watching him after only a couple of episodes, but after watching him sling "Hail Mary" arrows over 50 yards at running caribou, and watching him, sorely underpowered, shoot a brown bear with a sadly inefficient stone broadhead, in the throes of an adrenaline rush... so much for the image of the noble and ethical hunter(believable rumor has Barta's guide actually finishing the bear with a .375H&H rifle...a common and sensible practice on dangerous game archery hunts). Everything he supposedly stands for goes out the window with that first, wild arrow. Suddenly, he's just like everybody else (with the significant exception that he's a television personality and a de facto representative of sport hunters).

Of course we can't pick on poor Tred too harshly, as he's in great company. Fred Bear and Saxton Pope (as in Pope and Young), both considered "fathers" of the modern, bowhunting tradition were known to attempt (and occasionally make) what most of us would consider ridiculously long or difficult shots on game with traditional archery tackle.

Not only archers... Theodore Roosevelt, a man damned near deified by hunter/conservationists and often invoked in discussions about ethical hunting subscribed heavily to the axiom that, "as long as there's lead in the air, there's hope." In his writing, he encouraged hunters to take the shot, even if it seems too far, as you'll never kill the animal if you don't shoot at it. Once you had blood, the idea was that you could then track and kill the animal much more easily than you can if he's running away uninjured.

Hardly fits in with the modern hunters' credo to always strive to make the quick, humane kill, does it?

There are those who would argue, and somewhat soundly if you stop and listen, that taking every advantage over the game we pursue is actually more ethical than drawing arbitrary rules around the means of take and limiting hunters to difficult and overly-challenging methods. An animal unaware and feeding over a bait pile at close range is going to offer a much better opportunity for a clean, quick kill...especially if the hunter is armed with the most efficient and accurate equipment with which to make the kill.

My personal standard falls somewhere in the mix of all that, and while I do hunt with a bow it is the only method with which I have occasional misgivings due to the inefficiency and potential for failure of that particular tool. But the thing that stays in my mind throughout it all is that what I'm there for is to play my role as predator, and in the end game, it's all about killing meat for my table. On at least some levels, that's no different than slaughtering cattle or poultry... and really shouldn't be subject to any more moral contortion than ordering a pound of burger from the local market... less even, but that's another discussion.

It really is no more relevant whether the venison on my table was taken in the wilderness at 300 yards with a high-powered rifle, than if it were taken in a fenced enclosure at 10 yards with a crossbow. The deer is dead... It never stood a chance either way.

I understand, of course, the idea and need for good public relations, and Holly's historical perspective on that topic drives that home even more. The concept of killing has always made the average person uncomfortable, and those who kill for sport represent a totally alien concept to those who don't. In order to preserve our sport, we have to convince those individuals that we are not freaks or monsters... and the easiest way to confront emotion is with emotion. Unfortunately, the easiest way is also the least effective.

As a result, I believe we get far too wrapped up in trying to justify our actions in the names of "mercy, fairness, and ethics"... and this comes at a cost to the reality of what we do. These realities are what we should be emphasizing to people. We should be more interested in presenting the facts and science, but this is an area that is almost totally glossed over.

We need to keep it real. We need to be willing to say to people like Hutchinson, "Yes, there are many methods and means to take wild game, and some of them suit me and some of them don't. But the fact is that none of those legal methods harm the resource. They are not driving the game to extinction, and in fact are generally legal precisely because they DO increase the levels of success. Increased success not only helps meet population quotas, but also insures a certain level of hunter retention and recruitment. Since most wildlife management programs are funded by hunter dollars, this is just as valid as population control and habitat protection.

"It is also proven that while the experiential value of hunting by certain methods varies widely from one individual to another, it has been pretty thoroughly shown that none of those legal methods harm the individual psyche, to whit, hunters are not more inclined to become rapists, murderers, thugs, or animal abusers whether they stalk their game in the wilderness, or hunt inside a fenced preserve. So while one may find the idea of killing for 'fun' aberrant or even monstrous, the fact is that the individuals who participate in this sport are as likely to be psychologically normal as the vegan who abhors the idea of killing any animal."

As I've said before, when it boils right down to it, the idea of "fair chase" hinges on nothing more than a public relations campaign. It's an arbitrary construct... a set of rules for a competition (inclusion in trophy record books) that has little to no bearing on wildlife management or conservation beyond what is already captured in the hunting regulations.

The fact that some people "don't like" certain practices and others do is absolutely irrelevant... or it should be.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well-said, Phillip - a much more articulate version of the point I've been trying to make!

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

I love Ted, be a fan of his since he was with the Amboy Dukes.

Tred on the other hand is a blackeye to traditional bowhunting. You can't hold yourself up to the world as a trad archer, striving to hunt the ways of bowhunting past, then fling Hail Mary arrows all over the countryside at spooked fleeing game.

Trad hunters pride themselves on stalking close and killing quickly. Tred couldn't successfully stalk an egg. I hate to knock other hunters but this IS NOT the image we want future hunters and bowhunters to mimic.

If his act is just to market product, fine, but the nonsense he claims to be trad hunting just sets back everything we teach new trad bowhunters.

hutchinson said...

Holly, I'm sending you a private note with my responses to some of the above comments. I did so, because it was long. And I wanted to leave it up to you whether or not you publish it. It's a bit of a blog hog. I take no offense either way.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hutchinson, thanks for being respectful and giving me the choice of posting this. Bytes are free on Blogger, so I'm going for it. I'm happy to have the discussion, and while all of us can get a little testy in the heat of an argument, I think hearing other points of view does us some good. Why else would I write a post saying I love Ted and Tred?

If other folks who have commented here have grown tired of this comment thread, they can unsubscribe from it, or simply delete the email alerts. For the rest of you, here's what Hutch had to to say:

I agree, Holly. Phillip's commentary is very well constructed beautifully stated. You're no slouch yourself, but you hear that all of the time, from what I've read at your blog. So maybe Phillip could appreciate another plug here? :)

I have to apologize for coming on in with such a defensive posture in my previous post. I obviously instigated the discussion and understand I'm at a hunting blog and should take my hits as they come -- even if they come in the form of perceived mischaracterizations. That is truly my bad and I should have stepped back sooner . . . as someone likes to tell me, you're in science, you should be "three feet behind your head!"

I realize that a critique or hard questioning of hunting at a blog where most readers are hunters, could be construed as a similarly ad hominem endeavor. That wasn't my intent and for that I am sorry -- for creating that particular paradigm.

Since Native has made a few more points about my character, I'd like to take just a moment to address those -- even though I realize this could be an endless cycle of defense. But I hope you agree that I can at least, in the interest of clarifying my POV, take up a bit more space.

