How do you deal with animal poachers?

Answer by Rory Young:

WARNING! This contains graphic images. It is not for children!

WARNING! This contains graphic images and is not for children!

There are two types of poachers.

Meat poachers poach mainly plains game to sell the meat or to eat themselves.
They are best dealt with by “normal” methods of law-enforcement, education, poverty alleviation and even integration into the wildlife management system.

These people are for the most part hungry and this type of poaching can be brought under control to the extent of game populations and biodiversity not being threatened. However, as in the case of the DR Congo and many West African countries, the bush-meat trade can get out of control. This is in large part due to a lack of will, effort and/or ability of the governments concerned to limit and regulate the practice.
Meat poaching is also tied to the poaching of gorillas for “muti” (traditional medicine). In the case of the mountain gorillas, the problem is more akin to the elephant and rhino poaching, requiring similar strategies and tactics to combat it.

 The bodies of four mountain gorillas killed in the Virunga National Park July, 2007

Rhino and elephant poachers hunt for the rhino horn and ivory to sell on the international black market. The ivory goes to the Far East and is used for trinkets and jewellery. The rhino horn goes either to Yemen to be used to make handles for traditional daggers (relatively small quantities) or to the Far East be used in traditional medicines (large quantities).

Rhino poached and butchered in 2011 in South Africa with her calf. (http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/south-africa-poaching.html#cr)

These poachers are usually ex-guerilla fighters or the like and are well equipped with fully automatic weapons, heavy calibre hunting rifles and at times even rocket propelled grenades. The RPGs and fully automatic assault rifles are not suitable for hunting and invariably wound, maim and cause suffering long drawn-out death due to infection and blood loss. (I have just written an article for African Expedition Magazine about what it is like to have to go and put down such animals. I will post the link on my Blog as soon as it is up). 

Increasingly White South African poachers with a background in wildlife, using helicopters, have been encountered.

The purpose of fully automatic assault rifles and RPGs is of course also for use against Parks rangers and scouts, army, police or anyone else that may try to stop them.

The policy of African countries has either been to:

1. Try and arrest the poachers. This is usually impossible and results in the scouts and rangers losing morale and and avoiding confrontations. The reason is that when tracking a group of poachers the advantage is all with the poachers as they simply have to lay an ambush on their own tracks. Walking along for long periods knowing that the enemy is directly in front of you and can easily open fire at any time really frays your nerves.

The only way round this problem really is to have helicopter and other air support and to “leap-frog” with an airborne tracking team and stop group who move ahead and cross-grain at potential sites, thus narrowing down the location and eventually cornering them. The poachers of course have counter-tactics such as splitting up and each going in a different direction.

Zimbabwe Airforce Chopper and crew.

Such air support is expensive and invariably provided by the military who are usually not brought in to arrest people. 

It is no coincidence that the countries that follow this policy of only arresting poachers also have the biggest poaching problem.

2. Shoot on sight. Zimbabwe was most famous for this policy and the military has been used to provide air and ground support for anti-poaching operations. It is no coincidence that the countries that follow this policy have had the most success in curbing rhino horn and ivory poaching. There are increasing calls for other African countries to adopt such a position. See: Minister calls for shoot to kill policy in Botswana

Dead Poacher

Now here is my own two cents worth. If groups of criminals crossing into your country, armed to the teeth and with a tendency to fight rather than surrender and if that is leading to the extinction of a species and increased lawlessness then shoot them on sight.

The problem has to be treated as a priority and a threat to “homeland security” and all branches of the armed services in the affected countries must be directed to support the Parks officers. It is a war and needs to be fought as a war.

I have answered this specifically as asked, i.e. dealing with the poachers. I answered another question separately about dealing with the problem of Elephant poaching in Africa in general: https://youngrory.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/what-would-effectively-stop-elephant-poaching-in-africa/

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What would effectively stop elephant poaching in Africa?

Answer by Rory Young:

I mulled over how to answer this for some time because there are just so many things that can and must be done, I decided to look at the broader picture because no matter the effort of the brave few on the ground, without the will of the world’s nations to put an end to ivory and other poaching it is a losing battle.

There is currently a struggle between two very polarized groups of African countries (and their corners) on how to deal with the problem.

Firstly it is important to look at the three links in the ivory supply chain. These are the poachers, the traffickers and the consumers.

Firstly with regards to the consumers.
There are two approaches to the problem.

The first approach, promoted mostly by Kenya, focuses on ending the international legal trade in ivory.This ivory is from legally culled or hunted elephants in countries with large populations. It is believed that by doing so demand will dramatically reduce or dry up altogether.Those who support the theory believe that demand will dry up and their will therefore be no more demand.

The argument against this approach is that the demand will always be there and that the supply of legal ivory should be carefully controlled and funds funneled into wildlife management.

To give some context to these different approaches we also need to look at the different situations between these groups of countries. Zimbabwe for example has over 80’000 elephants and the population increases at about 3% per annum. Zimbabwe is in favour of limited trade in legal ivory. Kenya on the other hand has around 12’000 elephants, the population is decreasing rapidly and the Kenyan government is totally against any trade.

Where both groups agree is that the countries where this illegal ivory is going are not doing enough to discourage its sale.

Next we need to look at the traffickers. These are smugglers of just the same ilk as drug or blood diamond traffickers. However, their are much fewer controls and and because many of the States these traffickers come from have a very disinterested views of wildlife conservation, they are much more easily able to collude with the authorities in the countries they are shipping to. Like any illicit product, it is relatively easy to get it out. Controls and checks are usually at ports of entry not exit and as a result the methods, systems and infrastructure are not in place to stop exports.

The big problem again is the lack of will to get tough at the countries where the ivory is going. The customs departments are just not motivated to arrest and charge traffickers.

Thirdly we need to look at the poaching itself. The approach to stopping the poaching again differs tremendously between the two groups of countries mentioned before. In Kenya an ivory poacher will likely get off with a fine. In Zimbabwe he could be shot if he doesn’t surrender immediately contact is made with him and then he will face up to 7 years in prison (typically 5).

As you can imagine the group of countries with the vast majority of elephants also has the toughest policies for dealing with poaching. Most of them also support limited trade in ivory.

Whether supporting this is right or wrong, it will be impossible for the Kenya group to convince the others to change this until Kenya itself shows that they are really doing what needs to be done to fight the poaching itself. Iain Douglas-Hamilton recently said that Kenya is all that is standing between the poachers and the large Southern African populations. If that is true then God help us because if Kenya’s way of fighting poaching is with fines then they will have no elephants left soon.

Now to answer your question. I believe that Kenya has held an idealistic policy that has also not been supported by tough action. Realistic pragmatism is needed and a will to save what is left.

There needs to be an all out war on poachers in East Africa, supported by the African Union, as it is a cross border problem with harsh penalties imposed.

There needs to be international pressure and action against the traffickers and the nations that allow them to ply their trade.

With regards the consumers, the ivory itself needs to be made untouchable, taboo, illegal or dangerous. That can only happen if the governments of those buying get serious. Whether or not the trade should be banned, there should only be allowed a tiny amount of extremely expensive legal ivory sold to these countries. Any revenue should be proven to have been channeled back into anti poaching and other conservation efforts.

It is possible to win this war. I mentioned that Zimbabwe has 80’000+ elephants. Well, in 1900 there were less than 500 left.

The white rhino was reintroduced into Zimbabwe from South Africa after being wiped out completely and the Black Rhino was reintroduced into South Africa from Zimbabwe after being wiped out.

So, this war can be won but to win it needs money will and champions. All are in
short supply. What it doesn’t need is procrastination, half-hearted effort, hesitation or denial. It is a war just like any other war, it needs action and massive support to win it.

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Ethical Conduct Considerations for Hunters

 

Here is an article on ethics I wrote recently for African Hunter Magazine:

Ethical Conduct Considerations for Hunters
By Rory Young

There is much misconception about what ethics is and how it can benefit us. Many Hunters view it with suspicion and imagine it will just add to their long list of things to worry about.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The question of right and wrong is a part of everything we think, say and do throughout the day and cannot be avoided. It is a simple fact that every human knows that there is a right way and a wrong way to do anything. Understanding ethics makes identifying the right from the wrong easier and having a code of ethics, either as an individual or an organization, makes the decision a simple process.

