Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From NRA to NPR in less than a year

When my friend Logan in Minneapolis was listening to National Public Radio this morning, he heard the announcer promote an upcoming story on women hunting and thought to himself, "They should have talked to Holly Heyser about that."

Well, it turns out they did! Read more...
Idaho reporter Doug Nadvornick called me last week because he'd seen my obsessive writing about the numbers of women in hunting and asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed for a piece he was working on.

"I'd be happy to," I told him, and that was that. The story came out great - you can either read it or listen to it here. I'm quoted about the increasing number of girls hunting, which you can read more about here in a previous blog post.

For those who've come to this blog because of the NPR piece, welcome! Feel free to look around and comment if the spirit moves you. We actually have a lot of great discussions here between thoughtful hunters and non-hunters.

And for those among my hunter brethren who disparage NPR as a bastion of liberal anti-gunners and anti-hunters, please check out this story and take note that it was completely judgment-free.

It does make me giggle just a little bit, though, that I've been interviewed by both NRA radio and NPR in the space of one year. Now that's reach.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


41 comments:

Neva said...

I'm one of those liberal NPR listeners, and, as I noted in another comment, I am learning to hunt. We all have the opportunity to surprise -- and delight! -- one another while we're on this planet.

NorCal Cazadora said...

LOL. I'm a raging centrist and I've been listening to NPR for years. If you look around here, you'll see that I write from time to time about the need for hunters to come from a broad political spectrum - I think it's a mistake to cast our lot with one party or the other.

Anonymous said...

You woman all disgust me. The fact that you kill innocent, beautiful animals is wrong on so many levels. As a veteranarian, I know what is going on, and it is NOT over poulation like hunters say. Our ecosystem is in big trouble. These animals are disappearing at an alarming rate,and will be extinct before we know it. The woods are their homes, not ours. I cant wrap my mind around the fact that someone can kill a living, feeling being and just watch them suffer and die.How is that a sport? Its not. It is cruelty to animals. Ever think that they may be leaving behind a baby or mate? Studies show that deer actually dont eat for days after loosing a loved one. They are apart of our earth too. We do not have dominion over them. I urge you to educate yourseves further on this topic. Wake up and realize what is happening to our planet. If you continue doing this, your children will not have this earth to enjoy.Stop being so close minded and stubborn. You are harming not only our earth, but killing beautiful, innocent animals who do not deserve to be killed.

Meredith G, DVM

NorCal Cazadora said...

Meredith, I'm going to trust that you know more about veterinary care than I do, but I can say with great confidence that you do NOT know more about hunting.

First of all, the animals we hunt are not "disappearing at an alarming rate." Modern hunting regulations dictate that when a species' population drops too low, we give it a break from hunting.

In reality, hunting has been responsible for a massive increase in many species' populations because hunters are dedicated conservationists who preserve and restore habitat. The habitat we fund and maintain supports non-game species as well as the animals we hunt. So when you see wildlife enjoying its habitat, thank a hunter.

The real enemy of wildlife is habitat loss - houses and strip malls built for people just like me and you. Have you spent any of your veterinarian's salary to combat habitat loss? I spend a ton of my teacher's salary helping conservation organizations.

You also completely misunderstand why we hunt. To suggest we hunt just to "watch them suffer and die" is naive at best - nothing more than an attempt to vilify and dehumanize us. We hunt to reconnect with our true nature as omnivores. We hunt for meat. We hunt for foot that's not tainted with hormones and antibiotics and raised in extraordinarily cruel conditions. I don't know one single hunter who gets off on an animal's suffering; we all strive for the quickest, cleanest kill possible.

Finally, "You all disgust me" isn't really the best opening line for the kind of civilized discourse we like to have here, but I'm guessing you just came here to vent, not to learn anything about what we do. Your loss.

SimplyOutdoors said...

Congrats Holly. You definitely have reached a huge milestone by getting interviewed by both of those organizations in less than a year.

