Hard Choices on soft topics
Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they're in the game.
- Paul Rodriguez
I wouldn't hunt a person down for food. But if he were already dead...
- Yasmine Bleeth
by Bonnie Erbe
Look on the Internet for "Why I hunt" and hundreds of articles and chat room references appear. Most explanations mimic the philosophy proffered by Rick Bass, a writer from Montana. He wrote a controversial piece last year in Sierra Magazine, published by the conservation group, the Sierra Club - controversial because he claimed to be an environmentalist and a hunter, a rare combination.
Bass wrote, "Only about 5% of the nation ... are hunters. ... (What entices us) ... is the terrain itself, and one's gradual integration into it, that summons the hunter. ... This wild and powerful landscape sculpts us like clay. ... One sets out after one's quarry with senses fully engaged, wildly alert: entranced, nearly hypnotised. The tiniest of factors can possess the largest significance - the crack of a twig, the shift of a breeze, a single stray hair caught on a piece of bark, a fresh-bent blade of grass."
Hmmmm. Sounds almost poetic. But poetry and bloodshed are an odd duo. I embarked on this quest to understand why people hunt because I cannot comprehend what makes so many people, mainly men, train weapons on stunning, unarmed, creatures and kill them. I could no more do it than train a weapon on an infant and pull the trigger. Another time I read what I viewed as a more honest explanation in a weekly newspaper. The writer said he enjoyed watching his prey fight for its life and experiencing his wish to overcome its will to live.
I suppose my lack of comprehension places me in the minority of Americans, because hunting is big business in America. It is becoming bigger as we speak. Man, not happy with the overwhelming odds he already possesses, is trying to improve that probability with a ferocity that, productively channeled, could have already discovered the cure for cancer.
Last week Time magazine published an article on the growth of captive hunting preserves. The magazine reports there are up to 2,000 of them across this great nation, with about 500 in Texas (quelle surprise!). For a small fee of up to $20,000 "hunters" can pop off rams, ibexes, yaks, impalas, zebras and even some endangered species such as Rhino. I put "hunters" in quotation marks, because "target practitioners" is the more apt description of those who engage in canned hunts.
In one incident caught on videotape by the Humane Society and reported in Time , patrons at a Pennsylvania ranch literally herded captive and tame Corsican rams against a fence. As the compliant rams stood there, the "hunter" picked one out and shot several arrows into it as it stood there. When the mortally wounded animal fell to its haunches, a gunshot to the abdomen finished it off, so as to preserve its head to be wall-mounted as a "trophy." And the guy (in the video it was a guy) who displays that ram's head on his wall calls himself a hunter?
Time reports the Humane Society has also witnessed a de-clawed black leopard chased by dogs and shot as it hid under a truck, and a domesticated tiger who lounged under a tree watching quietly as its killer approached on foot.
Congress is considering banning the interstate sale of exotic animals for hunts. Here, here! If we cannot tame the atavistic need to prove one's whatever, perhaps we can at least spare a few representatives of breeds that already have been hunted close to extinction from the indignities suffered by their ancestors. Besides, as technology advances, there are plenty of alternatives for the blood-thirsty.
There's always air rifle hunting. It's highly touted by some humane hunters on the Internet. And it won't be long before canned hunting preserves can tag their bogus prey with computer chips, and give patrons air rifles with corresponding chips, so the air rifle will register a "hit" when the hunter e-kills his target.
There will always be those, however, who insist on actual death and who will pay the fee to accomplish it, no matter how high and no matter how closely his hunt resembles a slaughter. And there will always be those of us who sit by and watch, aghast.
Bonnie Erbe, host of the PBS program "To the Contrary," writes for Scripps Howard News Service
Source: NandoTimes 11 March 2002 © Scripps Howard News Service
by Lee Davis
Cooking and eating a pork chop is easy. But getting your hands dirty and killing the pig is quite another matter.
The following story is an urbanite's account of what it's like to hunt, capture and kill a wild animal for the purposes of food. Today's supermarket society has rendered the need to kill our own meat unnecessary, but I thought if we have to eat meat, shouldn't we at least have the decency to know what it's like to kill an animal?
I'm a dedicated meat eater. I'll eat anything, even clownburgers and those strange pink sausages with cheese in the centre. I've eaten snake, ostrich, crocodile, frogs and kangaroo. I'll even eat cold chicken at wedding receptions. Only Homer Simpson eats more meat than me. I've never killed an animal but surely I've helped maintain an insatiable demand that, to the animal kingdom, must seem like genocide of biblical proportions.
