A Question…



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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189 Responses

  1. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    The fact that I can’t answer your question without saying something someone might find “uncivil” goes a long way toward explaining why I’ve mostly stayed away from the gun symposium.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There was a period in the not-so-distant past where if you wanted to eat, you had to provide the food for yourself… and not in the “I have to pay for it at the supermarket without benefit of a farm bill or EBT” sense of providing for yourself but you had to grow it or kill it or trade for it.

    Many of the people who killed their food were killing domesticated chickens, turkeys, hogs, etc, but many of the people who killed their food had to hunt for it. Rabbits, deer, wild fowl.

    Why, my grandfather told stories about killing squirrels sometimes for stew meat when he was a boy.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Two responses:

      What does that have to do for individuals who do not need to kill their own food, which I would feel safe assuming the vast majority of hunters are?

      Also, why did we ever deem it acceptable to kill animals for food? There are plenty of ways to be well-nourished that do not entail killing animals.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

        On the latter question, I’d say it’s an efficiency thing. Meat is pretty nutrient-dense.

        On the former… well, I think killing animals to eat them is pretty clearly morally unjustifiable when you have alternatives. And killing them for FUN? Well, now we’ve crossed into pure depravity.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          I think this is a justifiable position to hold.

          However, I think if you’re going to hold it, it’ specious to ask what’s the difference between hunting and being cruel to animals; it feels more fair to ask what’s the difference between ordering a burger and being cruel to animals.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I agree with that. FWIW, I think killing animals to eat them is sort of a lower-order moral wrong. FWIW^2, I feel pretty much exactly the same way about abortion, which is why I’m pretty indifferent about laws prohibiting both things.

            Which is where your distinction between watching animals suffer to watch them suffer vs. killing them for some kind of purpose does begin to matter.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Well, unless you’re like my cousin who has severe allergies and can’t get the nutrition any other way, people eat meat because it tastes good. So, in the end they are killing animals for sensuous pleasure. That is pretty much the same thing that dog fighters and turtle smashers are doing.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          For the record, I’m not necessarily arguing that hunters are depraved. But maybe that dog fighters or turtle squashers aren’t quite as depraved as they are sometimes made out to be.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

            Hunters hope for a quick clean kill. It’s rather shameful to botch your shot and cause the animal unnecessary suffering. When it happens, a quick coup de grace is always utilized. The worst is to botch the shot in a way that enables an injured animal to get away, so that it’s suffering is prolonged.

            It seems to me that dog fighters and turtle smashers lack that ethic, and therein lies their depravity.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

              Again, smashed turtles I would assume die instantly.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                OK, then dog fighters are even more depraved than turtle smashers.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                One would typically say that the smashed turtle serves no purpose other than to assuage some sort of anti-god impulse in the turtle smasher.

                There’s a long tradition in pre-agricultural societies for reverence for the animals you kill for nourishment. It’s very much about finding your appropriate place in an ecological niche.

                One can argue, especially in specific locales, that by removing predation, humans have an ecological duty to provide the balancing predator activity in the predator/prey dynamic.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          an efficiency thing. Meat is pretty nutrient-dense.

          Can’t remember where I read it, will try to find it, but I seem to recall a science article somewhere speculating that it wasn’t just eating meat, but eating *cooked* meat, that provided the necessary fuel-efficiency for our hominid ancestors’ ever-growing brains (which are energy hogs).

          Those same big brains may now enable us to design acceptable replacement diets with equivalent or even greater nutrition; but at the time meat may have been responsible, in part, for humans’ great leap forward.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Glyph says:

            Our brains consume glucose. Starchy and sugary foods should be better right?Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Murali says:

              Not just glucose: meat also has vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.

              See here:



              That first Berkeley link says in essence what I did: that with today’s knowledge of nutrition, we can design a meat-free diet that is as good as or better than meat.

              But at the time, meat was the best thing going, and may have been essential to making us what we are today.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Glyph says:

                Actually IIRC our brain’s consumption of amino acids and lipids is greatly reduced*. That is why regeneration of neurons is incredibly slow. Also, since our brains did not increase in size all in one generation, the amount of amino acids and lipids our brains may have needed over a lifetime in pre-historic days may not have been any higher than today. I doubt that it is cooking meat which allowed us to support large brains.** Cooking starchy foods may be more relevant for that. On the other hand, cooking meat would have helped with a lot of other stuff. Given that in those days we really needed the protein and we still had not developed alternate ways of getting it, eating meat would have helped us satisfy a lot of our protein requirements, which would have been necessary to build the muscle needed for hunting, combat and escape.

                *It might be that only the use of anything other than glucose for energy is impaired and that the brain is perfectly fine with using amino acids for cell modification etc. How else is neuroplasticity possible eh? Our otherwise poor ability to regenerate axons may have another explanation.

                This doesn’t really affect my argument as ultimately, over a lifetime what is needed to support a large brain is the energy requirements. IIRC our brain consumes 20% of our energy. And I think it is energy requirements which poses the biggest limiting factor when it comes to supporting a larger brain.

                *Because unless I misremember, meat, while highly calorific, did not contain that many carbohydrates. The calories were in the form of lipids and proteins which the rest of our body can break down for energy when needed, but not our brains.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Murali says:

                I don’t think we are actually disagreeing all that much, maybe just talking past each other a little – I wrote “eating meat…that provided the necessary fuel-efficiency” (rather than just writing “fuel”) – that is, even if the meat itself isn’t completely providing everything a bigger brain needs (though meat’s a really good combo of calories, proteins, fats and B vitamins), adding meat to the diet conferred other benefits/freed up other resources to that same end.

                If you google “meat consumption human evolution” you’ll see a lot of this out there, I think we are basically on the same page.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        If we’re discussing ethics/morality of hunting, I don’t know that saying “they should buy pre-packaged meats at the Wal-Mart!” changes the morality of the situation overly much. It certainly alienates (in a good way, I’d think) the consumer from his or her food but you’re contracting people to kill on your behalf rather than killing yourself. There isn’t a whole lot of moral superiority to grab there, I don’t think.

