Stop the Cycle of Violence

If you’ve read my book you already know I’ve had more than my share of first-hand experiences with the gruesome evils of trapping—enough to make me want to take my phazer off “stun” and instantly vaporize the next trapper I see out of existence. Surely the vacuous lunatics who participate in that pastime aren’t worthy of this wonderful world. As a compassionate society we must stop them from causing further torment.

But there are many otherwise good people—understandably enraged by the demonic actions of hunters and trappers—who take it a step too far. They say they want animal abusers to endure as much terrible agony as their victims. Not only do these foul thoughts bring us down to their level, they perpetuate the cycle of violence we should be striving to end. I wouldn’t wish the kind of suffering I’ve witnessed trapped animals going through on anyone, deserving or otherwise.

Of course, I don’t expect folks to shed a tear if a hunter or trapper dies in the act of harming others. That is, as they say, just “nature’s way.” Maybe they were bucking for a Darwin Award and finally earned one.

Still, if you can’t think of one good reason not to wish some awful un-pleasantry on a hunter or trapper, consider this: is a sheep rancher justified in wanting to see a coyote suffer as much as the lamb she preyed on? It’s the same mentality, the same sort of rationalization used to validate cruelly trapping, shooting or poisoning coyotes.

“An eye for an eye” is an outdated holdover from a time when fornicators were turned into pillars of salt and gods were so malevolent as to drown every animal on Earth (except the lucky couples on the Ark, as the story goes) just to punish the human species. As Mahatma Gandhi saw it, “An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson


21 thoughts on “Stop the Cycle of Violence

  1. I agree in part, but the poor coyote must eat meat—he has no choice. The trapper and the hunter is killing for vanity, fun, or monetary gain. Even the lamb will “preyed on” by the rancher eventually.

    • Yes, the coyote is only doing what he has to, but my point was not to say that a trapper was as justified in killing as a coyote. The point I was trying to make was about not adopting the same tactics as those whose tactics we despise.

  2. I have difficulty showing compassion to those who have no compassion. Seeing others suffer whether a human or an animal is wrong. We need laws that all should adhere to. Laws that
    prohibit cruelty and killing for “sport” Also it is so necessary to teach our children to have reverence for life. All life. And not allow cruelty to go unpunished in the right way. All life deserves respect and kindness. I do have a mean streak in me that when a hunter is hurt,
    I do not feel bad. The photo is beautiful as are all animals. I will do my best to do good in this world.

    • I agree that those people who show no compassion to others, deserve no compassion when their own time of trial descends. This is not cruelty or misanthropy, it’s called karma. An elementary sense of justice compels one to believe that crimes should be punished; and murderous crimes, like sport hunting and trapping, deserve particularly harsh avengement otherwise the whole concept of universal justice becomes a mockery and deterrence an empty threat.
      Sociopathic thugs who specialize in taking advantage of those beings least able to defend themselves do not typically mend their ways in response to reasoned conversation over cups of herbal tea. A sober reading of history indicates that non-violence as a strategy for bringing about positive, permanent change for the better is vastly overrated (it wasn’t Gandhi or his principles that defeated the Nazis; Assad and Mugabe are not going to be talked out of power).
      One may legitimately argue that direct action in defense of those who are powerless to defend themselves is, in a democracy, sometimes counterproductive to swaying public opinion. So, some actions conducted by the the ALF, ELF, Hunt Saboteurs, ARM, etc. over the years might be described as “tactically ill-advised”, but never as immoral.

      • Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve actually seen the suffering up close that keeps me from being too quick to blow smoke and boast about how I want trappers to die a slow, painful death. None of us who really care about animals could ever be as evil as a trapper or bowhunter–and why would we want to? There’s no point in chatting with them and they must be kept from continuing their attrocities, but the civilized world does not lock Nazis up in death camps and put them through attrocities to gain a sense of justice. And we don’t ask that a sadistic murderer be put through the same hell he inflicted on his victims. While a death sentence for repeat killers can be appropriate, the use of lethal injection or some other comparitively humane form of excecution at least shows a little higher ground. And if you believe in Karma, you know that it’s not up to people to carry out–it comes on it’s own to those who’ve earned it. Some could even argue that it’s bad karma to put our enemies through torment to get even or seek solace.