Native, like you, I supported myself from a young age. My parents were immigrants (I mentioned living in another country). English was not my first language. And I was self-educated to some degree. I couldn't afford college until I was in my mid-30s and had saved enough money working since the age of 15 to do so. I read and studied on my own to qualify for the entrance exams,and later the boards. It took me quite a few years, then, to actually get through my schooling, owing to my work schedule (as dishwasher, as a waiter, as a mailroom employee, and finally in an office). It was a choice I made -- to do those things in order to go to college. But it wasn't as a result of any innate privilege. I'm not so delusional to believe that luck and good timing don't play into some our best chances in life. But you might be surprised how similar our economic background and struggles might be. I'm glad I did go because it allowed me to pursue work in the field of conservation which is important to me. But having gone without a college education for so long, I clearly have no delusions about its influence on integrity or life experience that tends to mold us in more profound ways than does a formal education.

Next point, I don't believe my comments were hateful but please let me know which parts were so that I can rectify this. Argumentative, yes. That is my admitted Achilles heel. And I realize I was addressing some difficult issues. But if I did so in a hateful manner, I'd like to know which elements were most offensive so that I can definitely express my regrets and apologies to you. I'll just say it anyway. I'm very sorry for those things which hurt you, which came across as hateful. Again, not my desire.

As far as wanting to see someone cease to exist, that's a logical stretch that can't simply can't be construed from anything I said. You don't know me - I know you think I do based on your previous experience with people who support animal welfare or animal rights - but I have innate sensitivity to all suffering. Most of us who care about animals come to this realization in our lives because we, ourselves, have felt significant pain in one form or another. In my case it was personal illness that thrust me into a space of [probably too much] sensitivity. But feeling chronic pain does make one reexamine how one views pain in others. And believe, me this holds true for how I feel about humans suffering as well. I do not want you to suffer. I do not want anyone to suffer.

I'll be honest, it's not for me to decide or answer, but philosophically, I don't know how to balance the needs of one against the other. Which is why, throughout my posts, I've suggested, perhaps an attention to boundary -- an element of "the least amount of suffering" so that all concerned would be spared the worst ravages that life throws our way -- humans and non-humans alike. I don't think it's crazy to suggest that there can be a balance defined between your need to eat meat, and the animal's right to a humane kill and a fair chance at life. But again, as I say, I don't have all the answers. I'd like to believe this was possible.

If you ask my ideal with respect to what we've discussed here -- yeah, I know, who am I to suggest "my" ideal is anything anyone else should abide by? Believe me, I don't have any delusions that anyone will or should. But for the purposes of philosophical discussion -- my personal desire would be that people would feel some of what I've learned through my own experience with animals and their complex constitutions and social systems -- and didn't inflict any unnecessary or prolonged suffering on animals. I realize one can't enforce morality or an affinity for a belief system, hence my aforementioned disclaimers. And this goes way beyond hunting.

I always believed that people, if faced with the genuine hurt or hardship of another, would alter their behavior in a way so as to minimize that. Unfortunately, life has always proven me wrong in this regard. But it doesn't stop me from appealing to that better sense of human consciousness and compassion.

As far as the practices both Holly and Phillip bring up, you know, you're right. There are logical pitfalls in all of those arguments. You've made me reconsider that more thoroughly. If one believes that killing an animal is cruel and unnecessary, then one necessarily opposes all hunting. If the objection is to the kill, then what difference does fair chase make? I hope I'm paraphrasing some of those points correctly.

Holly, earlier in the thread, made a point about the guidelines by which she would abide. One of them was making sure it was the cleanest kill possible. You know, on this point I can fully agree. Maybe it's the only point upon which we can agree, I don't know.

I think that's where my whole paradigm shifted out in the field, which brings me to the point that Holly and Native both asked about -- what were those incidents to which I mysteriously allude? I hesitated to go into detail precisely because of the pointed accusations they might have been construed to be. But I'll give you a few.

I had a friend who worked in wildlife management. I swear I mentioned this already but I read over my previous threads and didn't find it. He was a subsistence hunter. He hunted only for himself and each year, he shot a deer to sustain him through the winter where he lived in the woods. He'd go out on what he called "Guidance Control" (a reference to airport lights). I know someone else who does this -- a hunter who can't stand poachers himself. But that's an issue unto itself. Holly stipulates legal as a construct. (Wish there was more enforcement to at least ensure the illegal didn't happen so often.)

As far as the legal practices he disdained, I think you guys know about all of those which is why I didn't feel the need to enumerate them. Do you really want me to? It will be in print. I'll refrain from doing so unless asked. Those things, however, were extremely difficult for even him to reconcile, when he went out there carefully and quickly killing that one deer.

As far as my friend, he was witness, basically to the shooting of captive animals -- not quite captive in that the animals do roam on private property. They are not shot in close quarters. But almost tame, according to him. I can only go by what he says.

Suffice to say, after seeing at least one terrified, habituated animal brutalized by ineptitude on the part of the hunter (you might not agree) -- he was traumatized to the point of not functioning well. He obviously left, but not before, unfortunately, having this experience.

He doesn't sleep at night. He throws up. I was kind of kidding, but I believe he has PTSD. He shouldn't have gone. He thought he could handle it. And frankly, I'm not sure what he saw, because I've always thought he was a pretty tough guy, and this reaction is dramatic. He's seen a lot of pain in this world before. And now he's dealing with the repercussions not only of witnessing what he witnessed, but feeling a part of something he simply can't forgive himself for. Maybe someday he'll tell me the whole story.

What hunters may or may not realize about some of us who bring up these points, is that experiences like this just aren't compartmentalized in our minds in a pragmatic way. You sees suffering and you suffer. The only analogy would be to ask you how you feel when you see another human being suffer. I realize that's not how any of you necessarily view animals -- you don't want to delve in to the equivalency argument, I understand. But for those of us who see less distinction among species and pain, that's the best analogy I can come up with.

So in terms of Native suggesting that he or she wouldn't want to trample on anyone's rights, including non-hunters, I do believe Native. But how do any of us reconcile those dramatically conflicting needs?

Where does one's right to exercise a certain freedom overrun another's right to not experience suffering? Well, I am smart enough to know that I can't answer a question that's been tackled by philosophers for years, without satisfactory conclusion.

My personal stance, as I stated above, would be to find a way to reduce that suffering on both sides. I think it's a viable model. How does addressing the less humane and fair practices, the ones that inflict the most cruelty -- how does that violate your stated right to eat meat? I don't believe it does. And I happen to believe it contributes to the greater good when all of us amend our own actions to take into account how those actions are affecting everyone around us.

Which is why, as I've stated earlier, I'm not one of those people who propose or even believe there should be a ban on hunting. I know you've met those people. But most of the people I know, in my field and ones I've met who think along the lines I do, don't want that. Most of us would be very happy if humane treatment across the board was the end result. I honestly to believe that's the best we can hope for and ask. But I also realize, especially in the face of the disagreement we've exhibited even here, on this blog, that probably won't happen. Not in my lifetime.

But I do still make a plea for those who exercise this right -- if they believe it to be a genuine right -- then to exercise it as our forefathers saw the execution of all rights. And that is, with rights come responsibility. I see nothing wrong with those who engage in the practices and rights responsibly themselves, taking issue with and even condeming those "rights" which aren't exercised in the spirit of the Enlightenment ideals upon which our country was based. (Now that's getting patriotic, I'll stop.)

