Teaching Kids Kindness vs. Killing
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

[Ed. Note: Take action - Stop Dove Hunting in Ontario Canada]


Jill Howard Church, Animals and Society Institute (ASI)
September 2013

"Doves are a great way to introduce kids to hunting, because they can do a lot of shooting," said John Hill, whose chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation sponsored the hunt. "I think we recruited some hunters today, and that's what these youth hunts are all about."

It won't officially be fall for another week, but images of autumn are already evident. The changing season means different things to different people; for some it means football, for others it means fundraisers and festivals, and for a vocal minority it means firing weapons at animals.

Or hunting, as the official sporting term goes. No sooner have schoolchildren returned to classrooms, they're now being lured into fields and woods to take part in special hunts designed just for them.

One such youth hunt recently took place in Kansas, where kids 16 and under were taken to a mowed sunflower field (whose seeds attracted the birds) to shoot wild doves. The kids were even given free shotguns and shells if they needed them.

"Doves are a great way to introduce kids to hunting, because they can do a lot of shooting," said John Hill, whose chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation sponsored the hunt. "I think we recruited some hunters today, and that's what these youth hunts are all about."

National surveys in recent years have repeatedly indicated that hunting is not as popular among young people as it's been in past decades. Some organizations blame "urbanization," while others note changes in leisure habits, most notably the popularity of video games.

But some hunting groups blame animal protection groups and humane education programs for discouraging hunting, and they're blazing mad. An article written earlier this year by Dennis Foster, executive director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, claimed that allowing humane education programs in schools "represents an effort to indoctrinate youth in the ideology of animal extremism and should be rejected." Foster said that "Emotional, subliminal vegan messages replacing animal care based on accepted, proven animal husbandry practices is not education, but indoctrination."

USA Today reported in 2010 that at least 30 states now have hunting programs specifically geared toward children and teens, some as young as age 9.

So apparently encouraging children not to harm animals is considered indoctrination, but giving them free guns, ammunition and armed "mentors" is just good old-fashioned fun.

In Kentucky, the stated aim of the 2013 Hunter Recruitment Initiative "includes placing an air rifle in the hands of potential hunters both youth and adult under the supervision of Hunter Education instructors and experts, which emphasize safe handling of firearms and marksmanship. The second aspect is for Youth - primarily new hunters - obtaining a complimentary Kentucky Youth Sportsman's license. The third aspect, when conducive to the event, is the ability to provide mentored hunting experiences."

And so it goes across the country, with large financial support from firearms and equipment manufacturers, state wildlife agencies (which receive public tax money) and of course the National Rifle Association and other pro-hunting groups.

These youth hunting programs teach children who grew up with SpongeBob to put holes into real creatures as if they were merely two-dimensional targets. In addition to the huge toll that takes on wildlife, sending kids out hunting results in human fatalities as well when inexperienced shooters make mistakes. Some states still have no restrictions on how young a child can be when hunting or what degree of adult supervision is required. Hunting accidents have already begun this year, with children and teens as both perpetrators and victims.

The Deer & Deer Hunting website has a 21-point list of "How to Teach Kids Hunting." In it, Tom Carpenter notes, "It can be hard for a youngster to walk up on a majestic animal they just killed. When firearm hunting, I'm never in much of a rush to get to a downed deer: We'll sit and watch it awhile if it has dropped in sight, gun at the ready, and let it kick its last. What you don't want is an ugly close-up scene delivering a finisher shot." In other words, let wounded animals suffer from a distance. This is the noble sport of hunting?

Seems like ethical blinders are as critical to hunting success as camouflaged blinds.

And when it comes to skinning and gutting the animal, he says, "Explain what's going on as you do it, and point out some of the organs. Make field dressing a fun, natural and joyous part of the hunt: You've had success! Have the young hunter assist by holding a leg, helping tug here or there and turning the animal over to drain blood. If a kid doesn't want to watch, respect that feeling."

But don't, apparently, have the audacity to teach them to respect the feelings of other animals by suggesting that hunting might be unkind, unfair and unwarranted; that's overreaching.

This fall, it's time to take a hard look at who's indoctrinating whom, and what effect that might have on our next generation.

Jill Howard-Church is a writer and editor who specializes in animal issues. She serves as the part-time communications director for the Animals and Society Institute, and is the volunteer president of GAveg, The Vegetarian Society of Georgia

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