Brand New Year, Same Old Topics – Hunting Ethics (Ban This – Ban That)

January 7, 2015

I don’t know that the discussion of hunting ethics ever gets “boring”, but it certainly does get repetitive.  I’ve distilled my own argument to a couple of key points, and I’m pretty sure I know what the other guy is going to say before the words ever even appear.  As a result, my involvement in any such conversation is increasingly foreshortened.  Sometimes, I don’t even bother anymore, because it always ends in stalemate (or someone virtually stomping off in a huff).

But disengaging can’t be the solution.  Once the dissenting voice is silenced, the voice that remains attains the appearance of truth.

It was with this in mind that I read and responded to Pat Wray’s current column in the Albany Democrat-Herald.  In the column, Wray calls for a ban on high fence hunting, and also on the use of drones.  His argument for the bans, however, was a clear demonstration of all the worst elements of this debate.  For example, his points included baseless, generalizations about strangers, when he suggests that people who would use drones, “care nothing about the hunt,” or that they’ve, “lost respect for their prey and an appreciation of the sacredness of the hunt.”

First of all, he can’t possibly claim to know the hearts and minds of the folks who might use drones as hunting aids, much less their moral and ethical foundations.  That’s like arguing that someone you’ve never met has no respect for his body because he ate a candy bar.  As far as the “sacredness” comment… when you start to dictate behavior in terms of religious or spiritual concepts, you’re crossing onto unstable ground.  And you lose credibility.  You may as well call for a ban on any hunting practice that isn’t halal.

Likewise, in his indictment of high fence hunting (and hunters), he proclaims the nonsensical statement that, “people who would kill a pen-raised animal in a small enclosure are immune to the ethical sideboards true hunters accept,” and that the practice will, ” crumble the foundation of fairness, respect and tradition upon which our hunting heritage is built.”

Again, I point out that Wray obviously doesn’t know any of the hunters he is judging so harshly.  He is ignorant, apparently, of the fact that many people who are ardent backcountry hunters also enjoy the experience that can be found inside the fence… not to mention the fact that few high fence operations actually employ the “killing pens” that are so often portrayed in anti-hunting propaganda.

His ethical ideals are lovely, lofty sentiments, but they are based on little more than his own opinions which are in turn blinkered by his ignorance. I’m not saying it’s necessarily wrong for Wray, or anyone, to abhor high fence hunting, or to decry the use of drones as unsporting.  By all means, live according to your principles.  Speak your mind.  We’re all entitled to opinions.  But there’s a line between expressing your opinions and making a blatant demand to ban a technology and an industry on the strength of caricatures and generalizations… that’s not cool at all.  This is the strategy of the anti-hunting zealots… leveraging half-truths and misinformation to manipulate public opinion.  It’s shameful, in my opinion, to see hunters turn those same tools against other hunters.

In a recent and fairly lengthy discussion on Facebook, Tovar Cerulli and I sparred a little over the idea of hunters “circling the wagons” when it comes to contentious topics like high fence hunting or hunting contests (e.g. coyote tournaments).  Tovar was challenging what he perceives to be efforts by some hunters to silence dissent within the hunting community… even to the point of accepting questionable or “unethical” practices in the vague name of unity.

It gives the appearance that nobody wants to point out the emperor’s nakedness.

But I don’t think Tovar gives enough credit to his opponents.  I know there are hunters out there who would prefer that never a negative word be spoken against any hunter or hunting practice for fear that it will publicize some dirty, little secret. In my experience, though, the majority of folks who speak up in defense of activities like high fence hunting aren’t trying to shut down debate.  They are only disagreeing with the contrary position.

I argue that it’s not only perfectly OK, but absolutely imperative that we (hunters) do step up to counter voices like Wray’s.  Here’s that redundancy again, but I believe that attacking hunting practices from a position of ignorance (as Wray does in his column) is far more damaging to the future of our sport than any anti-hunting campaign will ever be.  Casting personal aspersions on strangers and perpetuating negative stereotypes divides and alienates the community.  It creates a culture of elitists, despite the arbitrary parameters required for ascension into the elite.

By all means, let’s debate ethics and morals and sportsmanship.  I think it makes us all better, because even if it doesn’t change our individual behavior, it exposes us to diverse ideas.  There’s value to that. But if the only basis for your call to abolish a hunting practice is your distaste for it, then do us all a favor and at least make the effort to understand what you’re attacking.  Stereotypes and misrepresentations cannot be allowed to stand in place of fact and logic.


2 Responses to “Brand New Year, Same Old Topics – Hunting Ethics (Ban This – Ban That)”

  1. Kat on January 7th, 2015 17:33

    Well, if we are going to ban anything, I vote that we ban closed minded people. Then maybe we can have a meaningful debate

  2. Brand New Year, Same Old Topics – Hunting Ethics (Ban This – Ban That) | on January 7th, 2015 20:50

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