A Killing Machine?

» June 15th, 2013


It’s not a particularly fun exercise to get inside the mindset of a “big game” hunter, but every now and then some news item or other sends me there. This creature, usually a white and balding and middle-aged male, has reached a juncture in life where bagging a large animal in the wild has come to bear on nothing less than personal identity politics. The act of killing—killing, not photographing or in any other way innocuously witnessing—is central to some seemingly necessary narrative of toughness, self-sufficiency, adventure, and the loony idea than real men keep doing, moving, acting, winning, conquering. The aqueous victim of this contorted sense of the meaningful life is entirely innocent of the hunter’s psychological carnival but ends up, nonetheless, on the news, dangling from a hook, as a prized manifestation of the hunter’s needly little id explosion.

It happened the other day, this time with a mako shark and a human being named Jason Johnson. Johnson, from Mesquite, Texas, caught a female mako off the coast of Huntington Beach, California. The shark weighted 1,323 pounds and was 11-feet long, measurements that exceed the existing record—a 1,221 pounder caught in Massachusetts in 2001—by a healthy margin, and thus dimensions that turned Johnson into a rockin’ media star basking in his 15 minutes. Reports highlighted Johnson’s heroism, noting how the shark fought for her life for over two hours and pulled a quarter of a mile of line out of his rod’s reel. Johnson, by contrast, touted his own above-board bravado: “Any wrong step and I could have went out of the boat and to the bottom of the ocean.”  What a man.

According to 2013 statistics, roughly 100 million sharks are killed every year by the Jason Johnsons of the world. Most sharks are killed for their fins, others to compensate for their hunters’ flagging manhood, but either way : the large-scale decline in sharks is causing environmental havoc, upsetting infinite ecological balances of power we cannot and do not want to see. David McGuire, director of California-based protection advocacy group Shark Stewards, reminded readers of this inconvenient point at the very end of an obscure news report, saying, “People should be viewing these sharks as wonderful animals that are important to the ocean and admiring how beautiful they are” rather than “spilling their blood and guts.”

Johnson’s assessment was a bit different. It drives home not only the greatest irony ever uttered about a man who killed a shark, but it provides evidence of how, for so many killers, there is only one balance of power that matters: humans over non-humans. Johnson, proving intelligence is not one of the hunter’s strongest suits, explained of the beautiful creature he tortured for two hours, killed, and lorded over: “This is definitely a killing machine.”



15 Responses to A Killing Machine?

  1. Kathleen says:

    Wow, I thought you were going to report that THOUSANDS of sharks are killed every year by humans, but 100 million?! That is a stunning number.

  2. markgil says:

    it truly is sickening how arrogant and hypocritical we are. to claim that a shark who eats to survive is a killing machine, while killing that same shark for “entertainment” is beyond ignorant-it is truly an evil mindset. i wonder if gunmen who shoot innocent people are thinking the same thing-about how horrible their victims are thus justifiying their violence against them.

    “As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.”—Isaac Bashevis Singer

  3. Ruth says:

    I only wish that this ignorant man, Jason Johnson, could see this post. Does he really not realise what he has said?–probably not. I truly despair of the lengthy suffering this shark and others of his kind was made to go through, and all the other species. Actually, I am also enraged by his comment, but as this is a very polite blog I’ll say no more!

  4. Tina Eden says:

    I have to hand it to you for taking on male machismo. Not many men do it.

    I keep hoping for a generation of boys who will balk at the torture their fathers and grandfathers inflicted on animals for sports hunting. Not having any sons of my own, I only can wish those families good luck in redirecting the male aggression that seems to be part of our nature.

    • markgil says:

      i never understood how harming and killing those more vulnerable than you is considered manly & macho instead of weak and cowardly. if he wanted to be macho, he should have jumped in the water and gone at it bare handed instead of using deception, trickery and technology as hunters and people who fish always do.

  5. Edie says:

    james, you promised to make a mention when you are posting graphic images!

  6. Sad thing is, there is an entire crop of “entertainment” programs on television that celebrates this very kind of sport killing – whether alligators, wild hogs, or fish, it’s all about the conquer and the kill. Apparently, I missed the day in science class when they taught that humans are the center and be-all of everything – where is Copernicus when you need him? ~ Linda

  7. Isabella says:

    As always I am so saddened and angered by torture and murder of all animals. And as usual I am left wondering what can be done, and more specifically what I can do to stop this.

  8. Hi James, in case you hadn’t seen the following two quotes: “Harboring the idea of owning another living being is in itself an act of violence, and our outer violence toward nonhuman animals, which is so devastating to us all, springs from this idea. The vegan ideal of compassion for all life has as its core this same idea: that we are never owners of others. We can be their guardians, companions, friends, protectors, admirers, and appreciators, and this blesses us far more than we might think. The move from “owner” to “guardian” frees both the “owners” and the “owned,” and establishes the foundation for peace, freedom, and justice. We are all harmed by the culturally mandated ownership mentality that reduces beings to mere commodities, whether for food, clothing, entertainment, or the myriad of other uses. It is long past time for us to awaken from the cultural trance of owning our fellow beings, and instead see ourselves as their guardians. This is the very essence of compassion, sanity, and healthy relationships with nonhuman animals and with each other. I am grateful for and support IDA’s Guardian Campaign as an essential step in our individual and collective evolution to a brighter tomorrow for our children, and for the children of all our fellow beings.”

    Dr. Will Tuttle, pianist, composer, and former Zen monk, author of the #1 Amazon best-seller, The World Peace Diet, and recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award.

    “The “animals” with whom we share our homes and our lives have been regarded and treated as commodities, objects, property and things for far too long. Millions upon millions are forced to endure horrific exploitation, cruelty, suffering and death at the hands of members of our species because of this mindset. It is time to take on a more just, responsible and caring relationship with our fellow beings, to think and act as their “guardians,” their “protectors” never as their “owners.” or “masters,”
    Elliot M. Katz, DVM, Founder, Guardian, President Emeritus, In Defense of Animals.

    • markgil says:

      Dr. Katz,

      i would like to applaud IDA for changing it’s postion on the rotten egg bill which so many other organizations support for some unknown reason. hopefully your change will spark others to see reason soon too.

  9. No problem, there was just some confusion at first.

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