A Sick Repugnance

Washington’s “waterfowl” (duck and goose) season is finally over—and not a moment too soon. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Elmers were out in force on the last day of the season, declaring all-out war-on-all-things-avian for the last time…until the next fall.

But the war is over for now and, as if right on cue, the geese are pairing up for their breeding season. Hunting them this time of year is especially cruel, considering that geese mate for life.

Farley Mowat writes here of the wrongheadedness of hunting intelligent animals such as geese:

the dawn was pierced by the sonorous cries of seemingly endless flocks of geese that cam drifting, wraithlike, overhead. They were flying low that day. Snow Geese, startling white of breast, with jet-black wingtips, beat past while flocks of piebald wavies kept station at their flanks. An immense V of Canadas came close behind. As the rush of air through their great pinions sounded in our ears, we jumped up and fired. The sound of the shots seemed puny, and was lost at once in the immensity of wind and wings.

One goose fell, appearing gigantic in the tenuous light as it spiralled sharply down. It struck the water a hundred yards from shore and I saw that it had only been winged. It swam off into the growing storm, its neck outstreched, calling…calling…calling after the fast-disappearing flock.

Driving home to Saskatoon that night I felt a sick repugnance for what we had done…

DSC_0014 (3)

Love the Country, Hate the People

“Love the country, hate the people.” I heard that thought first put into words by Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson and I’ve never forgotten it—no doubt because I’ve so often shared that sentiment myself.

Captain Watson was referring to coastal New Brunswick, Canada (where he grew up) and the type of people who club seals to death without a second thought. I have had the same kind of reaction many times over the years I’ve spent living in rural America, especially this time of year when camo-clad, orange-vested A-holes troll up and down the roads hoping some hapless deer or elk will step out of the lush, verdant forest and into their kill zone.

I had another kind of love-the-country, hate-the-people moment just yesterday during a walk with my wife and our dog on a dike that doubles as a narrow road bordering a river when a small, rattletrap freight truck pulled out of the driveway at a neighbor’s property. Unaware of the insidious, horrific evil the occupants of the vehicle had just been involved in, I raised my hand in friendly greeting (hoping they might stop so I could tell them their rig was leaking oil profusely).

Never again will I give someone driving by the benefit of the doubt. They waved back exaggeratedly and wore overstated smirks that bordered on malevolent. As it turns out, I’m glad they kept on going. When they passed by we noticed the cartoon drawings of a happy cow and pig and the name of their business, “Patriot Packing,” that were hand-painted on the back of the truck.

We knew instantly what kind of vehicle it was—a mobile slaughter service. Travelling abattoirs are an increasingly popular method among ruralites for killing the cows they supposedly took great care in raising. My wife then remembered she had heard cows bellowing (like they do when their young are taken away) and the sound of a power saw, but hadn’t put two and two together.

Touted as a more humane alternative to factory farming and conventional slaughterhouses, the down-home practice of “growing” your own cows is deceitful and in its own way horrendously cruel—especially when herd mates are forced to bear witness to such butchery right in front of them in their own pasture.

Though it’s an accepted part of country living for people to embrace or personally partake in the butchering of animals, it can hardly be called a “way of life;” it’s more a way of death—a culture based on killing.

Holocaust survivor and founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), Alex Hershaft, made this recent fitting statement:

“I see a striking parallel between the deceptive bucolic images of pigs cavorting in green meadows on Farmer John’s murals and the cynical inscription ‘Work makes you free’ over the gate to Auschwitz.

“And, I do see a striking parallel in the mindsets of both sets of oppressors: their self-image as upstanding members of their communities, their abject objectification of their victims, their callous use of cattle cars for transport, their continuous refinement of killing line technology, their preoccupation with record keeping and cost-effectiveness, their eagerness to hide and masquerade their horrendous deeds.”

Author Farley Mowat, another selfless Canadian animal advocate in league with Captain Paul Watson, ultimately came around to the “love the country, hate the people” sentiment in A Whale for the Killing. The 1972 book is an autobiographical account of Mowat’s moving to Newfoundland because of his love for the land and the sea, only to find himself at odds with herring fishermen who made sport of shooting at an 80-ton fin whale trapped in a lagoon by the tide. Although he had started off thinking folks around there were a quaint and pleasant lot, he grew increasingly bitter over the attitudes of so many of the locals who, in turn, resented him for “interfering” by trying to save the stranded leviathan.

Mowat writes, “My journal notes reflect my sense of bewilderment and loss. ‘…they’re essentially good people. I know that, but what sickens me is their simple failure to resist the impulse of savagery…they seem to be just as capable of being utterly loathsome as the bastards from the cities with their high-powered rifles and telescopic sights and their mindless compulsion to slaughter everything alive, from squirrels to elephants…I admired them so much because I saw them as a natural people, living in at least some degree of harmony with the natural world. Now they seem nauseatingly anxious to renounce all that and throw themselves into the stinking quagmire of our society which has perverted everything natural within itself, and is now busy destroying everything natural outside itself. How can they be so bloody stupid? How could I have been so bloody stupid?’”

