Friday, August 15, 2008

Dr. Krasny's fine show

Perchance you were able to listen to Dr. Michael Krasny's radio show "Forum" a couple of weeks back, say, August 5th? No? Well, in the 10 o'clock hour the show covered "the future of hunting" for an hour, with guests from Ca. Fish & Game, the Orion Institute, and Born Free. Guess which guests were pro-hunting, and which were against. Well, after some incessant telephone calling, I was able to get in and say about a half a cent (my two cents, as you know, tend to be long-winded). I did get a follow-up question from Dr. Krasny, who I respect and admire, but I don't think it was his best question: He refers to a middle-school short story and subsequent Ice-T thriller. You can hear the radio show here; I'm at the very end, the last four minutes or so.

Well, the program was purported to be about the "ecology and ethics of hunting", in light of the opening of deer season the following Saturday. They didn't get the date for opening day of "deer season in California" exactly right, as it was just opening day of the A-zone rifle season, archery having opened a month earlier. Unfortunately, they didn't get to the ethics of hunting, either. This is where I was frustrated, and my call in was an attempt to bring a little bit of the ethical conversation back.

The two gentlemen who defended hunting, with Fish & Game and the Orion Institute, focused almost exclusively on two important contributions of hunting to conservation: 1) the creation of the conservation movement by hunters like Roosevelt, and 2) the continuing contribution of the lion's share of conservation dollars and volunteer time to habitat restoration and protection. The lawyer for Born Free, and to a bit of an extent, Dr. Krasny, focused on the personal act of killing something, and of human's effectively trespassing on wild land. At one point, the Born Free rep. says that wild animals should be left in the wild, and that people shouldn't be bothering them.

Needless to say, most of the time the folks just talked past each other. Animal rights folks called in and said that hunters were probably exhibiting psychological disorders, and that people should be leaving animals alone (I've got a blog on that here), and pro-hunting folks called in and said that hunters are the backbone of conservationism, and either they or the ones they know are very respectful of their game. Anti-hunters couldn't come up with an alternative to hunting as a revenue stream for real conservation measures, and pro-hunters shied away from the personal experience that includes killing something.

My call was to bring up the personal ethical implications of hunting vs. vegetarianism, and when I was asked by Dr. Krasny if I'd ever thought what it would be like to be the animal, I responded that everybody dies, and that the act of killing and taking responsibility for one's food and the sacrifices that requires can make a person more human. I'd hoped the whole show would look clearly at the ethics of hunting, at the nature of death and life and food and sacrifice, in addition to conservation and heritage and a true, real, and contemporary understanding of wildlife and the wild. I was disappointed, because everybody just went back to their safe corners, instead of really stepping out. But, I'm glad this topic was broached in a broader venue, I learned one sad statistic from it, that fewer than 1% of Californians hunt, and I re-learned an appreciation for Mr. Posewitz of the Orion Institute. He's a good guy.


Bob J said...

I agree with you that neither side in this debate ever accomplish much. The unstoppable force meets the unmovable object sort of thing. I have hunted a few times in my life and didn't much care for it, but don't personally care if other people like to hunt. Maybe its the biologist part of me than prefers watching a goose fly fly overhead rather than watching a lump of feathers fall to the ground.

Josh said...

It's a number of things in me that makes me want to watch the goose fly by, and also occasionally fall by my hand and grace my table and steady my arrows. I think, though, that everybody has in them the desire to see the goose fly by, too. I think it's a universal feeling that can get beaten down in a person, but watching my 20-month old daughter and my nieces when they were that young, it's a thrill that all humans share.

By the way, if you've ever eaten wild goose, you know it ain't just a lump of feathers that fall from the sky: It's manna. Wild goose is the best tasting game I've ever taken.

There are some good writings on the ethics of hunting, such as the anthology by Prof. Petersen titled, "A Hunter's Heart: Honest Essays on Bloodsport."

I'm interested in your thought that it comes from the biologist in you. A coworker friend of mine left research biology for the opposite reason. He felt that too many voles and shrews were dying in the traps and pits set out to find a couple of herps (Oh yeah! He's a herp man, too!) for some guys post-grad research work.