I've decided to kill (or not) a pig. Because a pig is a big, sentient being. A pig is genetically similar to humans (it's almost possible to transplant pig organs to humans). A pig has emotions and intelligence and a sense of society (take Animal Farm, for example). A pig is strong and has the ability to defend itself, and a pig can also be friendly and fun (I even cried through Babe). But most of all, I'm hunting a wild and dangerous pig because I love bacon for breakfast and pork chops for tea. But if I can't bring myself to do it, I have sworn to become a vegetarian.
To kill a pig I'll most likely have to ram a knife into its body. It's the way they do things in the bush. I tell an experienced hunting friend my intention. He shows me where I will have to put the knife. "Just here," he says, resting his finger on the little hollow just below my Adam's apple. "You shove through the windpipe and get the aorta. You'll know when you've got it - the blood will pump out."
The prospect turns my stomach and brings on a mild anxiety attack. In the following weeks I think seriously about cancelling the trip, joining a commune and checking out lentil recipes.
I go pig hunting just outside Taumarunui on John Ham's farm. John is a great bloke. He's one of those softly spoken people who make you feel safe. I think it is ironic I am going pig hunting with a farmer called Ham so I ask him if he ever gets teased because of his name. John's about 1.83m (6ft) tall, almost as wide and just looks at me without the slightest hint of a smile and says flatly, "No".
We start early in the morning. In fact, it is the middle of the night, I still can't work out why country folk do that. What's the point? You just have to go to bed earlier in the first place.
John has more than a few beautiful horses on his property that run around wild until they're needed. We spend the first hour or so rounding up four and getting them saddled. A big part of John's business is horse trekking so he is keen for us to ride into the bush. He says it's easier on a horse and more peaceful. I agree, but by the end of the day my buttocks do not.
The four of us set off. There is John, Bill, the photographer, myself and Bull, a wrinkly, toothless fella who is always rolling cigarettes. Bull says he is a horse breaker, which seems an unlikely occupation to a city slicker like me.
By lunch we have scoured the property for any sign of pigs but the dry weather has evaporated any scent the dogs may have picked up. We stop atop a hill and rest, surveying the land.
John and Bull have a really cool way of resting while still on the horse. They come to a stop, sling one leg over the front of the saddle and lean forward on the folded leg. I like the way it looks and try it, but fall off the horse.
It isn't until the last hour of daylight that we find our pig. We follow John. We have to charge through bush so thick it makes us swear like troopers. There are huge bushes of stinging nettles that go under our clothes and sting our arms. When we find the pig it seems to be cornered by the dogs but they aren't holding it.
I shoot it. It falls over as though it has been hit by a bowling ball. Miraculously, I have shot it through the head. It is a sow and it is still breathing. Bill asks if I am going to stick it. John shows me where. Bill asks me to pause for the camera and I think it is cruel to delay putting it out of its pain. But Bill says it was dead before it hit the ground. Evidently things don't just lay still like they do in the movies. I put the knife in its neck and it bleeds like ...well, it bleeds like a stuck pig. Then I realise why that expression exists. It is not a pleasant thing to see. Bill explains I have to bleed it otherwise the meat will go bad.
I stroke the black, thick hairs on her side. They are shiny and smooth. I apologise and wish her well on her journey. She stops breathing. John lifts her up on to his knees, sticks the knife in her belly and cuts her open.
"She's had her babies," he says, pointing to the teats. "She's done her service and now she's doing us a service."
Bill's shoe laces are commandeered to tie up the legs and there is a struggle to get her on my back. I have to lie on top of the warm body and thread my arms through the tied legs. John offers to carry her but I say no. I killed her, it should be me who carries her out. John says all the hunters say that.
It takes about two hours walking with that pig on my back to get out of the thick bush. (John has to come to my aid in the end.) She feels soft, warm, heavy and wet. She weighs 54kg and her big soppy face is next to my ear the whole time. Her tongue laps at my ear, her teeth rattle and I can hear the gurgling of leftover blood as the empty chest cavity sucks in and blows out air while I climb across tree roots and wade through ditches. The jaw clicks and rattles, swinging from side to side and clanks against my head. It is the most disgusting thing I have ever experienced. It is a like she is getting her own back, licking my ear with that lifeless yet still-warm tongue.
Back at the farm the kids dance around as the black bristles are burnt from the pig's skin. They are celebrating that I have given the pig to the family. There will be tasty pork all weekend.
We go for a swim in the river to wash off the bloody mess. I have killed an animal and feel all fuzzy and confused but the world goes on around me as normal. One of the kids laughingly shouts to me as I wash caked blood from my hair. "Hey mate, you can wash it off but you can't get rid of the smell."
Source: The Evening Post Wednesday 12 May 1999 "Living" section; photo credit William Minchin
On the Dark Side of the New Zealand Paradise
by Kathy Marks
With his blue eyes and curly blond hair, Teira Gill is a picture of cherubic innocence as he bounces on the settee. Suddenly he points a toy gun at the visitor. "Bang! Bang!" he declares. Just 2 years old, Teira already knows what he wants to be when he grows up: a pig hunter. He has experienced the thrill of the chase with his father, Jimmy, on forays around Te Kuiti.
