Audio only podcast.
Today on Gritty, I am joined by Adam Janke, Editor in Chief, of the Journal of Mountain Hunting, resident of B.C. and the host of the Beyond the Kill podcast. We discuss the issues surrounding the Grizzly Hunting ban in British Columbia and we go deep on the topic. But before I launch into the conversation with Adam I feel it is important to set the stage for the discussion. The topic is not a sexy one--but it’s extremely important. So please hang on and slog your way through it because this stuff matters.
In August of this year, the left-leaning New Democratic government, propped up by the Green Party, took office in British Columbia in July after ousting the Liberals who had ruled the province for 16 years. A few weeks ago, Doug Donaldson, the province’s minister of forests and lands announced that (quote) “it is abundantly clear that the grizzly hunt is not in line with the public’s values.” Donaldson also said (in an interview with the CBC News) that the level of Grizzly Bear hunting in BC is sustainable. However, Donaldson says the decision to end trophy hunting is “not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of society has come to the point in B.C. where they are no longer in favour of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.”
I can’t help but feel deeply disturbed by the government’s decision to ban Grizzly bear hunting and the justifications behind it.
Make no mistake about it, the Grizzly Bear Ban makes the following statement: “Hunting is immoral.” “You are an evil, dare I say “un-evolved” person if you hunt Grizzly Bears.” And “Hunting grizzly bears is morally reprehensible… we do not need to do this any longer…”
Please understand that their argument is not based on science or rationale. Their justification for banning Grizzly Bear hunting is solely based on moral reasoning. These people have argued and lost the health, science, and conservation argument. So they changed tactics and made this a debate about right and wrong--about morality. And the truth is, the hunting debate has and always will boil down to one thing… the morality of it. Is hunting moral?
The moral argument against hunting is that hunting kills animals unnecessarily. This claim depends on the existence of alternative activities that accomplish hunting’s effects with less or no animal killing. It is said that nutrition does not justify hunting because we have alternative sources of nutrition, namely agriculture and domestic animal production; which does not kill animals or only kills farm animals.
But the reality is that modern farming destroys natural habitat, hence causes starvation or disruption of reproduction. Farming uses pesticide and nitrogenous fertiliser that pollutes ground water on which animals and humans depend. Farming kills ground-nesting amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals. The reality is that vegetable nutrition is wrung from the earth by diesel-burning machinery and nitrogen and oil-based fertilisers, processed and refrigerated with power from river-altering, coal burning or nuclear-waste-producing plants, and driven thousands of miles over asphalt by fossil-fueled trucks.
But studies have shown that commercial agriculture production kills more animals than deer hunting per unit of nutrition, hence kills more animals for the same meal. And in terms of of animal suffering, it would be difficult to show that death from being maimed, crushed, cut to pieces, poisoned or starved is less painful than the average death by hunter.
It would be difficult to argue that an animal suffers more from hunting than from today’s animal husbandry. Thus, if we may eat domestic cattle, we may eat wild deer.
To the ideological anti-hunter and the B.C. Government, human caused animal death and suffering should be reduced as much as possible if not entirely eliminated. Based on this moral reasoning, in those cases where ethical hunts kill fewer animals for the same nutrition than do farming, ranching and/or vegetarianism, eating hunted meat would be not only morally justified but morally preferred.
It’s obvious to the rational mind that hunting is moral. So why is hunting so easily marginalized and so easily made to look immoral?
Hunting critics propose that it is bad when a hunter shoots a bear, but not bad when a bear mauls and eats a moose calf, because the bear needs to kill to survive. Today it can be difficult to explain that human hunting is strictly necessary in the same way that hunting moose is necessary for a bear. Broad public opinion is that hunting is morally permissible only if it is necessary for human survival. “Necessary” can refer to nutritional or ecological need, which provides moral cover for subsistence hunting and game management. But trophy hunting, by mainstream definition, cannot be defended this way.
Trophy hunting is vulnerable to the argument that an act is contemptible not only because of the harm it produces, but because of what it reveals about the character of the trophy hunter. Much of society finds the deriving of pleasure from hunting to be morally repugnant. And this is a problem, because hunting is enjoyable--but not in the sadistic, evil way that anti-hunters portray.
Actions are powerful. And so are words. And the words “trophy” and “sport” no longer carry the meaning they once did. The word “sport” used to mean “sporting chance” and it referred to the principle of fair chase as defined by the Boone and Crockett Club, as the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals--a fairly noble approach to hunting that encourages man to interact with nature on a deeper level. But today, the term “sport hunting” refers to intentionally killing wild animals for enjoyment. Likewise, the term “trophy hunting” no longer refers to anything noble--it simply means “the selective hunting of wild game for human recreation. The trophy is the animal or part of the animal kept, and usually displayed, to represent the success of the hunt.”
These terms have been hijacked and their definitions changed in mainstream media. The terms are consistently used against us to frame hunters as immoral and reprehensible human beings who should be removed from the planet. Meanwhile, hunters and hunting media continue to use these words to our own detriment.
As long as we are successfully made to look like people who kill animals for enjoyment and human recreation we will continue to lose on hunting and conservation issues even in the face of sound science and rational logic. Truth AND perception are everything.
And before I get a pile of angry emails from good farmers and ranchers just let me say that I
Thus, the anti-hunting view must take into account that agriculture kills animals too. The morality of hunting must be judged against the cost of the agricultural and cattle farming activity that would replace it. Where a type of hunting has a lower death to nutrition ratio than a type of farming, and where the pain of death by hunter is arguably no greater than death by farmer or rancher, the anti-hunter must morally prefer hunting to farming or ranching.
I apologize for the long introduction, and I promise it’s almost over. But before I close, I want to clarify a few things.
After hearing this introduction, some folks might get the idea that I’m anti-farming and anti-ranching. I am absolutely pro-farming and pro-ranching--done responsibly. Frankly, we do not have enough wild game to sustain a great part of the human population via hunting. Responsible farming and ranching practices should be a key element to an overall food supply plan. So it’s not my intention to vilify farming or ranching--only to point out that it’s not without its cost to animal life. And that there’s a big difference between deplorable factory farming done on a mass scale and local farming done by responsible, caring human beings. And in the same way, I am not claiming that hunters are some kind of noble lot who only go around doing good deeds. In fact, we have some real contemptible human beings among us.
So please don’t send me a bunch of emails about how wrong I am about farming or how hunters do bad things.
I recently listened to Jocko Podcast Episode 76. It’s a good one. I highly recommend that you take the time to listen to it. The guest on this episode is Vietnam POW survivor, Capt. Charlie Plumb. And he shares a harrowing tale of 6 years spent as a prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. At one point in the podcast Charlie says something to the effect of, “people think they need to change the way others act, but the reality is you need to change yourself.”
Think about that as you listen to this podcast. I know I have a lot of work to do when it comes to the person, Brian Call. Let the work begin.