On the Death of Hunting

Literally, figuratively and statistically, hunting is a dying sport—it just hasn’t accepted that fact yet. Over the centuries, hunting in this country has been on a slippery, downward slope. It’s gone from being an almost universally practiced, year-round method of meat-gittin’ and “varmint” eradicatin’ (during the pioneering, God-given “Manifest Destiny” days that near-completely brought an end to the continent’s biodiversity) to the desperate, “sportsmen are the best environmentalists” perjury of present day—a laughable last-ditch attempt to stay afloat if you ever saw one.

Whether consciously aware of it or not, hunters, individually and as a well-funded whole, are in the process of grieving the impending demise of their favorite pastime. The question is, which stage of grief are they currently in, and more importantly, when will they finally give up the ghost and leave the animals alone?

If we apply the Kübler-Ross model (a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, commonly referred to as the “five stages of grief” including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) to the death of hunting, it would appear that hunters are somewhere between the first and the middle stage in their emotional journey toward acceptance. Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to people suffering from terminal illness, later expanded this theoretical model to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss, which could include job, income, freedom or some other significant life event. To a dyed-in-the-wool nimrod, the death of hunting definitely qualifies.

Known by the acronym DABDA, the five stages of the Kübler-Ross model include:

1)    Denial — “I feel fine.” “This can’t be happening, not to me.”

Denial can be a conscious or unconscious defense mechanism; a refusal to accept facts or the reality of the situation. This feeling is generally replaced with a heightened awareness of possessions that will be left behind after the death—in this case, after the death of their blood sport. For hunters, these possessions might be their beloved weapons, which they covetously cling to with Gollum-like obsession and zeal. Whenever the specter of gun control rears up after a mass school shooting, you can hear them breathlessly whispering, “My precious, my precious.” Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual, but some can become locked into this stage…

2) Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!” “How can this happen to me?” ‘”Who is to blame?”

Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to be around due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. For hunters, it’s usually directed toward non-hunters, especially environmentalists or animal advocates, but is often also directed against species they view as competition, such as coyotes or wolves. It is important to remain detached when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief.

3)    Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.” “I will give my life savings if only…”

The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death (or the death of their favorite lethal hobby). Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…” In the case of hunting, this negotiation is with the non-hunting majority and includes reinventing their persona, trying to sell themselves as “the best environmentalists;” pitching hunting as an admirable part of our heritage and trying to get laws passed to enshrine it; or recruiting women and young children into the fold.

4)    Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?” or in the case of the hunter, “If I can’t have my beloved blood sport, why go on?”

It’s natural for the hunter to feel sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty when going through this stage. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual (or a hunting organization, such as the NRA or the Safari Club) who is in this stage, as these emotions indicate their acceptance of the situation.

5)    Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality or another tragic event, such as the loss of a loved one…or, for the hunter, the long-dreaded ceasefire in the war waged against the animals.

One of the most popular arguments for hunting is, “But humans are carnivores, we’ve always been hunters.” The fact is, human predatory behavior is killing the planet. The only way any of us are going to survive is if we lay down our weapons and return to our plant-eating origins.

Sound radical? Arthur Schopenhauer spelled out his own set of stages that undeniably applies here: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

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It’s Not Rocket Science, Warmer Oceans = Stronger Hurricanes

Meteorologists have for the most part been ducking the topic of global warming in relation to Hurricane Sandy in the same way that biologists try to steer clear of the subject of animal sentience or the AMA avoids any mention of the link between the consumption of animal products and the increased rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancers in this country.

History’s greatest scientists have all been free-thinkers, unafraid of pushing the limits of human understanding. But it seems most out there today are content in their mediocrity—let’s not have anything groundbreaking or earthshattering interfere with business as usual, interrupt the flow of funding or threaten a precious reputation.

Yet, a few scientists are beginning to tip-toe gingerly into the fray by tentatively linking “Superstorm” Sandy to the effects of the unprecedented anthropogenic increase of carbon in the atmosphere and the subsequent weather extremes we’ve been seeing in recent decades.

According to an October 30th blog post in Scientific American, “Scientists have long taken a cautious stance, but more are starting to drop the caveat and link climate change directly to intense storms and other extreme weather events, such as the warm 2012 winter in the eastern U.S. and the frigid one in Europe at the same time. They are emboldened because researchers have gotten very good in the past decade at determining what affects the variables that create big storms.”

In answer to just how Hurricane Sandy was intensified by global warming, Scientific American explains: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.”

Additionally, climate scientists, such as Charles Greene at Cornell University, have recently shown that as more Arctic sea ice melts in the summer—because of global warming—the Jet Stream is more likely to take the kind of big southward dip in the U.S., Canada and the Atlantic that occurred during hurricane Sandy.