One last thing for Holly. Although I hold strong opinions as I believe them in the moment, I'm by no means immovable. My reading of Phillip's commentary speaks to my desire to reassess that particular facet of this discussion. I've amended my stances throughout my life, going from a young Republican (how I was raised) to an independent and then Progressive (you'll be sorry but not surprised to hear). I do like to seek the "truth" all the while understanding how subjective any of our ideas of "truth" may be. But it's a goal to strive for.

What I was seeking, if I may be so vulnerable as to tell you my true motive -- I was seeking "proof" for him that most hunters don't behave in the way that he witnessed. I thought for sure if I scoured the Internet(s) (sorry GW :) -- I could find ample evidence that what he saw was an anomaly. But that's not what I've been finding.

Although, as you all know by now, I'm not too keen on the things I myself have witnessed, I did also say that I grew up around hunters. And, as far as hunting goes, I've seen what I think are some of the most responsible ones out there. I've seen what I think is the best and the worst.

I wanted to bring him some reassurance that the best does still exist -- that people do still care about the idea of what hunting was and might be for some - and that is, "hunting." Not entrapment, not cruelty for the sake of a trophy or a kill. Not a completely dissociated response to the taking of an animal life. That's what I was looking for.

By the way, as far as chit-chatting while a deer dies, I did witness that myself - a guy on a two-way radio, laughing (ostensibly) with a buddy while a large game animal died very, very slowly in front of him, trying to lift his head. It was so heartbreaking I feel the angst to this day when I think about it. Actually, that was the point where I finally stopped eating meat. It was my tipping point.

To show that I do, in fact, want to present as something other than immovable, I will read the book you suggested, Holly. If there's anything that can change my own perspective toward a more positive understanding, I'll take it. Someday, after I read it, if I've had any revelation, I'll post about it. No -- maybe I'll send you a private e-mail and you can decide whether to rehash the whole discussion on your boards.

I don't know that anyone here would be willing to do the same for the other point of view, and purchase a book that might represent my own perspective on animals. There are too many, but one is "The Emotional Lives of Animals" by Marc Bekoff or "When Elephants Weep." Just as any essay or commentary on hunting will have its subjectivity, so do these books, although they do view the subject through the portal of a scientific mind. They could be too distasteful for anyone who can't embrace some of the animal welfare logic.

btw: Hutchinson isn't my given name but it's a genuine nickname that somehow stuck. I was thinking, while we're in the process of baring our souls . . .

Chas S. Clifton said...

Living where cable TV is not available -- and not wanting to pay the monthly satellite TV bill -- I never get to see hunting/fishing shows except in hotels or at friends' homes.

Most of them seem pretty formulaic, but I might try to find some clips of this Tred Barta guy.

The producers need to loosen up though. How about "Ricardo the Fabulously Gay Elk Hunter"?

Or "Inner City Hunter," stalking coons and pigeons in abandoned factories, followed by a cooking segment.

We could go on ...

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, HELL yes, I'd watch both of those!

And you're absolutely right. Problem is, there's a reason we call hunting television "horn porn": For the most part, it lacks creativity, intelligence and good production values; all too often, it's just a series of money shots.

Phillip said...

If one believes that killing an animal is cruel and unnecessary, then one necessarily opposes all hunting. If the objection is to the kill, then what difference does fair chase make?

The key elements of all those paragraphs I wrote, summed up very nicely in two sentences... My predilection toward verbosity has been pointed out before, but never driven home quite as cleanly. Thanks, Hutchinson.

No, seriously, I think you pared it down to the essentials quite well, except that I'd modify that first sentence. If one believes that killing an animal is cruel and unnecessary, then one necessarily opposes all KILLING of ALL ANIMALS. We don't get to pick and choose. Is it right or is it wrong?

As far as the projection of stereotypes and characterizations... I'll leave that for you other parties to settle. That's a place I don't like to go, and hope I didn't in this discussion.


I recognize that there seems to be some emotional "need" on the part of some people to see all animals granted some humane treatment, and to alleviate suffering and cruelty. You won't find a lot of argument there from most hunters. But, in the eyes of these people, hunting seems to perpetrate those ills on the creatures that are hunted... particularly when hunting is performed in certain circumstances, such as in fenced enclosures.

Your friend's example is one that bears consideration... but I'll also tell you that ineptitude and its effects on the "victims" is hardly limited to the semi-domesticated farmed animals. There's a somewhat anthropomorphic assumption there that these animals somehow understand that they're supposed to be safe and protected in this enclosure (400 acres, I think you said), but I'd challenge that assumption. Those farm-raised animals are no less expectant or deserving of a quick, clean death than any creature of the wilderness. I'd also argue that most of the animals killed in that environment usually are killed more quickly and cleanly than those in less controlled, wild situations.

Like your friend, I've witnessed some pretty cruel kills. I don't want to diminish his experience, but some people are more affected by things that may not bother others.

I have seen, first hand, an animal held down while it's eyes were blinded by a harsh blow, then its ribcage was crushed. It continued to struggle pretty hard until its heart was punctured.

I have, several times, witnessed animals captured alive, then ripped open while still thrashing... their open mouths gasping and wide eyes staring as their entrails are pulled from the writhing body.

I watched on video as a group of hunters pursued a fleeing fawn, cutting the muscles and hamstrings on its rear legs, then waiting until the panicked deer succumbed to blood loss before moving in to begin rending it to meat while its head was still up.

Of course the hawk, the bobcat, and the coyotes probably aren't too worried about being particularly merciful or cruel. And it's a pretty safe bet that the quail, the jackrabbit, and the fawn never really had any expectation of a quick and merciful demise.

Maybe these examples seem irrelevant to you, as the wild predators are only doing what they do the best they can. You might argue that humans are different. Therein is probably the largest dichotomy between the animal rights/welfare proponents and hunters.

The former says, "animals deserve the same considerations we give to humans."

The latter says, "humans deserve the same considerations we give to animals."

A little simplified? Maybe. I'm happy to "delve into the equivalency argument" if that serves a constructive purpose, but I am not new to that discussion. So let's keep it equitable... You can't hold humans to one standard and animals to another, and in the same breath say that they should be treated equally. That's logically impossible. So if it's wrong for the human hunter to kill under what you may deem "unfair" circumstances, then it's equally wrong for the slaughterhouse to sling an animal up by the heel and slit its throat, and just as wrong for the coyote to rip apart a jackrabbit while it's still alive. By human standards, the coyote is actually the worst of the three since it is coldly merciless and will not be regulated by ethics or morals, and will just as gladly take that rabbit from a trap as catch it on the run. But of course we all know you can't hold a coyote to an arbitrary human construct like mercy, because that construct has no bearing or value in the wild animal's world. But likewise, those animals don't hold us to those constructs either. I realize that this line of thought opens a whole new rabbit hole in the discussion, but unlike Alice, I'll turn away for now. We can dive in later if you would like... but at least you'll know where I'm coming from.

