Thursday, September 10, 2009

Killing wolves for fun

Mr. Winchell of the US gov't sent me the following link from from this week's NYTimes Magazine:

Here's an excerpt:

The Issue

The Interior Department has ruled that wolves have sufficiently increased in numbers in the Western continental United States to allow some wolf hunting there. The Idaho hunt began on September 1; Montana’s starts on the 15th. A case might be made for the right to hunt for food and to manage wildlife populations, but surely some of the more than 14,000 people who bought wolf-hunting licenses are interested in neither wolf sandwiches nor animal husbandry: they simply enjoy hunting. Is it morally acceptable to kill a wolf for the fun of it?

The Argument

Unsurprisingly, I believe it is wrong to inflict pain and death unnecessarily on a creature capable of suffering. (Peter Singer more broadly examines the moral standing of animals here.) While this belief might not compel us to be vegetarians, it does demand significant changes in the way we raise animals for food, and it forbids wolf hunting as a form of entertainment. To be clear, I concede all putatively practical justifications for hunting and repudiate only the idea that hunting is a legitimate recreation. It is the person who claims as much who bears the burden of proof — a wolf need not make a case for its not being shot in Montana. I’m not persuaded that hunters have made their case.

Some declare that hunting is a cherished tradition in their region or for their family. But having done something in the past is insufficient to justify its repetition. It was traditional in my family to be roughed up each spring during pogrom season, a time-honored custom in our part of Russia, and one we gladly abandoned when my grandparents emigrated to America.

Some note that hunting is a challenging activity. No doubt. As is juggling flaming axes while blindfolded. And drunk. But not everything difficult is desirable. Or ethical. Pickpocketing, too, is tough.

There are people who find it fulfilling to cultivate shooting skills, learn to track, take a walk in the woods, maybe bring the kids and make it a bonding experience or bring a couple of buddies and make it a beer-drinking experience or just an opportunity to avoid spending time with the spouse. All of these might be amiable ways to beguile the time, but none need culminate with a killing. Inflicting death is not an acceptable leisure activity.



Anonymous said...

Go get 'em jimbo.

Yeoman said...

There has never been a point in human history when wolves were not killed, save for restrictions in the US borne of a desire to save a nature that the saver never see (as there's no support for wolves at all where they live). In a pure state of nature, the Feds might recall, there was hunting of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, as well as hunting of elk, deer, and everything else. That would be the case as the area was the domain of at least three separate Indian tribes prior to the late 1800s. All of them made use of animals.

I agree, we are not to harm any animal merely for fun. But we are not to blind ourselves to nature either. In nature, not one animal, ever, has died a "natural death". Every single animal in a state of nature is killed by something else, whether it be a bacteria, or a wolf. Every one. Nature is beautiful, but she's a beautiful killer. Those who feel otherwise do not love nature, but hate it with a vile passion, preferring the fantasy of Walt Disney over the reality of the world.

Wolves kill. They spread wherever they can go, and they are not hundreds of miles outside of their recovery area in my state (Wyoming). They've killed livestock outside my town (Casper) where they were never, ever supposed to go after being reintroduced. This fellow's suggestion confirms our worst suspicions about such things, which is that we are a theme park for the deluded and anemic living in cement canyons. Wolves need to be controlled or they'll devastate the livestock industry, and they'll depopulate game populations to the low levels (yes low levels) of the pre 1860 era. Not that the backers of wolves care about this at all.

Were wolf licenses available here, I would not buy them. Given as the wolf pack here was ultimately removed (you can guess how the Federal government generally removes them), there is no threat to anything locally now, and I've never been interested in purely "trophy" game hunting (mountain lion is the main such animal here). But if private individuals want to reduce the population, save the hide, et al, rather than have the state of Federal government do it, and it needs to be done, that's fine with me.

As a final aside to my ranting here. I really do wish that wolves would be reintroduced to Central Park and the Washington Mall. I really do. Then this fellow could pass out daisies to the tourist and explain how old Lupus dragging down a tourist or two is really nothing to be concerned about.

Jim Tantillo said...

very well said. one of the best comments we've seen in a long time.


Yeoman said...

Thanks Jim. I see I even made "quote of the week"!

Yeoman said...

I'd also note that there's a very think line between Cohen's reluctant concession that hunting game animals you consume is legitimate and his protestations about hunting wolves. His argument essentially states that if it's fun, it's illegitimate, refusing to concede that we often find what is fun in nature, including hunting, is part of our very nature.

Hunting, is fun, which does not make it illegitimate. I raise beef cattle for food, and that's a fun endeavor as well (and is probably likewise bread into us, as an ancient agricultural animal). Cohen, living in a state of non nature, would ultimately argue, in spite of what he states, that vegetarianism is ethically mandated, even though it's contrary to our evolved nature. At least his ilk would maintain that up until the point that they declared that too, to be unethical, which is the final extension of their position.

It's a position doomed to failure, as we are what nature made us. If we deny that, we deny ourselves, and ultimately, a more robust, and less weenie, group of folks will step up to replace us.