So what exactly are ethics?
The term comes from the Greek word Ethos, which means “character”.
Ethics are what an individual or organization determines to be right or wrong for that individual or organization and reflect their values and standards. They are the principles, values, standards and rules of behaviour that guide our decisions and behaviour in our work.

What is a code of ethics?

Ethical codes are adopted by organizations to assist members in understanding the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and in applying that understanding to their decisions. Any individual can also at any time adopt his own ethical code.
An ethical code generally implies codes of business ethics, codes of conduct for employees, and codes of professional practice.

Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers and every other profession on the planet have codes of conduct governing what is considered to be ethically sound behaviour. This is usually known as a Code of Professional Practice.

Even pirates had codes of conduct known either Codes of Brethren or Articles.
The reason all these professions, from Lawyers to Pirates (hehehe) have codes of ethics is because there is a need within any society to have common standards and values which the group as a whole and the individuals that make up that group practice, promote and defend.

It is wrong for people to assume that ethics equates to idealism and high mindedness. That is not the case at all; take the pirate codes for example. No one would describe pirates as idealists! Yet nearly every pirate crew had a code of conduct. The reason is that a group needs to understand what the entirety of its values is in order to work towards a common goal. What is right and wrong for a group can even be extremely self-serving. There is nothing wrong with that, assuming we have other rules and standards for the other aspects of our lives.

When you say you are a hunter you immediately identify yourself as part of that whole group who call themselves Hunters. Many countries have very good laws in place to govern hunting. Still, that does not mean that there are not still many questions of right and wrong left to decide for ourselves. These fall in to the category of ethics.

As hunters how do we determine what is right and wrong behaviour?
Right and wrong behaviour for the people of a state as a whole is determined by the constitution and laws enacted by parliament and enforced by the officers of the law.
On the other hand religion is the realm of the soul and its precepts and commandments deal with good and evil.

In the case of hunting good ethics can be determined by whatever is good or bad for hunting and hunters, as well as the country and all those affected by hunting. By extension it includes those areas that directly or indirectly benefit or hinder hunting and hunters and all those who are affected in any way by the activity.

From a purely egoistic viewpoint it boils down to that behaviour that benefits hunters and hunting is good and behaviour that hinders hunters and hunting is bad. However, when you think of it, upsetting or benefiting the State and all those who are affected by hunting and hunters will impact hunting and hunters positively or negatively. Therefore even from the most selfish viewpoint it is necessary to have and adhere to good ethics.

A code of ethics should also contribute to the welfare of its key stakeholders and also respect the rights of all those affected by its operations. Even from an egoistic viewpoint this makes sense because we don’t operate-in a vacuum; our behaviour is noted by others who are affected by it and by those who feel it is important. All of those people can and do work with or r against our interests. Whether they work for or against our interests depends on how we portray ourselves and our profession to them. So, perceptions are important.
So how does a code of ethics benefit us?
Codes of ethics benefit us in many ways, chiefly:
By defining acceptable behaviours.
By helping to avoid conflicts of interest.
By providing a yardstick against which we can judge our own ethics and the ethics of others.
By promoting high standards of practice and professionalism.
By codifying, enhancing and promoting group identity.
Most importantly they protect and promote our image via transparent standards and values.

So what would be worth including in a code of ethics?
It should cover all aspects of hunting and fields affected by the activity.
It should oppose all prejudice with respect to sex, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual preference, colour, or physical or mental disability;
If should promote peaceful resolution of conflict.

Furthermore it should promote a positive image to outsiders and in this regard it is important to bear in mind is that the future of hunting is always in the hands of the non-hunting majority. That non-hunting majority is for the most part meat-eaters yet unbelievably they are for the most part against hunting.  This strange contradiction didn’t happen by chance. It is a direct result of the bad attitude and resulting bad behaviour of hunters without ethics. The biggest threat to the continuation of hunting as a legal pursuit worldwide is the bad behaviour of unethical hunters.

