Apr 222014
 

animalwelfareI’m 43 years old, I’ve lived in Alabama all my life, and I’ve never been hunting.

I’ve been around it, here and there, all my life. I mean, I could effortlessly list 50 people I know who hunt. Seems like I ought to like it, actually. I like guns. I like being in the woods. I’ve certainly eaten my share of venison, and I’ve had a bite or two of duck too.

But my dad and I never went, and I suspect that’s almost necessary for any real affection for it to take root.

He went deer hunting and duck hunting with his father. The only time I can remember asking Dad about it, he said it just wasn’t his thing. He enjoyed being with his dad, but he was ambivalent about the activity itself.

I don’t have any ethical or moral problems with hunting, so long as kills are eaten (or sold for such) and reasonable care is taken to prevent undue suffering. I also think it’s important that it be done in the wild. I think what is commonly known as the “canned hunt,” in which an animal is contained in a confined area and has absolutely no chance of escape, is a pretty awful activity.

I think the hunter should be present, too. There is such a thing as hunting over the web now, with a camera and remote control over (for example) a tripod-mounted firearm. Did you know that? I don’t agree with that at all.

Hunting has consequences, and while I believe it can be qualified as a defensible—even noble—activity, I think the hunter should be there to see, smell, and touch the blood s/he spills. There is basic give and take occurring. You’re taking a sentient life. You owe that animal respect enough to be there to fully own your deed.

What do I mean, “noble”? Well, a capable hunter has a leg up on caring for his/her family should all of the institutions we pretend are indestructible fail. I think any hunter who recognizes and cultivates the value of such is doing a good thing.

No one who eats meat should have any problem with hunting as I have described it above. If you have one, we need to take a field trip to the slaughterhouse.

(And we will, in a future post in this series.)

Now the kind of hunting I find absolutely despicable is straight trophy hunting. (Blogged about that once before, in the context of discovering that a childhood friend was into it.)

Hunting and using the animal for your sustenance is one thing.

Hunting for the sole purpose of stuffing the animal or displaying its hide just to prove you did it is quite another.

The childhood friend I mention above came to my renewed attention when I saw a photograph of him, beaming, hoisting a leopard from which he had just snuffed the life. I saw another photograph of him with the carcass of a zebra. (He called that one “hard-won,” whatever that means.) I saw yet another photograph of him with a dead giraffe sprawled all around him.

Folks, I have a blogging category called Bug Shots. There are some awfully cool arthropods all around us, and I love it when I get a decent photograph of one and can share it. I would never dream of killing any of these creatures. I thank them for the close look—yes, often out loud—and leave them alone.

That is exactly the only way I can ever see “hunting” an animal like a leopard, zebra, or giraffe.

Why? Why?

What is the motivation of someone who takes life just to do it? Why can’t that person put $2000 in a camera instead of a gun? Why can’t a blown-up, high-resolution photograph stand in for a skin as wall adornment?

I said in that post, and I’ll say in this one:  I don’t think I’d ever get all the way over killing a giraffe. I think anyone who can do such a thing and put it to bed in his/her mind is someone I’ll never relate to much.

There are a fair number of people who say we should never take an animal’s life, for any reason. I am not one of them. But I do recognize it as a transaction. There is loss. There must be gain sufficient to offset it. Two weeks’ food qualifies.

A wall decoration doesn’t.

 Posted by at 8:27 pm
Apr 082014
 

animalwelfareOne day last year I met Melanie for Vietnamese. The weather was pleasant, and I needed steps, so I parked at the opposite end of the shopping center and walked the 100 yards or so. On the way I happened to notice a moth on an eave, sitting perfectly still.

And then I noticed that same moth on the way back through, more than an hour later. I began reflecting on how far beyond the meager intellect of an insect the concept of boredom is. Do they think anything but “eat, don’t get eaten, have sex”? Do they even think any of that, or is it all instinctually hard-wired?

An animal’s mental capabilities are a major input into how I feel about how we treat them. I actually first started thinking about our keeping whales and dolphins several years ago, when a captive orca killed trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World in Orlando. Blogged a bit about it then. What I wrote then describes most of why I have a problem with keeping cetaceans, so I’m going to quote a lot of the post here:

It’s highly likely that orcas have considerable intellect.  It’s pretty clear that their play is complex.  Their communication may rise to the level of language, and there is even evidence for reasoning skills.  Moreover, they form tight and stable family units.  I suppose that could be argued away as instinct, but I could as easily argue for a basis for real emotion.

Now I’m not much on a lot of the “animal rights” prattle.  I believe the human race has many legitimate uses for many different animals, and I don’t give them a second thought.  But does that extend to an orca (literally) jumping through hoops?

I’m terribly hazy on that.

I don’t find it far-fetched to consider that a captive orca could be aware of his situation to a much larger degree than nearly any other animal would be.  What if he can remember what it is to swim freely, and realize day after day that he’s still denied it?  What if he can remember friends and family, and contemplate the futility of hoping he’ll see them again?

Couldn’t it be an intelligent creature who accommodates confinement as best it can (and mathematically, that must be pretty well), but is still capable of “snapping”?  This article quotes a marine biologist who says it may well be the end result of chronic neurosis, and honestly, I find that a persuasive notion.

Just last week it was made public in court that Sea World gives its orcas antidepressants and psychoactive drugs. Consider that for a moment. Presumably the animals respond to the drugs, else they wouldn’t be prescribed. If an antidepressant is efficacious for an orca, then doesn’t that strongly suggest significant intellect?

I put the same question to you about the orca that I asked about the elephant last week. If the orca is capable of understanding what’s happening to him, and I believe he is, then how can I look in his eyes and tell him I want him to suffer every day for the rest of his life so I can liberate tourist cash at $30 a head?

To be charitable, perhaps we really didn’t know any better when orca and dolphin shows became a thing. How much knowledge have we built in the past few decades? If we reliably observe destructive and otherwise detrimental behavior in whales and dolphins exclusively in captivity, what should we take away from that?

Do we really need to continue keeping cetaceans for our amusement?

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Apr 012014
 

The circus is in town. As I type, it starts tomorrow. I’m pretty sure it’s been 30 years since I’ve been. The most recent time I can definitely remember attending a circus was in Oxford, sometime after my parents divorced but before Mom and Jenny moved to Florida, which almost certainly puts it in 1983. [...]

 Posted by at 7:45 pm
Mar 252014
 

I introduced this post series last week. And now I’m going to give you something of an extended introduction for Part I before I go to extended treatments of single topics in Part II next week. As I considered it last week, I became steadily less pleased with what I hadn’t said in my introduction. [...]

 Posted by at 7:57 am
Mar 182014
 

I read a remarkable opinion piece several months ago that has since had me thinking every day about relationships between human beings and animals. I encourage you to read it at the link in the previous sentence. (Be warned that it will likely make you uncomfortable.) Regular readers may remember the first or second time [...]

 Posted by at 6:54 pm

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