Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Strange Mental Disconnect

Every so often I dip my toe into the waters of hunting/pest control controversy and feel the need to defend myself.

You see, before I moved to the USA, I would have called myself an anti-hunter, and it's only after being around people who like to hunt and actually listening to them that I really understood what it actually means to be a hunter. My own point of view almost completely changed and I realized that 'hunting' isn't black and white, that there's a whole spectrum, some of which I find acceptable, some of which I don't.

For example, before moving to the USA I would have been absolutely appalled at the idea of shooting a squirrel. I mean, squirrels are cute, harmless animals that bring a smile to my face when I see them running around in the park. Why would anyone want to shoot one?

Well, firstly, I grew up in a relatively built up area and seeing a squirrel was a huge rarity. However, right now, in the woods behind my house, there are bloody hundreds of them…and after a whole family of them chewed through my roof and moved in right above my bedroom… causing hundreds of dollars of worth of damage…I realized they weren't exactly harmless either.

This, of course, begs the question as to why I have to shoot them rather than use a nice, humane, 'live-catch' trap. People tend to mention live traps as the 'obvious' alternative…but never quite think it all the way through.

Well, the first problem is expense and time. You can only catch one squirrel at a time per trap, and one live-catch trap is around forty do I spend five or six hundred dollars putting traps everywhere, or just put out one or two…meaning that once I manage catch a couple of squirrels, the rest learn to avoid the traps all together?

Secondly, and this is the part people tend not to think about…what exactly do you do with a squirrel once you've caught it? If I let it go on the property, it's just going to go straight back to causing damage, and releasing an animal on someone else's property is actually illegal.

Basically, it's impossible to catch all the pests, trying to do so is extremely expensive (and futile) and all I can do with the ones I catch is take them to the other end of the property and hope they leave instead of heading back to their nice warm nest in the insulation above my bedroom.

Or… I could spend less than 10 dollars on some ammo and shoot the ones that cause the damage.

I just find it really strange that people have this weird mental disconnect when it comes to animals, especially when it comes to pests:

For example, no-one would think twice if I mentioned I'd bought some mouse or rat traps…because everyone knows mice and rats are vermin…but somehow, this way of thinking doesn't apply to other animals, even when the animals in question are much bigger pests and cause much more damage.

Basically, why is it okay for me to put a rat trap in the garage, but not okay for me to shoot the groundhog that spent a few months under the house chewing on the floor joists, or the squirrels above my bedroom chewing holes through my roof?

I'll tell you why: Because the rats tend to be the bad guys in Disney Films while the squirrels tend to be the heroes…and who doesn't love Punxsutawney Phil? It's the same type of thinking that causes idiots to climb into the lion or gorilla enclosures at the zoo.

When you live in a town and the only time you see a squirrel is when one runs up the trunk of a tree in the park, you can be forgiven for thinking they're cute and harmless. When you live in the country and you see first hand why so many people call them 'tree rats', you quickly change your mind.

This mental disconnect is even more pronounced when we're talking about actual hunting.

For example, the average person thinks it's totally wrong of me to shoot a rabbit or deer to eat it… but they also think it's perfectly fine to farm turkeys that never see the sky in their entire lives, have been selectively bred to the point they're so fat they can't walk under their own power and are force-fed growth hormones until the day they're hung by their feet from a hook that moves them through spinning knives that slit their throats while they're still alive.

Well, to be completely fair, they don't think it's okay to do that with the turkeys, because they don't think about the turkeys at all…it's that mental disconnect again where people have a really hard time associating the vacuum packaged meat in the freezer at their supermarket with the animal that used to walk around saying 'gobble gobble' (or 'moo', 'cluck', or 'oink' for that matter).

I mean, what exactly is hunting if it's not the ultimate in free-range farming?

Now I'll admit that there are some types of hunting that I just don't agree with. The way I see it, if you're pointing a weapon at a living thing, you should have a damn good reason to kill it…and 'because it's fun' or 'because its head would look awesome on my wall' are not what I consider to be good reasons. My own personal philosophy is that I'll only shoot a living thing if it's vermin, causing damage or I'm going to eat it.

Secondly, if you're going to kill something, you should be doing it humanely as possible. Even when I was tearing my hair out at the damage the squirrels were causing, I let as many go as I shot because I couldn't guarantee clean one-shot kills.

Basically, if a fox is raiding a farm and killing chickens, that farmer is well within his rights to shoot that fox in the head. However, if you want to get on horseback and chase down a fox so you can watch it get torn apart by a pack of dogs for the fun of it…then that's something I find totally unacceptable.

In the end, my point is that if you're a meat eater, you really don't have the right to look down on hunters…and that shooting a raccoon or possum is no different to putting down a rat trap.

1 comment:

Sunny said...

I'm so proud of you!!!!
You can now call yourself a true Southerner!!!!