“Ethical Standards in Hunting”

» January 2nd, 2013

As I’ve written before, and am probably the last to observe, hunting is religion in Texas, where I live. On the occasions when I find myself in East or South Texas—places where the hunting habit becomes evangelical—I find it best for my own mental health to don my anthropology cap rather than my ethical one. To wear the ethical one in these places is to find yourself suffering turmoil in the midst of an armageddon of gunfire. So I just back up a bit and remember the words of my anthropologist friend: “Culture is everything.” Boom.

This observational distance from the violence and deeper reality of killing animals in the name of sport was, however, recently challenged by my realization that citizen tax dollars are being used to support not just hunting, but the teaching of hunting to children. Turns out Texas Parks and Wildlife sponsors the Texas Youth Hunting Program, whose mission is to :

 increase the number of youths participating in wildlife and hunting activities and to promote the hunting heritage in Texas. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) have joined forces to offer youth hunts that are safe, educational and very affordable. We sponsor introductory, instructive youth hunts for deer, turkey, hogs, javelina, exotics, dove, small game, waterfowl, varmints and other species. Normally, we provide mentors, lodging and meals.

Its list of intended goals is to “promote the highest ethical standards in hunting.” This phrase, much like the program that spawned it, reminds me how desperate humans are to hide the reality of what we do in the garb of euphemism and illogic. What can possibly be “educational” about killing animals with high powered weaponry and, really, by what twisted sense of reality does such an act of terror possibly come with “ethical standards’?

In the state of Texas they are closing schools, letting parks fall into disrepair, and failing to maintain state run nursing homes for the elderly and infirm. But, boy-oh-boy, you wanna grab your rifle and kill an animal, the state is here to make sure it remains both “ethical” and “very affordable.” Hunting might be sacred in the conservative state Texas, but so is the effort to cut government spending. Programs like this one are, in this sense, ripe targets for vegans to protest. With calls for “cutting spending” at high pitch, now may be the time to fire away in the name of animal rights.

14 Responses to “Ethical Standards in Hunting”

  1. Karen Harris says:

    Thanks for pointing this out to me. I will definitely contact the TPWD to voice my concerns, as well as my representatives, and will spread the word around to people I know here.
    I often go for walks in the Hill Country just west and south of Austin, and of late have seen more and more high barbed wire fences going up (a sign of canned hunting preserves) and heard more gunfire, so I know what you are referring to from direct experience. It is very depressing.

  2. Karen Orr says:

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has what is probably a similar program

    Hunting Heritage Action Plan

    Several years ago hunter groups became concerned that not enough young people were interested in hunting.

    “The Youth Hunting Program of Florida was established to increase the number of youth involved in educational, safe, mentored wildlife and hunting activities through the opportunity to participate in the state’s hunting heritage. Some of the goals include: preserve the hunting heritage in Florida for present and future generations; promote the highest ethical standards in hunting; provide an initial, positive, safe, educational mentored hunting experience; teach the basic skills, values, techniques and responsibilities of hunting; instill in youth a basic understanding of practical conservation measures; and encourage wildlife habitat access, enhancement and management.”

  3. ingrid says:

    Yes, and, as you know, there’s a commensurate effort to get more women involved in hunting … and to make hunting more palatable to urbanites who are traditionally among those who don’t care for hunting. One of the gateways into this urban enclave is through foodism … using the same arguments applied toward locavorism. Jackson Landers comes to mind in this regard.

    The upshot of it all is that these rationalizations open the door to greater public acceptance for hunting and for programs like the ones you cite, which then channel public funds into hunter education and promotion of the sport. That doesn’t even touch the issue of how skewed wildlife priorities are overall because of how the funding system is structured and biased toward hunting interests.

    If the public knew how abjectly cruel and distasteful many of the field practices are — including the unacceptably high injury rate of animals — I don’t think hunting groups could hold court on these issues. Unfortunately, as always, they are far more organized in their approach than are the countervailing forces. And they have the NRA on their side every time. They manage to influence almost every public wildlife and wildlife funding decision, despite their status as a dramatic minority.

