A Hunter’s Heritage – A Modest Proposal for Animal Welfare

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In an online article at RonSpomerOutdoors dated December 18, 2016, Ron presents his concept of the “Little Bo Peep Syndrome” – the underlying assumption, inherent in most anti-hunting arguments, is that nature will take care of itself if we humans just stop meddling (following the advice of the child’s rhyme that Little Bo Peep’s sheep will find their way home all by themselves). The natural world, as the argument goes, does not need our help to persist and will flourish on its own if humans keep away from it. I have a problem with this viewpoint on a variety of levels:

First, it fails to consider the biological and cultural role that humans have played in the environment for more than two million years. Sorry, but we’ve been a part of the natural world since Homo habilis became a better scavenger than the carnivores they shared the local ecology with some two thousand millennia ago in East Africa. Ever since then, the human species has had an effect upon other species (and they upon us). To suggest that humans are not part of the natural world just fundamentally ignores basic biological truths.

Similarly, to promote the idea that humans are removed from the environment poses a bigger threat to ecology than to consider us intrinsic to the natural world. It creates a false view of the natural world that works against efforts to preserve it. The logical conclusion of such a view results in people who do not mentally make the connection between meat at Safeway (or Piggly Wiggly…whatever…) and the fact that an animal perished to provide that product (and yes, there are plenty of real-world examples of people who do not get the connection). When we consider ourselves separate from the natural world, we can no longer recognize how our actions adversely affect it; and we too easily substitute real ecological threats for perceived ones.

hadza hunter
A Hadza hunter in East Africa. Even small populations of hunter-gatherers have an impact on wildlife populations; we have no choice but to manage wildlife if we want to continue to see it.

My uncle, who was a Department of Agriculture trapper, often spoke of a similar syndrome, which he termed the “Disneyfication” of nature. This was the idea that Disney and other movie makers pushed, that non-human animals are on a cultural and emotional and emotional par with humans. This promotes the view that we have no right to interfere with their lives, and targets hunting as the primary (if not sole) human activity of concern. Again, this view draws attention away from indirect, yet more harmful human activities that adversely affect animal populations.

Finally, true to form for humans, it allows a large group (anti-hunters) to avoid any responsibility for wildlife population viability by shifting the burden (blame) solely to the hunting community. If one truly embraced the idea of humans as an aberrant life form separated from nature, then it seems to me that banning hunting would only be the tip of the iceberg (assuming that insuring wildlife population viability was your goal). So, I offer a modest proposal to my anti-hunting friends for achieving human non-interference with wildlife: 1) remove every domesticated animal worldwide, including cats and dogs; cats exact a huge toll on wild bird populations and dogs will chase other game – their presence does not benefit wildlife. Of course it goes without saying that horses, sheep and cattle occupy land that would otherwise benefit wildlife either, so they need to go; 2) no building any structure outside established city limits – any humans living outside these boundaries needs to return within city boundaries and their “country” properties burned and the land returned to it’s natural condition; 3) No human recreation outside of established city limits – such activities run the risk of disturbing wildlife. And if you think this applies only to motorized recreation, think again – studies show that wildlife perceives individual humans outside the context of noisy vehicles as more a threat because most closely approximate hunters (so no hiking, biking or cross-country skiing, either); 4) And of course, the world could afford to lose about 6 billion human beings, which would make things much better for wildlife all around.

Swiftian proposals aside (please tell me you have all read Jonathan Swift….) I think you can see my broader point. Humans cannot effectively remove themselves from the world we live in – which means we have to do the next best thing: manage it!

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