"He had his first kill before the age of one," says his grandfather, Alan Gill, indulgently. Jimmy Gill says: "He runs around the house with his toy knife, stabbing the dog in the ear. He's a natural-born killer."
If there is a gene for the hunting instinct, Teira must be fizzing with it. Alan Gill has been catching wild boars for nearly 50 years. Jimmy Gill spends every spare moment in the bush. His mother, Renee, was a keen hunter until the children came along. "It's a real family-oriented thing," Jimmy Gill says.
New Zealand is a nation that, despite its clean, green image, is hooked on bloodsports; one million people - a quarter of the population - hunt, fish and shoot.
In rural communities, pursuing pigs is a way of life. Social life revolves around pig-hunting competitions in which, typically, carcasses are arrayed in neat rows and children chase greased piglets around pens.
New Zealand is a hunter's paradise, thanks to the profusion of legal prey and the virtually unrestricted access to habitats. Attitudes towards animals are robustly unsentimental and there is only a tiny anti-bloodsports lobby.
"We don't know how lucky we are," says Aran Proud, a hunting companion of Jimmy's. With native birds and vegetation ravaged by introduced animals, all mammals are now regarded as pests. The Department of Conservation (DoC) spends a quarter of its budget on controlling these intruders, and New Zealanders see it as their patriotic duty to assist.
Pigs, originally released as a food source, are widespread. Tough, coarse-haired creatures with razor-sharp tusks, they plough up pastures, steal lambs, destroy fences and root up crops. Without the nation's 25,000 pig hunters, farming would be in crisis, says Bob Jeffares, editor of New Zealand Pig Hunter, a weekly magazine. "Hunting with dogs is the only effective way to control the population," he says. "There's no alternative."
Four eager faces peer out of wooden crates as Jimmy Gill and Proud draw up in a dusty pick-up truck on a balmy Saturday morning in April. Hope, Rosie, Smoke and Sting are to accompany us on a pig-hunting expedition in the Rangitoto hills, outside Te Kuiti. Hunters worship their dogs, and many a marriage breaks up - so the story goes - when men are told to choose between family and animals. "I really miss my dogs when I'm away," says Proud. "They're good-natured, really soft. They're great around children."
We set off along an overgrown track, armed with four hunting knives, a Harrington Richardson .44 rifle and a handful of clothes-pegs - to hold wounds closed if the dogs are injured.
Before long we encounter signs of pigs. A patch of excavated earth, flattened ferns near a river-bank and half-chewed tawa berries - a porcine delicacy - lie scattered on the ground. Telltale hoof marks can be seen in the mud. "That's a good pig, weighs about 120 pounds," says Proud. "It's not far off." An air of anticipation infects the party. The dogs dash in and out of bushes; we stand stock still, straining our ears for the bark that will signal that they have located their quarry.
As we wade across the Waipa River and climb into thick forest, the men ponder the appeal of their sport. "Would you rather be at home with the wife nagging or out in the bush listening to the birds chirping?" asks Gill, who is edgy and talkative and walks with a swagger. He bones cows in an abattoir for a living and has been hunting since he was 4. "The old man worked for DoC killing possums and goats, and we often got dragged out of school to help him," he says.
Working the dogs is the principal attraction of pig hunting, they say - together with the adrenalin rush of confronting a ferocious beast. "Every now and then you get a boar that wants to have a go," says Gill. "You're sneaking up and you can't see it until you're close up. All its hairs are on end and you can hear its tusks chomping."
Proud says: "I once jumped in, grabbed a pig around the waist and couldn't stand up. We were spinning round and round, wrestling. It could have gone either way."
While few hunters get hurt by pigs, there is a high casualty rate among dogs. Gill lost five in five weeks last year: "It was wretched," he says, "like losing a family member, I reckon."
For the pig, hunting is a no-win game. After being chased, it is cornered by a pack of dogs that bite and bark at it to keep it at bay and grab its ears, tail, legs and testicles. It may be badly mauled by the time the hunter arrives. The pig is sometimes shot, but more commonly, its throat is slit - not always expertly. That honour is often given to a child being inducted into the sport. The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says a pig may be stabbed up to 40 times before it dies.
On this occasion, we return empty-handed. On the way back to Te Kuiti, Gill recalls a succession of girlfriends who hated his hunting because he was never at home. "Renee came out one day to see what all the fuss was about," he says. "She stuck a couple of pigs and loved it. It makes life a lot easier. You get home from a hard day's hunting and she's got the tea cooked. It's bloody good."
Proud is single." It can be hard for partners to accept how passionate you get about hunting," he says. "It's an addiction, like gambling."