  3. Jim, I agree and this is such an important issue. No matter how much I witness, I always resolve not to hate in response. Then, something else happens where the cruelty I see is almost unbearable, and it takes every intellectual and emotional resource I have, *not* succumb to those feelings. It’s a daily, if not hourly, challenge. I admire those who, throughout history, have retained their equanimity — to great effect — in the face of immense suffering and injustice. It is, indeed, the most effective way.

  4. Hi Jim,
    I find this whole discussion a bit fanciful since, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a case where a human hunter or trapper was tortured to death (or tortured, period) by anyone actively opposing this particular brand of perversion. If we must now apologize for even our most off-the-wall, personal fantasies, then Political Correctitude has unfortunately advanced to a whole new level. The remorseful tone of your remarks, as though hunters were being routinely maimed and killed by bloodthirsty animal rights advocates gone rogue, simply doesn’t comport with reality. About the worst (regrettably), that hunters have ever had to endure is somebody knocking over their tree stand. I don’t know of any mature AR advocate who has ever publicly advanced the notion that hunters should be taken captive and subject to sadistic tortures as a kind of pay-back, let alone acted upon such a bizarre idea! The very concept sounds more like the overheated imaginings of an NRA or Safari Club flake. Contrast that with the acts committed by hunters against non-hunters: prosecuting wildlife defenders for non-violent activities on public lands and land-owners defending their own property under “hunter harassment” laws, threatening and vandalizing the property of land-owners that can not be coerced into letting them hunt, and each year killing a number of innocent bystanders who happen to get in the way of their bullets. Who here, exactly, is the victim and who is the victimizer? As one who has personally witnessed plenty of avoidable animal suffering, perhaps more even than you, I refuse to waste any of my sympathies on the miscreants who are destroying the planet.
    Acknowledging your commitment and commendable work on behalf of wildlife, I believe the only question that separates us is how much slack to cut those of our conspecifics who are responsible for the outrages you have so admirably helped to chronicle. For me it will always be “0”.

    Best regards,

    • Sorry you felt drawn into this discussion. The blog post was in answer to reading one too many sick revenge fantasies from a few AR folks on Facebook. I don’t care what kind of fantasies people have in the privacy of their own home, but when they share them on a public forum there’s a good chance someone who doesn’t understand where we’re coming from will read them and get the wrong idea about us “terrorists.” I’m not going to go into what exactly people are saying, but suffice it to say it can only hurt the animals in the long run.

    • Pete, I read Jim’s post slightly differently. I understand what you’re saying because I agree that there’s nothing AR activists have done that comes close to emulating the suffering that hunters and trappers inflict on wild animals. I’ve seen enough of that wretchedness myself.

      Still, I agree with Jim that there is a powerful component in behaving with integrity even while those who exhibit utmost cruelty and disrespect, do the opposite. That’s not in any way to suggest inactivity or passivity. On the contrary. It enables a passionate, proactive, and methodical response.

      • That’s right, Ingrid. I’m glad at least one person is reading my post the way I intended. Here’s the kind of comment that inspired this blog post:

        “I can say with certainty, if I came across a trapper stuck in his own trap, I would kick the shit out of him and walk away. How does that put me at his level? If I release him, help him, he is going to keep on trapping. I would walk away and let him wail and cry, he can chew off his own limb for all I care.”

        To which I replied:

        If I really thought that would stop him from ever trapping again, then I’d do the same thing. But I know that’s not what would happen. He’d go home and tell the world how cruel I was to him and people would get behind him and against the animals.

        As Ingrid and others of you may remember, in the chapter on geese in my book, Farley Mowatt tells of when he decided to quit sport hunting because he suddenly felt compassion for a wounded goose. Would he have decided to quit hunting if someone would have threatened to “kick the shit out of him” for hunting? Probably not. People tend to learn better on their own than if someone tells them they have to.

