Posts Tagged Hunting

Traditional Hunting

Why Japan, the country with the world’s third largest economy, wants to persist in killing whales is beyond me. The activity attracts an enormous amount of negative publicity and cannot make much of a contribution to its national economy. Still, other developed countries such as Norway and Iceland, are going down the same route. Do they just not want other countries telling them what to do or are they really that keen to preserve their ancient traditions? If that is the case then I would rather they came right out and said it, instead of continuing under this guise of “scientific whaling”. While not a marine mammal veterinarian I do spend an inordinate amount of time perusing wildlife/veterinary/conservation journal articles and cannot remember ever coming across a single “scientific whaling” article. When I was in Norway I noticed whale on a restaurant menu. Perhaps they were conducting a scientific taste test?

Tradition is often invoked as an inviolable reason for doing something (in a similar way to religion being given to justify reprehensible acts such as female genital mutilation) that common sense, morality or scientific data would prevent. This is blatant hypocrisy as it is only used to justify specific activities rather than an entire lifestyle. I would be much happier about the Japanese invoking their traditional right to kill whales or the Inuit their right to kill polar bears if they also invoked their traditional right to walk rather than use snowmobiles, hunt with bows, arrows and spears rather than rifles, and whale in small boats with harpoons rather than large ships with cannons and exploding harpoons.

Nowadays whale and polar bear products have all been replaced by alternatives and the true significance of tradition falls a little flat when local people in Canada sell their culturally important polar bear quotas to sport hunters.

While much of the hunting debate focuses on potentially dwindling population numbers, which is very important, as a veterinarian I feel that at least some emphasis should be placed on the humaneness of the activity. In this way I have less of an issue with killing polar bears than with killing whales because, ironically, the advent of more advanced weapons makes it more likely to kill a polar bear humanely. However, it remains impossible to kill a whale humanely.

“Tradition” is really just another in a long line of excuses, along with provision of food, challenge, thrill, pride, profit and just plain fun, to justify hunting and killing. It is time to admit that we are evolutionarily hard wired to hunt. As Rick Ridgeway says about hunting in his book, “The Shadow of Kilimanjaro”, “you were doing what you were designed to do, and that is the ineffable attraction.” We have become just like the domestic cat who no longer needs to hunt to eat, but retains an innate need to stalk and chase and kill.

Dr. F. Bunny

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The Hunter And The Hunted

I am currently reading a book entitled, “The Call” by Yannick Murphy. The book’s main character is a veterinarian who, oddly enough, enjoys hunting. I have never been able to understand how a person who devotes their life to healing sick and injured animals can inflict injury and death on those animals in their spare time. Unfortunately the story is not particularly far-fetched as two of my classmates were avid duck hunters. When questioned (harassed) about this their only defence appeared to be that they ate their victims. This seems to be a commonly used defence as does the “enjoying the great outdoors” one. I too enjoy the great outdoors and I enjoy seeking out and watching animals go about their business. I don’t, however, feel the need to then go and kill them. The only shooting I do involves a camera.

When we bought our rural property it was overrun with rabbits, and still is unfortunately. I had grand ideas about shooting all the rabbits and providing the meat to the local zoo to feed to the carnivores. I even went out shooting a few times, but my heart just wasn’t in it. While I can certainly see the need to remove the rabbits and other feral species, such as foxes, I take no pleasure in the activity and so have left it to those friends who do seem to enjoy it.

The inconsistency in this approach is not lost on me and other conservationists who routinely work with hunters. Unfortunately this dance with the devil is a necessary evil as, ironically, hunters can be a force for good when it comes to conservation. At a wildlife management conference I attended, the pros and cons of hunting were widely debated, and the final consensus was that hunting brings in far more money than ecotourism. This is money that can be ploughed back into conservation and local communities. For example, instead of rangers culling a rogue elephant a hunter will gladly pay for the opportunity to add the pachyderm to his trophy cabinet. Revenue raised from hunter related activities in California paid for the acquisition of a helicopter by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Controlled legal hunting has the potential to decrease poaching as local communities benefit from hunting but not from poaching. As I recall only the Indians objected to hunting on ethical grounds.

While I acknowledge that the end can justify the means, what I still cannot grasp is that people kill animals, not for food, not because they damage the environment or other species, not because they are a danger to people, but because they enjoy it.

Dr. F. Bunny

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