By Gordon Douglas Special to the Arizona Daily Star
It’s hard not to chuckle at how hard some people have to work to not say something. A great example is Gerry Perry’s Dec. 23 guest opinion, “Hunting benefits Arizona.”
He extols the virtues of “harvesting nature’s surplus” and “reconnecting with nature’s ecosystems in a meaningful way.” You’d almost think he was talking about catching apples falling from a tree or hiking a wilderness. What he’s desperately avoiding are the words shooting, killing, wounding or suffering. That “meaningful connection” he’s talking about is going into an ecosystem, finding an animal and killing it.
Even the use of the word hunting is basically a way to avoid describing the actual intent of the activity. Photographers, naturalists and those who enjoy observing wildlife all “hunt” for wild animals. What sets “hunters” apart is killing the animals once they find them.
He notes game may be killed for food, but does not acknowledge that many animals are not eaten but are killed for trophies, so the hunter can brag “I killed that,” or are just killed for the fun of it. Those of us who eat meat recognize it is necessary to kill animals for that purpose, but we call the place for that a slaughterhouse, not a chicken collection center or cattle aggregation area.
[Ok, here the article’s author lacks insight into his own complicity in killing farmed animals–he doesn’t have to eat meat. But read on; he makes some great points in the next few paragraphs…]
He correctly points out how hunters provide funding for wildlife management. What he doesn’t say is that through this funding mechanism hunters essentially control how wildlife is managed.
Public lands and their wildlife are operated as a shooting preserve for hunters. Rather than a responsibility of all Arizonans, game animals are looked at as the private property of hunters to be exploited to the maximum extent possible. Natural predators are usually reduced or eliminated, since the value of animals is measured in the number of targets and carcasses for hunters.
He lauds hunting as making it possible to bring back many species from near extinction, which is a mind-boggling reversal of reality. The species were nearly made extinct by hunting. Species are not saved by killing; they are saved by not killing. Animals can be saved for their intrinsic value, instead of bred to be slaughtered for pleasure. The endangered species act was not passed so we could shoot pandas.
A few other items carefully avoided in the piece are the number of people accidentally killed or wounded in hunting accidents, the number of children killed or wounded in accidents from hunting weapons carelessly left in homes, and the general gun carnage in our nation fueled in part by the fanatical resistance of many hunters to any sort of reasonable restrictions on guns of any type.
Hunting involves the use of lethal weapons, and that always carries a tragic price.
Much money is indeed spent on hunting, but this money would be spent in other ways if not for hunting. These other ways could well provide even more significant benefits to our state.
America has a centuries-old hunting tradition. In all likelihood that tradition will continue into the foreseeable future. But in the mean time, let’s stop playing word games, honestly face what we are doing, and recognize the costs as well as benefits.