Cruelty is the intentional infliction of pain and suffering. I can say from my experience with everyone from super-ethical, noble hunter types to the most insidious poachers (I've known many of both and more who fall in between), I have yet to meet any of them who find pleasure in inflicting pain or suffering on the animals they kill. They want the animal to die quickly, with the least possible trauma. There are legal practices which do increase the possibility of extending the pain and suffering of game by increasing the level of difficulty, but oddly enough, these practices are not generally included in the list of grievances produced by the anti-hunting argument. On the other hand, as I've mentioned before, practices that are often decried, such as high fence hunting and baiting, tend to increase the opportunity for clean kills... and by your measure, would actually indicate a far more humane way to kill game and thus, take the ethical high ground. But the fact is, no hunter wounds or injures game intentionally (beyond the necessary, fatal injury, of course).

The business of killing is by its very nature a messy, nasty thing. Even the best wild predators cripple and wound their prey sometimes. As humans, of course, we are driven by a moral sense to try to avoid crippling and wounding, but the reality is that it still sometimes happens. And death often does not come quickly, even in the best of conditions.

There is a cold practicality that every hunter must possess, and for good or bad, there's a large segment of the human population that doesn't have this perspective.

It is that practicality that most likely caused your hunter to "chit chat" on the radio while waiting for his animal to die. You don't go charging in on a downed animal, because if you push it there's a good likelihood that the animal will get up and run away. They have amazing reserves of strength when driven by adrenalin, so the accepted practice is to let the animal succumb to its wounds. If there's an opportunity to speed the process with a bullet or knife, many hunters will do so, but a downed animal often does not present a clean shot opportunity, so further shooting presents a risk of actually increasing the suffering of the animal rather than easing it. It requires an acceptance of the reality that sometimes the best thing is not the easiest thing. What you perceived as callous behavior was more likely nothing but patient acceptance of the wait while the animal expired, and the joy of a successful hunt.

But knowing this tidbit of fact and hunting practice is nowhere near as important for you to realize as the understanding that what you have witnessed in your life experience is nothing compared to what you have apparently NOT witnessed.

There are nearly 13 million hunters in this country right now. The reason you will never hear about or even notice the vast majority of these hunters is precisely because they're out there doing things according to the law, and practicing some level of personal ethics as well. This doesn't make news or draw attention. They'll come and go just like anything else in the woods without ever attracting the notice of passers-by.

As to your stated goals for being here, I find them perfectly valid. But I hope that after reading this and similar discussions (the readers and I have gone over a lot of this over on my own blog as well as here), you'll recognize that when it comes to modern sport hunters, the concept of "best" and the "idea of hunting" are purely subjective value statements. Your own ideal, for example, appears to be based on the solitary subsistence hunter you described earlier on. However, if that's the model you're hoping to find in the world of sport hunting, you're doomed to disappointment. True subsistence hunting barely exists in this country, and outside of some tribal reservations, is generally not a sustainable practice without violating the law. Sure, it's an honorable example of self-reliance and many subsistence hunters ascribe to a good code of ethics...take only what you need, clean kills mean clean meat, etc. But it's not realistic. Most hunters hunt because we want to... not because we have to.

You will find, or should have found, that while the discussion of the emotions that hunters associate with making a kill run from the quietly pragmatic to the extremes of hyperbole, there are very few sport hunters who honestly display a detachment from the reality that they are taking lives. Some may cover those emotions with humor and bluster, while others fall back on self-flagellation. Far more just don't talk about it. It's a personal thing, and an intellectual conflict that each hunter must resolve independently. But hunters accept that reality, deal with it, and then move on... or they quit hunting. It's not for everybody, especially not in this modern, urbanized world where the distance between natural cause and effect is growing exponentially wider.

As to caring what hunting is, and what it is about, simply witness the discussions about ethics, and the fragmentation of the hunting community over the different ideas of "right and wrong", e.g. fenced hunts, bait, crossbows, long-range shooting, etc. There's very obviously a strong feeling that there should be some moral standard... but of course very little global agreement as to what that standard should be. While I argue that a large part of this debate is hinged more on managing public opinion than the true "betterment" of our sport, there's no doubting that most hunters have a very firm idea of ethical behavior, of right and wrong, and most hunters actions are based on those ideals. They vary from person to person, but for the most part they're well within the key criteria as set out by Holly, and a similar list I've espoused in past rants. Holly's list focuses on following the laws and striving for a clean kill. My list goes one step further in that I suggest basing laws and regulations on a scientific basis, which in many cases calls for practices that many people don't like (e.g. baiting) to meet or maintain wildlife and habitat management goals.

This all sort of comes back to where we started... if you object to the kill, then how the kill is perpetrated is irrelevant. But if you object to the methods, then the challenge to you (or anyone) is to present a rational, non-emotional, argument against those methods. Why is it wrong, and how is it harmful? Because if your objection is nothing more substantial than a personal value, then it is equally irrelevant to anyone who doesn't share that point of view.

This is both the heart of and the problem with most of the ethical arguments within and without the hunting community... the tendency to want to manage other people's experiences based on nothing more sound than our own personal values.

hutchinson said...

Hi, Phillip --

As I believe you know (or it seems that way from what you wrote) I did not mean to reduce the full spectrum of your thoughts to two lines. It was more a pragmatic sense of space. I wanted to address a few points unrelated to your post and I knew I was already running into a hefty word load. My previous post bears that out.

At the same time, I wanted to acknowledge the valid points you made, even if in a cursory fashion. I did read, in full, your comments, and in my own head, did not simplify them to the extent that my answer would indicate.

You are obviously well-versed in the paradoxes associated with these arguments and have undoubtedly addressed them before. The flawed syllogism to which you refer is sometimes known as the "predation reductio" if I read you correctly. If you've read animal rights philosophers like Peter Singer who address, albeit imperfectly, these very complicated ethical questions, you'll recognize those threads of thought and the lack of consistent agreement they produce. So you're absolutely right in that assessment. Of course, I don't mean to diminish your own erudition by saying that your thoughts are derivative of anyone else's.

I'd like to address some of your points, but first, here I go again on a tangent -- related, I think. Holly recommended a book to me that after phoning several bookstores, I finally found today at a nearby independent bookshop -- A Hunter's Heart.

I read a number of essays from that book on my lunch hour and with full disclosure, did not read enough to make any sort of valid review of the book or the full breadth of perspectives.

That said, there was one essay which, if you've read the book will not surprise you in its utility for my purpose here. It's the piece by a hunter named Ann Causey and entitled "Is Hunting Ethical?" -- one I'm sure that resonates with other non-hunters who've read this tome.

Hers is but one point of view in a volume, that obviously contains strongly opposing viewpoints to hers. I chose her piece here because it most accurately represents how I could construe the issue personally.

I'm well aware of the danger in quoting out of context, so I would encourage anyone who hasn't read that essay to do so -- simply because it does address the points here in a way that is more illustrative than mine, owing to her background as a hunter.