And I loved the response to the anti. It was very informative, to the point, and right!

HENHOUSE POTTERY said...

Holly, thank you for all you do for women hunters and for your caring and thoughtful reply to Meredith.

Josh said...

Yea, Holly! My favorite radio, so I'm always getting it from both ends. Although, I do remember some great Garrison Keillor about deer season in Minnesota; he treats it well.

As for the "veterinarian", I'm glad they spelled it right.

native said...

I am really enjoying watching you come into your (well deserved) own Ms. Holly Go Lightly!

When you have individuals like Merideth the Veterinarian writing in with such a disparaging tone, You know that you now have "Reach".
And that you have also hit a nerve or two in doing so.

You do handle it with such elegance and grace!

Congratulation's are quite in order here, and a great big: HOO-YA!

Anonymous said...

Nor cal,

I appreciate your side of the story. I am a vegan so I dont believe in using animals for anything including food, but I agree with one thing you said, that is all the hormones in store bought meat, and the cruel conditions of factory farms. My husband is a meat eater (I know) and he purchases all his meat from local farms where the animals are not pumped with drugs and they are killed humanely. I just love animals so much that I get very upset over the whole topic, and yes I do spend my salary on donating to some conservation orginizations. I also volunteer at a wildlife animal sanctuary where we treat injured animals and release them into the wild. In doing this I have had very close contact with deer, rabbits, foxes, and so on that I could never dream of killing them. I am a vet after all.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, I live in Boston and I grew up in NYC, so I was never exposed to hunting. No matter what anyone tells me, my opinion on it will never change. I do appreciate the way you answered me though.
And to the one person who commented on my spelling of my own profession, I type fast, and I dont spell check my comments!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Meredith, I'm glad to hear you're a vegan - I believe that gives you moral consistency. I cannot abide by meat eaters who criticize me for getting my meat differently.

I wouldn't expect to change your mind about the issue, and I respect that you've made thoughtful choices in your life. But I do hope you at least come away understanding that we don't do this out of sadism. In fact, if you look around this blog - and you don't have to look far - you'll find that most of us love and respect animals. It's counterintuitive, I know, but it's true.

Shannon said...

I often listen to NPR, but always in the afternoon or evening. Today, happened to be the exception and I'm so glad I flipped the radio on during breakfast. It was a pleasant surprise hearing you on the interview! I'm so glad NPR did a nice, non-biased report about women hunters.

Gina Spadafori said...

I know it's s shock -- since everyone is exactly who they say they are on Teh Interwebs, right? -- but I tedn to doubt Meredith is a veterinarian.

I know am awful lot of veterinarians, even a few of a more animal-rights bent, and I have yet to meet one who writes with such a simplistic world view. See, all those years of science-based education do leave you with a pretty decent idea of biology. And that includes a pretty realitic view of the world that's not so anthropomorphic as what Meredith offers.

Just a guess. Anyway, Holly, interesting piece on NPR this morning.

Phillip said...

More exposure for the NorCal Cazadora! Nice work, Holly!

As to Meredith's challenge, you offered all tha answer necessary and thank you for doing so. There's much, much more there than I even want to start in on. She's got an innocent, naive view of nature that is so disconnected from the reality that it's almost sad.

To the Merediths of the world, we're really not here to recruit you. We only want to challenge the misconceptions and flat out untruths that so many of you have bought into (e.g. the idea that hunters are somehow eradicating species).

Gretchen Steele said...

I'm a lifetime NPR listener and a lifetime hunter..The two can go hand in hand! I am thrilled that you were featured on NPR and even more thrilled the word and the message is spreading that indeed women do hunt! I grew up on a farm, living a very rural lifestyle, which I have continued. In most cases the hunting, trapping, fishing and wild foraging that we did when I was growing up, and that I still do now has an economic impact for me. My freezers and cabinets are filled versus heading off to the nearest grocery store. We appreciate our food much more given the labor of love that has gone into finding and preparing it.
There is nothing sadistic in my hunting, fishing, or trapping. I always take the time to offer a blessing and thanks to the animal that gave it's life for me to eat, I always stand a moment or two in awe of the animal.
Some folks will remain anti hunting, and that's okay - differences are what make the world an interesting place.
Once again my congrats to you on your debut on NPR!
and yes Garrison Kiellor has some hilarious wildlife and hunting pieces!

