It’s Hard to Be Ethically Consistent While Tap-Dancing on Eggshells

My objection to hunting, trapping and seal clubbing is colorblind as well as culture-blind. I oppose cruelty to animals, no matter who is doing the shooting, trapping or clubbing. A victim doesn’t suffer any less because of the ethnicity or cultural beliefs of their executioner. An animal’s right to a life, free from harm, trumps anyone’s right to exploit or kill them.

Over the weekend I received the following question, which I’ll attempt to answer below…

Q:

Dear Mr. Robertson,

I was wondering your opinion on the subject of animal rights vs. the rights of indigenous people. What do you think about hunting by Native American tribes, or the hunting of seals by the Inuit? Also, of course, the various other tribes around the world that have their culture based off of hunting. What do you think about their participation in hunting, trapping, etc?

A:

Hmmm, one of those questions…one of those I-wouldn’t-touch-that-with-a-ten-foot-pole kind of questions. Do I risk being called a hypocrite, or “culturally elite?” I could spend all day tip-toeing around this—tap-dancing on egg shells—but here’s an answer just off the top of my head:

My objection to hunting, trapping and seal clubbing is colorblind as well as culture-blind. I oppose cruelty to animals, no matter who is doing the shooting, trapping or clubbing. A victim doesn’t suffer any less because of the ethnicity or cultural beliefs of their executioner. An animal’s right to a life, free from harm, trumps anyone’s right to exploit or kill them (unless someone is literally starving to death and has no other options, which is not the case for most who hunt, trap, club seals, harpoon whales or trade in bushmeat).

Why oppose the Japanese or the Faeroese for slaughtering dolphins or pilot whales and not the Makah for killing grey whales, or even the Inuit for hunting bowhead whales? We’re all part of the species, Homo sapiens, and our ancestors all used to live by hunting and trapping. For better or worse, we’re all moving forward technologically, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t all move forward in our treatment of non-human animals.

That’s my humble opinion, anyway. It might not be popular, but it’s ethically consistent.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

3 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Be Ethically Consistent While Tap-Dancing on Eggshells

  1. Here in Canada we are seeking to atone to horrific (although sometimes and to varying degrees hard to reconcile, well-intended) abuse of native people and treaty rights. The net effect is that if you counter almost any assertion from the aboriginal community spokespeople (given that aboriginal people themselves are, of course, as varied as anyone in their views and values it is what is said on their behalf that directs policy and influences attitudes) you will be called “racist”. I have even been called racist for advocating the same laws and regulations be applied no matter what, as determined by your DNA, your ethnicity happens to be. The reason is because that equals “assimilation”, whereas “treaty rights” promise a two tier system, which native people want. But while that system conveys certain “rights”, including hunting and fishing rights outside the laws that govern the rest of us, the fact is that assimilation, while far from total, has happened from the very first contact with European invaders. The current system has been horrific for First Nations with them disproportionately victims of all manner of social ills such as imprisonment, spousal abuse, substance abuse, suicide, victims of crime and so on. And what the government has done is to essentially throw FN the bone of allowing them to kill wildlife with vast latitude as part of their “heritage” as assured by treaties, while challenging them, or paying lip-service, to pretty well all else. It’s a horrific mess and just last week it emerged that a huge amount of money that was “given” to FN for child care was not so used. There is no way out of the situation that I can see that will be in the interests of FN. People living in remote communities, whatever their ethnicity, simply will not be able to have the opportunities for material success and avoidance of such social ills as mentioned above as people raised in the very “white” society that, in FN views, with good reason, caused those ills in the first place. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, although I personally think one can adhere to personal ethnic values, such as language, while still having equality in law, but if FN don’t want that, it won’t happen, and the animals, as usual, are the throwaways.

    • “what the government has done is to essentially throw FN the bone of allowing them to kill wildlife with vast latitude…” “and the animals, as usual, are the throwaways.” Thanks, that sums it up the situation. as far as I and the animals are concerned,

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