Ever have one of those weekend afternoons when you (finally) decide to “re-organize” that stack of papers, magazines and unpaid bills sitting on your desk or dining room table?
Too bad the bills can’t be tossed out along with the expired coupons, fliers for long-ago events and articles torn out of yellowing newspapers and magazines that are more than a few years old.
Maybe you’re not nearly the quasi-pack rat I am — my defense is that saving every printed piece of information that seems remotely relevant comes with the territory for journalists — but at some point, we all need to clean-up “stuff” that’s been sitting around way too long.
In doing so the other day, I came across an article from the February 2012 issue of Mother Jones magazine titled, “Why I Eat Wild Meat.” Although the author, a hunter, nature writer and self-described “campfire philosopher” named David Peterson, sent up some linguistic flares that drew attention to what I consider unfair criticism of modern livestock production, his article also made some salient points about the larger ecosystem we Homo sapiens too often pretend we’ve evolved beyond.
In an echo of so many Native chiefs’ wisdom, Petersen wrote that, “If we hunt with gratitude and reverence, we gradually acquire a personally meaningful love not only for the act of hunting, and the meat it procures, but for the animals we hunt, as well.”
Of course, for anti-hunting activists, “them there’s fightin’ words!”
As far as they’re concerned, one must never, ever reference wild animals in any context other than total admiration, preferably from both a physical and psychological distance. We don’t know what goes on in their heads, but we’re persuaded that animals’ thoughts, and behaviors, are noble and selfless.
In fact, for most animal extremists, every creature so much as one evolutionary notch above plankton is to be accorded a stature equal to, if not greater than, humanity itself.
Predation as Preservation
Which is why hunting — and killing — wildlife is considered so horrendous by people who profess to love animals and embrace nature.
Only Petersen made several keen observations that undermine such naiveté.
For one, he noted that, “Neither nature nor evolution is motivated — much less guided — by a sense of ‘kindness to animals.’ Life on Earth could not exist without predation, and predation is not pretty.”
Given the dearth of large predators across most of North America, Petersen argued that without hunting, wildlife would experience rapid overpopulation, disease epidemics and eventually mass starvation.
That’s not a theory, that’s a fact.
Just after the turn of the 20th century, the wildlife managers at Grand Canyon National Park decided to conduct an aggressive predator-control program, thinking that it would increase the deer population and prove beneficial for hunters. But instead, the deer population exploded, causing severe overgrazing and herd decimation — not to mention long-term damage to the habitat.
Hunting simply takes the place of the natural predation needed to maintain equilibrium among species.
Second, Petersen made the case that hunting and killing wild game is “as natural and moral as having sex,” which he noted is “also an unpopular activity in some circles.” For hunters, the animal’s blood is literally on their hands, and thus, “Hunting demands an incomparably greater connection to the reality of the lives and deaths of food animals than does a thoughtless trip to the supermarket for ‘meat products.’ ”
(There’s some truth to that observation, although any hope of remaining “thoughtless” disappears as soon as I notice the price tag on whatever “meat product” I’m considering buying).
Far from a benign disconnect, Petersen argued that the public’s apathy toward animal agriculture is wrong on several levels.
“As I see it,” he wrote, “the disinterested response of most consumers [to where their meat comes from] is willfully ignorant and immoral — an entire society with its collective head buried in the sand — while the extreme animal rights activist is biologically ignorant, emotionally clouded and intellectually inept.”
That last quote not only put a capper on a thoughtful counterpoint to the many anti-hunting screeds I’ve had to wade through, but it put a smile on the otherwise joyless task of sorting through many years’ accumulation of mostly irrelevant verbiage.
Some of it, lord knows, being my own.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.