With that disclaimer added, she ends the piece by saying that, in her mind, there is no final answer to the question "Is hunting ethical?" She, herself, acknowledges that. Prior to her conclusion, though, she cites an example that's relevant here -- yeah, because it's about our good friend Ted! :) She talks of a hunting video called "Down to Earth" (hey, here's our friend Ted again) and says about this:

" . . . a contemporary rock star and self-proclaimed 'whack master' and 'gutpile addict' exhorts his proteges to 'whack 'em, stack 'em' and 'pack 'em." After showing a rapid sequence of various animals being hit by his arrows, the 'master whacker' kneels and sarcastically asks for a 'moment of silence' while the viewer is treated to close-up, slow-motion replays of the hits, including sickening footage of some animals that clearly are gut shot or otherwise sloppily wounded."

Granted, I've seen that sarcasm in Ted comments that she alludes to, but I imagine some here will defend Ted by saying those comments are sincere and misconstrued by those of us who see them as less than authentic. I'm relaying how she, a hunter of one persuasion, happened to view the actions of a hunter of another persuasion.

And to this, she says: "As hunters, we toe a fine line between profundity and profanity and must accept this responsibility of condemning those practices and attitudes that trivialize, shame and desecrate all hunting. To inflict death without meaningful and significant purpose, to kill carelessly or casually, or to take a life without solemn gratitude is inconsistent with genuine reverence for life."

In the same book Ted Kerasote tackles these same considerations of ethics, calling out what he believes to be inaccuracies on the side of animal rights, but also shining a harsh light on those practices he feels shouldn't be denied and should, perhaps, be challenged by hunters who genuinely care about the heritage of their sport. One quote stands out:

"When the hunting community, believing that it can't lose any form of what it calls 'hunting,' refuses to denounce such activities as shooting live animals for target practice or for competition, its moral stature vanishes."

Keep in mind, Phillip, and everyone else here, that I could have just as easily quoted some more adamant and less apologetic pieces that would not have grappled with the same ethical dilemmas, or might have come to completely different conclusions. I used those quotes from hunters to suggest two things:

1) It's not just non-hunters who have objections to or reservations about the practices about which I began my comments here, and
2) To suggest there is, in fact, common ground on some of these most critical concepts if both sides can move toward an understanding of what constitutes cruelty versus necessity

I didn't address the points Phillip brought up earlier for, again, sake of time and space -- although they definitely occurred to me in my writing. The notion of holding ourselves to a higher standard but allowing the same behavior in animals in whom we accept or forgive the same behavior is a time-worn debate and I wasn't sure how deeply anyone wanted to delve into that.

I've pondered those questions many times myself. I agree that there are problematic inconsistencies with these discussions, as there are in all philosophical deliberations. It's the nature of philosophy and logic that the conversations tend to be circuitous without obvious fruition, given the very things you describe. Morality is an ascribed value, as you so accurately point out.

My stance, and I believe it's consistent with what I've presented so far, is that I, personally, feel I have a moral obligation to reduce my own harmful impact, and reduce suffering in as much as I encounter it and can effectively or wisely do something about it. By virtue of being a moral agent -- and by that, I mean one capable of making moral distinctions -- I find an imperative in that to choose in that morality, what I would deem the least harmful path which necessarily constitutes protecting those who suffer from unnecessary suffering -- humans and animals both.

Having been at the bedsides of many family and friends dying of cancer or other terminal illness, I would be a brute to suggest that the only "natural" course of events is non-intervention or allowing nature to take its course. And the same would hold true (for me) in the case of natural predation. Although I cannot know how sophisticated an animal's awareness of anything as humanly complex as morality might be, I have stepped in even in a cycle of natural predation, where the same standard of suffering would come to bear.

I don't begrudge a coyote a meal in as much as I do not begrudge you or any other hunter a meal of meat. But in so saying, yes, from my perspective, and in keeping with one who might want to abide by a natural predatory cycle, that necessarily precludes precludes the type of killing for sport and wanton pleasure that the above writers have singled out as devaluing one's validity as an agent in whose hands such conscious choices are to be made.

That is a highly controversial point of view. But I believe how I've acted with respect to suffering and prey and human victims in my life is consistent across the board. And as such, I don't see a contradiction between wanting to reduce suffering or unnecessary killing in the realm of hunting or human agriculture or any such endeavor that stands to produce a suffering that is not commensurate with the stated values.

Even the practices Phillip cites above are illustrations of that distinction. I don't kid myself into believing I or anyone can prevent suffering and pain in this world. But again, as I wrote earlier, I believe there are valid grounds to make a plea for exercising the most compassionate judgment possible. And in so doing, raising oneself to earn the level of moral dominion we humans like to ascribe to ourselves when "managing" the other species we feel we have the right to manage.

Thank you, Holly, for the space in which to hash out these important and, I hope, illuminating conversations. They have been for me. I hope others can say the same.

hutchinson said...

p.s. I will definitely take under advisement the comments made by Jesse about Tred Barta. I did not know this about him, and will have to reassess how I feel about those practices based on what I learn. I actually tried to do the same reassessment about Ted last night, but found repeated instances where his material seemed to bear out the things I've seen before. I don't know if I have enough of a stomach or hardened heart in order to give Ted anymore of my time or consideration.

NorCal Cazadora said...

As a journalist, I'd have to say that simplification was pretty good, with Phillip's correction. It certainly summed up how I feel.

If I had to sum up the rest of my feelings simply - which is what I must do, because I need to get some new tires and maybe pluck a pheasant before I head out to the duck blind today - this is how I'd do it:

After this discussion, I ...

1. ... still admire Tred Barta's quest for primitive hunting, though I am now more aware of his imperfections and the crap that goes on off camera (which goes on off-camera for pretty much any reality TV programming).

2. ... still respect Ted Nugent's sincerity and his very simple core beliefs about hunting because his values are unadorned by caveats and window dressing, and I still concede that he turns some people off, and I still would not silence him.

3. ... still will not condemn various methods of hunting because I think method is not the core issue on which people disagree, but understand that I should probably be even more active in encouraging more sensitive public expressions about what we do, and in helping non-hunters understand some of the stuff we do that looks awful if you're not familiar with the reasons for them.

4. ... have another idea for a really good post. But that'll have to wait.

I'll let y'all know when the paperback version of this thread comes out ;-)

And Hutch, thanks for your thoughtfulness. I LOVE a good discussion.

Phillip said...

Hutchinson, et al...

I'm on a common computer in a hospital waiting room right now (nothing of concern to those who might care), so my response will be relatively brief... a blessing to many, I'm sure.

There are some grounds on which we will never see eye to eye, but I agree that there are many points of view with which we will definitely find agreement.

First of all, you (and most people reading or participating in this conversation) are working without the benefit of having followed my own writing and discussion of most of these topics. It's been a running conversation and topic with me for well over 15 years. That absence of historical perspective sort of puts us both at a disadavantage, as you can't know where I'm coming from or how I got here... and there's WAY too much for me to begin to explain.