        Maybe when this all dies down, some of you folks who aren so offended by this post will eventually see why I think it isn’t helping the cause to make statements like this one (which was the original FB comment that inspired my blog post): “I just can’t express my utter hatred & loathing for hunters adequately, I want them all dead, murdered in the most gruesome manner.” This sounds just like a rancher spewing hate for coyotes.

  5. The idea that fighting back against abusers “brings us down to their level” is a logical fallacy. Does the woman who shoots her rapist become like the rapist? No. She stops worse violence from occurring. More often than not, pacifism merely perpetuates the cycles of violence–sure, the pacifists may continue to feel “morally superior” and have a clean conscience, but the blood is still on their hands until they stop the violence. Is killing wrong? Usually. Was it wrong when my relatives killed Nazis? Hell no. This culture is destroying the planet, and needs to be stopped by any means necessary. The only violence I will not countenance is that which harms the innocent, or those not directly involved with hurting the innocent.

    As Nelson Mandela (one of my heroes) wrote in his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, “A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire.”

    While I admire your work, Jim, I have to respectfully but strongly disagree with this particular position you’ve taken, and urge you to rethink it. Of course hunters shouldn’t be tortured, or anybody. But sometimes pacifism results in a greater amount of aggragate violence, and it is those situations that must be looked at most critically and with tactical approrpriateness always in mind.

    –Love and Liberation–

    Jan @ TheRewildWest

    • Either I did a poor job of getting my point across or some of you are reading whatever you want to into my blog post. I never said anyting about pacifism (in fact, I opened with the lines: “If you’ve read my book you already know I’ve had more than my share of first-hand experiences with the gruesome evils of trapping—enough to make me want to take my phazer off “stun” and instantly vaporize the next trapper I see out of existence. Surely the vacuous lunatics who participate in that pastime aren’t worthy of this wonderful world….”). You seemed to have got my point when you said, “Of course hunters shouldn’t be tortured, or anybody…” That’s ALL this blog post was trying to say. Please don’t read more into it than that. Go out and vaporize a trapper if you can get away with it, more power to you, but don’t talk about making the suffer “excrutiating pain” in the process and then ask, “how does that bring me down to their level?” as the people who inspired this blog are asking.

  6. I just wanted to add that in the animal rescues and facilities where I’ve volunteered, public relations is a huge facet of sustaining support for the animals. By public relations, I mean that in its most authentic, honorable sense — relating with other people on behalf of the animals who obviously cannot speak for themselves. It’s impossible not to feel a huge swell of anger and emotion when someone brings in a wild animal mutilated out of ignorance or malice (trap, dog, etc) — or when a person surrenders a pet cat because it “didn’t match the color of the sofa.” But, if you’re at the front desk, as one example, you’re the first impression this person has of a shelter worker or wildlife rehabilitator or “animal lover” — maybe ever. And, that first reaction will often determine how a person will interact with animals and animal rescuers thereafter.

    I watched a volunteer at one facility mercilessly lay into a woman who, very sheepishly, brought in a bird that her own cat had mauled. I can almost guarantee you that not only did that woman never again bring an injured bird into a hospital for the mortification she felt after the lecture, she left with a horribly negative impression of the people who worked in that facility and who genuinely cared for and loved those animals.

    Conversely, I’ve had long conversations with people who had totally mistaken impressions of why some of us are strongly against hunting. It’s assumed by many, incorrectly but it’s still assumed, that those who actively oppose hunting are naive, reactive, ignorant individuals who know nothing about nature and who love non-human “Bambis” but hate humans. I prefer not to feed that erroneous stereotype and to challenge it instead with proof that informed and intelligent compassion for one species necessarily translates into similar compassion for all species, including our own. I don’t see that as a compromise of principle. I see it as an accurate representation of the cause because, at the core, that’s who most of us are. We care deeply and we hurt deeply over these issues.

  7. Pingback: Hold On to Your Sanity | Exposing the Big Game

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