I like to think that I’m open-minded. In fact, I used to pride myself on having an interest in other people’s thought processes and beliefs, and an ability to acknowledge and understand them, even if I don’t agree with them.
For example, I am a staunch Democrat who believes wholeheartedly in social justice and social services. I am not saying we should just hand stuff out, but I believe in the benefits of helping others, both for the helper and the recipient. And I don’t think we should help others with the expectation that we’ll get something back. I think we should help others because we are a social species, and as such, we look out for each other.
But before I go off on that tirade… my main point is my curiosity about the logic behind outlooks that don’t match with my own. Why do people support or rally against certain initiatives? What is their logic behind their stance?
And I like to think that if I am in conversation with an intelligent and thoughtful adult, we can each explain our sides and, again, we may not agree with each other, but we can understand where the other is coming from.
But I guess the key phrase in that hope is “intelligent and thoughtful adult” because as open-minded as I like to think I am, there are some outlooks I just don’t understand.
Like Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) who believes a ban on the import of ivory will mean the removal of guns from American hands. That’s right, folks. We have to repeal (right away!) this legislation that is trying to put a stop to elephant poaching, and save these magnificent animals from extinction, because it means the American government will “take away our guns.” And let me try that again: banning the import of materials not even native to the American continent = no more guns for Americans. I hear this and I think: that’s like saying we have to repeal the legislation that made murder illegal because it takes away our ability to go snowboarding.
Yes, a law that is trying to do something for the greater good has a completely non-existent connection to a personal hobby that less than half of the American population actually pursue (according to the Pew Research Center, too). A law that is trying to crack down more on a blatantly illegal practice occurring in other countries that has absolutely no effect whatsoever on a pastime not even related to the illegal practice in the first place.
The other outlook I don’t get? Wildlife killing derbies. The state of Idaho recently approved a proposal that allows hunters to go on mass killing sprees on federal lands. Grab the gun, grab the kids, and head out onto what are supposed to be protected wilderness areas to shoot and kill as many animals as you can find. And guess what? You may even win a prize if you kill the most coyotes, or you kill the largest wolf, or you wipe out an entire herd of deer.
As the avid animal lover that I am, you can probably guess that I am anti-hunting. And I am against hunting by those who just shoot and kill. I am not against hunting by those who harvest daily life goods from their kills. If you head out into the woods to kill a deer so you can have meat, and textiles, and / or tools, then by all means. We are part of the food chain, and predators kill to meet their survival needs.
But killing just because? Shooting animals just for the thrill of firing a gun? Or the thrill of watching another life die at your hands? That is something I don’t understand. Especially when I look at some of the arguments these kill-just-to-kill hunters make:
- I hunt because we are predators and predators kill.
No, predators do not kill. Predators survive. And, yes, they survive by killing, but they only kill to survive. So if hunters want to call themselves predators, then they should only hunt when they need to do it to survive.
- I hunt because it is a thrill taking down wildlife in their environment, on their terms.
Or, in other words, hunters revel in the competition of man versus animal. But if you want a real competition, and you want to claim you are facing wildlife in their environment, on their terms, then go in there without a gun. Bring down a wolf with your bare hands because a wolf brings you down with their jaws and teeth. If the wolf can’t take a chance to shoot at you, then it is not a fair fight if you shoot at the wolf. And hunters may say that guns are how we “fight off” predators larger, stronger, and faster than us. But there are many, many, many documented accounts of prey animals fighting off predators and surviving – watch any wildlife documentary on the Discovery Channel to see it in action. And they do it without guns. And in many cases, they are smaller, weaker, and yes, even slower than the predator in question. Cheetahs anyone? Fastest animal on the planet with razor-sharp teeth and claws, and they kill only half of the prey animals they try to catch (according to BBC). Yeah. Half. That means for every 2 gazelle they go after, they only bring down 1. So hunters want a thrill? Face down a predator with no weapon. That is facing wildlife in their environment, and on their terms. Then come back and talk to me about thrills.
