Hunting Conditions Us to Killing

The Following is an Op/Ed I sent to the New York Times in response to a recent article they featured glorifying hunting. For some reason, they didn’t print this—it must have fit in with their agenda…


Hunting Conditions Us to Killing

I’d like to thank the New York Times for inadvertently giving us a glimpse inside the hunter’s mind, through their recent article, “Hunting your own dinner.” In my book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport, I spend an entire chapter probing “Inside the Hunter’s Mind” and I’m here to tell you, it’s a dark and disturbing place in there—and no one divulges that better than the hunters themselves. Here are a couple of quotes from hunters waxing poetic on the thrills they get out of killing:

“I had wondered and worried how it would feel to kill an animal, and now I know. It feels — in both the modern and archaic senses — awesome. I’m flooded, overwhelmed, seized by interlocking feelings of euphoria and contrition, pride and humility, reverence and, yes, fear. The act of killing an innocent being feels — and will always feel — neither wholly wrong nor wholly right.”

“You’re the last one there…you feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes and basically, a person in that situation is God! You then possess them and they shall forever be a part of you. And the grounds where you killed them become sacred to you and you will always be drawn back to them.”

Both quotes were from people who considered themselves hunters—men who stalked and killed innocent, unarmed victims. The first was taken from the aforementioned Times article written by Bill Heavey, an editor at large for the “sportsman’s” magazine, Field and Stream. The second one triumphantly reliving his conquest was none other than the infamous Ted Bundy, as he sat on death row musing over his many murders to the authors of The Only Living Witness.

It seems that, whether the perpetrator is engaged in a sport hunt or a serial kill, the approach is similar. Though their choice of victims differs, their mindset, or perhaps mental illness, is roughly the same.

Even our former cold war enemy seems to be light years ahead of the U.S. in moving beyond the barbarity of hunting. Oleg Mikheyev, MP of the center-left Fair Russia parliamentary party, told daily newspaper Izvestia just what I’ve been saying all along: “People who feel pleasure when they kill animals cannot be called normal.”

Mikheyev entered a draft law to ban most hunting in Russia and expressed his belief that hunting is unnecessary and immoral, regardless of whether one sees it as a sport, a pastime or an industry. According to the bill, forest rangers will still be allowed to hunt but must first pass a psychological test, which Mikheyev points out, “…can help us in early detection of latent madmen and murderers.”

Here in the states, Heavey went on to write, “What ran in the woods now sits on my plate… What I’ve done feels subversive, almost illicit.”

Then why do it?

Though some hunters like Heavey may put on a show of innocuousness by temporarily eschewing guns and choosing to test their skill at bowhunting—arguably the cruelest kill method in the sportsman’s quiver—the typical American hunter sets out on their expeditions in a Humvee or some equally eco-inefficient full-sized pickup truck, spending enough on gas, gear, beer and groceries to buy a year’s supply of food, or to make a down payment on a piece of land big enough to grow a killer garden.

Clearly the motive for their madness is more insidious than simply procuring a meal.

There’s been plenty of discussion about controlling weapons to stave off the next school shooting, but the media has been mute over the role hunting plays in conditioning people to killing. And the New York Times article is a shameful example of the press pandering to the 5 percent who still find pleasure in taking life. Do we really want to encourage 7 billion humans to go out and kill wildlife for food as if hunting is actually sustainable and wild animal flesh is an unlimited resource?

Overhunting has proven time and again to be the direct cause of extinction for untold species, including the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Eastern elk. Meanwhile, hunters out west are doing a bang-up job of driving wolves back to the brink of oblivion for the second time in as many centuries.

Heavey ended his Times article gloating, “I have stolen food. And it is good.” Like serial killers and school shooters, hunters objectify their victims; so insignificant are they to them that hunters don’t even recognize them for what they are—fellow sentient beings. Does somebody have to point out the obvious—he didn’t just steal “food,” he stole a life.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

28 thoughts on “Hunting Conditions Us to Killing

  1. What’s amazing the majority of the killings are done without even using a gun but that’s where they put their focus; on guns . I love to see the form people need to fill to find out if they are nuts or
    psychopath. Maybe the fastest way for the government to find out, see which television programs these people love to watch.

  2. Wow! What a great piece! However, I’m not surprised those pussies over at the NYTimes didn’t publish this. I hope the next time that asshole is out hunting a bullet or arrow ricochets and hits him squarely between the eyes.

    Oh Snap! Did I just say that?

    BTW, I read this post the other day and shook my head in disgust. I had written a heated comment and then deleted it because I realized, you cannot argue with stupid.

  3. Thank You Jim for once again telling it like it is. This glorification of hunting and killing animals by the media needs to stop!

  4. Excellent Op/Ed piece! Too bad they did not print it. They were probably afraid a lot of big bad guys with guns would show up at their offices.

    I have often wondered if the government doesn’t encourage hunting, because it does condition people to killing. This then gives them a ready supply of desensitize killers to fight their stupid wars.

