Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A neat way to look at things

Phillip Loughlin has another great post over at Hog Blog, on an ethical conversation that comes up from time to time over there, specifically referring to high-fence hunting operations, but more generally on the idea of ethics, the law, and hunting practices. I hope I haven't driven Phillip to distraction with my commentary there, but it is such a great place to get good, thoughtful debate that I can't resist.

However, it's actually a comment from NorCal Cazadora at that post that really got me to thinking. Referring to the concept of sport hunting, she wrote:

"...I still disagree on the notion of “sport.” True - I don’t have to hunt for food; I could go to the grocery store like my neighbors do. But that really buys into my neighbors’ perspective as the right and true perspective. I prefer to turn the tables and say my neighbors don’t have to go to the grocery store - they could hunt, forage and garden for food. Some people enjoy convenience of driving to the store; I enjoy the fulfillment of the hunt."

This idea blew me away. I had been grappling with the notion of 'sport' in hunting and fishing for some time, understanding that I don't have to do so to eat. However, one reason I choose to hunt is to provide a bit for my family (jokes about my prowess aside), and because I don't like the mass production process we use to acquire meat in California.

What Cazadora did was open up that choice to those who do not hunt, give it equality and credibility, and blow open the whole notion of food for everybody. She also removed some of the elitism, both fatalistic and natural, I've felt creeping more and more into hunting.

I thought about this idea: People could choose not to buy beef and pork from huge, concentrated feedlots; they could, instead, pop squirrels or get to know their farmer better, or raise their own. Many people who argue that sustainably-raised food is prohibitively expensive also pay for cable TV, a cell phone for each of their kids, a station wagon on steroids (oh, I mean a sport-utility vehicle), etc. Not that any of those are wrong in each case, just that they are choices. Each of those choices has impact, too, and those impacts should be considered along with their benefits (the economist in me, I suppose), but a choice in acquiring food does seem to me deeper than a choice to play tennis.

If I were any good at either tennis or hunting, however, this opinion may have been different...

Now, this doesn't completely get at my discomfort with hunting as "sport", although I do understand it and believe that it is a concept to keep close, and not completely to disagree with. However, whenever I think of it, I immediately think of this quotation from Chief Sitting Bull, that, "when the buffalo are gone, we will hunt mice, for we are hunters, and we want our freedom." I can't see it the same if it were said, "and when the tennis balls are gone, we will play tennis with pingpong balls, for we are tennis players, and we want our freedom." There is a notion of freedom in hunting that goes beyond mere choice to include acquisition of food, interaction with the world, a connection to other things here. It puts us directly in touch with sacrifices made on our behalf, and makes us aware of our power and responsibility...

5 comments:

native said...

I always say Josh that at least I have the grit and determination to go out and "kill" my food myself.

The people who go to the grocery store and purchase their meat in neat little packages simply "paid" someone else to do their killing for them!

Like yourself, I still am at odds with the term "sport hunting"
On the one hand the term has been sanctioned by the State and would be a very good defense in a court of law, when called upon to do so.
On the other hand, to a non-hunter, the term conjures up very ugly images of "killing for sport" and could ultimately be detrimental to our hunting heritage.

This is a good and thought provoking post, would you mind very much if I cogitated upon it a little more and then revisit?

Josh said...

Please do! But before you do, please consider Phillip's arguments over at Hog Blog. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that, especially because he's really great.

Add to your packaging idea that even our veggies require a large amount of killing to get to us, even organic stuff.

geomusicon said...

Josh, I completely agree. In fact I've always argued this to my fellow bird lovers who argue that we can't just let people go around shooting every bird they see for food. To me the ethics are pretty clear cut. Enslave a species for mass production and slaughter, or go out and try your skill at hunting your food. Like many of us, I do a little of both (okay, I do a lot more of the enslavement and slaughter variety), but I certainly don't judge anybody for doing otherwise.

Also, you make an excellent point about the cost of sustainable food versus entertainment and communications costs. I've always said that I'm willing to pay more for lettuce if it means that the lettuce was grown using ethical labor and environmental practices. I pay the 100% premimum for cage-free eggs for this reason.

native said...

I am intrigued by the idea of the killing that takes place to get our vegetables to market Josh, might you elaborate on that for me.

You and Phillip are absolutely correct about the "elitism" that seems to have taken hold within the hunting community.
It could be that several factors are at play which have convinced some people to adopt this elitist mentality.

One could stem from the Jolly ol' English Aristocracy itself, the Kings deer you know!

It could also be that it is a knee jerk reaction, and defense mechanism to the constant barrage of attacks which a hunter must suffer. Not only from the A.R.G.s, but also from the uninformed public as well.
Even some family members might have fallen prey to the continuous propaganda media barrage, and be pressuring the hunter from within their own household!

This in turn could be causing the hunter to seek out others of his own kind who have expressed similar philosophies, and when they have found each other the natural next step would be to sequester themselves, and then to create a distance between them and the non-hunting society.

Then at that point the clique becomes a club, admitting only hunter's who share like philosophies and the clubs by-laws then begin to take shape.
The club becomes a bit larger and then turns into a community.

This community has by then adopted a very strict set of by-laws and everyone inside and outside of this community are fully expected to follow these ethical and moral guidelines, and why not!
This way of life has worked for the community for several years and should work for everybody else as well.

Any way, that's my take on why there seems to be an elitist mentality in a certain sector of our brotherhood of hunters.

Hope that I wasn't too long winded, just yell at me if I get that way!

Josh said...

Native, sorry I took so long to respond to all your great thoughts here.

My thoughts on the killing that takes place for our veggies is here at my "Calculus of Death" post:

http://enviroethics.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-is-your-calculus-of-death.html

Now, Phillip's and my conceptions of elitism are different in a way, but the way you see it is really illuminating for me some similarities. The elitism I refer to is a concept like you mentioned about the "King's deer", where some hunters think that we will only be allowed to hunt those private, pay-to-play places, and that hunting as a general process will cease on public lands for people.

Your description of the evolution of cliques is really interesting. I believe there is a place for the, let's say, priests of hunting: those folks who hunt in a strict manner, and at times do call on folks to be more considerate and "better". I am not one of them, but I don't mind being prodded and stung, like Socrates' gnat. I believe I can put words in Phillip's mouth and say he believes they are pompous, self-righteous blowhards who do nothing but destroy the sport for the masses while splitting the public even more greatly against hunting.

Thank you for your thoughtful perspective, and make your comments as long as you like! I appreciate the feedback, and it gives me a reason to keep trying to post stuff.