The negative perception can be broken down into three areas. Those are waste, suffering and conservation. These three issues dovetail with other areas directly affecting hunting. From these and the other issues previously mentioned it is possible to build a code of ethics.

Here is an example I have created and try to adhere to myself. . Any hunter or hunting organisation can create a code of ethics to follow as a guideline or as an established code of conduct:

Breaking the law is the first, most obvious negative. If someone breaks the law, not only do they become criminals but they also cast all hunters in a bad light. Hunters must always uphold and defend the law, especially law relating to hunting, firearms and conservation.

Because hunting is dependent on the environment, not caring for our environment is unacceptable. We have an ethical obligation to ourselves, our fellow hunters and to all future generations of hunters to conserve, protect and nurture the natural environment in which we liveline, work and play.
We should never waste anything. We should honour an animal hunted by utilizing as much of it as possible.

A hunter should never deliberately wound an animal or allow an animal to be deliberately wounded. We are hunters, not torturers. Anyone who takes pleasure in causing suffering belongs in an institution.

Hunting is a dangerous activity. We should endeavour to make if as safe as possible through adherence to firearms and other safety procedures and golden rules. We should never attempt or do anything that could conceivably result in injury or death of anyone on anything other than the quarry. Furthermore, a hunter should always respect public and private property. He should never hunt on any property without the knowledge and approval of the appropriate authority even if not required by law. If someone knows you are shooting in an area they can take any necessary precautions.

Because the future of hunting depends on its acceptance by the public, it is only right that we protect it and defend and promote its reputation whenever and wherever necessary. The slandering of other hunters and hunting itself is unacceptable. In fact we should defend ethical hunting whenever and wherever necessary.

When under the guidance of a professional a hunter should treat them with the respect they deserve. They are not servants and are there not only to ensure you get your trophy, but that you do so without loss of life or limb. They may be called upon to save your life or vice-versa. The same applies to trackers, skinners and all other staff. They are professionals. Treat them as such.
We must treat the communities we encounter with the same respect and courtesy that we would expect to be treated ourselves.

One could go into much more detail of course. However, a code of ethics is probably better as a broad set of guideliness gridlines nattier that than a narrow set of rules. In the end it is the hunter himself who will follow these standards and judge himself by them..

My intention here is to plant seeds that hopefully will someday grow and bear fruit.

It is a subject that sorely needs discussing and I sincerely hope that this short article stimulates discussion. If it results in just even one person changing one bad habits thenm I will consider having written it time well spent.

This is how I believe we should view ethics. It is an attempt to do the right thing and better ourselves and better our image in the eyes of the world.. Even if it only results in a small improvement over a long period it is still worth it. At the very least we will all sleep better and be able to look at our children and say, “I tried to do the RIGHT thing even when I didn’t have to”.

Rory J. A. Young
14th March 2013

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Is it unethical to eat animals if you aren’t willing to kill them yourself?

Answer by Rory Young:

Good question. Here is a little story I wrote about issue from past experience:

Ying and Yang

I lay there, immobilized with fear, as the dentist approached me, instruments of pain and suffering in her hands and a look of the utmost contempt on her face. I tried to speak and failed horribly. The clamps, pads and other foreign objects stuffed into my mouth prevented anything but an incoherent gurgle.

Desperately, I tried to gesture to wait and ended up banging the tray of instruments that hovered over me, earning a sharp rebuke from the enormous Zimbabwean nurse, together with a vice-like grip on my wrist. I was close to panic, I could only imagine what this gargantuan helper would do to me if she felt she needed to or in fact she wanted to. Then I noticed the voice in the background. It was ACDC’s Brian Johnson singing “highway to hell”. No doubt about it now, I was in a living nightmare. My shoulders slumped as I realized the terrifying reality of my horrifying situation. There was only one option left. I began to scream shamelessly

A short time earlier, my pretty little dentist had been smiling, Cliff Richard had been singing “Summer Holiday” in the background and the nurse had been half the size. It had been like a little sanctuary of peace in a timeless paradise.
Then, the stunning reason for my wanting my teeth checked out said, with her sexy Polish accent, “you not from here, why you in town: special to see me?” (The last said with a look that could drive men mad).
“Sort of“, I replied innocently giving her my best smile in return. I had been brushing my teeth 12 times a day to prepare for this. ”I have been in the bush for so long and unable to get back to see you; but I had to pass through town so thought I’d seize the opportunity”.