Hil said...

Meredith,
I'd be interested in seeing those studies that "show" a deer grieves by not eating for several days after losing a mate. In my years in this industry every bit of information I've come across confirms that deer breeding is a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, on-to-the-next-gal, one-night-stand operation. They don't fall in love with a mate and stay with them for life. Heck even Bambi's dad didn't hang around with Bambi's mom.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I'd actually be interested in seeing those studies too - particularly if their peer-reviewed and not just PETA propaganda.

In my experience, animal reaction to a fellow being killed varies. I've seen ducks circle downed mates briefly before moving on. Pigs don't care at all. Corsican sheep will come look for a moment, then move on. I've never seen any animal become as incapacitated as a human does at the loss of a loved one. Of course, I don't know what's going on in their brains. But neither does anyone else.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I must add, though, that I do not justify killing animals by suggesting that they are not greatly affected by the deaths of peers. I kill animals because I eat meat, and because doing so is how most humans and many other members of the animal kingdom live. This is simply the cycle of life.

Albert A Rasch said...

Holly Go Lightly!

I love it!

Your well reasoned response was such that I see no one but DVM Meredith has challenged you. Nicely done HGL, nicely done.

All the best!
Albert
Why I Carry a Gun
Real Men (and Girls Too!) Hunt

Blessed said...

Another long-time NPR listener here too. So glad they did a good story about hunting!You are an excellent voice for the hunting community Holly, thank you.

Josh said...

I don't believe that being vegan provides moral consistency. I do understand not wanting to cause death or unnecessary pain, but to pretend that by becoming vegan one removes oneself from it is not true.

"Ought" implies "can." One cannot remove oneself from causing death for sustenance. In that light, the moral imperative seems to move away from causing death as the thing to avoid. From there, it gets fuzzy, but pretending you don't kill by being vegan is just wrong.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, you know I recognize that Josh. But it's far more moral consistency than the meat eaters who criticize us for intentionally taking lives when they let someone else intentionally take lives on their behalf and declare themselves to be more pure of heart.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hey Holly! It was great meeting you in SF. And I've gotta tell you that never in my wildest dreams could I envision myself hunting. But after talking with you, I'd consider it. Maybe. If I could get over my fear of firearm. And animals. And insects.

Seriously though, your enthusiasm is contagious. I'm so happy that you were featured on NPR. You're a great spokesperson.

Galen Geer said...

Holly, you are doing a great job for women in hunting. I'm looking forward to you coming out to hunt with me. glg

NorCal Cazadora said...

Susan, my friend Hellen absolutely hates insects, mud and dirty hands, but now she's a duck hunter, so you never know...

Galen, me too! We just have to figure out when. And how. Today is my first furloughed paycheck.

Chad Love said...

Congratulations!

You know, I've always been a big fan of NPR and I've never quite understood why so many hunters give the 'ol kneejerk when NPR is mentioned.

Maybe it's because I (and I'm assuming you as well, Holly) come from a straight daily journalism background and don't automatically mistake objectivity with bias, but I've always been fairly impressed with how hunters and hunting have ben presented on NPR.

I think a lot of hunters assume that if it's not the sort of explicit hook-and-bullet cheerleading they're used to in the outdoors press then it's bad press.

As for me, I'm quite happy with the kind of evenhanded reporting in the story as well as the excellent representation you as a hunter give us.

Congrats again!

hutch said...

"In my experience, animal reaction to a fellow being killed varies. I've seen ducks circle downed mates briefly before moving on. Pigs don't care at all. Corsican sheep will come look for a moment, then move on. I've never seen any animal become as incapacitated as a human does at the loss of a loved one."

