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.