Then I made my fatal mistake. “I have to shoot a buffalo not too far from here tomorrow” I said, naively wondering to myself when I should ask her out for dinner.

She passed out of sight and I assumed the silence was due to concentration as she picked up the mouth thingies.

As her gorgeous face reappeared over me and she began to insert the hardware into my mouth, I began to notice that her previously sweet, sparkling eyes had changed from those of an angel to those of a hound from hell. Then a now demonic-sounding Slavic voice emanated from her, saying, “you kill nice animals. I not like people who kill nice animals”.

I wanted to tell her that it was a wounded animal that was suffering and needed to be put out of its misery and how ethical hunting was a natural thing to do that help support the Parks, and so on and so forth, but it was too late!
Then I heard a clunk as the hypodermic containing the anaesthetic I was pinning my fading hopes on was dropped into the bin. I was doomed, doomed, doomed. . .

Seriously now; this may come as a surprise but I have a great respect for vegetarians. I’m a bit nervous of militant former Soviet-bloc vegans, but all in all I appreciate the fact that vegetarians are people who practise what they preach.
To be frank, what I really find intriguing is the position of people who do eat meat… and are against hunting.

When asked what they feel about hunting most people in the Western world will come out in opposition to it. Yet, strangely the vast majority of these same people will happily sit down and eat a steak. Pretty weird some would day, or even hypocritical…

It is quite obvious that the vegetarians would be against it, but meat-eaters?
Is it really hypocrisy? Could it be ignorance maybe? Or even something else entirely, such as hunters behaving badly? How about a combination these?
Well it’s easy enough to find out. Next time you are sitting with a group of non-hunters, ask them. I do it all the time and invariably receive the very similar answers.

The first thing point to come up will usually be the perception that hunting is destructive to the environment and in particular certain species, especially endangered ones. This sometimes comes as a shock to responsible hunters.
However, perhaps they are just ignorant rather than deliberately hypocritical, so let’s be open-minded. Put yourself in the shoes of these non-hunters for a second. Assuming, that you are just an average person who lives in an urban area and doesn’t actively seek out very controversial subjects. what would you pick up in the media to lead you to form such an opinion?

Picture this scene. A television journalist, shaking with outrage, tears streaming down her cheeks, points to piles of migratory birds of prey littering the ground on the small Mediterranean island she is investigating. Next a series of loud reports interrupts her choked words and the camera turns to a small cinder block bunker-like construction from which shotgun barrels protrude. Then, more shots are heard. This time, accompanying recoils and fumes from the shotguns are clearly seen.

We jump forward in time. Now our heroine is bravely confronting the “hunters”. She is insulted, threatened and the camera-man is assaulted. It all ends with the accused racing off in a battered sedan, rude gestures showing clearly out the windows and leaving their kills to rot. Mostly endangered or threatened species of course…

Never mind the average non-hunting, European town-dweller; I too was outraged by this barbarity. In fact I was shaking with anger and ranting and raving about how these maniacs should be hunted down themselves. They weren’t hunters of course. They were poachers, the lowest of the low as far as I am concerned.
Sadly the same behaviour continues in many countries quite legally, thereby making them not poachers but legal “hunters”. Quite obviously what these morons were doing is bad for the environment and that is unethical and therefore unacceptable. Personally, I believe that only ethical hunters should be called hunters, full stop. The rest should be referred to as poachers, regardless of whether what they are doing is legal or not. Poaching should refer to both illegal AND unethical hunting.

Let’s get back to our non-hunter question and answer sessions.
The second thing that usually comes up is cruelty or suffering caused to animals hunted.