The next day we stop in town to pick up Alan. Jimmy Gill says of his father: "You either love him or hate him. Most people hate him." Alan Gill is a big, balding, chain-smoking bruiser of a man. His language is even coarser than his son's, and the forest air turns blue as we head off once again, this time into an area that he swears is seething with pigs.
Alan Gill and Proud go off to explore higher ground, and Jimmy Gill and Proud converse over newly acquired walkie-talkies. "The dogs have gone off," booms Proud's voice from afar. "The dogs have gone off," Jimmy Gill informs us. Then comes exciting news. "We can see two pigs in a clearing," Proud says.
We wait. Jimmy Gill passes the time by recounting past triumphs. "I caught 106 pigs by myself last year," he says. "I shot a big white sow out here, she was a wild one."
Alan Gill and Proud return, and a tactful silence is drawn over the two pigs, which turn out to have been goats.
Still no pigs. The men look increasingly glum, stomping along at a furious pace and muttering under their breath. Suddenly a strangled bleat is heard from below; the dogs have caught a goat. Jimmy Gill curses viciously and takes off after them. When Hope returns smeared with blood, licking her lips, he wallops her so hard that she screams. Alan Gill unsheaths his knife and plunges it violently into a tree trunk.
On the way home, we visit John Lockley, one of New Zealand's best-known pig-hunters, who lives in a roomy ranch-style house. Hanging from the rafters of his garage are 234 pig jawbones. Lockley breeds pig dogs, beautiful-looking beasts. He points out a male called Chip who has fathered 500 pups. "He's 13 now, but we've got his semen on ice. We can carry on breeding from him after he dies." We settle on the verandah with cans of beer. "Pig hunting is a disease," Lockley says. Once it's in your blood, it's there forever. You test yourself every time you go out."
Is it cruel? "Beating up an old lady is cruel. This is animals against animals. The day we stop having a hunting instinct, we might as well curl up and die."
Lockley's wife, Sian, has caught hundreds of pigs with him. She is one of a growing number of New Zealand women who are emulating Carol Maru, a pioneer hunter famous for chasing pigs barefoot with a baby on her back. That was 30 years ago; Maru, now 55, is still hunting, and so is her daughter. Maru says: "It's still a very male sport. The men don't like the intrusion into their territory."
Hunting - first practised as a means of survival, when European settlers were turning bush into pasture - is part of the national psyche. The common man jealously guards his right to hunt, and newsagents carry a vast array of magazines with titles such as Guns & Game and Rod & Rifle. "It's a vicious place," says a friend who has moved to New Zealand. "They'll catch and kill anything."
"Once a pig hunter, always a pig hunter," says Jeffares, smoking contemplatively as he leans on a table in the Te Kuiti Pig Hunting Club. The walls of the draughty hall are lined with trophy heads and jawbones. Jeffares, who founded the club, was headmaster of the local school for 30 years. He taught art, made pottery and worked with disabled children. He writes poetry, some of which appears in his magazine. One recent poem ends thus: "He grabs a leg/He tips the boar/The knife goes in/It breathes no more."
The Department of Conservation regards hunters as allies in its war to save the country's natural heritage. DoC says that the fight to conserve kiwi and other native birds justifies extreme means. New Zealand uses 90% of the world's 1080, a poison widely banned in the United States, dumping it from the air on possum-infested areas. Deer are killed from helicopters, goats are shot from speedboats on rivers.
In New Zealand, conservation means annihilating some animals to protect others. Nowadays, even species endangered in their home countries - such as the Australian wallaby and the Chamois-like Himalayan Thar - are treated as pests. "People in the northern hemisphere go all dewy-eyed and say, 'How can you kill all those wonderful creatures?"' says Herb Christophers, a DoC issues manager. "Well, they may be wonderful, but they're out of context and we're having to live with the repercussions." In this climate, anti-bloodsports groups struggle to make their voices heard. Protesters who pursued duck shooters down the Waikato River a few years ago fled after the sportsmen turned their guns on them.
Hans Kriek, animal welfare manager of the SPCA in Wellington, condemns culling methods and says that hunting pigs with dogs is especially cruel. The SPCA claims that young people are turning away from pig-hunting, but the example of the Gill family suggests otherwise.
In their living room, Teira sits transfixed by two pig-hunting videos made by John Lockley. For those unaccustomed to such a diet, the videos turn the stomach, with close-ups of dogs tearing at their bleeding prey and a soundtrack of squeals of terror. On the other side of the room, Teira's 6-week-old brother, Weston, is sleeping, blissfully oblivious to the pleasures that await him. - Independent
Writer Kathy Marks is based in Sydney
Source: www.nzherald.co.nz/travel 15 June 2002
-------- Original Message --------
I see Kathy Marks has taken a quote from me and used it totally "out of context" and makes the Department of Conservation appear to revel in the death of animals for the sake of it. You might wish to choose your writers more carefully to ensure that their perspective is a true reflection of the information they were given. Her emotive descriptions are so biased as to be only believable by the already converted.
To put the record straight, the Department of Conservation has to make hard decisions as part of its mandate to manage environments/habitats for indigenous wildlife. That means managing rats, wild cats, goats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, mice et cetera on many fronts. Sometimes the Department has to manage deer. It would be better if they were not in New Zealand but the reality is that they are likely here to stay. This does not reduce our need to ensure a place in New Zealand for kiwi, kokako, kea, kaka and the habitats they live in. If that involves reducing numbers of browsing ungulates (without the cowboy element that Kathy seems hell-bent on highlighting) then so be it.
If you want indigenous New Zealand wildlife, introduced wildlife must be managed.
Putting that into perspective, a recent operation to control stoats and rats in the Tongariro Forest resulted in a bumper year for kiwi chick survival. 67% of tagged kiwi reached a size where they can defend themselves against stoats. Elsewhere in the same forest where no pest control was undertaken, the survival rate was poor at about 5% - the national average in unmanaged areas. Kiwi are going backwards in some places but where we can reduce pests, they stand a chance of survival.
In the Dart/Caples area of Otago, there is a remnant population of mohua - a small passerine bird on the brink of extinction. Many populations of these once-common birds have gone because of introduced pests. In this instance, the location of the birds overlapped with an area that is popular with hunters and their recognition that the fate of the bird rested in the use of a toxin that would impact on the deer herd. The hunters agreed to the use of the toxin and the result is the continued survival of mohua and, we are hopeful, a better relationship with hunters who respect a need to put New Zealand indigenous biodiversity as a priority.
Elsewhere, in Mt Cook National Park and surronding areas, we have to manage tahr (thar to some) These introduced mountain goats from the Himalayas have a defined range and population density beyond which the Department of Conservation is unwilling to allow them to spread. This is an agreed arangement with hunting lobbyists who originally would rather that thar were allowed to be more widespread. The Department of Conservation shoots these animals where their densities impact severely on indigenous wildlife and the Department of Conservation make no apology for standing up for native vegetation and its inhabitants as opposed to allowing the destruction from overbrowsing of fragile mountain habitat.
Recreational hunting and safari hunting do not control the animals to the extent that they reduce the acknowledged impacts on vegetation and allow normal New Zealand ecosystem processes to carry on.
Just as a weed is a plant in the wrong place, so too are many introduced ungulates, rodents, mustelids marsupials and predators, considered pests in the New Zealand context when their presence threatens native biodiversity.
Hard choices... Give me the native bird song before the bellow of introduced deer ,snuffling of a pig or rat or meowing of a feral cat.. any day..
Fair Game Only
Bighorn, Wyoming - As far as most hunters are concerned, all is well with their world. The wilderness is teeming with animals and hunting is hugely popular: every year 15 million people buy hunting licences and spend some $12.3 billion on guns, ammunition and other hunting paraphernalia. Moreover, hunters are heirs to centuries of egalitarian tradition.
In America, thanks to game laws which define wild animals as the property of the public rather than landowners, old-world shooting (where game is driven to the guns by servile beaters) was replaced by the popular sport of hunting (in which hunters rely on their own skills). Generations of Americans have enjoyed access to public land, and an unfettered policy towards gun ownership.
But things are beginning to change. Urban sprawl and shifting popular attitudes to killing animals are beginning to challenge the sport. City dwellers are increasingly critical of people who choose to own guns, even if it is just to shoot animals. They see hunters not as muscular outdoorsmen, but as blood-and beer-seeking Bambi killers. This image is reinforced by the accidents that occur as the suburbs grow out into the countryside. In 1988 in Bangor, Maine, a short-sighted hunter mistook a housewife, hanging out her washing, for a deer and killed her. In a verdict that still enrages the anti-hunting lobby, the hunter was found innocent.
Although rare, incidents like this reveal a big problem for hunters and the hunted: diminishing habitat. Last year, 2 million acres of farmland were absorbed by houses and other buildings. More than 300,000 acres of wetland, usually ideal hunting territory, disappear every year. Moreover, a lot of rural land is now being bought up by weekenders - people unused to local customs, obsessed with property rights, and often anti-hunting. And access for hunters is getting harder. Last year the General Accounting Office revealed that 50.4 million acres of federal land are inaccessible, mostly because surrounding private landowners have blocked roads.
The shortage of places to hunt is pushing up costs. Hunters have to go ever farther afield, in order to find game and avoid blasting some unsuspecting suburbanite, or else patronise expensive game reserves. As a result, hunting is becoming stratified by class. Upper-class hunters, raised on Aldo Leopold and LL Bean catalogues, are attracted to the genteel sports of bird-hunting and trout fishing. They do all they can to distance themselves from blue-collar hunters, who go after white-tail deer (in the east) and elk (in the west).
This split is as much about ethics (or etiquette) as about money. Many blue-collar hunters still believe that "happiness is a warm gut pile", and drive down the highway with trophies strapped to their truck bonnets. Such displays infuriate conscientious hunters, in part because they provide ammunition for the anti-hunting lobby.
This lobby has scored some modest hits of late, including putting anti-hunting propositions on the ballots, albeit in vain, in two strongly pro-hunting states, Maine and Arizona. But anti-hunters continue to alienate Middle America. Cleveland Amory, a spokesman for the Fund for Animals, argues that, in an ideal world, animals would be protected hot only from humans but from each other: "prey will be separated from predator and there will be no overpopulation or starvation because all will be controlled by sterilisation and implant."
Nevertheless, local politicians are forcing hunters to clean up their act. Twenty-five years ago, most states allowed hunters to kill a bobcat, fox, wolf, coyote or raptor whenever they felt the urge. Now they either ban the hunting of these species or restrict it to certain times of year. Most states also require would-be hunters to go on a safety course before they will issue a hunting licence. This is clearly paying off. In the seven years after the second world war there were 100 hunting-related deaths in Maine. In 1986-92 there were only 10 deaths, three of which were suicides.
Source: The Economist 21 August 1993
The Culture of Zoocide
book review by Robert Rydell
A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History by Matt Cartmill, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993, xvi, 331 pages, illustrated, $29.95 or £23.95
There is every reason to believe that animal rights will become increasingly central to our political discourse in the next century. As this issue moves toward center stage, A View to a Death in the Morning - the title comes from a traditional fox-hunting song - will figure prominently. In this delightful example of cross-disciplinary thinking and analysis, anthropologist Matt Cartmill has weighed in on the side of those who oppose hunting, setting his sights on deeply rooted cultural values and received scientific wisdom that have had the effect of naturalising hunting, making it seem an ordinary part of human existence. In the course of challenging the "hunting hypothesis," he provides a richly textured history of anti-hunting thinking and its relationship to our understanding of human nature.
Cartmill sums up the "hunting hypothesis," a concept popularised by Robert Ardrey, as follows: "Hunting was what had turned apes or man-apes into people, and man's need to become an ever more effective hunter "had governed the whole course of human evolution until the invention of agriculture" (page 9). This is a familiar belief - too familiar and too readily assumed to be true, according to Cartmill. His book opens by calling the anthropological underpinnings of the hunting hypothesis into question, summing up recent research that has documented meat-eating among chimpanzees and led to the conclusion that our remote ancestors are more appropriately considered scavengers than hunters. The significance of these discoveries, as Cartmill explains, is that "predation by itself cannot explain why our ancestors evolved into australopithecines and chimpanzees did not" (page 17).
If the scientific footings for the hunting hypothesis are shaky, so too is the misanthropy built upon it. Citing an impressive array of anthropologists and zoologists (Raymond Dart and Konrad Lorenz), novelists and poets (William Golding and Robinson Jeffers), Cartmill documents how a way of thinking about human beings as natural-born hunters has become inseparable from a deep pessimism about human nature that attained paradigmatic stature among intellectuals right around the Second World War. No less than those of poets and artists, scientists' views of human nature were coloured by the mass destruction occasioned by world war. According to Cartmill, the hunting hypothesis with its attendant misanthropy was rooted less in science and nature than in culture and politics. It turns out to be nothing more than another myth about human origins that cannot be privileged over other stories and myths about hunting.
Such stories exist in multiples, and much of Cartmill's book documents deep ambivalence about, if not outright opposition to, hunting in ancient myths and more modern philosophical traditions. Even the ancient Greeks, who had several gods associated with the hunt and would therefore seem to be exceptions to Cartmill's argument, positioned Artemis and Dionysius in "mirror image opposition" (page 36) in an effort to clarify boundaries between human beings and the wild. By way of contrast, the Romans, according to Cartmill, did not value hunting - Virgil in the Aeneid, unlike Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey, evidenced decidedly mixed emotions about the hunt. And the Old Testament begins with an account of a "vegetarian paradise" (page 38). By the Renaissance, ambivalence was giving way to condemnation as Erasmus and Thomas More expressed "distaste and outrage," as evidenced in this passage from Utopia: "The Utopians think that this whole business of hunting is beneath the dignity of free men, and so they have made it a part of the butcher's trade - which, as I said before, they foist off on their slaves" (page 77). Like Erasmus and More, Shakespeare used the hunt as "a symbol of bloody oppression" (page 78) - sentiments that Albrecht Dürer captured in his drawing of a stag shot through the skull with a crossbow arrow. What accounted for these changes? One contributing factor was the rediscovery of classical learning by Renaissance humanists; another was the rejection of aristocratic pleasures and privileges by a rising middle class anxious to define its own prerogatives.