I have to pipe in here. I know you're careful to say later that you don't justify the killing of animals by suggesting they don't grieve as we do. But the above statements just can't be verified scientifically, either.

You don't know that pigs don't care. In fact, I often say to hunters that what you see in the aftermath of the hunt varies dramatically from what we see when we're working with animals in the field or in a rehab or sanctuary situation.

A hunting zone is, in effect, a war zone for animals. It alters behavior dramatically. Accurate assessments of an animal's grieving capacity (or any other behavioral mode) are impossible when that animal is placed in a fight or flight situation. Put a human in the same situation (as in war, something my family is very familiar with) and I guarantee you, you will not see the full expanse of emotion and despair expressed in that moment. Having been in many waterfowl hunting areas, I simply can't imagine how a duck could do anything BUT move on from its mate in those stressful circumstances. You don't see the full picture.

In as much as we can't know what is inside an animal's brain (as you suggest), we can make some assessments in the same way we do about the behavior of others who do not share our language. Those of us who have worked with animals for years see behaviors that so closely emulate our own emotions -- including prolonged grief.

The tragic part about animal emotions and science is that it's near impossible to verify identical or similar experience without the capacity to share that emotion in some way that translates (for us humans) into verbal. So as long as animal communication systems vary from ours, people will use these types of explanations to rationalize exploitation. It's a Catch-22 for animals: We need a language to explore their own language and emotions. But absent that language, we can make up any number explanations for what we see.

I believe we should err on the side of assuming they possess more capacity than we tend to give them. Hunters should be the first to acknowledge this, given that a common explanation of hunting tends to be that "we are all animals," part of the natural cycle of life and death. Seems tenuous to have it both ways.

By the way, I have personally experienced what I would deem prolonged grief in a number of species. Some waterfowl mate for life and go through intense despair after being separated from mate and families. Cranes have been known to stand for days by their injured mates, with their young. Elephants recognize and celebrate (and grieve) family members from whom they've been separated for decades. The examples go on and on.

As I say, it's unfair and inaccurate to make those judgments based on what you see in the aftermath of a high-stress situation. Live with them and work with them, and see how your assessment might change. You have cats. I had a cat grieve the loss of his brother for almost a year. Some cats don't get along and don't grieve the absence. But some do.

My cat would go to every corner of the house where his brother used to sleep and cry out. Sure, anyone could suggest it was "instinct" or find some other way to explain away his angst. But knowing my cat as I did, and seeing that change in him, the level of depression that never fully went away, the only way I could sanely explain it was to attribute it to grief. Whether he felt exactly the same way I did was immaterial. He was experiencing his own form of genuine loss.

NorCal Cazadora said...

But the above statements just can't be verified scientifically, either.

Hutch, with the exception of what I said about pigs, I have to disagree with you. What I wrote was my observation - I wrote about the reactions I had seen, and indicated very clearly that I don't know what goes on in animals' heads.

I should have been more graphic about pigs and indicated that I have seen them feast on each other's blood, but I chose to say simply they don't care. But yes, they're voracious little cannibals, given the opportunity. Perhaps that's just how they grieve.

I don't doubt for a second that animals miss close companions. I just don't believe the potential to miss a companion inoculates anyone from the reality that we can all become prey, or die of illness, starvation or old age. Death is an inevitable part of life.

And I know this won't surprise you, Hutch, but I don't equate eating with exploitation, not in the commonly understood sence of the word, like exploiting children or women. Eating is just eating.

Phillip said...

Gonna add my own two cents, regarding Hutch's comment that the hunting zone is "essentially a war zone" to the animals. With the possible exception of bird hunting and game drives, this is a gross misrepresentation of reality.

In the majority of big game hunts, the "hunting zone" is simply habitat and business as usual for the animals in it. Sure, they're ever vigilant for predators, but that's a natural state (it's a state of existence that humans would do well to emulate a little more closely... but that's another topic).