        As for why did we ever deem it acceptable to kill animals for food? Well, there are cultures that are vegetarian out there. Not all cultures think that meat is acceptable. Other cultures, however, reached different conclusions and ate domesticated animals because they saw that doing so increased their quality of life by allowing them to not die of starvation as often.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Inuit would say differently.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Part of it is certainly the way we feel about certain animals, but I’d say the biggest reason is that one of those three things look to quickly kill an animal that you usually either intend to eat or reduce in numbers because of the natural and agricultural problems associated with overpopulation.

    The other two are about watching animals suffer for the singular reason of watching animals suffer.

    These do in fact seem inherently different.Report

  4. As for eating, I’m a meat eater. So in that sense, I’m okay with, or at least endorsing, killing animals for food. I know–or at least believe–that much of the meat I eat is grown in factory farm conditions, which I personally, on one level, believe to be wrong, but on another level obviously acquiesce in. Also, I eat more meat than I probably need. So for me, it’s not even an issue of doing something wrong but only because I need to do it to survive.

    But as long as I eat factory farmed meat, I cannot consistently condemn hunting, or at least hunting for food. Of course, there are at least two kinds of hunting for food. Hunting because one needs food and that’s the way one gets it. And hunting for sport, but using the killed animal for food so as not to let it go to waste. In the abstract, the former seems more justifiable to me than the latter, but I am chary of condemning the latter for my stated reasons.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      I wonder if we should consider factory farmed meat the moral equivalent of hunted meat. Animals raised for food serve little other purpose in the world; wild animals certainly do.

      Your hamburger wasn’t part of a complex ecosystem; that dear was. And as Bambi taught us, that dear was someone’s father (but probably not mother; I’m pretty sure doe hunting is universally illegal, which means that hunting has nothing to do with long-term population control).Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

        I value eco-systems largely for their utilitarian value, namely, how maintaining them helps humans. This doesn’t mean that ecosystems do not have a value as an end in themselves, but that I tend not to emphasize that potential.

        When I think of the morality of hunting vs. factory farmed meat, I’m thinking of the value of the sentient being as an end in itself. (A loaded term, I realize, and I’m too little of a philosopher to use it as informedly as I should.) The hunted deer had a chance to live as a deer up until the moment it was killed. The factory farm cow had almost no chance to live as a cow until it was killed. By eating meat from the factory farmed cow, I am perpetuating a cycle that my moral predispositions tell me is wrong. By eating hunted meat (or abstaining from meat that’s I don’t “need” to survive), I am not perpetuating that cycle as much.Report

      • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ummmm. No doe hunting is not illegal by a long shot. In fact in herd control areas they will give you a free antlerless tag.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Your hamburger wasn’t part of a complex ecosystem; that deer was.

        Not all that complex:

        – People buy plants at Home Depot to put in their yards.
        – The deer eat the plants.
        – There’s nothing to eat the deer.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

        Factory farmed meat is substantially worse (morally) than hunted meat, for a variety of reasons that would likely go into the weeds here.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        I wonder if we should consider factory farmed meat the moral equivalent of hunted meat. Animals raised for food serve little other purpose in the world; wild animals certainly do.

        Mass meat production has horrible environmental effects, and in many s cases the animals live abysmal lives before they are killed (although in general the killing is done humanely). If anything, I think it should be seen as morally inferior to eating hunted meat.Report

        • This is generally my sense. Unfortunately, I don’t live by it.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

            Nor do I, but every time I teach environmental politics and a vegetarian student writes their paper on the topic I get more and more squeamish about it. I’m currently trying to at least reduce the amount of meat I consume; smaller chops, a smaller amount of chicken in the stir fry, etc.

            If anyone knows of a vegetarian cookbook that has recipes that are filling, have sufficient amounts of protein for kids who are swimmers (swimmers chow down like you just wouldn’t believe), and are quick and easy enough for families that are always on the run, please let me know. Any of those, “start with an eggplant and soak for two days” type recipes just ain’t gonna cut it. One of the beauties of meat is you can cook it up really fast.Report

            • The rationale for my meat-eating is more base and less justifiable: I like the taste. I’m sure that if I tried, I could cultivate a taste for healthier and more moral (in my view) foods. But I don’t.

              I will say that since my fiancee and I moved in together, we eat more vegetarian dishes, although neither of us is a vegetarian.Report

            • Are there no farmers markets or cooperatives around you? Pastured meat isn’t that much more expensive, tastes better (you can use less of it, ergo) and you’ll feel much better about consuming it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                We’re climatically different from Texas, which leads to different types of agriculture. There’s precious little pastured meat around here because what could be pastureland is normally used for growing crops. What meat production happens around here–and there’s not a lot of it–tends toward the confined animal feeding operation approach.Report

              • I’m not necessarily sure if it’s a climatic thing or if it’s a location based thing. It’s not as if pastured poultry for example is super common, you still have to go out to your local farmers market and talk to specialized farmers for that.