By the 18th century, with growing concern about political rights, some influential thinkers like Maupertuis and Rousseau began addressing animal rights. Then, in 1780, Jeremy Bentham linked the movement to end slavery to animal rights. Over the next century, such reasoning contributed to the creation of animal welfare societies, anti-vivisection riots, and, by the close of the 19th century, to the thinking by some literati, notably Mark Twain, that hunting occupied the same rhetorical universe as imperialism.
These intellectual shifts were profound, according to Cartmill, but probably had limited effect on popular attitudes toward hunting. That situation changed in 1942 with the release of Walt Disney's Bambi. Based on Felix Salten's 1924 novel, which the young American Communist Whittaker Chambers translated into English four years later, Disney's rendition of the deer child - with "its erotic and oedipal symbolism, its archetypal characters, its invocation of Christian and pagan mythology, its perfectly choreographed universal dances of all things not human, its A-B-A architecture silently preaching the Eternal Recurrence, its superbly executed and controlled animation, its occasionally breathtaking visual beauty, and its despairing subliminal consciousness of the implacable onrush of World War II" - carried "the force of a sledgehammer" (page 178) and has battered the defenses of hunters ever since.
"Happy forest animals celebrating the end of the human race in Hugh Harman's 1939 cartoon 'Peace on Earth.'"
Where does Cartmill's argument lead? He concludes by insisting that since boundaries between humans and animals are cultural, not natural, constructs, they are subject to redefinition and must be redefined when they lose intellectual credibility. Just as hierarchical distinctions between masters and slaves and men and women collapsed, so with distinctions between human beings and animals. In the instance of ideologies of male and white supremacy, Cartmill writes, "A heavily marked status boundary ultimately had to be given up because it was intellectually indefensible. And if the cognitive boundary between man and beast, between the world of history and the world of nature, is equally indefensible, we cannot defend human dignity without extending some sort of citizenship to the rest of nature - which means ceasing to treat the nonhuman world as a series of means to human ends" (page 223).
Cartmill's argument is bound to command attention. Some will wish for more data refuting the hunting hypothesis. I, for one, wish the author had addressed in greater detail conservation-based arguments that regard hunting as an ethical and environmentally sound means for controlling population imbalances among some species. These arguments, articulated by Aldo Leopold and several generations of wildlife managers, deserve more attention if only because they have laid the basis for specific state and federal wildlife policies and illustrate the power of institutions to translate philosophical and science-based positions into practice and to shape popular belief systems. The chapter on the "Bambi syndrome" might have been accompanied by a chapter on the intellectual underpinnings of wildlife policies at the state and federal level. But this matter aside, A View to a Death in the Morning is a razor-sharp analysis that succeeds in raising doubts about deeply rooted and widely shared assumptions concerning the position of human beings in nature. Like Keith Thomas's Man and the Natural World, this book will interest anyone curious about what it means to be human and how, as Cartmill puts it, we can reconcile our universalistic principles of equal rights with eating sausage for breakfast.
Robert W Rydell
Source: Science Volume 261 17 September 1993
Do Animals Think?
by Tim Radford
When a fox hears the hounds baying and starts to run, is it obeying some ancient instinct, or does it "know" to be afraid? Mammals have brains so they can feel pain, experience fear and react in disgust. If a wildebeest did not feel pain, it would carry on grazing as lions chewed it hind leg first. If an antelope did not experience fear, it would not break into a sprint at the first hint of cheetah. If a canine did not experience disgust, it would not vomit; it would not be, as the saying goes, sick as a dog.
Pain, fear and disgust are part of the mammalian survival machinery provided by tens of millions of years of evolution. Homo sapiens has, however, only been around for about 200,000 years. So all three emotional states owe something to mammal origins. If bipedal mammal members of the Garrick club or Millwall feel those emotions, so do deer, foxes and dogs. The argument is about how "aware" or "conscious" non-human mammals might be during these emotional experiences. When a fox hears the hounds baying and starts to run, is it obeying some instinct inherited from ancestors that knew when to get out of the danger zone? Or does it "know" to be afraid?
That might be the wrong question. A human startled by a strange shape in a darkened corridor experiences a pounding heart, and lungs gasping for air, and a body in recoil. This is the famous flight or fight reaction. A human experiences the full force of fear and has already started to counter the danger a fraction of a second before the brain has time to absorb and order the information contained in menacing shape. This is because mental calculations are too slow to cope with surprise attack. Pain precedes logic. Touch something hot and you withdraw your hand even before you have time to think about doing so. Once again, the wisdom is after the event.