When a hunter fires a shot or two, the animals are often startled by the noise, but often have no idea what caused it. They will generally flee, but are often right back to feeding or loafing within minutes.

In the case of a clean kill (even at relatively close range), I've seen many animals in the same herd mill around without a clue what just happened. For all they know, it was a bolt of lightning. If the hunter will wait a moment before rushing in, the animals will generally move on calmly, leaving their dead behind.

I do believe that non-human animals probably have more complex relationships than some humans give them credit for, but I caution against getting carried away with anthropomorphism... including this fixation about animals that "mate for life". Life is hard, particularly for a prey animal, but it does go on. Nature provides for that, and animals will find another mate... often in the same season.

I wouldn't say hunters are necessarily insensate to the little "tragedies" that may play out in the course of a hunt, but we recognize this as a fact of life. Everything dies, whether we kill it or it dies of old age.

One last thing. In the case of animal rehab, what you're going to see there is NOT natural behavior, as the animals are sick or injured and (most importantly) they are being handled by other animals that they see as predators. They may come to recognize that you are not a threat, and may even accept you as a safe element of the environment, but the behavior you witness there is not natural.

Anonymous said...

Hutch said:
"A hunting zone is, in effect, a war zone for animals. It alters behavior dramatically. Accurate assessments of an animal's grieving capacity (or any other behavioral mode) are impossible when that animal is placed in a fight or flight situation. Put a human in the same situation (as in war, something my family is very familiar with) and I guarantee you, you will not see the full expanse of emotion and despair expressed in that moment. Having been in many waterfowl hunting areas, I simply can't imagine how a duck could do anything BUT move on from its mate in those stressful circumstances. You don't see the full picture."

No, I don't see the full picture. It is likely I never will. The last time I went hunting, I watched a hawk try to attack a covey of quail in a chamise bush. I am convinced that the noises the quail made were functionally swear words directed at the hawk. I rooted for both the hunter and the hunted.
You and I know that if the hawk were successful, that she would have perforated the little quail with her talons and torn it to pieces at first opportunity. Are the quail happy/relieved because they didn't get eaten? I don't know.

To hunt is in my gut and soul. It is part of the definition of what I am. This cannot be "reeducated" away. It would kill me. I hope that is not what you are saying that you want.
Although I do not know you, I respect you Hutch, but I must be what I am.

Jean

jigdog said...

Holly it is geat to see all your posts on hunting and politics. I have been hunting for a long time and really love it more every year. I am a conservative and saw your charts on political leanings very interesting. The animals were put hear by God for us to enjoy and to and use for our needs,that doesn't give us the right to abuse or mistreat or disrespect them in anyway or kill them in a way that will cause them unessacary suffering.If they were not made to eat they would not be made of meet and we would not be able use their hides and horns for so much. I would love to corespond with you about politics.

hutch said...

When a hunter fires a shot or two, the animals are often startled by the noise, but often have no idea what caused it.

I agree that it depends on the scenario and my comment was too much of a generalization. But public waterfowl hunting areas have been among the most disturbing I've seen. The shooting is non-stop in some cases. I spend a lot of time in these areas and it's my most relevant experience as a [reluctant] observer.

In the case of a clean kill (even at relatively close range), I've seen many animals in the same herd mill around without a clue what just happened.

I know there have also been situations with trained rangers who use silencers and who do not approach the animals, as you suggest. This is not the norm of what I've seen, but I have a limited vision of hunting, just as you only see the more respectable hunters you hunt around.

I do believe that non-human animals probably have more complex relationships than some humans give them credit for, but I caution against getting carried away with anthropomorphism... including this fixation about animals that "mate for life".

And I caution anyone who uses animals for sport or for food or for any other utilitarian purpose, to diminish the animals' complexity. Because, as Holly suggests, we don't know what lies in an animal's consciousness. We can't say one way or the other. And I think it's a far more harmful paradigm to suggest that an animal doesn't feel these things because it opens living things up to all manner of exploitation.