But, in short, I've spent a lot of time and years examining these very questions, and re-examining them again and again. I've had the discussions and debates from many different angles, and I've read fairly extensively from all camps... from Ted Nugent's overblown inanity (love his music, hate the rest)to James Swan, Ed Abbey, Pete Singer, Farley Mowatt, and even Cleveland Amory. There are more titles and authors than I could ever remember or list, and I'm continually adding to that body of work.

Between what I've read and what I've written, I have come to a conclusion very similar to what you saw in A Hunter's Heart... the question of "is hunting ethical" can never be satisfactorily answered. It's not a quantifiable question, which should explain my position on justifying hunting via ethical arguments. It's a bad course exactly because it's an argument that can't be proven.

Ethics is based in emotion. Right and Wrong, from an ethical point of view, relies totally on individual perceptions. Of course, if enough individuals share the point of view, then that ethic becomes a social more. But at its root, you can't argue an emotional stance precisely because there is no right or wrong answer. It's totally conditional.

With that in mind, either attacking or defending hunting as an "ethical" practice is a doomed exercise. It can't be "won" or "lost". My ethical standard may not jibe with yours, but that doesn't necessarily make either of us "wrong".

However, don't take my emphasis on removing the emotion from the hunting debate with an unwillingness to discuss these topics... or with an absence of emotion on my own part.

As mentioned, I take no issue whatsoever with the suggestion that we need to mitigate the suffering of animals where it's possible, nor does any hunter I know or have known. Some are more concerned on a personal level than others, and take additional measures to ensure that they kill cleanly and quickly. Some are "sloppier". It's regrettable, but it's a simple fact of human nature... whether the act is hunting or scrapbooking, some people are more scrupulous than others.

The prevention of cruelty is also important to these people, although the definition of cruelty starts to get pretty fluid and flows to extremes on both sides... this is a point of contention that may never be reconciled. (That doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss it, by the way.) I believe this is one of the key points where any discussion of animal welfare and hunting begins to diffract.

Cruelty is an exceedingly loaded term, and it's been used very successfully to banish valid hunting practices through nothing more than manipulation of public sentiment. The moment it enters a conversation, like this one, hunters become defensive... and I believe a part of the reason for that defensiveness is that we question ourselves on this topic regularly because we absolutely don't want to be cruel.

But the fact is, there are no legal hunting practices that fall outside most reasonable or legal definitions of animal cruelty. Cruelty to animals is, after all, against the law in every state, and in some cases on the federal level as well.

So that makes me want to know which legal hunting practices are objectionable on the basis that they are cruel and increase the suffering of the animals, and why those practices are perceived in that way.

It doesn't mean that I, or other hunters, will necessarily agree with that perception, but it would be enlightening, at least to me, to understand where individuals like Hutchinson are coming from.

That's enough for now.

By the way and on another note, I echo Hutchinson's sentiments regarding the value of these conversations. While my opinions may seem pretty adamant, they've evolved constantly over the years and are still being shaped by logical and intelligent discourse.

I also appreciate Holly's forebearance and her willingness to allow the discussion to go at this level.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Aw hell, Phillip, I'm glad to have you in the discussion - at any length. You've articulated many points that I haven't had the time, energy or intelligence to get to.

NorCal Cazadora said...

P.S. After just stumbling on a PETA forum where a child bemoaned the fact that his/her father hunts and the first response was, "If hunting is such good exercise, why are all the hunters I see so fat?" I REALLY appreciate the caliber of this discussion.

hutchinson said...

But the fact is, there are no legal hunting practices that fall outside most reasonable or legal definitions of animal cruelty. Cruelty to animals is, after all, against the law in every state, and in some cases on the federal level as well.

Well, I'd have to disagree with this point because for one, many farm animals fall outside the realm of the humane slaughter act, including rabbits and chickens. There are few, if any, such protections for "varmint" animals and "pest" animals, even if those same animals are physiologically similar to those who fall under the umbrella of protection. And there are varying degrees of what constitutes "cruelty" (legally) depending on species.

I don't believe that speaks to an inherent conflict over what's cruel, so much as political and business pressures toward what's expedient. As you know, Ag industries fight hard to preserve practices in farming for mammals and other animals, that people would deem incomprehensible and abjectly cruel for puppies.

This is also an issue to which you allude, of perception of what is cruel for which species, including us humans versus non-humans. My core belief is in, at basic, animal sentience. I do believe that an arrow or a bullet in an elk or a deer, feels to them, as physically painful as it would to us. And in recognizing that, I would ask that this pain be extinguished as quickly as possible. Using one example, Phillip's earlier statement about the hunter on the two-way radio perhaps executing the most humane death by letting the animal die slowly instead of inflicting another wound, may be historically practiced for the very reasons Phillip states. But to suggest that this was the most humane I believe is erroneous. The most humane would have then been to shoot the animal in the head, quickly ending its suffering. But how many hunters will do that? There is, I believe, still a great attention to the trophy head and in so much as there is, I don't think the "most" humane option will ever widely be practiced. I am smart enough to realize that's not the whole issue, but I do think it undermines the validity of the "most humane" point.

I also realize that even in a discussion like this, there is semantic distance between an academic debate on ethos and what could be construed as pathos which, it self, is impossible to ensnared in language or detachment -- for any of us.

I agree with Phillip and Holly in the seemingly immovable argument, based on the intangible nature of "ethics." I disagree with Phillip in that I think there are, in fact, more clear lines to be drawn in the area of cruelty, if one believes that an animal's physical body is not that different from our physical body in its capacity to feel pain and injury. But taking both Holly's and Phillip's points to heart about their own long-standing perspectives on this, I understand this is not a point I will "win" in any configuration of a debate or argument.

I have stated with hunters and with my non-hunting friends that so many of these points, sadly, do seem immovable. The place where I tend to have most agreement is with hunters who no longer hunt. And I understand that. They no longer have anything invested in the practice of hunting and, at least for PR and political reasons (I'll admit, it may not be truthful, I don't know), they will concede some points.

My final point on this would be the topic of concession. I do think it's important from both sides. As a non-hunter, you may not believe I make any in these philosophical stances. But I do. You have no idea how far it is from what I'd "want" the world to be like, to what I'm willing to concede the world may have to be. And that includes our discussions of "acceptable" practices here (realizing how subjective a term that is). I read some previous posts Holly pointed out, where Holly and some readers engaged other non-hunters and I saw quite a bit of concession on the non-hunter's part, in terms of wanting to understand more, read more, give just a little bit.

It sounds to me like in this discussion, some concessions were made to my point of view, as well. I obviously am not going to hear any outright "you're right, I'll rethink that" statements, although I have offered a few of my own in this regard. Not as much as anyone here would like, I realize.

One last thing Holly said, and I apologize Holly, you armed me with "A Hunter's Heart." :) And I don't have a Phillip on my side. (I concur with your agreement that discussions like these take a lot from a person.)

