Why do we hunt?
Does it even matter? Do our individual reasons for hunting have any bearing on the situation at all? Is Señor Porkchop likely to feel differently about the bullet I’ve just lodged in his ear, if I do it in order to put food in front of my family, as opposed to if I do it because I have Daddy issues?
I suspect not……but then, if I’ve just put a lead flea in Señor Porkchop’s ear, chances are Señor Porkchop is perhaps not quite the opinionated swine he may have once been.
Without wishing to get tangled up in the obvious traps and snares of anthropomorphism, I think we can safely assume that a hunter’s personal reasons for selecting, stalking and killing a particular animal are of little moment to the animal in question. Shot is shot.
But what about the hunter? What about you and I? Do our reasons for hunting matter? Our reasons for taking life?
I think they do.
There are few – though I think it’s safe to say that there are definitely some – human actions that can be unreservedly declared to be morally wrong (or right) all of the time and irrespective of context. If I burn down a man’s house with him in it, then prima facie I commit an evil act. But what if I do so because, the night before, I caught the man in question interfering with one of my children? The moral quality of an act – i.e. me burning the guy alive – is coloured (though not necessarily justified) by the reasons and circumstances behind the act. The context within which the act occurs.
Whether we are talking about the friar who saved the child Hitler from drowning, reducing CO2 emissions or who killed Kennedy: the real question is why. The who, what and how are ultimately just window dressing.
So why do we hunt?
I don’t know about you, but these are some of my reasons:
1. I love being out in the hills, away from the rattle and hum of day to day living
2. I have a family to feed and good quality red meat is not cheap
3. I enjoy the so-called thrill of the hunt
4. I enjoy the physical, mental and emotional challenges that hunting brings and the resulting personal growth
5. My wife makes a spectacular venison/fried rice dish that just isn’t even remotely the same if you use beef
6. I enjoy knowing where my food has come from and the journey that brought it to our table
7. If blood is going to be shed for my benefit, then I think it is only right that I should be the one to shed it – i.e. that blood should quite literally be on my hands
Of course, none of the above reasons in of themselves or collectively provide an unshakeable justification for hunting – i.e. proof that hunting is morally right in some eternal and absolute sense. But neither are they intended to. There will always be those who consider hunting – for any reason – to be wrong, just as there will always be those who have no objections to it whatsoever. That’s not what I’m talking about.
What I am talking about is this: why you hunt……matters……for you.
If you’re not a particularly self-aware individual, then it might not matter to you why you go hunting. But none of us can escape the fact that our reasons for hunting are indicative of the kind of people we are. And the kind of people that we are, will in turn be reflected in how we conduct ourselves as hunters.
I don’t suppose any clinical studies have been done in this area, but it would be interesting to know if there is any kind causative of link between questionable/unethical/dickhead hunting practices and:
1. Low self-esteem / inferiority complexes
2. Difficulties with sexual ‘performance’ – real or perceived
3. Having a worldview that struggles to extent beyond rugby and getting trashed on the weekend
4. Just generally being a bit of an arse
Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I guess I just think that all of us who enjoy going for an armed stroll every now and again, need to – at some point – have an honest conversation with ourselves about why we do what we do. Do we go hunting because:
1. Carrying a gun makes us think we look like a real badass?
2. We have secret – nor perhaps, not so secret – soldier/secret agent/zombie apocalypse fantasies?
3. Killing stuff makes us feel like a big man?
4. Having increasing numbers of animal skulls/antlers on our wall helps to puff up our otherwise tragically fragile ego?
Please don’t misunderstand me here. There is no denying that carrying a gun has the potential to make you look and feel as if you are much more of a badass than you might otherwise seem. But if you go and carry a gun because you want to look and feel like a badass, then I would humbly suggest that you’ve got some issues that urgently need addressing.
And look, having fantasies is all well and good. And there is much to be said for feeling good about yourself – having some self-esteem. But if satisfying these fantasies and building up your ego requires the regular killing of living creatures – creatures that may be far more sentient that we realise – then might I suggest that you invest some serious time and energy in prayer, learning a musical instrument, some kind of group therapy, or at the very least, a good book.
I love hunting and I know why I love it. Rest assured that not all of the reasons for that love are listed in this article – the most important ones I keep to myself. My Dad – not a hunter – once said to me that some things in life are too important to take seriously, and I’m not suggesting that we get too serious about our hunting.
But this activity that we enjoy so much is not quite so much fun for the creatures that lie on the receiving end of it. If we are going to take life, then we need to have good reasons for doing so and we need to be confident in those reasons.
I think we owe Señor Porkchop that much.