The term "anthropomorphism" has been used for a very long time to justify our usage of non-human beings, and to diminish valid questions many people have had over denigrating an animal's sentient and intellectual capacity. Some animals do mate for life -- or carry on in long-term, monogamous relationships. Marine mammals such as dolphins have exhibited tremendous stress over the loss of family members (in the wild, not in an artificial rehab situation).

Life is hard, particularly for a prey animal, but it does go on. Nature provides for that, and animals will find another mate... often in the same season.

Phillip, you and I have had many great discussions here, but we do part ways on this. Humans often find mates quickly after losing a spouse. But we don't reduce their loss or grief in the same way. I'm not saying we are the same as a deer as a duck as a turkey. I'm not saying they feel exactly as we do, or experience the same levels of any emotion.

But I do believe we share so many commonalities, it's not preposterous to assume they can share some of our emotional qualities as well. Again, the trouble is we don't know, we can't ask them. And I think we do them a grand injustice by stripping them of these capacities.

we recognize this as a fact of life. Everything dies, whether we kill it or it dies of old age.

Then riddle me this: why is it when humans experience the loss of a fellow human, that loss isn't treated in the same matter-of-fact, "oh it's just nature" way? I maintain that there's an element of hypocrisy to that rationale. And in as much as people say they're just killing to be a part of nature, as part of their natural state, then it should hold true that they see their own life and death in a similar fashion. But there's definitely a double standard.

One last thing. In the case of animal rehab, what you're going to see there is NOT natural behavior

This is absolutely true. When I've worked with wildlife it's with the care and knowledge that they see us as predators (with the exception of some species). You limit contact and do everything you can to minimize stress, but it's impossible to do so completely. You do see behaviors and emotions in those settings that most people will never see. That fear you describe -- of being handled by a predator -- is one of the things which produces the greatest empathy. You see how much they feel, how stressed they are. It's heartbreaking if you allow yourself to feel these things.

NorCal Cazadora said...

You know, one of the things I don't understand about waterfowl is how they behave in the war zone you describe.

On the refuges I hunt, there are vast areas closed to hunting, and only a limited area where we can shoot at ducks. The ducks know exactly where the lines are - they flock to the closed zones, and they often start flying toward the hunt areas, only to make a u-turn at the line.

Yet some of them cross that line anyway and enter into the war zone, even when guns are blazing. They're not trapped there, and they're not forced to go there; they go there willingly.

Every winter I marvel at the fact that we're lucky enough to get any ducks, given how wary they are of hunt areas.

Josh said...

Hutch, I don't belittle your experiences and understanding of the animals you've helped. However, I do have an issue with one comment, regarding a double standard.

There is no double standard here. There are two standards for two different groups, humans and non-humans. It is the same for the concept of animal rights. I should not expect a mountain lion to agree to a certain set of social principles with me, and, if it were to see me in the wild with a broken leg, to not eat me, but call 911. Of course, this is a silly suggestion for a mountain lion. Much less would I expect the mountain lion to pass up a mule deer, or a mule deer, if it can, to not kill a mountain lion.

Phillip said...

Hutch, you're still laboring under the misapprehension that hunters somehow close our hearts to pathos when we're hunting. We don't. Most of us take it pretty seriously, although I'll agree that just how seriously depends a lot on the type of game... the bigger the animal, the more likely we are to feel stronger emotion about the decision to kill it. Small animals, birds, fish, or pests don't generally get as much consideration.

Of course the same can be said for almost any human. Not many people feel any concern for the ant on the sidewalk, or the butterflies splattered on the hood of a car... but show them big, dark eyes and soft, pretty fur and there's a sudden rush of anthropomorphic empathy. It's just how we are and hunters are no different.