You made the point about showing more sensitivity to non-hunters in forms of expression. But I think that sort of skirts the issue of actually embracing more sensitivity to the heart of the issues, not just in how those same practices might be presented.

In the same essay I quoted above from Hunter's Heart (and yes, I know it's just one perspective) but it's relevant . . . from Ann Causey:

"What's needed, though, for truly ethical hunting to flourish is not just a change of appearance or vocabulary but a change of mind-set, a deepening of values. Hunters may be able to 'beat' antihunters, through a change of tactics, but to win the wrong war is no victory at all."

Again, all of the above is stated with the express understanding that you do not agree with me on this. And it's testament to the difficulty all of us hunters and non-hunters will continue to face in light of dramatically different views on morality and ethics -- in an over-populated world with shrinking habitat, and increased conflict over space, rights, food, water, and access to land.

I wish, frankly, I would not see those coming days, especially in terms of how it will undoubtedly affect our global forests, resources, our wild animals. I've spent a good part of my adult life working for the things you and I WOULD agree upon -- preservation of land, clean water, clean air, even awareness of population issues, human development, environmental and social justice constructs. I've had my hands (er, gloves) in the oil, remediating the damage, cleaning beaches and rescuing the affected from the ravages of oil and other pollution-oriented problems. And I wish I were more optimistic about how this will all play out in what remains of my lifetime.

That is, I suppose, the crux of my personal feeling on almost every issue from animal rights and cruelty, to environmental destruction, to this processed world and its attendant development. I don't see a way out unless these discussions occur, unless those on both sides can come to some understanding of what it's going to take for all of us, not only to survive, but to thrive in the coming decades on this planet. And by "all," yes, I do include non-humans.

I believe it's in some recognition of our planet’s simultaneous diversity and interdependence that will lead us to a more compassionate era of respect for ourselves and fellow inhabitants. Sadly, or perhaps hopefully, I happen to believe the destiny of human and animal kind are intimately intertwined. We, as a species, have done much to change and often upset the balance in our ecosphere, and have, for a very long time, held the power to issue a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” on the fate of all concerned.

Perhaps we can move toward a more synergistic interaction, along the lines of Jane Goodall’s and Dale Peterson’s Caliban. She concludes that the fate of both master (Prospero) and slave (Caliban) rests in the acknowledgment of this interdependence. “By enslaving Caliban,” they write, “we enslave ourselves. Only when we free Caliban will we free ourselves as well.”

(And that, I'm sure, starts an entirely new discussion no one here wants to broach.)

So with that, adios my friends. And good . . . uh, I mean "ethical" hunting to you all.

Phillip said...

I swear I'll try to keep this one brief, not because the discussion doesn't deserve all the time and words we have to give it, but simply because I need a chance to breathe and have a drink tonight. Tomorrow will be a day for family, and by Friday... well, folks will be moving on to new topics.

So to a couple of points, then on to the liquor cabinet.

First, I think we've hit the crux of the disconnect here:

This is also an issue to which you allude, of perception of what is cruel for which species, including us humans versus non-humans. My core belief is in, at basic, animal sentience. I do believe that an arrow or a bullet in an elk or a deer, feels to them, as physically painful as it would to us. And in recognizing that, I would ask that this pain be extinguished as quickly as possible. Using one example, Phillip's earlier statement about the hunter on the two-way radio perhaps executing the most humane death by letting the animal die slowly instead of inflicting another wound, may be historically practiced for the very reasons Phillip states. But to suggest that this was the most humane I believe is erroneous. The most humane would have then been to shoot the animal in the head, quickly ending its suffering. But how many hunters will do that? There is, I believe, still a great attention to the trophy head and in so much as there is, I don't think the "most" humane option will ever widely be practiced. I am smart enough to realize that's not the whole issue, but I do think it undermines the validity of the "most humane" point.

While there's a lot of debate about what an animal actually feels when it's shot, if being shot is painful, then there's no way around it... shooting an animal is causing pain, intentionally.

There is a persistent myth of the "instant kill", but the facts belie that idea. With very few exceptions, no animal dies instantly from even the best-placed shot. Massive brain trauma can provide the closest thing to instantaneous death, but brain shots are a controversial and generally ill-favored tactic. This is due to the small size of the brain as a target, and the high risk of really ugly wounds, such as broken jaws and shattered sinuses. Animals wounded like this seldom survive, but are able to escape even the best trackers, and may live for days or more before they die. In discussions of ethics among hunters, this is a hot button but you'll find a strong majority feel very strongly that head shots are unethical precisely because of that risk.

I wasn't the guy you heard on the radio, so I don't know the circumstances he was looking at, but I do know that most people choose not to shoot an animal in the head precisely for the reasons I've given above... it has little to do with damaging the trophy (although I'll freely admit that there are folks who would take that into consideration). The exception would be if the hunter were within a few feet of the animal... in which case a bullet behind the ear is certainly the most merciful action. A taxidermist can fix the damage easily enough.

One of the things that non-hunters appear not to understand is that a bullet or arrow is not laser-accurate, even in skilled hands. An animal is not a stationary target, and the field is not a manicured, measured firing line. Under hunting conditions, the number of factors working against precise shot placement are innumerable. Even the best marksmen often miss their mark by inches. As such, it's a widely accepted ethical rule to take shots that offer the highest odds of hitting vital organs and the lowest odds of a crippling wound. This is the reason for the heart/lung shot that is arguably the most common target.

Archery hunters, by the way, kill by hemmorrhage... by blood loss. The arrow cuts blood vessels, the animal bleeds out, and its system shuts down. Even so, a good hit in the heart/lung area can result in death in less than a minute. But complete honesty here, it usually takes a good bit more than that. An instantaneous kill is almost unheard of. Fortunately, a sharp broadhead cuts quickly as a razor and causes minimal pain. I've witnessed animals hit with broadheads that resumed feeding immediately as if nothing had happened. The reaction of most animals to the bowshot is from the sound of the bow, rather than the actual impact of the arrow. And no, this is not universal, but it is common.

Bottom line... hunters try to kill as quickly as possible, but we absolutely must accept the fact that sometimes it doesn't happen as quickly as we'd like. If the possibility of causing pain is unbearable to anyone, then that person will not be a hunter for long. Hunting absolutely requires a certain hardness of heart.

You can't eat it while it's still alive. And in order to kill it, you might have to hurt it. That's the reality of eating meat, whether from the field or from the farm.

Thank you, Hutchinson, for the excellent discourse. Great stuff to think about all around. I don't know that I've changed any of my positions as a result, but it certainly never hurts to take another look at the convictions I have.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, well thank God you said most of it for me, Phillip. Couple additional points:

* I can attest to the potential inefficacy of the brain shot, having watched, as a child, many domestic pigs require more than one shot to the head at point-blank range. The brain is a funny thing.

* I agree that some hunters will not fire a finishing shot into the head because of potential trophy damage. On the one occasion a big game animal required a finishing shot from me, though, I did shoot him in the head (and mercifully, it worked instantly).

