The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Letters and Responses
Letter to the Editor:
Although I have never met her, I assume that Jenny Greene is a brave lady to have written her letter, (“Hunting cruel and unnecessary”), which you published on Oct. 13th. In this city, wherein so many pride themselves on hunting and fishing, anyone who questions the ethics of “blood-sports” can expect cruel rebuttals. For Ms. Greene, they have started already with the letter of James Sutherland, published Oct. 17th: therein, for example, Mr. Sutherland calls her a “twit who wishes to remove ‘freedoms’” and “a person profoundly ignorant of the natural world”.
Years ago, when I was host of lively radio phone-in program, “Talkback”, on a slow day when calls were sparse, I knew that all I had to do was to criticize the “blood-sports” and our switchboard would be jammed with callers who would proceed to call me an idiot, question my right to be on the air, cast aspersions on my testosterone level, and so forth. At least in this part of the world, it was and is obvious that many people find pleasure in killing harmless creatures and then proceed to mask their motive by citing all sorts of justification for their so-called “sports”.
I request a little space although I know that in writing this letter I am opening myself again to all kinds of abuse and ridicule. Yet I want Jenny Greene to know that in her letter she expressed the feelings of thousands of others in Thunder Bay. There are many of us who turn away in sadness and disgust when we come upon pictures of grinning hunters and fishermen, proudly displaying their kills, apparently much-admired for their ability to chase, to hurt, and to kill. Some may see in these “sports” fun and excitement, but there are many others who can think only of the fear and the pain which our fellow-creatures had to endure to provide “thrills” for those who enjoy killing.
“Blood-sports” are, by their very nature, cruel. For fish, for example, there is no sport, no pleasure in fishing. Very recent scientific tests by the Royal Society indicate that a fish experiences intense pain when it is hooked. And, as for that worm or frog that was speared on that hook, there were minutes, perhaps an hour or more, of pure hell. (Worms don’t wriggle from pleasure.) I often wonder what real sport there can be for a fairly intelligent human being in “playing” a small and terrified reptile that is fighting for its very life. (Science has shown that “catch and release” is no less painful for fish.)
Mr. Sutherland states being shot is “most humane”, indeed the best way for a wild animal to die. I’ve spoken with enough wounded veterans from both World Wars to know that being shot, when it does not bring instant death, is a hideous horrible and painful experience. He states also that Ms. Greene’s concern for wounded animals is exaggerated and ridiculous. I don’t have the statistics (nor I suspect does Mr. Sutherland), but certainly many animals are wounded and escape to live on crippled and in agony. (A friend of mine, last fall, was out horseback riding when she came upon a party of three hunters, a father and his two daughters. They were resting on a rock after having chased a doe which they had wounded. They had lost her trail and so, unconcerned, were then content to bask in the sun and enjoy a smoke. Somewhere nearby was a beautiful animal in great pain, its life ruined forever to provide them with the thrill of a kill.
Mr. Sutherland claims that hunting (and presumably fishing) teach children to respect nature. I fail to see how teaching children that there is fun and excitement and pleasure in killing their fellow creatures leads to anything more than promoting the belief that animals and fish are only “things” to be used or tormented or destroyed for human entertainment. Indeed, Mr. Sutherland reveals his bottom line in his extraordinary statement, “People have rights, but animals have no rights!”Really? I wonder who determined that? Most ethicists would say that animals have every right. This world belongs to them as much as to us. They have a right to enjoy life as Nature intended. They have a right to be treated humanely, kindly, respectfully.
I grant that there are cases where a man or woman must kill out of necessity for food, but surely there should be a sadness and regret that a life must be taken to preserve a life. (Yes, because I have come to love animals, I am a vegetarian; I say this, not with pride, but simply to answer in advance one of the sneering questions that is hurled at those of us who stand for animal rights.) Again, there are also cases when mankind, as stewards of the earth, must cull a species to save it, but surely again there is something obscene about pretending that there is pleasure in this sad duty. (In Switzerland, culling a herd is done by government sharpshooters, and there is no pretense that the task is brave or exciting or fun.)
Our desire to hunt and fish is, however, only a symptom of that attitude that is spread throughout the human race, the attitude that lower creatures are ours to use and abuse as we please. In China, St. Bernard and German Shepherds are raised to be butchered for their meat. In Russia and the Philippines, small dogs and cats are “petnapped” and skinned (often while alive) for the trim on children’s toys and souvenirs. In Spain, bulls are blinded and crippled before they are thrust into arenas to be tortured to death. In the south seas, sharks have their fins cut off (while they are alive) to make fin soup, and the creatures then dropped back into the ocean to suffer and sink and drown. In North America, our most popular chicken chain packs 6,000,000 birds a year into cages so small that their wings are broken. In our industrial farms, millions of pigs and cattle, lambs and sheep live in unspeakably brutal conditions before being butchered, often in ways too cruel to bear description. Every spring, we see 300,000 helpless baby seals, still too young to leave their mothers, being clubbed to death on Canada’s ice floes even while their mothers shriek in anguish.
Like Ms. Greene and so many others, I believe that the only humane way to live is to show compassion to all living creatures: in their own ways they treasure life, and they know fear and suffering just as fully as do we. They are our fellow travelers, our brothers and sisters, on this journey of life. Albert Schweitzer said it best, “Persons are truly ethical only when they obey the compulsion to help all life which they are able to assist and shrink from injuring anything that lives.”
Hugh R. L. MacDonald
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