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Eugene Khutoryansky
November 2, 2005
Hunting

Eugene: The birth rate of deer is controlled by the number of females, as each female becomes pregnant each season regardless of how many males are in the population. Hence, if population control were the only motive, there would be no justification for killing the males. Am I correct?

Barry: Essentially yes.

There are other things that come into play here. For example, fecundity of the does is to some degree a function of competition. By reducing the population a little (through hunting) the remaining deer have less competition...more food per animal, and this enhances fecundity, which is what deer management seeks to do. It is a situation that is exacerbated by winter feeding in places like Michigan, if it is allowed. Here in Ontario, for example, the government used to do winter feeding, which produces an artificial situation whereby the does are more likely to give birth (and more likely to have twins) than would be true if their physical condition were more in tune with the actual environment. Although the government programme did end, hunt clubs still continue the feeding. If people suggest that it would be cruel NOT to feed deer when the snow is deep, it begs the question of why they aren't similarly concerned with the fact that all other species must experience lowered reproduction rates, even starvation, when there are such situations as prolonged cold, or deep snow.

Also, hunters invariably want to kill deer predators, which mostly means wolves. While you have to be careful not to get into suggesting that predators are the only, or primary, controlling factor in deer populations (because if you do, the hunters will say that they take the place of wolves in areas where wolves have been extirpated) in fact in areas where wolves occur hunters invariably begrudge them deer and persecute them as competitors.

But your main point is most valid, and not only do hunters "select for" bucks, the entire hunting culture is largely predicated on removing the healthiest bucks from the herd, a situation that leads, in the long run, to encouraging the population to become smaller and weaker.

Eugene: Should you have the right to bear arms?

Barry: As a Canadian I have HUGE problems with this one. I certainly would have a copy of the second amendment in front of me during the interview, since it clearly talks only about arming a state militia, which makes sense, not about individual citizens, and it did not envision modern weaponry. One needs only look at the absurdly high rate of gun-deaths in the U.S. compared to other western nations to see that the "right to bear arms" is trumping innocent peoples' right to live.

Eugene: When you hear the term hunter or sportsman do you see an almost heroic, rugged, self-sufficient, conservationist, pioneer type or a beer swilling, slacked-jawed Neanderthal sadist?

I'd certainly refer to that 8 year old girl who killed a bear to point out that hunting is an absurdly one-sided affair weighted against the animals, and that anyone who takes pride in being able to outsmart an animal like a dove whose brain is not too much larger than a couple of raisins isn't saying much.

The general public tends to support hunting if it serves some social function, such as reducing "over" population, presents spread of disease, or feed the hungry, none of which most hunting addresses (for example, the cost of hunting greatly outweighs the cost of food that hunting produces). Every aspect of the hunt can be and is imitated by birding, wildlife photography and nature study, except the killing...it is the killing that is the turn on, and hunters realize that they don't have a lot of support for that, so they invent various rationales which may or may not have a grain of truth, but usually not.

In the last few essays I did for Opinionatedly Yours I refer to the "myths" hunters use for justifying hunting to a society that would otherwise tend, in balance, to be intolerant of hunting. API wants to remove those essays but I think they are still there, and you can google "Animal Protection Institute Opinionatedly Yours" to find them. The last one is about swans, but I think the three before that one will help you.

Eugene: Does hunting mean a throw back to a more primitive time and activity that encourages brutish behavior and attempts to answer inadequacies in ourselves especially sexual dysfunction, or does it mean experiencing real Americana and humanely thinning a species that would otherwise painfully starve to death?

Barry: See above with regard the latter argument. It is true that our ancestors used to hunt, just as they used to shit in the woods, keep slaves and worship royalty, none of which justifies continuing to do the same. One can hunt without killing, and many hunters who have a real interest in nature ultimately put down their guns, realizing that you learn less about an animal by killing it than by observing it. Most hunters, however, only are interested in wildlife if they can kill it, so it is not really the wildlife that interests them as the killing. You have to be diplomatic in presenting this argument.

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