                You could also order huge quantities of meat from Texas, and I’ll help ship them to you…just don’t think too closely as why the lamb only comes with 2 legs instead of 4 for example…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Well, as the old saying goes, 4 legs good, 2 legs better!Report

              • That said, I think poultry and things like goat, sheep, etc. might very well be available from a local CSA. I know the notion of locavore-ism probably goes against your free-trading spirit, but it’s probably worth looking into!Report

            • Also, don’t you live in a sufficiently out of the way area, where your neighbors probably hunt? Can’t you like, possibly butter one up with sufficient inducements (say a twelve pack of Coors?) and get them to shoot a deer or two for you to keep as various bits in a huge locker freezer in your garage?Report

  5. Avatar dhex says:

    ” So… what gives? ”

    people get really attached to animals in general and certain animals in particular. i don’t get it myself.

    i think the attachment to dogs and turn against dogfighting comes first and the justification follows, rather than it being a principles-based thing from the onset. i’ve heard the “it’s unnatural” argument about it, but so is the history of dog breeding. none of this stuff is natural. dogs are slaves to human whims, and those whims are often fanciful/insane. that’s how we end up with people ended up inventing laser nasal shaving procedures for pugs and other heavily defective lineages. and paying thousands of dollars out of pocket.

    crazy madness.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to dhex says:

      I think you’re on to something, but my standard, at least where it comes to dogs and dogfighting (and I would include that history of breeding defective lineages), there’s an element of pain inflicted for either no reason or for a very transient and in my opinion insufficient reason (gambling, pleasure at seeing other living beings in pain, the desire to have a “trophy” dog that looks cute). With hunting, there’s at least a notion that the animal is being put to a use greater than merely deriving pleasure from pain (and I’m generally against trophy hunting….but see my response to Tod above).

      Does this mean I would support dog hunting as long as people would eat the dog meat? Probably not, but I admit I have a hard time deciphering a logically consistent distinction between the two.

      So as I said, you’re onto something. I am attached to dogs (and cats) in a way that I am not attached to rats, for example, although I would oppose (and be willing to outlaw) rat fighting. Even then, my self-contradictions resurface, because I don’t oppose rat extermination.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        Why do we always assume that dog fighters derive pleasure from the pain inflicted? Should we make similar assumptions about boxing or MMA fans? If so, why don’t we vilify those people?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

          Because the people whose pain they’re enjoying are voluntary participants. I know some here have not found that standard convincing for much of anything, but I find it convincing for just about anything.Report

          • That’s pretty much what I wanted to say. But you did it in two sentences, while it took me five paragraphs. Would it surprise you to know that my dissertation draft has very long discursive footnotes? 🙂Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              FWIW, I am with you guys – generally, if someone consents of their own free will, well, that covers just about anything.

              But I confess to squeamishness about boxing on a personal level. I have a hard time with a sport in which blows to the head are not just incidental to the sport, but the goal. The human brain is the greatest problem-solving machine the world (maybe the universe) has ever seen and it just seems incredibly …disrespectful, I guess? to condone, even celebrate intentional damage infliction (the “knock-out”) to it.

              I hope that all the people that were for with mandating condom use for porn performers, would also like to mandate a change to the rules of boxing to forbid intentional head blows (here I am being semi-snarky, semi-not).Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph says:

                generally, if someone consents of their own free will, well, that covers just about anything.

                But I confess to squeamishness about boxing on a personal level.

                Me too, on both counts. I’m slightly less squeamish now, because I have friends who introduced me to that reality boxing show from a while back (I forget the title and perhaps it’s still on the air), and I appreciate the “sportness” of it now than I ever did, even though I don’t consider myself a boxing fan.

                Fun fact: my father used to box golden gloves c. 1950s. I don’t know much about whether he was successful or not.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                And I know there is “sportness”, and skill, I get that. I just…I don’t know. I wish people *wouldn’t*, you know? Isn’t there any other way to demonstrate those skills?

                I mean, one of people’s big complaints about guns is that they are a tool “designed to kill”.

                Shouldn’t a skill, no matter how proficient or honed, which is largely “designed to inflict brain injury” (or, less strongly, “designed to incapacitate”) be looked at similarly?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                Being willing to allow it doesn’t mean being thinking it’s inherently good, and not wishing people wouldn’t do it. In fact that’s the real test of a certain type of liberal attitude–whether you’re willing to let people do things that harm only themselves, even if you really don’t approve of the thing they’re doing.Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to James Hanley says:

                ” Isn’t there any other way to demonstrate those skills?”

                in that context? no. for both good and bad, it is the most pure human sport ever invented.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to James Hanley says:

            Would this same logic apply if boxers were routinely killed or maimed? Would this logic apply to roman gladiators? (note: I don’t mean this in a confrontational way. I’m just trying to suss out where we all stand on the morality of violence being staged for entertainment purposes.)Report

        • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

          I assume that by “dog fighters” you mean the humans involved in these scenarios (e.g., by gambling or making money off the “show”), so I’ll respond under that assumption:

          It’s not so much that “dog fighters” derive pleasure as it is that they engage in their activities for reasons that I don’t consider sufficient to justify inflicting pain on sentient beings. The “dog fighters” are therefore deriving something–call it pleasure or not.

          Why don’t we (and why oughtn’t we) vilify boxing fans? For me, one key distinction is in the fact that I trust the human beings who box to be engaging in a practice of their own free will. And boxing therefore shocks my conscience less.

          I assume here the dogs do not “choose” to fight in a meaningful sense of the word “choose.” I think I’m on relatively firm ground, but I admit an inconsistency. If a dog is bread to fight–and if one can infer from that breeding that the so-bread dog actually wishes to fight and that fighting is the dog’s moral “telos”–then my position is a little bit weaker. I then half to fall back on a claim that’s I have a hard time knowing how to defend and I’m not sure I agree with: that dogs are not moral actors and that as humans, one of the responsibilities of our dominion over animals (including dogs) is to prevent them, if we can, from inflicting unnecessary pain on each other, or at least not provide the circumstances in which their mutually inflicted pain is going to happen.

          Yet again, the “unnecessary” and “dominion over animals” parts of what I just wrote does a lot of work, and requires me to justify what I mean by “unnecessary” and how to determine it. I’m not sure I’m equipped to make that argument that would be satisfactory to anyone who doesn’t already agree with my conclusion (that dog fighting ought to be outlawed, subject to a cost/benefit analysis of whether outlawing might in some ways encourage the practice, etc.).Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

            I bet most dog fighters, if given the option to fight dogs in a way that caused zero harm to the animals without sacrificing the “quality” of the “sport” would opt for it. I don’t think the infliction of pain is necessary for the enjoyment for most of them.