And I totally get what you're saying about the creatures that mate for life, and the likelihood that they feel the loss in some strong way. I don't deny it. But that simply doesn't hold water as a reason not to prey on them for the same reason I don't think it's "wrong" for a mountain lion to kill a young mother of three. I'm not gonna go down some existentialist road right now, but really... isn't that sort of the natural role of a prey animal? To be preyed upon?

I know people die every minute, and every death is a tragedy to the people who loved them. But honestly, what does it mean to me if I didn't know them? What does it mean to you? So aren't we all actually kind of cavalier when it comes to humans dying?

Really, human death is no different from the death of any other animal... the difference in how we react really is simply determined by how closely we relate to the dead (and, of course, how well we knew them). A dead human hits most of us harder than a dead mallard because we recognize ourselves in the dead. It's pretty selfish, when you think about it, but it makes pretty good sense at a psychological level. We should feel protective of our own species, of ourselves. That's the "herd". Those that want to eat us, and those we want to eat... those are the "other". It's not a double standard, as Josh points out, it's a different standard.

And finally, I can't argue with the small handful of people who claim to feel as deeply about non-human animals as they do about our own species. Maybe they really do feel that way. I suppose it's possible.

Of course, I can't help sometimes thinking that maybe it's a rhetorical utility for the sake of gaining some kind of upper ground in the argument... but hey, I can't be in their heads to know the truth.

That's a good thing to realize sometimes.

hutch said...

Hi, Phillip --

Good of you to respond. I have always appreciated your takes in this forum.

You said: Really, human death is no different from the death of any other animal... the difference in how we react really is simply determined by how closely we relate to the dead (and, of course, how well we knew them).

I agree. I just don't think many other humans do. Our species is very quick to apply a double standard to non-human animals. A mountain lion kills a hiker and we seek to eradicate the lion for what you could easily construe as a natural act. But kill a mountain lion and that seems justified. These double standards exist across the board. How many hunters, when kicked by an un-dead deer or perhaps even killed in the field (doesn't happen too often) will as easily abide by and simply accept those acts as the "natural order" of things?

I just don't buy it. I don't see humans behaving that way often. How many people are as crazy as me to have a living will that stipulates, should I be killed in the field by an animal, no harm must come to that animal? :) Yep, there are those of us who, although we'd fight for our lives as any other living being, don't feel we should give ourselves any special perks if we aren't willing to extend them to other species.

I had this very discussion the other night with a professor I know who's in the conservation department at a local university. We were both on the side of believing that we disregard non-human needs on their own merits far too often. We see non-humans in the context of how they "serve" us, not according to how they function in their own social constructs.

That's why I'm beyond reticent to strip non-human animals of their inherent right to own some of the same characteristics and feelings we do. And different ones as well. But the point is, not to diminish the intelligence and sentience that I'm convinced far exceeds what we know about them scientifically. I think we will be ashamed in centuries to come (provided the earth lasts that long) that we treated animals the way we have for so long.

When we view them through the narrow scope of our own judgment, we almost always harm them by reducing them to objects -- which never leads to good things for the animals.

I admit I'm in that "handful" of people who have grieved as much for a non-humans as I have for humans I've lost. There are people who understand this concept, and those who don't. I've experienced great empathy from those who have shared my feelings, and also great derision from those who haven't.

It's also why I need to move away from this blog and any other hunting topics in a few weeks because the upcoming seasons of elk, deer, ducks and others are becoming so wretchedly painful to witness as I get older. Before I began working with wild animals (years ago now), I had much less attachment to hunting, even though I didn't like it all that much. But working with wildlife issues -- and seeing how much stress we create continuously in their environments -- tends to produce strong feelings akin to the grief I have felt for animals who have been close to me.

It's not so much grief for the individual, although I do experience that when I come upon any animal that's been hurt or abused or killed. But it's more a generalized sadness for what we humans have created on this planet -- and the multitude of ways we continue to exploit those we deem so different from ourselves -- who may or may not be but who, I believe, deserve some reprieve from the horrors we've inflicted over the centuries.