- I hunt because it is a spiritual experience that brings me closer to nature.
I am no expert on world religions, but last time I checked, God, Yahweh, Allah, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, or any deity / spiritual leader for that matter, did not need guns to have a spiritual experience. In fact, didn’t most of these deities-on-earth, such as Mohammed, Jesus, and Buddha throw off all worldly possessions? I can remember from Sunday school classes that Jesus didn’t even want sandals most of the time.
It is not my place to tell others where and how to find a spiritual experience. I know that I personally feel at peace the most when I am in a natural environment, relishing the sights, smells, and sounds of wildlife around me. But I guess I do need a little clarification on how these kill-just-to-kill hunters can say that murdering a fellow animal is the way to experience nature, to touch on a spiritual moment. If you want to experience nature, and be a part of the wildlife, why don’t you just go hiking in the wilderness? If you want to track animals through survival means – studying scat, prints, disturbances to plant life, etc… – why can’t you do that and then just observe the animal in question when you find it? Why can’t you watch wildlife in their environment and relish in the spirituality of the natural world without interfering in it? Why does a gun have to be a part of a spiritual experience?
- I hunt because it keeps wildlife numbers in check.
Uh huh. Certain wildlife populations are out of control… because the natural balance has been tipped, and thanks solely to us. Deer and elk and other prey animals are taking over because their predators have been hunted. In some situations, predatory animals are interfering with livestock and domestic animals because their prey have been hunted. And we have encroached on their territory. Most animals steer clear of humans. They only come into contact with us when they don’t have any other choice. So yes, when you see a coyote, a bobcat, a mountain lion, a wolf, or any other wild animal for that matter, they are coming out because they have no food; they have no water; they have no place to go. If we left nature alone, if we gave all members of the food chain a chance to survive (i.e., let’s not kill all the predators and let the prey multiply by the gojillions, and let’s not kill all the prey and force predators to find other sources of food), and if we set aside natural space with lots and lots of room for these animals to move, then We. Wont. Have. Problems. With. Wildlife. Being. Out. Of. Control.
There are other reasons for hunting that come up like hunting as a form of physical exercise, a chance to bond with companion animals, like hunting dogs, and, my personal favorite, “because I just do,” and I maintain that all of these can be met with wilderness excursions… that don’t involve a gun and a dead animal.
And before I get tarred and feathered by the hunting community, let me just reiterate that I am not applying these arguments to those who hunt so they can harvest materials from their kills. I am not against hunters who use guns to kill a deer they will then eat, or will make clothing out of the fur. These arguments are strictly for those who hunt just to hunt. Who kill animals just to kill them. They do not use anything from their kills, and if they take anything, it’s body parts to mount on a wall.
I am applying these arguments to the killers that put forth the killing derby proposal in Idaho. Who want the opportunity to grab their gun and their kids, and head out into the wilderness to kill as many animals as they can. That’s not hunting. That’s just plain old fashioned murder.
Unless you can explain to me otherwise.
Oh, and by the way, Senator Alexander argues that banning the import of ivory will restrict the trade in antique guns that have ivory accents. But here’s the thing: this ban only applies to ivory harvested after 1976. An antique gun means an old gun. Means a gun manufactured before 1976. Therefore, the ivory ban does not apply because legislation on the import and export of wildlife wasn’t in place at the time a pre-1976 gun was manufactured. Which means, you can trade it. You will have to prove your gun is old – but anyone who owns an antique has to prove the item in question is in fact an antique, be it a gun, a piece of furniture, a painting, or an autograph. No surprise there.
So, no, the new ivory ban will not take away our guns. It will regulate the import of ivory. It will attempt to crack down on illegal hunting. It will try to save the elephant from extinction.
Try again, Senator.
By the way, if you are interested in finding out more about Idaho’s killing derby, and maybe how to stop it, check out the Defenders of Wildlife… and consider donating to their cause.