            I’ll concede that choice is a legitimate differentiating factor between MMA/boxing and dog fighting.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

              Sure, this is why “laser-tag” bullfighting is so popular in Spain.

              Snark aside, I beg to differ. The pain and blood and death are part of the enjoyment, IMO.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                For some, I’m sure. But not all. Most folks who enjoy torture porn movies (e.g., Hostel) probably would not enjoy watching real torture take place.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                But people who watch dog fighting are watching real pain inflicted, and enjoy it enough to make efforts to do so despite the illegality of their actions. I think your assumption on this one is pretty dubious. For those who like to watch dogs compete, there are other types of competitions that aren’t injurious to dogs (at least not intentionally so).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Perhaps. I don’t personally know any dog fighters. But I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, to not assume they are heartless, sadistic monsters.Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

                I admit that I’m making that assumption, at least insofar as I am assuming sadism and sadistic pleasure. As to whether they are “monsters,” my official answer (as you’ll see below) is to punt, even though my practical answer is to say yes.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’m not so sure that the sadism aspect is a necessary component.
                It’s the overwhelming aspect of disregard for well-being.
                With dog fighting, cock fighting, bear baiting, and the like.
                What’s going on externally is irrelevant morally, but rather the internal conditions required to permit enjoyment. And it comes down to disregard.

                Say, if there was a woman being raped by two unarmed men right outside of my apartment, and I sat there hearing it in full; and rather than to try to do anything to assist, I simply sat there amused: “Ha, HA!! She’s getting it really good! Hope they kick her ass a bit before it’s all said and done!”
                Now, were I to sit through a movie depicting the same event, the matter would be quite different morally.

                Simply to kill for killing’s sake is contemptible.
                I put trophy hunters in that category as well.
                Giving away the meat is only mitigating the inherent amorality (unless of course, the hunt was undertaken for the purpose of providing meat to others).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                Speaking of which, the NHL will be back soon.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Thank agnostic God!Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’m not sure if God is agnostic, but I am starting to suspect He may be narcoleptic.Report

            • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

              To be honest, then, maybe I have a misconception of what dog-fighting is. I had thought it was a blood-sport where the terms of the sport dictated that one animal was going to be killed or seriously maimed. If there is a more humane way to go about it, then perhaps the cost/benefit analysis I mentioned above might or ought to play a role in determining whether it should be legal. (I.e., if there were a way to ensure that dogfighting not be a blood sport.)

              Still, I’m unwilling at the moment to relinquish my view that might be a misconception. I still operate under the assumption that dog fighting is a blood sport under the terms that I (mis?)coneive it to be.Report

          • I just re-read my comment at 2:22 pm and all I can say is, what a lot of misspellings!Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      Disclaimer: Dog owner (2, from the local shelter).

      I suppose it’s possible that the turn against dogfighting is only because of irrational sentiment.

      But to me breeding and training animals to go against their instincts (dogs are social animals; and while they will certainly fight in nature, it is only rarely they’ll do so to the death; and even then, it is generally within the context of resource competition) and having them inflict pain and death upon each other for the sole purpose of human diversion, is pretty much the textbook definition of “perversity”.

      To inflict needless suffering, for entertainment only, I have a hard time seeing how that can ever be morally justified (if Michael Vick wasn’t an NFL player, but instead was a peasant in some country where staging such locally-acceptable entertainments was the only way to feed his family, well, that’s a different case; but that was not the case).

      My two cents.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    I’m a pretty hardcore environmentalist. I live in a rural area, on the edge of the largest forest in the Northeast. And I’ve spent a lot of time identifying the allies I have in protecting that forest (which, I’ve been told by scientist who study it, absorbs more carbon the the East Coast cities produce every day; that forest matters).

    First in line are the hunters. They understand the habitats of the animals they hunt; the complex relationships that those animals need to not only survive, but to thrive that they’re plentiful enough for hunting to be allowed. There’s no open season on endangered species.

    Another aspect of hunting that matters is species control; some animals overpopulate, in part, because we’ve already depleted their predator populations. Here, deer can be a problem. Moose, too. And too many deer mean deer in roads, causing accidents, in yards eating people’s gardens and shrubbery. Moose are an even bigger problem; you hit one, and it’s in your windshield, in the passenger compartment of your car.

    I don’t hunt, though I have (we desperately needed the meat). I would again, if similar times ever darken my life. I’ve no problem with killing rodents. Death is a part of life, and the only single thing all things that live hold in common; everything living, eventually, dies.

    But hunting and glorifying gun violence, glorifying the power to control a situation because you have superior force, are two very different things. Guns for glory? That’s unacceptable to me. 100%.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    A lot of good arguments have been put forth thus far, and I’ll totally cop to being deliberately provocative in both my post and my responses, largely to explore what dhex appropriately describes as whether our various responses are based in principle or not.

    I’ll ask a follow-up question: Is Michael Vick a “monster” (as described in the link)? Did he deserve jail time? Is there something “wrong” with people who might go out of their way to run over a turtle?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

      Yes, yes, and yes (respectively).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Wait, which one was which again?Report

        • Avatar dhex in reply to Glyph says:

          no, no, and maybe? (the last one hinges on whether they’re endangering other drivers). it doesn’t make them not assholes, mind you, but i think when dogs or other animals seen as either cute or harmless come into play, there’s a huge distortion effect. maybe i see it because i don’t have this attachment to pets and animals in general; or maybe i’m imagining it or making it more than what it is because of my privileging the human experience above all other experiences. dunno. i am fairly confident that putting a human in a cage for abusing an animal is more immoral than abusing an animal in the first place.

          i don’t really have a problem with building backwards to principles from reactions. i think it’s unavoidable in most cases. we find an ends we desire and work from there.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

            “…because of my privileging the human experience above all other experiences…”

            There are folks who’d call you a “speciesist” for this position.

            Yes. Seriously.

