Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Do Some People Simply Like to Kill Other Animals?

"Ethical hunting" raises numerous difficult and sticky issues

When I got to my computer this morning I had a number of emails about an essay in the New York Times titled "A New Breed of Hunter Shoots, Eats and Tells." In this brief piece, Dwight Garner reviews some books by people who have decided they want to get closer to the food they eat so they go out and kill other animals for what, as far as I can see, are the sorts of meaty meals that aren't really needed.

Notables often get into the act and attract media for being concerned about their food. Many know that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, made a pledge in May 2011 only to eat meat he hunted so that he could be "thankful for the food I have to eat." Of course, it's not obvious that he has to eat other animals and personally, I don't really care what he or other famous people do because their views on how we use and abuse other animals don't count more than anyone else's.* 

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Surely, in the arena of who, not what, winds up in our mouth, Mr. Zuckerberg and others are not my moral compass. It's always good to remember that a significant percentage of the food we eat was once sentient beings who cared deeply about what happened to them and to their friends and family. They should be referred to as "who", not "that" or "what." So, when someone wants to talk about a meal it's a matter of who's for dinner, not what's for dinner. 

Mr. Garner's brief review, well written, critical, and here and there sarcastic, notes that the people about whom he's writing have decided to kill other animals "for ethical reasons". Surely, no one can argue that there is anything ethically acceptable about factory farming, so I suppose on some ethical scales going out and dressing up in camouflage gear (as if the animal is fooled) and killing one's own meal is "better" than eating the carcass of an animal who suffered in unimaginable ways during their life on their way to sitting on a platter of death. 

But, why kill unneeded food? 

One of the authors about whom Mr. Garner writes, Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore, claims he wants "To eat with my eyes wide open." Mr. Cerulli, who was told he needed more protein in his diet, is a former vegan about whom I've written elsewhere, referring to him and others as born again carnivores for their over-zealous ways of promoting meat eating after having not done so for years.

Another writer about whom Mr. Garner writes, Lilly Raff McCaulou, author of Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner writes after killing an elk "Thank you. I'm sorry." Really? Then why do it when you didn't have to?  And, of course, I'm sure the elk and his or her remaining family and friends are sorry too. The gratuitous thanks to an animal who was killed for an unneeded meal feels incredibly empty. 

One can go on and on about the rights and wrongs of killing other animals for unneeded meals. Stalking animals is incredibly stressful so in addition to harming them after they've been followed there is a great deal of suffering when an animal is pursued before the attempted kill. The death of the individual is a harm and other members of their families/groups also suffer from their slaughter. So, a hunt does not only affect the animal who is sought and killed. There is a collateral damage as they say. 

Do some people simply like to kill other animals?

I see no reason to kill other animals for a meal that isn't needed. Every time I read an essay about "ethical hunting" it makes me reflect on a number of different and challenging issues. One that comes up time and time again is that maybe some people simply like to kill other animals and then offer a wide variety of excuses about their lust for blood (consider also the unrelenting war on wildlife including the wanton killing of wolvesthe man who used a trapped wolf for target practice, and the egregious abuse of laboratory animals including chimpanzees). I can easily understand why some hunters offer that "getting out in nature" or "getting in touch with nature" or "having quality family time" are important to them and that's why they hunt. But one can get closer to nature without a gun so there's more to it at least for some people, or so it seems. 

I also don't understand how some people can deny the suffering and death(s) for which they're directly responsible. I find that when some people say something like "Oh, I know they suffer, but I love my steak" it nauseates me. And when they say they love other animals and then kill then I like to say I'm glad they don't love me. 

Many people want to rewild their hearts - reconnect with other nature - and it's incredibly easy to do without causing any harm. So, when will the unnecessary killing stop? I hope sooner than later because it's just not necessary to cause harm and to kill to have a healthy meal plan. So, do some people simply enjoy killing other animals? It seems they do or else they wouldn't do it.  

*I want to be clear that for the purposes of this short essay even if there are a very few people who supposedly have to eat other animals for health reasons no one I know does and I'm told repeatedly by nutritionists. physicians, and others that non-animal diets can be made suitable for all. In addition, my arguments here apply to cultures where there are innumerable non-animal options. I fully realize that many if not most people in the world do not have the choices that I and those about whom I write here are able to easily make.

 

 

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

more...

Subscribe to Animal Emotions

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.