Now the deliberate wounding of or cruelty to animals is usually covered by the law. Well it is in civilized countries anyway. I think any hunter with a normal upbringing, living in a normal community and not currently institutionalized will agree that anyone who is deliberately cruel to animals should get help before they move on to mass murder or serial killing. However, the non-hunters see hunting as often cruel and the cause of suffering.

On this point, aside from the bad behaviour of medical hunters, I believe the television and film industries are partly responsible for perpetuating the myth that wild animals in the wild live an idyllic existence without any pain or suffering. Obviously that’s nonsense and only the ignorant and out of touch with reality wander around believing that. Unfortunately though, there are plenty of people who really are that ignorant and out of touch with reality wandering around!
At this stage I usually ask the non-hunters if they prefer “free-range” meat or battery-farmed” meat. Of course the answer is always “free-range” (even if they secretly buy the cheaper stuff). Why? Because it’s a nicer more natural environment for the animals to live in and invariably the meat will be healthier to eat too.

For some reason our non-hunters don’t usually notice the obvious; that wild animals are the most “free-range” animals under the sun. This point usually makes a big impression when pointed and is often accompanied by remarks such as “‘I never thought of it that way” and “wow” (accompanied by distant look).

After a while they will usually return to the point about suffering in this vein, “but farm animals die a more peaceful death than animals that are hunted.”
After explaining that an animal that is shot correctly by hunter using the correct calibre endures a lot less suffering than one that endures the small and sounds of an abattoir or one that dies a more natural death by predator, disease or old age.

That also makes an impact but very often the response is only too true, “that’s all very well as long as the hunters do actually use the right weapon for the quarry and kill  cleanly”.

Yes, back to ethics. Again we are embarrassed by those fools who can’t behave or who don’t educate themselves. Someone who is not competent simply shouldn’t go near game or firearms.

Let’s move on to the third point that comes up. The story of those fools slaughtering migratory birds over the Med also falls into this category: Waste.
Many people feel hunters are only interested in hunting only so that they can mount a trophy on the wall. Well it’s true in some cases in many places and in many cases in some places. Furthermore, although some countries have laws that require a hunter to remove the entire carcass from the hunting area, I have yet to come across a law that says that nothing if possible, should be wasted.
It may not be a law but it should certainly be standard good conduct for all hunters anyway. Surely the animal deserves to be honoured and respected by all hunters?

The last point that usually arises is image, or the perceived psychology of the hunter may be a better way of putting it.

People who have never hunted often view the killing of an animal as a necessary evil and therefore the thought of enjoying it is somehow very wrong. I believe most Europeans fall into this category. This I believe is a result of a total disconnecting with their natural environment whereby they do not have any experience of the entirely natural thrill of hunting that is a built-in part of us.
I am sure you will agree that the combination of challenge, outdoors, thrill, danger , objective and more is impossible to describe to someone who has absolutely no experience of anything like it.

This is the toughest of all to change. How does one convince someone that a hunter has more right to hunt than a non-hunter has to eat meat? How do you explain to them that they have lost the innate understanding that all men once had; that life is about struggle and death as much as it is about beauty and peace – Ying and Yang?

I guess the conclusion to these musings is that hunters need to think about what they do and how they do it and make sure they do what is right. At the same time non-hunters need to be educated and a few, who really are hypocrites, like the bad hunters, should be exposed for what they are. I do however strongly feel that these dishonest people are, for the most part, a minority. The real problem is ignorance.

As for me, I need to brush my teeth at least twice a day and keep my mouth firmly shut around vegetarians.

Rory J. A Young
22nd March 2013

View Answer on Quora

Is hunting moral?

Answer by Rory Young:

Good question. Here is a little story I wrote about issue from past experience:

Ying and Yang

I lay there, immobilized with fear, as the dentist approached me, instruments of pain and suffering in her hands and a look of the utmost contempt on her face. I tried to speak and failed horribly. The clamps, pads and other foreign objects stuffed into my mouth prevented anything but an incoherent gurgle.

Desperately, I tried to gesture to wait and ended up banging the tray of instruments that hovered over me, earning a sharp rebuke from the enormous Zimbabwean nurse, together with a vice-like grip on my wrist. I was close to panic, I could only imagine what this gargantuan helper would do to me if she felt she needed to or in fact she wanted to. Then I noticed the voice in the background. It was ACDC’s Brian Johnson singing “highway to hell”. No doubt about it now, I was in a living nightmare. My shoulders slumped as I realized the terrifying reality of my horrifying situation. There was only one option left. I began to scream shamelessly

A short time earlier, my pretty little dentist had been smiling, Cliff Richard had been singing “Summer Holiday” in the background and the nurse had been half the size. It had been like a little sanctuary of peace in a timeless paradise.
Then, the stunning reason for my wanting my teeth checked out said, with her sexy Polish accent, “you not from here, why you in town: special to see me?” (The last said with a look that could drive men mad).
“Sort of“, I replied innocently giving her my best smile in return. I had been brushing my teeth 12 times a day to prepare for this. ”I have been in the bush for so long and unable to get back to see you; but I had to pass through town so thought I’d seize the opportunity”.

Then I made my fatal mistake. “I have to shoot a buffalo not too far from here tomorrow” I said, naively wondering to myself when I should ask her out for dinner.

She passed out of sight and I assumed the silence was due to concentration as she picked up the mouth thingies.

As her gorgeous face reappeared over me and she began to insert the hardware into my mouth, I began to notice that her previously sweet, sparkling eyes had changed from those of an angel to those of a hound from hell. Then a now demonic-sounding Slavic voice emanated from her, saying, “you kill nice animals. I not like people who kill nice animals”.

I wanted to tell her that it was a wounded animal that was suffering and needed to be put out of its misery and how ethical hunting was a natural thing to do that help support the Parks, and so on and so forth, but it was too late!
Then I heard a clunk as the hypodermic containing the anaesthetic I was pinning my fading hopes on was dropped into the bin. I was doomed, doomed, doomed. . .

Seriously now; this may come as a surprise but I have a great respect for vegetarians. I’m a bit nervous of militant former Soviet-bloc vegans, but all in all I appreciate the fact that vegetarians are people who practise what they preach.
To be frank, what I really find intriguing is the position of people who do eat meat… and are against hunting.

When asked what they feel about hunting most people in the Western world will come out in opposition to it. Yet, strangely the vast majority of these same people will happily sit down and eat a steak. Pretty weird some would day, or even hypocritical…

It is quite obvious that the vegetarians would be against it, but meat-eaters?
Is it really hypocrisy? Could it be ignorance maybe? Or even something else entirely, such as hunters behaving badly? How about a combination these?
Well it’s easy enough to find out. Next time you are sitting with a group of non-hunters, ask them. I do it all the time and invariably receive the very similar answers.

The first thing point to come up will usually be the perception that hunting is destructive to the environment and in particular certain species, especially endangered ones. This sometimes comes as a shock to responsible hunters.
However, perhaps they are just ignorant rather than deliberately hypocritical, so let’s be open-minded. Put yourself in the shoes of these non-hunters for a second. Assuming, that you are just an average person who lives in an urban area and doesn’t actively seek out very controversial subjects. what would you pick up in the media to lead you to form such an opinion?

Picture this scene. A television journalist, shaking with outrage, tears streaming down her cheeks, points to piles of migratory birds of prey littering the ground on the small Mediterranean island she is investigating. Next a series of loud reports interrupts her choked words and the camera turns to a small cinder block bunker-like construction from which shotgun barrels protrude. Then, more shots are heard. This time, accompanying recoils and fumes from the shotguns are clearly seen.

We jump forward in time. Now our heroine is bravely confronting the “hunters”. She is insulted, threatened and the camera-man is assaulted. It all ends with the accused racing off in a battered sedan, rude gestures showing clearly out the windows and leaving their kills to rot. Mostly endangered or threatened species of course…

Never mind the average non-hunting, European town-dweller; I too was outraged by this barbarity. In fact I was shaking with anger and ranting and raving about how these maniacs should be hunted down themselves. They weren’t hunters of course. They were poachers, the lowest of the low as far as I am concerned.
Sadly the same behaviour continues in many countries quite legally, thereby making them not poachers but legal “hunters”. Quite obviously what these morons were doing is bad for the environment and that is unethical and therefore unacceptable. Personally, I believe that only ethical hunters should be called hunters, full stop. The rest should be referred to as poachers, regardless of whether what they are doing is legal or not. Poaching should refer to both illegal AND unethical hunting.