            • Avatar dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

              of course. and they wouldn’t be wrong, even as i cede that there are some differences which are merely matters of degree rather than differences of kind. we are mammals, but we’re also more than that.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                Speciesist might be an accurate description, but the use of that term as if it were equal to racist or sexist is concerning to me.

                As to you’re point that we are “more than that”… I’m going to address that in my next post.Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

                well, in trying to push goalposts you gotta resort to some kind of equivalency that people will feel. supporters would point out that 50 years ago gay marriage was regarded as similarly inconceivable/farcical.

                on the other hand there’s the they also laughed at bozo the clown thing, too.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                True. In fifty years time, we may look back at posts like this and recoil at much of what is being written, my words in particular.

                “He thought animals didn’t deserve rights! Yet he still takes advantage of the life-saving medicine invented by dolphin scientists. Good thing we learned how to translate their clicks!”Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

      As far as Vick goes, I’ll submit that I only read the headlines and know nothing more than that he was accused of somehow coordinating “dogfighting.” If dog fighting is how I (mis?)conceive it, then the law under which he was prosecuted and imprisoned was just, at least insofar as it outlawed the activity. Whether the penalty was appropriate or not (I’ll bracket for this post a lot of social issues that might be lurking in the background: whether raise played a role in arresting him and what the sub-culture was he might have been operating under), I don’t know because I know too little. However, in principle, I have little qualms about making dogfighting a felony.

      Is he a “monster”? I view questions like this to invoke a sort of judgment that humans are ill-equipped to make. In theory, I claim that I would like to abstain from that judgment and leave the judgment to god, if s/he exists. But in all honesty, when I heard about it x years ago, I probably felt and believed that he was a morally reprehensible monster. More so than if he killed someone in a shoot out? Probably. Than if he killed a defenseless person in the course of a robbery? Probably not.Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I suppose I find it interesting that Jared Allen gets this treatment: http://img.printstown.com/sportingnews/2008_06_16_JARED_ALLEN_LARGE.JPG

    While Michael Vick gets this: http://www.itchmo.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/atlanta_falcons_michael_vick.jpg

    Does Jared Allen eat bear?Report

    • Avatar Just Me in reply to Kazzy says:

      Bear meat is really really good! A few years ago my uncle had an all wild meat grill out, my favorite was the bear.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

      I don’t know anything about Jared Allen, including (until now) that he is an NFL lineman. But I presume the distinction is that he hunts bears for sport while Mr. Vick engaged at some level in dog fighting. I also presume that Mr. Allen didn’t eat bear meat, or donate it, or do what have you.

      It seems that what animates your decision to post those pictures (and to write this post) is to ask us to interrogate why Mr. Vick was treated one way for what he did and Mr. Allen treated another for what he did.

      For starters, on one level, their differential treatment is explained by the fact that one practice is defined by the state as criminal and the other, bear hunting, is legal (as far as I know). On another level, dog fighting strikes me as something done for sadistic pleasure (and yes, you’ve challenged me and others on that assumption) while bear hunting at first glance does not appear sadistic. I could add that the bear hunting is probably done in this case more for the joy of killing bears than for getting meat, which was one of the standards I elucidated above for the moral cut-off. In that sense, I would suggest that Mr. Allen’s venture is on an outrage level as bad as Mr. Vick’s.

      However and to be honest, I’m less outraged at Mr. Allen’s bear hunting venture on an emotional level. And to truth tell, I’d probably be less outraged if the bear hunting be criminalized and for the same reasons that dogfigting (to my knowledge) is. So perhaps there’s something to the argument that you and dhex (and others) mention about us developing a certain affection for certain types of animals and not others. (Unlike Stephen Colbert, I don’t have much against bears, but I’m also not really all that attached to them, either.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

        “It seems that what animates your decision to post those pictures (and to write this post) is to ask us to interrogate why Mr. Vick was treated one way for what he did and Mr. Allen treated another for what he did.”

        Pretty much. I think there is a lot of question begging that goes into many of the answers commonly offered to this question (not necessarily here, where folks tend to be more thoughtful). There probably is good reason for viewing hunting differently than dog fighting, but it seems most often people appeal to poor reasons for doing so. “Cuteness” should not be a factor in morality.

        Also, I’m a provocative prick. Wait until I write my post about the potential morality of human genocide at the hands of aliens (or the resulting immorality of antibiotics)!Report

        • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

          I will say you’re a provocative pr*** in a way that’s more palatable than other “provocative” people I have known. You actually engage in the dialogue–even if you do a little bit of the Socrates thing, you don’t do his shtick of “it’s a dialogue when I stop talking three paragraphs later and your answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

            Heh. Thanks? I think?Report

            • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

              Yes, I meant it as a compliment. (I don’t like the style of the Socratic “dialogues” I’ve read.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                You’re in luck… I didn’t pay much attention to Socrates (pronounced Soe-Crates).

                I tend to be in the minority when it comes to my position on animal treatment and the like (even here I stop short of saying “animal rights” because I question/deny that animals even have rights). And I know I’m probably wrong in a lot of my positions, but I think we’d be well-served to re-evaluate a lot of our behaviors in relation to animals, especially those that come at cost to humans. Who I (generally) think should have rights.Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

                I too am wary of suggesting that animals have “rights,” and my wariness comes from Jason Kuznicki’s arguments against the notion of animal “rights.” However, I still come down in favor of many laws or regulations to outlaw or lessen cruelty to animals, and not solely on grounds of how useful such regulations might be to humans.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Were Jason’s arguments posted here? If so, I missed them and would be curious to dig them up.

                Rational Kazzy says many (but not all*) animal cruelty laws or even non-mandated practices are a good thing.
                Provocative Kazzy sometimes says that privately owned animals are just another form of property, like a chair. And if you want to fight them, such is your right (the dogs, not the chairs; I suppose you COULD fight the chairs but that’d likely be less entertaining).

                * Did you know that dolphin-safe tuna is deadly for a host of other animals? “[O]ne saved dolphin costs 25,824 small tuna, 382 mahi-mahi, 188 wahoo, 82 yellowtail and other large fish, 27 sharks and rays, 1 billfish, 1,193 triggerfish and other small fish, and 0.06 sea turtles.”

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

                Yes, Jason posted some of that argument here a while back, and I think he did so at one best way, too, and maybe at Cato.

                I had not idea about the dolphin-safe tuna. I guess if I want to eat some fresh dolphin, I’d better look elsewhere!Report

              • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

                I should add that I don’t remember if Jason’s post was about animal rights per se, or if it was about “rights” and he used the notion of “animal rights” as an example.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

          ““Cuteness” should not be a factor in morality.”

          Except that the reason dogs are “cute” is because we’ve selectively bred them to be cute. For centuries, we’ve selectively bred a particular species of animal – a feeling being – to best match our desires, to crave our approval, and to look to us for guidance, and, coincidentally to appeal to our aesthetics by being cute.

          Now, I’m not one of those folks saying “Oh, DOMESTICATION IS AN ABOMINATION, PET OWNERSHIP IS EVIL.” Far from it. We are where we are. But given the existing circumstance that dogs have been domesticated, and domesticated in a certain way, then, if a person takes a dog – an animal so hardwired to be dependent on that person’s approval – and warps its other dog-instincts away from sociality and into viciousness… yes, I think that is profoundly immoral. Similar in kind and effect, though not in degree, to child abuse. (And I say that as a survivor of child abuse, so please don’t freak out at me for comparing the two.)

          Aside from morality, I think the revulsion people feel at animal cruelty may be to some degree a warning flag / predictive thing. “If that person will treat a helpless X that way, what might they do to me?” is a question that my personal experience suggests is worth asking.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Maribou says:


          • Avatar Will H. in reply to Maribou says:

            The cuteness aspect is associative affect disorder, for precisely the reasons you identify.
            Most people demonstrate affect in X; however, the patient has difficulty in associating X to where he/she feels affect.
            The cuteness aspect identifies the intensity of affect.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

              Can you break this down a bit? I’m a bit confused by what your saying.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                If a normal, healthy person feels affect when stimulated by cute, furry creature X;
                Then persons stimulated by cute, furry creature X remaining void of affect are not normal or healthy.

                IIRC, it’s treated as a personality disorder.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will H. says:

                This would seem to require that recognition of cuteness is objective, not subjective, yes?

                I certainly can see the logic to this being true, that there might be a biological/evolutionary reason for us feeling affect when exposed to certain stimuli. Is this backed up scientifically?

                And this would seem to get at the question I ask of Maribou below (or above? Somewhere…).Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

                I didn’t invent the term. I learned about it from a friend who is a nurse at the VA. Apparently, presence of this disorder directly affects recovery from certain types of trauma.

                I have no idea how they measure they cuteness of a thing; but it stands to reason that cultural factors would have to be considered.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will H. says:

                how they measure they cuteness of a thing

                They use the Voight-Kampff Test, which specifically covers turtles.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

            Hunting for food, or even for status, doesn’t trip my revulsion buttons, because, from my perspective, there is a rational social purpose behind what those hunters are doing, as well as a couple of millennia in which such behavior was both personally and altruistically useful.

            Bringing suffering to another creature for the thrill of it and nothing else (which definitely includes some hunters)? I will be making a wiiiiiiiide berth around that person.

            Bringing direct or indirect suffering to another creature *which trusts you and/or whose daily living you control* for purposes other than helping it, or making necessary adjustments to its life that will allow you to keep helping it in other ways? I’ll assume those folks (eg, Michael Vick at the time of his arrest) are dangerous, sadistic bastards until conclusively shown otherwise. I might be wrong sometimes. I’m okay with that.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:


              Do you think it possible that someone’s sadism might be exclusively limited to a particular animal?

              For instance, imagine Michael Vick viewed dogs and dogs alone as no different than a chair. We probably wouldn’t consider him a threat to humans if he delighted in abusing chairs. But if he viewed dogs as wholly and fundamentally different than cats and people and elephants and turtles and every other living thing, and therefore was willing/able to do things to dogs that he wouldn’t do to cats or people or elephants or turtles, would that change anything? I don’t think it would necessarily change the morality of his actions, but might change how we view them in the larger context of his makeup.

              It is possible that Michael Vick simply sees (or saw) dogs in a wholly different way than you. He might not have thought, “I’m going to fight this emotional being to the death”; he might have thought, “I’m going to use this object to make myself feel good.”

              Again, I’m not making excuses or seeking to justify his actions; only arguing that he might have viewed them through a radically different lens.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

                It’s possible, sure… but I disagree that it changes anything. Nor does his ability to view them through a radically different lens change anything (frankly, it seems like a big shift of the goal posts from your original question, as well) – abusers ALWAYS see their own actions through a radically different lens.

                If someone actually “viewed dogs [and only dogs] as wholly and fundamentally different than cats and people and elephants and turtles and every other living thing, and therefore was willing/able to do things to dogs that he wouldn’t do to cats or people or elephants or turtles,” in other words, if he classed dogs and only dogs as “objects” in a strict subject/object dichotomy, that person would be quite enormously delusional. Quite enormously delusional people who act in harmful ways are often subject to sudden changes in their delusions that redirect their dangerousness, so it would set off all the same red flags for me. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist, but I think the most common term for such a belief is “psychotic”.

                I suppose such a position, held with utter sincerity and acted upon, would make me class the person pretty far over toward “not mentally competent” … which would make me feel less moral judgment for his actions and more concern for his health needs.

                However, I really really don’t want to get into the area of “how morally culpable are people who are clearly dissociated from reality and who ALSO act in ways that would be morally unacceptable for a mentally competent person,” right now. While a valid philosophical question, it pushes way too many of those childhood-abuse-survivor buttons, mentioned above.

                It’s not an argument worth having, for me. Honestly, it’s rather difficult for me to take your proposal – that a one-animal limit would significantly meliorate my (or society’s) perspective on his make-up – in good faith.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:


                Reading your response, I think I was pretty unclear with my point. My apologies.

                What I really mean is that when discussing the atrocious acts of another, people seem to often act as if the perpetrator knows their acts are atrocious and yet they do them anyway. I think that most people tend to think, one way or another, that there actions are acceptable. Vick probably thought dog fighting was no big thing. He probably recognized others didn’t feel as such but didn’t think so himself.

                Now, this obviously puts his moral center quite far from your own, and most people, and possibly in a place we might call depraved or unhealthy. But I do think there is a difference between someone who says, “I know this is wrong and I’m going to do it anyway,” and someone who says, “I know others think this is wrong but I think it is okay so I’m going to do it.”

                Does that make more sense? And, yes, it might not ultimately change how we respond.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

                Yeah, I agree that those are two different responses.

                However, I think people who respond either way are equally likely to be morally reprehensible, equally likely to be making a redeemable mistake, or equally likely to be in the right.

                Hindsight being 20/20, I find my own retrospective judgment of my sins tends to be more forgiving when I thought at the time “I’m doing it even though I know it’s wrong,” than when I thought, “everyone else just doesn’t get that this is perfectly okay”. Of course, that only applies to actions I still think were wrong.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

                That is interesting. I tend to think it worse to knowingly do something wrong than to be in error about what you think is right or wrong. This might be a function of my work with young children, who are still very raw when it comes to developing a moral code and for whom most transgressions are the result of ignorance rather than deliberate intent to do wrong.

                If Michael Vick grew up in a manner where it was communicated to him, explicitly and implicitly, that dog fighting was morally acceptable, does that mitigate any of his responsibility?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

      If Michael Vick wants to go hunt African Wild Dogs, I’m not opposed to an SI story on it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

        James, as a libertarian, do you support outlawing dog fighting? (A genuine question, mind you; no snark intended.)Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

          Yes. While I am also skeptical about giving animals “rights,” it is indisputable that dogs (and many other animals) have strong emotions; they can experience terror and agony (or at least emotions that are good enough analogues for terror and agony). In some ways they’re like children–deserving of consideration but unable to make their own choices.

          They’re not human, and so I wouldn’t offer them all human protections (e.g., I don’t think you can meaningfully be said to “murder” a dog), but neither are they mere objects, whose treatment is of no concern.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

            Would you make capability of emotions a condition for being concerned about their treatment?

            (I will explore this concept in more depth in my aforementioned moral-human-genocide-by-aliens/immoral-antibiotics post.)Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

              I think so, although I haven’t fully worked it out. Specifically there’s something in there about emotional intelligence, a combination of comparatively high intellect, emotional feeling, and sociality. So I’d give very high protections to other ape species, for example, because they rank very highly in all that. Most fish I wouldn’t worry about (although I’d still worry about the person who enjoyed torturing fish; but that’s about the person’s emotional health, not the fish’s well-being). In general, mammals that general live in complex social groups rank high and I would give them significant protection.

              And so that post is real, not just a tongue-in-cheek line? Coolio.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Very real indeed. It is a similar sort of question to this post and I can get it up pretty quickly. Maybe once the Gun Symposium is over. This comment will get at the heart of what I hope to explore in it.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

      There’s also a racial element to this, of course….Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Yes, though I think moreso in a broad way than a specific way. What I mean by this is that if Peyton Manning was fighting dogs, he probably would have been prosecuted similarly to Vick. And if Justin Tuck were a hunter, he possibly would have been celebrated as such.

        But if dog fighting was the domain of the Peyton Mannings of the world and hunting was the domain of the Justin Tucks of the world and that is how it always was, our perception of the two activities likely would been different.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Maybe. A lot of dog-fighting types are white (admittedly,. from backgrounds that would get them stereotyped as white trash), and they get no sympathy either. If you want to add class to race, and say that part of the issue that dog-fighting is associated with low-status populations, OK, but I think that it’s also objectively immoral, as Maribou explained above.Report

        • If Michael Vick were associated with say…shooting wolves out of a helicopter, I’d imagine he’d have been considered less of a monster.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:


          Class is indeed a part, perhaps a bigger part than race.

          Folks here (and on other threads) have offered solid evidence that dog fighting is objectively immoral. Which is what I was hoping for.

          Far too many people, though, seem to think it is immoral because dogs are cute and mean, poor trashy people do it. That is largely what I object to.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

            Dogs are cute, and only mean people would deliberately harm them. Cockroaches are disgusting, and we’d all like to see them dead. Those are facts, even if their basis is largely emotional. And turtles are at worst harmless. I honestly can’t find any empathy with the idea of going out of one’s way to smash them.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Facts, yes. But should that be the basis for morality?

              Is it okay to kill cockroaches because they are disgusting? Or for biological reasons?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                The two are not unrelated. It’s the same reason shit stinks.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Are you sure about that? The things being related… not the shit thing.

                Many people find spiders scary or gross and have no qualms killing them. But if we killed all the societies, our planet and our lives would be objectively worse, because of the very necessary and important function that spiders perform. This makes me think our “cuteness radar” is sub-ideal.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                But if we killed all the spiders we found in our houses , we’d be no worse off (if they were harmless daddy longlegs) or better off (if they were poisonous), The cuteness radar evolved before we had the power to do more than that. (Kind of like the “distrust of people who look different from us” reflex wasn’t nearly as deadly before nukes.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                So it is moral to harm ugly animals and immoral to harm cute ones?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                It’s moral to kill bugs, because they’re pests in many ways (spread disease, get into food, infest dwellings, bite, etc.) and part of the reason we react to them as ugly is that they’re not good things to have around. It’s immoral to kill dogs [1] because our species and theirs go way back and have many mutual debts, and that’s part of why we see them as cute. And in general, killing things that trigger the cuteness reaction, unless there is sufficient reason for doing so, suggests some kind of emotional distortion. If you kill a dangerous animal in spite of the fact that it’s cute, good for you. If you kill a non-dangerous animal because it’s cute, you’re in bad shape.