There are so many assaults against animals from humans, my greatest wish is that we could at least eliminate the deliberate actions of harm . But since that's not to be, people like me are left in permanent conflict, not wanting to hate or live with abject anger toward those who see life differently -- but also never being able to fully resolve how we, as a species can do what we do. And still retain a belief in any semblance of "goodness" when it comes to humans and their view of non-humans.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Funny thing, Hutch, is that you and I see animals in a very similar light. Some people might call it anthropomorphism, but for me it's an acknowledgment that we're really animals too - not always a popular sentiment in hunting circles.

Our difference? I just want to share the rights conferred upon animals: the right to kill to eat. You just want to extend to animals the rights humans have conferred upon ourselves: the right not to be slain.

And yes, you may need to stay away from this blog during this season - Phillip and I are going deer hunting together this weekend. Please take heart, though, in the fact that 1) success rates for deer hunting are low in California and 2) I work very, very hard to take clean shots that minimize or eliminate suffering. Success is never guaranteed, but I do not take careless hail Mary shots that have a high likelihood of producing an animal that would need (and be lucky to have) your care.

And thanks, as always, for being such a civil partner in this discussion. There are lots of trogs out there on both sides of the debate. I never take for granted that we see so few of them here.

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hutch said...

Thanks for the kind comments and also for your generous and civil turns, Holly. No matter how it's construed, I'm afraid I will always have difficulty with hunting season. I had to be out near opening day of deer hunting season -- in non-hunting areas. But no matter where I went, I could hear distant gunshots everywhere. That is so very hard. I almost can't stand the sound of a gun anymore in the wild. I feel like my heart is sinking into my feet. I work with quite a few people who've developed the same visceral reaction.

I had my camera and telephoto lens -- my always trusty companion. I happened to see a buck not too far away. I live by a pretty stringent set of wildlife photography ethics. That is, as one biologist friend of mine suggests, if you're close enough to alter their behavior, you're too close. I believe even photographers and observers can be intrusive in the natural world and owe the wildlife much more distance and respect than many offer.

With respect to the buck, he didn't run from me. He was far too habituated in the context of shots ringing all around. I didn't even have the heart to snap his photo, I didn't want him to think this human was safe or okay. We had a moment of connection which I always treasure -- I cherish the trust an animal will sometimes put in me, even when by all rights, they shouldn't trust any of us.

I watched him amble into the wood, and then, I'm not ashamed to admit, I shed a few tears. Because I knew that with his gentle disposition and trusting demeanor, he would probably soon be fair game in this dangerous terrain.

I wish that your "clean shots" were enough to assuage the broken hearts among those of us who genuinely feel distress this time of year. I respect your ethics, Holly, I genuinely do. It's just that I can never get to that place of disconnect that allows me to fully grasp, understand or embrace the idea of hunting and killing for fun. You could say it just does not compute in this little pea brain of mine. There are so many who do not hunt the way you do. And it damn near kills me to know these beautiful creatures often die in the hands of people who care very little for the things you write about here.

You and your friends here are truly among the most respectful hunters I've met. And I thank you for that. I wish there was some way to impart to other hunters the same stringent imperatives. Hunting may be a day or a weekend of laughs, camaraderie, wine and meals for us humans. But for the animals, it means the loss of their lives, members or their herds, flocks and packs -- or worse, lingering injury. It should never be taken lightly, particularly among a species like ours that -- in general terms -- lays claim to a lot of moral high ground. That's probably it from me this hunting season, me thinks. Signing off with, as always, appreciation for the forum.

Michelle S said...

Hutch et al.
Check out this video on our Facebook page showing a Buck literally stampede a doe after she was taken down. Most of the comments on the facebook page are just speechless at this act. I am curious if the animal is trying to make sure the doe is dead? Or if he realizes she was weakened and exhibiting male dominance? http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1142584403817

And Holly, love your blog, love your comments and congrats on the NPR piece!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Wow, that is a crazy video! I'd love to hear from a wildlife biologist about that.