The term, “global warming,” adds to the confusion of naysayers who point to wintertime cold temperatures and freak blizzards as “proof” that the Earth is not really getting warmer. A clearer name for the contentious phenomenon would be “atmospheric warming” or “ocean warming,” since that’s what’s really happening and because that’s scientifically indisputable. Warming ocean temperatures are responsible for the climate changes affecting us all on the land, but of course, one overly-successful species, who shall remain nameless (okay, it’s Homo sapiens), is ultimately responsible for heating up the atmosphere and the oceans to begin with.

Humans can no longer plead ignorance. Back in 2007 a Scientific American article by Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote an article titled, “Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes.” He concluded that although the number of Atlantic hurricanes each year might not rise, the strength of them would. And according to Munich Re, one of the world’s largest insurance firms, “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

Oliver Stone, the acclaimed writer/director of pioneering films such as Platoon, JFK, Nixon, and W, called Sandy “punishment for Obama and Romney ignoring climate change.” In an interview with HuffPost Live on Tuesday, the filmmaker expressed dismay that neither presidential candidate has been willing to talk about global warming, either before or after the superstorm that ravaged the entire East Coast and beyond. Stone hopes the storm’s silver lining is that President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, pull a U-turn on climate change.

“I was a little disappointed at the third debate when neither of them talked about climate control and the nature of the situation on earth,” Stone said. “I think there’s a kind of a weird statement coming right after it. This is a punishment. Mother Nature cannot be ignored.”

No Offense, but You’re an Animal

I’m an animal, and if you don’t know it yet, it’s my duty to inform you, you’re one too. All we animals, the big-brained two-leggers, the furry four-leggers, the feathered and the finned are carbon-based creatures made up of the same ingredients. Every last earthling oozed from the same original, primordial stew pot.

The sooner we accept that we’re all animals, the sooner we can make peace with the others of this planet, rather than doing battle with them. Ultimately, it’s to our detriment that we deny evolution any longer. Humankind can’t live in a vacuum. We need all our best science to figure how to live with the many diverse, interconnected life forms that help keep this planet hospitable.

Bill Nye, ‘the Science Guy,’ recently stated in his Big Think video (which has been viewed nearly 3 million times so far), “I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, that’s completely inconsistent with the world we observe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it.”

In rebuttal, the spokesman of a group of ‘Young Earth Creationists’ proclaimed, “No, we are not just evolved animals as Nye believes; we are all made in the image of God.” Young Earth Creationists, or ‘Biblical Creationists,’ as they prefer to be called, believe in a literal interpretation of the creation story in the book of Genesis. They say the weeklong account of God creating the earth and everything in it represents six 24-hour periods (plus one day of rest) and date the age of the earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years.

Nye’s view falls in line with the vast majority of scientists, who date the age of the earth and the universe as 4.5 billion years old. “The idea of deep time of billions of years explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your worldview becomes crazy, untenable, itself inconsistent,” Nye said in his video. Still, polling from Gallup has shown for the past 30 years that between 40-46% of the survey respondents believe in creationism: that God created humans and the world within the past 10,000 years.

Granted, there are folks whose belief in creationism compels them to treat “God’s creatures” with compassion. As far as I’m concerned, people can believe whatever they want—as long as it promotes kindness to all sentient beings. Although I’ve never read it, I understand the Bible contains a number of passages that promote benevolence toward the vulnerable. (Before someone says something like, ‘If you haven’t read the bible, you’re ignorant of what you speak,’ I will argue that a person could end up even more ignorant and confused after reading it.)

Unfortunately, for the majority of believers, creationism leads to a sense of human superiority and the self-serving notion that we humans are in a higher realm of importance than the rest of the animal kingdom. This convenient fallacy has been used to justify the exploitation of animals over the centuries and continues to have widespread acceptance to this day.

For example, my uncle, a hunter who boasted of killing the largest black bear in the state, held to a word for word interpretation of the Bible which led to his belief that, “Humans were meant to subdue the earth” drawing his own conclusion, “There’s no earthly purpose for cougars.” His reasoning, shared by so many people the country over, was: to make life better for humans we should rid the world of species like cougars, bears, coyotes and wolves. Another example of this kind of stinkin’ thinkin,’ Republican vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a “pro-life” creationist bow-hunter who doesn’t see the hypocrisy in committing the sin of killing non-human animals for sport.

The idea of creationism was abandoned by the mainstream scientific community shortly after Darwin introduced The Origin of Species in 1859. By 1880 nearly every major university in America was teaching evolution. Bill Nye summed up his video with, “In another couple centuries I’m sure that worldview [creationism] won’t even exist. There’s no evidence for it.” While it seems only logical that any continued cultural advancement would include the acceptance of sciences such as geology, paleontology and evolution, I’m not so sure I share his optimism for the further progress of humanity.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson