Monday, July 19, 2010

The Condemnation of Hunting for Sport

Utah allows the hunting of black bears, and is currently updating its bear management guidelines.  There is strong support for bear baiting, which is the practice of placing enticing food in a spot and waiting in hiding for the bear to wander up and then killing it.  How brave and heroic.  There are also multiple bear hunts during the year, including spring hunts where many mothers are killed, leaving newborn bear cubs orphaned and, essentially, dead as well.  Utah also allows the hunting of cougars, elk, deer, pronghorns, moose, Rocky Mountain goats, rabbits, bighorn sheep, bison, sandhill cranes, and a whole flock of different kinds of birds.  Have a thirst for killing?  Please come to Utah (although Utah certainly isn't alone in this regard).

Now, I don't have a problem with all kinds of hunting.  The Word of Wisdom gives us some helpful direction in this matter:
12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
Hunting for food is so ingrained in our culture, and essentially every culture on Earth, that I don't have any meaningful objections.  I also admit to eating my fair share of meat, meaning I can't point to hunters as violating the tenet that meat is really only to be used sparingly and in times of winter or famine without also indicting myself.  I am, however, trying to make a conscious effort to reduce my meat intake.

Unfortunately, a substantial amount of hunting that goes on here in Utah has nothing to do with procuring food and raiment, and thus must be condemned.  Do bear hunters eat the bear meat?  How about cougar hunters?  Do you think Sarah Palin is landing the helicopter to gather the succulent wolf meat after her aerial hunts?  How important to our society is the availability of moose and bison burgers?  What wine goes best with sandhill crane, do you suppose?

So if these hunters aren't in it for the food, what are they in it for?  The kill.  They love to kill.  They also love this:

Let's return to the scriptures, this time in Doctrine and Covenants 49: "And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need."  Hunting predators and hunting for sport is wasting flesh and is needless.  It is directly against the Lord's will to do such things.  Let me also throw some quotes from modern-day prophets at you.  First, from President Kimball:
Now, I also would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life.  I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here by the prophets.  And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind.  It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion.  I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals.  (President Spencer W. Kimball, Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live, Ensign (CR), November 1978, p.43).
Here is George Q. Cannon:
We should by every means in our power impress upon the rising generation the value of life and how dreadful a sin it is to take life.  The lives of animals even should be held far more sacred than they are.  Young people should be taught to be very merciful to the brute creation and not to take life wantonly or for sport.  The practice of hunting and killing game merely for sport should be frowned upon and not encouraged among us.  God has created the fowls and the beasts for man’s convenience and comfort and for his consumption at proper times and under proper circumstances; but he does not justify men in wantonly killing those creatures which He has made and with which He has supplied the earth.  (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, selected, arranged, and edited by Jerreld L. Newquist, p.24).
Finally, President Joseph Fielding Smith:
I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life.  I have known men -- and they still exist among us -- who enjoy what is, to them, the “sport” of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle.  And the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.  (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol 4, p.45).
It seems pretty clear to me that hunting for sport is at odds with Mormonism, and yet it is more popular in Utah and the West every year.  I suspect that there must be quite a bloodthirsty thrill when you are peering through your scope with a bison, bear, crane, or bighorn in the crosshairs and you know that by just squeezing your finger a little you will destroy that animal.  Then you can have it stuffed and placed in your house for all to gaze upon and wonder.  I can't think that this is the type of feeling that our Heavenly Father would like engendered in His people.

This type of hunting is only by degrees more shameful, in my opinion, than the person who is willing to exploit every possible natural resource, develop every lucrative tract of land, or carve up every possible recreation area for the almighty dollar at the expense of all the life that they are destroying through habitat destruction and pollution.  All life has intrinsic value, and spiritual worth and intelligence, and we value it far too little.


Clark Goble said...

Utah definitely has some oddities in how people hunt. However populations need controlled - especially bear populations. If you don't just allow hunters to do it won't you just end up having to pay forestry officials to go do a cull?

While some might hunt with impure motives I don't think one should impute negative motives to all hunters. After all I find it much more in tune with nature to hunt and realize where ones meat comes from - to be involved in the cleaning of an animal rather than in the way meat is purchased and consumed out of a supermarket. Personally I think more people should hunt at least once in their life so as to keep the understanding that meat was life.

Jacob S. said...

As to your first point, I don't think it is so clear that predator populations will simply spiral out of control. Nature has a way of balancing itself and finding an equilibrium. Most of the talk about too many predators comes from game hunters anyway, who obviously have a conflict of interest in that debate.

As to the distancing of ourselves from the food we eat, I totally agree. I think we should be more attuned to where our food comes from. We are far too removed from our food sources, which is why planting a garden and working with the soil is good for everyone, and hunting may be another way, at least once, to find that connection.

Finally, I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that most sport hunters have "negative motives." What other motive would they have? It's not for food or clothes, so why are they doing it? For the sport of killing, which I find to be plainly against our religion.

Josh said...

Once again, ignorance is bliss. In this case citified folks should stick to talking about city things, or really educate themselves before delving into the realm of the redneck, and condemning it! You don't understand this Jake. It doesn't affect you in any way, so I don't see why you would need to butt in and fight against it. MANY states and Canadian provinces have allowed bait hunting for black bear as a very effective method of population control for many years and it does not have the negative effects that anti-hunting folks insist it will.

As to your statements about populations balancing themselves out, you are right. The problem is, it takes a lot of time. Look at the elk herds in Idaho - I know that when you give your POV of predator populations, it comes from some wolf loving site, so let's talk wolves. There are areas, such as the famous Selway, that, before the introduction of the Canadian Gray Wolf, were home to over 15000 elk. That particular area now holds less than 5000! What you don't understand, and the pro-wolf fruits won't acknowledge is that the wolf population will not control itself. Nature will control it, eventually, with disease and famine! That is a much more "humane" way, don't you think? The two most common diseases for wild canines are parvo and mange. Have you ever seen the effects of either of those diseases? Parvo destroys from the inside out, and mange takes all of the fur from the animal. Both lead to painful and miserable death. What you don't understand is that this natural balancing act you speak of isn't and instant thing. It will take time, because man interfered with it.

I sit more in the middle of the wolf fight than most hunters. I believe that, as it happened in Michigan and Minnesota, the wolf would have naturally moved into elk country. I believe that, had man not interfered, the introduction would have been natural, and the natural law of adaptation would have balanced things as they happened rather than the joke it is now. The pro-wolf community needs to understand that they interfered with something that didn't need their help in the first place, and that it is in the best interest of the whole ecosystem to keep on doing so, to help adaptation.

Lastly, I would like to say that you do not have the qualifications to judge me, nor any other hunter, based solely on your opinion, on how well I follow my religion. I couldn't care less about your opinion, nor about what you do with your free time. Why do you feel the need to condemn me for doing something that you just don't understand? You know what, nevermind. Go right ahead and throw your stones.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacob S. said...

I'll ignore the personal jabs and ad hominem attacks and stick to the issues. The scriptures and modern-day prophets seem pretty clear on this issue, unless the hunting is for food and raiment it is against God's will. Do you dispute what they are saying? If so, why? Can you counter it with any doctrines of principles of your own? It's not just some crazy opinion I made up, it's right there in black and white from authoritarian sources: hunting for sport is wrong.

As for wolves, which I never brought up, I admit that they are a sensitive case. Where they are in conflict with hunters, it is my opinion that the natural ecosystem takes precedent. A healthy ecosystem is more important and beneficial for humans than our ability to hunt elk. Of course it will take time to work out a balance, and maybe in the short term it will be a little uncomfortable, but we should be making decisions based on long-term implications anyway and a healthy predator population is what's best in the long term.

Reintroduction of wolves was an interference that was justified. We humans slaughtered them by the thousands and wiped them out almost completely. We meddled in the natural balance and found that the consequences weren't desirable as elk and deer populations grew without predators and damaged the ecosystem. I've been out there and know first-hand what is going on. So we cautiously introduced them little by little and are trying to bring that balance back again. Without some effort and rules, we'd just slaughter the predators again (grizzlies are another good example, by the way, that are not being introduced) and unbalance the system again. Eventually we will learn that nature has a way of keeping itself resilient and healthy and that our constant meddling does no good. We need to let the wild be wild.

Jacob S. said...

The more I think about it the more I think we are talking about two different things. My post was about the trophy hunter. The person that goes out and kills an animal simply because it is fun to do and it is perceived as cool to have the animal stuffed and put in the person's house as a memento of that person's ability to kill some other animal. You and I started arguing about the public policy implications of introducing and managing predator numbers, which is not a moral discussion, like my post was meant to be, but a policy discussion. The latter was not the point of my post and is something different altogether, though something interesting to talk about.

So what do you think about the former, Josh? What do you think about the hunter that just likes killing things like bears and bighorns, simply for the sport? It seems to me that they give legitimate hunters a bad name.

Josh said...

There are a lot of things that are not my cup of tea, to be a bit cliche. I'd like to point out that I am not a trophy hunter, but I do have fun killing things, and kill several species for no other justification, except maybe population control (i.e. ground squirrels). I have tried, over the last several years, to judge less based on my personal feelings of ethics, or morals, if you will. So, I don't have a problem with trophy hunters, though their bragging does get under my skin, as long as what they do is legal, I can see how they can justify it as ethical to them. There are many jackasses out there that give the normal hunter a bad name, to be sure. They are people that we should all team together to weed out. Though I honestly believe that the human race could do with some culling on all levels, not just the hunting community.

I don't know if you realize that bear, bighorn, moose, and even mt lion are all edible. I have had meat from many "trophy" species, and would try anything once. Many lion hunters claim that lion meat is second to none. Bear sausages, especially pepperoni, are generally amazing - due, I suspect to the fat content.

My sense of moral justification for hunting is three fold. First, I feel very close to my own soul, and thus to God, when I am hunting. I think this has something to do with honing my senses to the sounds, smells, and sights of the forest; I am very focused! Second, I love the hunt. It is a challenge beyond any other I've ever had. Third, I love the tradition. I hope to be able to pass this legacy to my children.

The last thing I'd like to say here is that it is very easy to find justification for any belief as, like it or not, personal opinion finds it's way into the talks and teachings of even Apostles. I have read many contradicting statements from different General Authorities on many different controversial, or semi-controversial topics. My faith demands that I be happy. If I wasn't happy, I wouldn't continue doing what I do. I struggle to understand people that insist on interfering with what others do, simply because it isn't their "cup of tea." So, I hunt because I enjoy it. I eat what I can, use what I can, and sometimes leave some around for the hawks and crows. I follow the laws set up for me, and I expect any other hunter to do the same. I will proudly have any law breaker arrested, whether it be a wildlife violation or regular statute. If you'd ever like to see if the hunt is your cup of tea, give me a call!