  4. Boohoo says:

    Once upon a time human slavery in that part of the USA was ‘heritage’. An heirloom fudge-word if ever there was.

  5. Lori says:

    We should all find out if the state we live in has something like this and take action! BTW, the California Fish and Game just changed their name to California Fish and Wildlife. A very small step, but in the right direction.

    The picture you posted really disturbs me. Children being taught to kill…and such smiles and happiness at destroying! Such a shame.

  6. James says:

    From CQ

    Readers might want to check out a post by Montana animal activist Kathleen Stachowski, titled “Empathy override begins early with gigging and plinking”: http://animalblawg.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/5310

  7. Rucio says:

    Same thing in Vermont. Every year during “youth hunting weekend” I quip, “And they wonder why young people are leaving the state”. I think its promotion is mostly funded by license sales. The “ethical” teaching, I think, in addition to basic safety) is just about learning the laws: no baiting, no shooting from a vehicle, daytime only, track a wounded animal to finish the job, don’t shoot cows, horses, dogs, farmers, etc. What’s most disturbing, however, are the laudatory photos in the local papers of the children and their “kills”.

  8. Karen Orr says:

    Y’all might recall that Paul Watson resigned from the National Sierra Club board over Sierra Club hunting policy and promotions.

    Here’s one of Captain Watsons articles on the subject shortly after his resignation.

    The Sierra Club Chooses Killers over Advocates for Life and Nature

    The National Sierra Club’s hunting promotion has toned down considerably from those days but it’s till there. Here’s their page for “Sierra Sportskids”

    “Sierra Sportsmen’s Sportskids campaign is about giving kids the opportunity to fish and hunt”

  9. Mountain says:

    Do governments really spend more on hunting programs than they take in from them? If so, that’s some seriously wasteful spending, since fees from hunting & fishing should not only pay for themselves, but provide money for other programs. Still, not as wasteful (or as harmful) as government subsidies to grow grain to feed to factory-farmed animals.

    Speaking of harmful government actions against animals, does anyone know anything about federal roundups of wild burros? We are looking into adopting some rescue donkeys, and it seems many (perhaps most) come from government roundups of animals who are doing just fine in the wild.

  10. Rhonda Wilkinson says:

    Mountain and James the roundup of Burros is a necessary reality burros are not natural to the habitat. So if you want to be on the right side of things being the way they should be then no Burros should be where they are.And by the way they are not doing “just fine” and in Texas if the hunters do not thin the deer herds they suffer in an awful manner and so does the populace and let me add the wild pigs that need to be hunted more than they are.They are coming into the cities now and they are very dangerous to people,domestic animals,and every green thing they can destroy.I dont care what YOU like to eat vegan,veggie,ect but you really should begin to live in the world of reality.

    • Lori says:

      Check out the science and the HSUS on this issue. They have alternatives to killings that are more effective as well as humane, such as birth control shots.

    • Mountain says:

      Hi Rhonda,

      Unlike most of the commenters on this blog, I’m actually not vegan. And though burros are not native to the United States, they’ve been here over 400 years and fill roughly the same ecological niche as native large mammals that have been extincted or pushed near the brink of extinction. So, the fact that they aren’t technically native doesn’t mean they’re not “natural.” In many ways, they are the equivalent of mustard, a non-native plant that thrives in much of the U.S., and behaves very much like a native.

      And by all accounts, the burros are doing “just fine” in the wild, thriving to the point that some bureaucrats believe there are too many of them. Ditto for feral pigs– they’re not wild boar, they’re the descendants of domesticated pigs who escaped– who are doing so well in the wild that they are taking over lands that humans want to put to human use.

      I am not opposed to burros being put to use on farms where they can live good lives & protect other animals from predators, but we shouldn’t pretend that we are doing it for their good. It may be a mutually beneficial situation, depending on how the farm is run, but it isn’t realistic to say burros don’t do just fine in the wild.

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