If humans can experience the universal emotions of fear, anger, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise, then so can mammals. The real puzzle is: does an animal think about its state of fear? Does it have not just a mind but a theory of mind (that is, can it put itself in another animal's shoes)? Does it have a sense of its own identity?
All animals communicate, but only humans have language. So the puzzle remains: do animals think? Can they think about abstractions, about the past, about other animals? So researchers have wrestled with a series of experiments to see whether animals are capable of behaving as if they had the capacity to learn, the will to improvise and the ability to guess what other animals are thinking. Dogs show a remarkable capacity to guess human intentions correctly. But then dogs have lived intimately with humans for 15,000 years, so the domestic dog may not be the ideal test animal.
Apes, as humanity's closest relatives, show unexpected abilities. Researchers from St Andrews in 1999 counted 39 different ways in which chimpanzees deal with food: since these differ according to group and geography, they have used the word "culture" to describe these differing methods. One female chimpanzee in Kyoto two years ago convinced researchers that she can place Arabic numerals in ascending order one to nine. Two rhesus moneys called Rosencrantz and Macduff astonished a team at Columbia University in New York in 1998 by distinguishing groups of objects numbering one to four. Chimpanzees in large captive colonies forge alliances, switch sides and double cross each other. They have also been seen in the wild systematically searching for leaves that have a medicinal effect: from such observations, a new branch of research has been born. It is called zoopharmacognosy.
Chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestor, and 98% of their DNA. Do more distant mammal relatives share the capacity for cogitation? Keith Kendrick at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge years ago astonished the world by revealing that sheep could recognise up to 50 other sheep, and up to 10 human faces for at least two years after first seeing them. If a sheep can tell the difference between other sheep from flash cards and screen pictures, it must have a sense of these other sheep even when they are not there, and perhaps also have an idea of "self": a sense of ewe and "I."
More disconcertingly, pigs have demonstrated their own theory of mind. Mike Mendl of Bristol university revealed at the British Association science festival in 2002 that experiments showed that a stronger pig that did not know where the food was hidden learned to follow the weaker, but better informed animal, to the trough at which point the weaker pig would start to use distracting behaviour to keep the bully pig guessing, and only dive for the rations when not being watched. That is, a pig could guess what another pig was thinking and outsmart it. In a human, this is called "intelligence."
However, the highest-flying animal problem solver in 2002 was not a mammal at all. Betty the crow lives in an Oxford laboratory. She repeatedly picked up a straight piece of wire, bent it into a hook and used the hook to lift an appetising treat from a tube too deep for her beak. She had, puzzled observers reported in the journal Science in August, never seen a piece of wire before. So an animal far removed from humankind could identify a challenge, contemplate a simple matter of physics, identify a tool shape, select a raw material, make a tool and retrieve the reward. Birds are cousins not of mammals but of the dinosaurs: humans and birds last shared a common ancestor 200 million years ago. Experiments like these confirm, over and over again, that other mammals are more like us than we thought. So it becomes increasingly difficult to work out what it is that makes humans different. Think of these things next time you take aim at a grouse or saddle up for the hunt.
Tim Radford is The Guardian's science editor email@example.com
Source: www.guardian.co.uk The Guardian Wednesday 18 December 2002
The White House and the Whales
by Andrew C Revkin
The fight over how humans should, and should not, interact with whales has moved from the waters off Antarctica, where environmental campaigners have been harassing Japanese whalers, to the White House. President Bush has issued an exemption to the Navy from environmental laws that would otherwise limit its ability to use certain kinds of sonar used in anti-submarine warfare training. Last August, the Natural Resources Defense Council persuaded a federal judge in Los Angeles to order a stop to Navy training exercises off Southern California using medium-range sonar. The judge said that the Navy’s own assessments predicted that dozens of marine mammals, particularly deep-diving whales, could be harmed by the intense sound waves. In January, a fresh injunction was issued by the court requiring the Navy to establish a 12-nautical-mile, no-sonar zone along the coast and to post lookouts for marine mammals.
The AP quoted a White House memorandum as saying, "The Navy training exercises, including the use of sonar, are in the paramount interest of the United States. This exemption will enable the Navy to train effectively and to certify carrier and expeditionary strike groups for deployment in support of worldwide operational and combat activities, which are essential to national security." Environmental campaigners and California officials sharply attacked the decision in a joint news release. "There is absolutely no justification for this," said California Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan. "Both the court and the Coastal Commission have said that the Navy can carry out its mission as well as protect the whales. This is a slap in the face to Californians who care about the oceans."
"The president’s action is an attack on the rule of law," said Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "By exempting the Navy from basic safeguards under both federal and state law, the president is flouting the will of Congress, the decision of the California Coastal Commission and a ruling by the federal court."
Source: dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com 16 January 2008
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