Farley Mowat ends the chapter with another line I can well relate to: “I had withdrawn my compassion from them…now I bestowed it all upon the whale.”

Hunting Perverts Kids’ Natural Affinity for Animals

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the serial killer, Keith Hunter Jesperson, first got his taste for killing animals at the early age of six. I bring this up again because of the fact that our potential vice president-to-be intends for his 10 year-old daughter to get her first taste for killing deer this fall.

Candidate Paul Ryan said in a recent interview with the Safari Club International: “Lately, I’ve had the great pleasure of introducing my children to the hunt.  I have some two-seated ladder stands, so I take my kids with me for deer gun season (one at a time of course).  I also take my kids pheasant and duck hunting.”

Children are impressionable and easily influenced in their pre-teens. What kind of person wants his daughter to imprint on the killing, death and dismemberment of a creature as beautiful as a deer, duck or pheasant before she’s even old enough to date—let alone drive a car? And what kind of society encourages its children to learn to blast living beings out of existence? Are we trying to send a message to our youngsters that non-human life has no value and that an animal’s death is meaningless? Or are we purposefully trying to recruit more serial killers like Keith Hunter Jesperson, Jeffry Dahmer, Zodiak or Alaskan trophy hunter, Robert Hansen, who began their fledgling murder careers by killing animals?

The media has largely joked-off Paul Ryan’s plan to corrupt his little girl with killing, but when there are innocent lives at stake, it’s no laughing matter. In some cases it’s the hunting industry and their state game department puppets that are to blame for pushing kids into the killing fields earlier and earlier. Although no state issues a driver’s license to anyone less than 16 years old, most states don’t even have a minimum age for shooting at an animal with a gun.

In direct answer to the drop in sportsmen’s numbers over the years, meddlesome state game departments are encouraging grade-schoolers to get a taste for killing (thereby perverting their natural affinity for animals). For example, Alabama opens deer season two days early for children under the age of 16 (so they’ll have a better crack at “bagging” one), and Maine holds a “Youth Deer Day,” allowing pre-season bow hunting for children ages 10 to 16.

Farley Mowat, author of Never Cry Wolf and A Whale for the Killing, wrote the following about his indoctrination to hunting in his foreword to Captain Paul Watson’s Ocean Warrior:

“Almost all young children have a natural affinity for other animals, an attitude which seems to be endemic in young creatures of whatever species. I was no exception. As a child I fearlessly and happily consorted with frogs, snakes, chickens, squirrels and whatever else came my way.

“When I was a boy growing up on the Saskatchewan prairies, that feeling of affinity persisted—but it became perverted. Under my father’s tutelage I was taught to be a hunter; taught that “communion with nature” could be achieved over the barrel of a gun; taught that killing wild animals for sport establishes a mystic bond, “an ancient pact” between them and us.

“I learned first how to handle a BB gun, then a .22 rifle and finally a shotgun. With these I killed “vermin”—sparrows, gophers, crows and hawks. Having served that bloody apprenticeship, I began killing “game”—prairie chicken, ruffed grouse, and ducks. By the time I was fourteen, I had been fully indoctrinated with the sportsman’s view of wildlife as objects to be exploited for pleasure.

“Then I experienced a revelation.

“On a November day in 1935, my father and I were crouched in a muddy pit at the edge of a prairie slough, waiting for daybreak.

“The dawn, when it came at last, was grey and sombre. The sky lightened so imperceptibly that we could hardly detect the coming of the morning. We strained out eyes into swirling snow squalls. We flexed numb fingers in our shooting gloves.

“And then the dawn was pierced by the sonorous cries of seemingly endless flocks of geese that cam drifting, wraithlike, overhead. They were flying low that day. Snow Geese, startling white of breast, with jet-black wingtips, beat past while flocks of piebald wavies kept station at their flanks. An immense V of Canadas came close behind. As the rush of air through their great pinions sounded in our ears, we jumped up and fired. The sound of the shots seemed puny, and was lost at once in the immensity of wind and wings.

“One goose fell, appearing gigantic in the tenuous light as it spiralled sharply down. It struck the water a hundred yards from shore and I saw that it had only been winged. It swam off into the growing storm, its neck outstreched, calling…calling…calling after the fast-disappearing flock.

“Driving home to Saskatoon that night I felt a sick repugnance for what we had done, but what was of far greater import, I was experiencing a poignant but indefinable sense of loss. I felt, although I could not then have expressed it in words, as if I had glimpsed another and quite magical world—a world of oneness—and had been denied entry into it through my own stupidity.

“I never hunted for sport again.”

There is a 50-50 chance that an avid (and possibly rabid) bow hunter, who is taking “great pleasure” in perverting his young children’s natural affinity for animals, could become our next vice president. Let’s hope Mitt Romney doesn’t lend Ryan his magic underpants for the upcoming debate with Vice President Biden. Our family values are really at stake this time.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson