By David Irving
The hunting season is here once again. And while hunters strap on their boots, don their hunting gear, take out their guns and head for the woods, it is hardly a time of celebration for the animals soon to be victimized by the exploits of the hunters. No, for the animals it is the season of the nightmare.
Though they would be the last to admit it, most hunters are amateur shooters whose weapons lie unused except during the hunting season. But, as with any skill, it takes practice to achieve expert marksmanship, and very few hunters keep up their skills. That's why most hunters are far from expert. And that applies equally to hunters as they age and their vision becomes less focused. This is why millions of animals are shot and flee wounded into the woods, where they suffer in agony with many either dying from their wounds or being killed by hungry predator animals eager to find easy prey.
One hunter told this writer that most regular hunters, if they are honest, will admit that they have shot animals that then escaped wounded into the underbrush and woods. That particular hunter could count at least five times where it had happened with him and he was an expert shot. It is also self-evident that even the most expert hunters shoot at animals that then vanish in a flash so that the hunters have no idea of whether or not they hit their mark.
Some hunters stalk their prey with bows and arrows. But according to the nonprofit Animal Rescue Society, a member of the Maine Bowhunters Alliance estimated that 50 percent of animals who are shot with crossbows are wounded but not killed. Another study of radio-collared white-tailed deer, conducted by the Department of Zoology and Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oklahoma State University, found that of 22 deer that had been shot with arrows, 11 were wounded but escaped from the hunters. For readers with computers who want photographic evidence of such incidents, try the following link, www.denverpost.com/search/ci_11298584, or do a Google search for "deer shot by an arrow."
Hunters rationalize shooting deer with the claim that they are just culling excessive animal populations. But this is often just a pretext for hunting promoted by local and state governments to increase revenues from licensing and businesses related to hunting. Food shortages are sometimes responsible for increased deer populations, but these shortages invariably turn out to be human-made and can be alleviated by many nonlethal methods, including contraception and deer relocation programs. Claims made by some hunters that their kill is donated to government programs for feeding the needy have little merit when measured against costs and just serve as additional excuses for hunting. Similarly, hunting websites claiming that venison is a healthy low-cholesterol food are false, according to USDA statistics.
Hunting is a $1.5 billion industry that pushes the idea of hunting as a manly sport related to frontier adventures of the past. But a noncompetitive activity that just involves the strong killing the weak is hardly a sport. A sport constitutes fair play in which both sides have an equal chance. Hunting is designated as a sport only because the media mindlessly continue to repeat the mantra.
Another false concept is the idea that hunting is approved by almost everyone. Those who oppose hunting need to recognize that they consituee the vast majority, not a small minority. According to a 2006 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, only about 4% of the entire population of the country hunts, and this figure declines more and more with each passing year. Much of the reason for the decline concerns the ethics of using superior human technology to kill and cause so much suffering to innocent animals that have harmed no one and have no means of defense. Claims by hunters that it doesn't matter because animals do not really suffer have no basis in fact and have been disproved in many scientific studies.
People who are concerned with living righteously take the following words by the great 20th century theologian Albert Schweitzer to heart: "Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to humankind." The humane treatment of animals is not only a large part of the equation for maintaining the necessary biodiversity required for meeting the challenges facing our planet in the 21st century, but it is important for the sense that as individuals we are leading responsible and fulfilled lives. Let us remember this each and every time the hunting season rolls around until the majority rules and the nightmare of hurting and killing innocent animals in that infamous "sport" called hunting comes to an end.
David Irving is the author of "The Protein Myth: Significantly Reducing the Risk of Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes While Saving the Animals and Building a Better World," forthcoming in 2011. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.