  5. Jim, that is a wonderful piece, shame on NYT for not printing it!
    The first quote sounds like (out of context) a teenage choir boy in an old time New Orleans whorehouse for the first time.
    I knew the second one would be a serial killer. Strange connection there? I never thought of hunters in the woods like teenage boys who do know better, in a whorehouse anyway…because they can be. It’s that primal part of our brains that lives in a dream world… and should be reserved for sleeping. But it’s the same part of the brain that likes to get high. That’s our defect. We’re all junkies from the day we are born, we just don’t know what the “junk” is gonna be until later in life. For some it might be drag racing. For others, it might be Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. For some, it may be tapping into the dark side, flirting with death? ( I think all previous things were present in The Doors lead singer, Jim Morrison from an early age?) Then there are those who get off on killing. There are budding serial killers who just before they cross the line over to humans, do all their sick, twisted, filthy acts to animals. I’ve seen videos these wack jobs post. One guy having a sexual experience with the still warm, dying body of a beautiful, black wolf. ( ironically, he looked like a dork and had a thick Brooklyn accent, makes me wonder where he works and why the NYT ignored your letter?) Life is full of coincidences. WTF is some dork from Brooklyn doing in the woods of B.C., Canada? Practicing? The guide posted it. Makes me wonder just how sick things have to get before some of these guides pull the plug and call the FBI? Which brings me to the addiction to money. Greed. Power. I’ve lost track of deadly sins.
    Curiously, they all seem to go back to that little bit of primal brain matter? Most are unaware. But the serial killers embrace it. They willingly take that trip to the dark side, they love their addictions. But like all junkies, they need more and more to get the same high.

    I’m interested in what you think about this. I’ve made many of the same connections that you have. Have you studied addictions in researching for your book?

    I do not mean to offend anyone who is in recovery, I can only give praise and blessings to those who want and embrace wellness. Years ago, I was a musician. I’ve observed friends get well and others go down the “rabbit hole”, no matter what I said. So I found a bumper sticker that said “the more things change, the more they remain insane”. That is sadly the state of affairs in DC and wolf country. But we are understanding it better, that’s a great start to making sane choices.

  6. This would have made an excellent Op-Ed piece but the fact that the NYT didn’t print it says far more about them than about the quality of the essay. Nothing is more grating, to me at least, than liberals/progressives/left wingers who, while endlessly posing as the morally superior, intellectually sophisticated, hypersensitive-to-injustice, defenders-of-the-downtrodden, seem totally oblivious to systematic animal cruelty occurring all around them; like it were some minor social ill on a par with tobacco chewing and other minor amusements of the unwashed masses that don’t really merit serious attention. Quite unlike the really important issues of the day that reliably set politically correct hearts aquiver: gay marriage, gender inequality, economic egalitarianism, “cultural imperialism.” And for such, the NYT is their ultimate arbiter of what deserves attention. For a good discussion of how the Left assiduously refuses to take animal rights and animal issues seriously, and in so doing disqualifies itself from being taken seriously as an internally-consistent political movement, see essays by Steven Best or read John Sabonmatsu”s book “Critical Theory and Animal Liberation.”

  7. I like this quote, Geoff: “Nothing is more grating, to me at least, than liberals/progressives/left wingers who, while endlessly posing as the morally superior, intellectually sophisticated, hypersensitive-to-injustice, defenders-of-the-downtrodden, seem totally oblivious to systematic animal cruelty occurring all around them.”

    I’m an unabashed liberal/Progressive. But I don’t recognize the twisted reasoning that overtook “my” side, soaked in hipsterville. There’s been such a cultural backlash against caring for animals in this post-Pollan world. In almost every story I read about new hunters or new “homesteaders” doing their own backyard slaughter, they allude to a dog-eared copy of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” on their nightstand.

    The likes of Pollan bred, instead of growing awareness of animal cruelty, a convenient rationale for exploiting animals in a slow-food way. Their position is always that since they’re not engaging factory farming, it’s okay to do whatever to domestic or wild animals. As one notable vegan cook calls these people — “excusitarians.” I’m dismayed that members of my own Progressive constituency have been bamboozled into believing these myths. The modern embrace of hunting as part of some Paleolithic validation points to the most blatant egotism, where the truly powerless are at the mercy of our cultural sickness.

    Jim, the juxtaposition of those two quotes is powerful. I hadn’t seen or read that quote from Bundy. I’m dismayed but not surprised your piece didn’t get printed. Even in this age of information dissemination, the gatekeepers of the old guard are trying to defend these dying ethics — the extractive mentalities and policies that have led to all manner of ecological and human travesty on this land.

  8. Pingback: Stop Calling Them “Human” Rights | Exposing the Big Game

  9. US society in decadence that what hunting represents. A society bombarded for years with the love for guns and the right to cherish them. Glorify guns and what they do is a sick psychotic sign of inner violence,unspoken frustration and social resentment disguised under the spotlight of constitutional rights. Sad and shameful that those that call themselves the most advance country in the free world, take these hunters as something to be proud of. But the not so ignorant people like us, know that these hunters are just puppets of a sustem that need them to be entertain and distracted even if its killing and murdering wildlife. Wildlife that the founding fathes were blessed to choose as grounds for a great country. Wildlife that should be cherished and protected instead of being a tou for morons and ignorant savages.

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