                1. Obviously, feral dogs that represent actual danger are an exception.Report

  9. Avatar Jon says:

    The second amendment has nothing to do with hunting! Where did we stray from its literal meaning? It had everything to do with keeping an armed citizenry to prevent tyranny and invasion! It put the government out founding fathers were drafting in check so to speak. When I hear folks claim its about hunting, I just want to tell them to turn in their “American” card.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jon says:

      When I hear people like YOU claim it’s about “keeping an armed citizenry to prevent tyranny” I want to tell them to turn in their American Card.

      The 2nd amendment was about holding citizens to be called up for the military in times of war. Many of the Founders thought that they could just call up “the militia” when there was a war and keep no standing army during peacetime.

      It quickly turned sour. They got their asses handed to them over and over, the militiamen were deserting often and sometimes refusing to fight outside of their own state’s borders in defense of the other states. It still took until the British burning the White house in 1814 for James Madison to get his head out of his rear about it, but even he came around and signed the act creating the US’s standing army in 1816.

      It’s not about hunting.
      It’s not about “armed citizens opposing government tyranny.”

      It was about being cheapskates and thinking that calling out drunks with guns, calling them a militia, and sending them into the field to fight trained solders could possibly turn out well.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

        I’m mostly in agreement with this, except for the cheapskates part. They really did worry about the potentially tyrannous effects of keeping a standing army, recognizing that it makes it a lot easier for the government to control the citizenry. It just turned out that the downside of the standing army turned out to be greater than they had anticipated.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jon says:

      It had everything to do with keeping an armed citizenry to prevent tyranny and invasion!

      IF the justification is defending the homeland from foreign invasion, then the justification is moot, at this point. We have standing armies, etc.

      If the justification is defense against domestic tyranny, then it seems to me the only plausible reading is the right of citizen militias to defend state sovereignty from federal overreach. But it’s incoherent – I think, anyway – for the right to be justified as an individual right to prevent governmental tyranny: if government has abrogated the social contract to the point that it has no legitimacy, then the right being relied on (a political right) is no longer operative.

      I mean, i get the idea, and don’t dispute that it sounds really nice and all. But it’s incoherent.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Stillwater says:

        the words ‘well regulated’ bear some thought here, as well. For it’s government that does the regulating.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to zic says:

          I’m still waiting on my historical piece on the full context of the 2nd amendment and the militia system to get posted. I’m guessing either they’ve decided not to post it, or it’s caught in a backlog of scheduled symposium posts, but I can’t do much about it either way at this point.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jon says:

      I just want to tell them to turn in their “American” card.

      The only real Americans are the ones who believe exactly as I do. It’s a lonely country.Report

  10. Avatar Jon says:

    The second amendment has nothing to do with hunting! Where did we stray from its literal meaning? It had everything to do with keeping an armed citizenry to prevent tyranny and invasion! It put the government our founding fathers were drafting in check so to speak. When I hear folks claim its about hunting, I just want to tell them to turn in their “American” card.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Late to this thread but I will chip in…

    What I would say about hunting is that motivations differ from hunter to hunter. Some hunters are in it strictly for the meat. Others love the sport of it. Others use it an an excuse to be in the outdoors. I know hunters in all three categories. But normally it’s a blend of the three. A quick story:

    I went duck hunting this morning. We secured persmission yesterday to hunt a large farm pond in an area full of waterfowl. We were there before sunrise and I watched the sun come up over the water, with geese honking in the background, cows mooing and roosters doing their thing. Absolutely beautiful scene. Then the birds started coming in. The two of us have over 40 years of hunting experience between us. We used our duck calls and worked them right over the lake. At some point I was out of range for a shot and I watched two ducks float right over the point we were hunting. My friend, who is a much better shot than me, shot a perfect double. I shouted, “NICE shot!’ because to not acknowledge that thing of beauty, his muscles and brain and skills working in perfect harmony, would be a crime. We went home with four ducks today. I spent an hour cleaning mine, plucking every last bit of feathers and down, removing the edible organs and making sure the skin stayed in good shape. Then I wrapped it carefully and put it in the freezer. When the time is right I’ll serve it to some friends or my family. I will spend days planning the meal and looking for just the right recipe. Probably this one:


    So… I was there for the outdoors, I enjoyed the sport of the hunt and I will honor the bird by trying to eat it well. I think a lot of people understand that, even if they don’t hunt, which is why the very real violence of hunting gets a pass when other things like dog fighting don’t.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      This is incredibly well-put, Mike.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Maribou says:

        Seconded. I also want to join with David Ryan when he called out Mike as a real asset to this Symposium, and to the League in general. Hunting is not a sport I have any real knowledge of, but when I read Mike’s stuff, I feel as if to a degree I understand it (and him), and that indicates real skill.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

          Agreed. Mike’s posts on hunting have helped me understand it better than I ever have before. And, Mike, please been assured that I did not mean to cast any aspersions on hunting. I really wanted to investigate more broadly our response to the various activities.Report

  12. Avatar Ginger says:

    I grew up dirt poor in rural Nova Scotia and we relied on the deer and rabbits that my father and brothers caught. Hunting was not a sport, it was essential to our family. We respected it and valued the ability to feed ourselves.

    When I was 4 years old my father was shot (twice) and killed by a 17 year old “hunter” who thought mixing pot, beer and rifles was a great idea.

    This teenager widowed the mother of 13 children and killed my father, who fought on the front lines in WWII. His punishment was the loss of his hunting license for one year.

    I am not anti-hunting as a result, but I think positioning this as primarily as a sport – as a fun way to spend a day – can obscure the danger, the power and the responsibility that should come with the ability to take a life – animal or human.Report