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C.A.S.H. Letters to the Editor > 2005

C.A.S.H. Letters

Responding to a Hunter's Letter

Dear Mr. Grant:

Thank you for contacting C.A.S.H. to tell us your thoughts on hunting. Rather than sending you a form letter, I wanted to personally reply because we do not always get well-reasoned criticism from the hunting community. The majority of the hunters who choose to contact us do so with mail that has in it so many four-letter-words and creative uses for our mothers that it is sometimes difficult to ascertain what they are trying to tell us, other than they disagree with our mission.

You may be surprised to read that we agree on several relevant issues.

I have a personal friend whose father is much like you, it seems. For the past 30+ years he has killed two deer per year and stocks his freezer with the meat. He and his family eat almost no other meat year-round. His reasons for doing so are purely environmental. He believes, and I agree with him, that the deer he kills have lived far better lives than the animals who are raised and killed by giant agribusiness conglomerates that reduce the animals to nothing but objects and raw materials to exploit for profit. He objects to the ground and water pollution, the senseless killing of animals, and the exploitation of slaughterhouse workers that are an inseparable part of modern meat production.

From our interaction with hunters (including the less eloquent ones as well as those who staff game agencies and everyday "Joe Hunters") it seems that you are far more responsible than most. Like my friend's father, it seems that your hunting is based on the importance you place on the ecology and the respect you have for the environment, and your desire to feed yourself and your family clean, high-quality food.

Unfortunately, state and provincial game agencies cater to those hunters who hunt purely for sport, because that segment of the hunting community is the majority. Out of the hundreds of hunters with whom we interact over the course of a typical year, you'd be shocked to know just how few we speak with who see things as you do.

State and provincial game agencies manage wildlife populations primarily for two reasons: to raise revenue through the sale of licenses, permits and equipment, and to ensure that animal populations are kept perpetually at a state of overpopulation so as to provide their customers - license buying and law-abiding hunters - a steady stream of animals to shoot.

To do this, game agencies have clear-cut tracts of land to create browse for deer and they manipulate bag limits and season lengths to increase deer populations in many wildlife management areas. They talk a good game to the public when they say that hunting is a necessary tool to manage animal herds at healthy levels, but they rarely if ever issue press releases when their actions include increasing populations or clear-cutting. It is not difficult to understand why this is so.

Game agencies put a very public face on the deer who are eating native plants and changing the health of woodlands, but they don't mention that squirrels, rabbits, pheasants and other animals (including many other species of birds) are killed in far greater numbers than are deer. Game agencies breed animals (including fish) for release, for no other reason than for hunters to kill them. This is not ethical, responsible, or in any way beneficial to the environment - it is creating life for the purpose of destroying it and it's something that we will never support. Releasing pen-raised chuckars and woodcock has no environmental value.

We are very aware that there are groups such as Ducks Unlimited, the Wild Turkey Federation, etc. that use their money to protect land and natural animal habitat. While this is certainly a noble cause, we wonder if they would be so interested in protecting the land if they were not allowed to hunt on it.

The latest strategies being employed by the larger animal protection groups are those to eliminate the most egregious forms of sport hunting. Canned hunts where wildlife are confined to fenced in areas that could be as small as four or five acres and where operators guarantee a kill (many of these animals are "surplus" from zoos or wildlife research centers) are in the crosshairs (pun intended) of the animal protection community. I've heard from many hunters who would support efforts to eliminate canned hunting if they trusted us to not come after them next. Honestly, I cannot make them a promise like that because we do not believe that hunting solely for sport and recreation - to mount a head on a wall - is something that should be part of a civilized society.

Like you, I too believe that it is *possible* to incorporate hunting and fishing into a greater theme of environmental protection. Certainly, if there were more hunters like you and fewer hunters in general there would be a greater balance of habitat, wildlife and humans. At C.A.S.H., our personal view and one that guides our mission is that even though it *may* be possible to have a greater ecological balance if the scope of hunting were to dramatically change, we would still pursue its elimination because we believe that no animal, domestic or wild, should have to die before his/her time. Today we live in a world where we do not have to inflict suffering upon animals in order to provide ourselves with what we need. You already know that the cornucopia of vegan foods provides us with great variety. The organic agriculture movement, while far from perfect, is a big step in a positive direction. Clothing can be made of natural fibers and materials that are not of animal origin (there is very little that is "natural" about a fur coat that was made from animals raised on fur farms). At C.A.S.H., our love of nature and the animals we share our planet with, as well as our knowledge of the practices and habits of game agencies leads us to no conclusion other than that in order to return the world to a far more natural state, the practice of hunting as we know it must end.