* Regarding Phillip's explanation of not approaching the downed animal, I'd like to add that whereever the animal has dropped, the hunter may not actually be able to get close enough to take a finishing shot to the head without the animal bolting, or even charging the hunter. Every hunting safety reference I've read tells you to sit tight and let the animal die.

* I DO think that how hunters express themselves to non-hunters is important and relevant, and doesn't skirt the issue. Why? As Phillip says, we all want the quickest death possible, but how we talk about our kills may make it seem that we don't care about suffering. We do.

Finally, regarding my last comment this morning: All day long I wished I'd added that I've seen the same kind of idiocy on hunting forums that I spotted on a PETA forum this morning. Didn't mean to suggest that anti-hunters have a monopoly on the infantile arguments.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone - hope you're all with good friends and family, whether you're eating tofurkey or turducken.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

Holy cows! How did I miss this conversation? Thanks, Phillip, for linking to it from your blog.

I'm going to throw a couple of grenades and then probably step back (not something I usually do, but you all have invested a lot of time, thought, and emotion).

1. Ethics has been both harmed and helped by the scientific revolution, but the scientific conclusion requiring A+B=C logic, peer review, and reproducible results doesn't always fit ethics. To be ethical, we don't necessarily have to all do the same thing over and over again - there are grey areas. My point is that people are always trying to find the Unified Theory of Ethics, and when we don't, we conclude that ethics therefore aren't real. Neither of those may be the right answer. Where we find those virtuous attributes that humans most generally share, we should elevate and promote them. Science helps point them out, but so does emotion, instinct, and talk. All are helpful, but no single tool is the be-all-and-end-all of ethics. For example, here we are talking about the horror of causing pain, and about the finality and uncertainty and other slew of feelings around death.

2. Related to the examples, I'm now going to take the conversation over to huchinson's field, and point out that vegetarians and vegans are not innocent of causing pain or death in animals. Growing and harvesting food requires killing untold millions of creatures, as does growing and harvesting rubber, and the mining and drilling required for synthetic (pleather) products. I assume you use a vehicle to move around in the world, huchinson: Is your ease of travel worth the deaths of animals? You are using a computer, whose resources required the deaths of animals. Just because their deaths were unintended consequences doesn't make them more moral; in fact, some would argue that it makes them ethically worse than hunting. In terms of the pain and death caused, which is preferable: a Garden Burger or a bison steak? The Garden Burger requires the removal of thousands of acres of habitat for a few plants, killing pests, and the harvest itself, which indiscriminately kills mice, birds, snakes, etc. Raising a bison requires the return of native habitat, which in turn supports myriad individual animals. One buffalo dies, yet many are saved and restored.

I raise this point because we are all talking around the concept of what we ought or ought not to do, yet "ought" implies "can." We cannot but kill in this world; assuming that one can choose not to kill is illogical. Death is a tough, yet integral part of our lifecycles. Oftentimes, people hunt to provide for and take direct responsibility for the deaths that necessarily occur for our lives, to remember and understand what that sacrifice entails. That direct confrontation with death, the act of killing with purpose, brings the whole bag of vices and virtues with it, and so it is important to reflect upon them, and to work on and worry out those that we feel are a detriment or abomination to the human condition. But, since it's impossible to not kill in this world, it may be better to take part in it, to directly confront it, rather than allowing incidental deaths to go unnoticed, or to be carried out by someone else.

Albert A Rasch said...

And I still haven't printed this out yet.

The discussion is incredible!

Thanks and accolades to all who are participating, you give all of us a good name by the caliber and quality of the discussion.

We should do this more often...

For the record, I liked the Nuge back in the day when he rocked. I've seen a couple of episodes of his show, but generally speaking, I don't really like hunting shows. And to be perfectly honest, I don't like the way he looks, his presence. But that's my problem, not his!

Having said that, I appreciate what he does as a spokesman for outdoor sports. I don't have to necessarily like the individual, but I like what he does with kids, and for hunters.

As to Tred, I have never seen his show. But I have read his editorials on the back page of Offshore Angler (I think...) more than once. He was an in your face type of writer then. Again I didn't care for that kind of writing, and in several cases I didn't agree with his propositions. Be that as it may, I'm sure I'll know more-


Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Native said...

The last comment which I would like to add here would be (if anyone cares to read it).

The scientific data concerning animals vs. humans shows that, animals have considerably "less" nerve endings per square inch of skin than humans do.
This would explain why an animal can survive the elements (winter in particular) completely exposed, and we humans must construct shelters and retreat from winter storms.

Scientific data also shows that lack of B and B complex vitamins in the human diet brings (upon many other nasty disorders) Fatigue,Mood Swings,General Mental and Physical Deterioration,Extreme Flatulence and worst of all, Megalomania along with Paranoia!

Scientific data also shows that the B-complex vitamins can not be synthesized and must be derived from a meat or meat by-product source.

Adolph Hitler was a strict vegetarian and suffered from all of the above described maladies!

Not for me thank you !

Bobby Nations said...

Hello, sorry to join the conversation so late, but I've just found this blog recently. A most interesting blog (speaks well of our hostess) with a most interesting discussion thread (speaks well of the hostees). That being said, I'd like to address one thing that Hutchinson said if I may.

The most humane would have then been to shoot the animal in the head, quickly ending its suffering.

Neither of the two clauses of that sentence are necessarily true at all, but the reasons for that won't be obvious to someone unless they have actually tried to shoot an animal in the head, which I'm assuming that you have never done, Hutchison. Don't be so quick to assume that folks refrain from trying to put the animal out of it's misery by shooting it in the head are doing so because they don't want to spoil their trophy.

As a matter of practical fact, it's quite difficult to shoot an animal in the head from any distance other than point blank range for the simple reason that the target is so small. The target being not the head itself but rather the often relatively tiny brain because in order to guarantee a quick death, you really need to hit the brain. And that requires the ability to place your shot within a circle of a few inches diameter at most. Don't forget that the this small target will probably be superimposed upon a moving target. Frankly, this is not something that most folks are capable of doing even if their guns were, which many are not.

As Phillip and Holly have already pointed out, it's generally not a good idea to approach a wounded animal for safety reasons (as Randy Goodman found out recently) as well as for not wanting to spook them into running and thus prolonging their suffering. So, point blank range is generally not going to be an option.

It's common to think that a head shot is instantly fatal, and on small animals that is a reasonable working assumption because the hydrostatic shock alone will probably kill them even if the bullet misses the brain itself. On larger animals, though, that's not necessarily the case at all as they're just generally a lot tougher. So, it's probably reasonable to assume that you'll miss the brain and instead inflict a ghastly wound to their eyes, jaw, neck muscle, etc. which will only inflict greater suffering. Even at point blank range, this could happen as the exact location of the brainpan is species specific, so unless you've studied before hand, you're liable to just miss from ignorance even if your shooting skills are perfect.

So, to wrap this up, you might have been dealing with one of those practical oddities whereby the best, safest, most humane thing to do was to stay back and let the animal die. In summary, head shots aren't very practical.