I am not a hunter. I’ve never gone hunting. I don’t read hunting magazines. I’ve always taken the word of hunters that it’s a healthy, practical sport. Unfortunately, when I was at the gym this morning, someone had turned the television on the wall to one of those hunting shows, and I’d never seen one of those, either. It kind of ruined my morning.
It was a couple of people hiding in a blind near a bean field, when a large herd of deer gathered, browsing on the leftovers. They pulled out a big rifle, and boom, shot a big buck.
I was horrified to see it — the animal went frantic, galloping about the field in a clear state of terror before its legs buckled and it collapsed. As a biologist, I’ve had to kill animals before, but it’s always a process hedged about with ethical rules, and we’re careful to anesthetize the animal — it’s more that they quietly go to sleep and never wake up, and we do everything we can to minimize stress. This does not mean there are no ethical concerns — I wouldn’t find it acceptable to be killed myself, as long as it was done with no pain — but the murder methods in hunting were so brutal and even more terrible from the victim’s viewpoint.
There’s also the pragmatic dilemma. Deer must be culled. Their population is thriving under the human regime, and they’re becoming pests. Ideally, we’d have a balanced environment with predators that would keep the population in check…but a wolf kill is even more brutal and cruel than shooting.
What bugged me most, though, was the reaction of the hunters: fist-pumping, grinning, cheering, pridefully standing over the corpse. As I said, I’ve killed uncounted mice, lots of rabbits and cats and a few dogs and a few larger animals for research, but I never got used to it, I never celebrated their death, I regretted it. Hundreds (or more) dead animals, and I never became so inured that I could do it casually, and I certainly never smiled and laughed as I infused some helpless animal with a barbiturate overdose. Of course, I still recognize the problem with even my attitude.
Need a philosopher and ethicist, stat. I am very uncomfortable now.