Thank you again for your thoughtful and respectful letter. If hunters and anti-hunters engaged each other with mature civility we could make progress on many environmental issues. We'd remain at an impasse on many others because our objectives are diametrically opposed, but there is no doubt in my mind that together, cooler heads and open communication can accomplish more than hostile antagonism.

I wish you and your family well.

Sincerely,

Joe Miele


Letter From Jeff Grant - 28 June 2005

Dear CASH:

I am writing your organization to explain how I believe hunting can be an important part of someone’s life and part of their connection to our environment. I do not expect this letter to change anyone’s mind at your organization, but I do hope it will provide your organization with an explanation of alternative points of view. I also hope that it will inject some civility into the debate on hunting, which at times can get very heated and disrespectful (on both sides).

I grew up hunting and fishing with my father, who impressed upon me what I now consider the essentials of being a responsible and ethical hunter. First, hunting for mere sport is wrong. Animals should only be taken for food or clothing and should only be taken in required quantities, never in excess. These experiences, which I cherished, also provided my father with a forum to teach me about the environment and how we are part of that environment – not separate from it. For me, this feeling of interconnectedness with our environment is a fundamental part of my life. It motivates me to bike to work, compost food scraps, reduce waste, support community initiatives and environmental groups, purchase organic food, etc. The opportunity to interact with the environment on the most basic level (providing nourishment) is an occasion to reaffirm this connection with our environment in an otherwise sterile world of cement and glass offices, supermarkets, buses and the congestion of modern day life.

Hunting now provides my family with an organic, free-range, low-fat source of meat. I realize that many of your members are likely vegetarian, and that’s great. We too, regularly enjoy vegetarian meals. But for those of us who enjoy eating meat, there is no better source than wild game. I certainly don’t want to support large scale industrial agricultural operations where animals are kept in unhealthy conditions, shot full of antibiotics and hormones and kept in a life of confinement. For me, the issue here is that of ‘choice’. I don’t feel that a group of individuals has the right to take away my ability to provide healthy food for my family. Nor do they have the right to dictate what I must eat or the lifestyle to which I must adhere. Food security is a fundamental right for all people and should not be subject to interest groups’ opinions.

I should also point out that there is tremendous diversity within the hunting community. There are certainly numerous examples of unethical “rednecks” who view hunting as a sort of game, where little or no respect is given to what they hunt. However, there are many within the hunting community who are very progressive and are working with youth to encourage proper hunting ethics and practices. Furthermore, many of these groups have worked very hard to conserve lands and protect habitat for wildlife. These individuals may often be in complete agreement with groups who oppose unethical hunting practices such as hunting merely for sport, hunting with dogs, etc. However, they are sometimes hesitant to support useful initiatives brought forward by anti-hunting groups because they know that the ultimate goal of these organizations is to ban ALL hunting.

I believe that it is possible to incorporate hunting and fishing into a ‘conservation lifestyle’ that is based on respect and admiration of nature. This is certainly the case for indigenous peoples around the world who hunt and find truly sustainable sustenance from the environment. Aldo Leopold, a well-know and oft-quoted conservationist and naturalist (also hunter) was very adept at summing this relationship up. In his collection of his essays entitled “A Sand County Almanac” (1949) he lays out his intense connection with and respect for the environment and how hunting was a part of this relationship. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the hunting/conservation debate. Here are a couple short excerpts from this book where he writes about hunting ethics:

Voluntary adherence to an ethical code elevates the self-respect of the sportsman, but it should not be forgotten that voluntary disregard of the code degenerates and depraves him. For example, a common denominator of all sporting codes is not to waste good meat. Yet it is now a demonstrable fact that Wisconsin deer hunters, in their pursuit of a legal buck, kill and abandon in the woods at least one doe, fawn, or spike buck for every two legal bucks taken out….Such deer hunting is not only without social value, but constitutes actual training for ethical depravity elsewhere.

The disquieting thing in the modern picture is the trophy-hunter who never grows up, in whom the capacity for isolation, perception and husbandry is undeveloped, or perhaps lost. He is the motorized ant who swarms the continents before learning to see his own back yard, who consumes but never creates outdoor satisfactions. For him the recreational engineer dilutes the wilderness and artificializes its trophies in the fond belief that he is rendering a public service.

I hope that you took this letter as it was intended – a sincere explanation that to some, hunting is a valued and important part of their life and not some childish proof of manhood or cruel game. I respect that you have a right to your opinion and am sure you feel that you are doing the right thing. However, I would ask that you consider and respect people’s differing viewpoints and understand that hunting may in fact, be part of their personal conservation ethic.

Sincerely,

Jeff Grant

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