Let’s get back to our non-hunter question and answer sessions.
The second thing that usually comes up is cruelty or suffering caused to animals hunted.

Now the deliberate wounding of or cruelty to animals is usually covered by the law. Well it is in civilized countries anyway. I think any hunter with a normal upbringing, living in a normal community and not currently institutionalized will agree that anyone who is deliberately cruel to animals should get help before they move on to mass murder or serial killing. However, the non-hunters see hunting as often cruel and the cause of suffering.

On this point, aside from the bad behaviour of medical hunters, I believe the television and film industries are partly responsible for perpetuating the myth that wild animals in the wild live an idyllic existence without any pain or suffering. Obviously that’s nonsense and only the ignorant and out of touch with reality wander around believing that. Unfortunately though, there are plenty of people who really are that ignorant and out of touch with reality wandering around!
At this stage I usually ask the non-hunters if they prefer “free-range” meat or battery-farmed” meat. Of course the answer is always “free-range” (even if they secretly buy the cheaper stuff). Why? Because it’s a nicer more natural environment for the animals to live in and invariably the meat will be healthier to eat too.

For some reason our non-hunters don’t usually notice the obvious; that wild animals are the most “free-range” animals under the sun. This point usually makes a big impression when pointed and is often accompanied by remarks such as “‘I never thought of it that way” and “wow” (accompanied by distant look).

After a while they will usually return to the point about suffering in this vein, “but farm animals die a more peaceful death than animals that are hunted.”
After explaining that an animal that is shot correctly by hunter using the correct calibre endures a lot less suffering than one that endures the small and sounds of an abattoir or one that dies a more natural death by predator, disease or old age.

That also makes an impact but very often the response is only too true, “that’s all very well as long as the hunters do actually use the right weapon for the quarry and kill  cleanly”.

Yes, back to ethics. Again we are embarrassed by those fools who can’t behave or who don’t educate themselves. Someone who is not competent simply shouldn’t go near game or firearms.

Let’s move on to the third point that comes up. The story of those fools slaughtering migratory birds over the Med also falls into this category: Waste.
Many people feel hunters are only interested in hunting only so that they can mount a trophy on the wall. Well it’s true in some cases in many places and in many cases in some places. Furthermore, although some countries have laws that require a hunter to remove the entire carcass from the hunting area, I have yet to come across a law that says that nothing if possible, should be wasted.
It may not be a law but it should certainly be standard good conduct for all hunters anyway. Surely the animal deserves to be honoured and respected by all hunters?

The last point that usually arises is image, or the perceived psychology of the hunter may be a better way of putting it.

People who have never hunted often view the killing of an animal as a necessary evil and therefore the thought of enjoying it is somehow very wrong. I believe most Europeans fall into this category. This I believe is a result of a total disconnecting with their natural environment whereby they do not have any experience of the entirely natural thrill of hunting that is a built-in part of us.
I am sure you will agree that the combination of challenge, outdoors, thrill, danger , objective and more is impossible to describe to someone who has absolutely no experience of anything like it.

This is the toughest of all to change. How does one convince someone that a hunter has more right to hunt than a non-hunter has to eat meat? How do you explain to them that they have lost the innate understanding that all men once had; that life is about struggle and death as much as it is about beauty and peace – Ying and Yang?

I guess the conclusion to these musings is that hunters need to think about what they do and how they do it and make sure they do what is right. At the same time non-hunters need to be educated and a few, who really are hypocrites, like the bad hunters, should be exposed for what they are. I do however strongly feel that these dishonest people are, for the most part, a minority. The real problem is ignorance.

As for me, I need to brush my teeth at least twice a day and keep my mouth firmly shut around vegetarians.

Rory J. A Young
22nd March 2013

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