Why I don’t hunt

Jan Trygve Utkilen
Portland, Ore.

Photo: Library of Congress Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 hunting trip helped popularize the African safari, yet he is hailed as a conservationist.

Photo: Library of Congress
Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 hunting trip helped popularize the African safari, yet he is hailed as a conservationist.

I eat meat. A filet done medium rare is a delight to my pallet. I try to limit my intake of beef to about once a week as high blood pressure and a heart that is no longer in marathon shape dictates a healthier diet. I never knowingly eat “wild” meat, but I don’t have a problem with herds of deer or elk being thinned by hunters who know what they are doing even though the necessity for having to thin the herds is usually due to loss of habitat or poor game management.

I find hunting abhorrent simply because they enjoy it. It disgusts me that I am part of a species that takes great joy in the killing of animals. Hunters don’t just enjoy killing an animal, they relish in it, take great pride in their accomplishment, brag about it and mount the horns (or the whole head) somewhere in their home as proof of their prowess. Walk into most auto repair shops, transmission or body shops, and you will find a bulletin board with at least one picture of a hunter kneeling next to a dead antlered animal, holding his rifle and smiling from ear to ear as if he had just saved a local village from a man-eating rogue elk. I really hope they possess some logic or reasoning that I just can’t fathom as the only emotion I can muster is disgust. I read with repugnance Sarah Palin’s comment after she killed an elk. She found it “fulfilling and uplifting” (or some such adjective). I find the killing of cows in slaughterhouses less objectionable. I have never seen a slaughterhouse employee pictured proudly next to a dead cow. I don’t for a second buy into the theory that the average hunter becomes a better steward of the land (as was argued in this space a few weeks ago). There are isolated cases where groups that support hunting improve habitat (Ducks Unlimited come to mind) but I would think of them in a totally different light if they did it just for the ducks and did not encourage hunting on the habitat they improve. Seems somewhat self-serving to me.

Please don’t tell me that people hunt for economic reasons. For the great majority, one can buy a lot more meat at Safeway than they can for the money spent on high powered rifles, ammunition, camping gear, ridiculous camouflage clothing, not to mention 4-wheel drive pickups and campers. I have no qualms with the few who actually have an economic need to put meat on the table. I am certainly no fan of poachers but I have more sympathy for someone who hunts out of season because they need the meat than for the legal hunter who salivates at the thought of a buck in his sights. What I find so sad is that many hunters can actually appreciate the majestic beauty of a bull elk on a ridge top for a second or two before they put a bullet into him.

Of all hunters, I find trophy hunters the most despicable. I really think that they must be mentally deranged to do what they do. It has to have its basis in a feeling of inadequacy that can only be alleviated by destroying big game, like an elephant or a tiger. I recently watched the excellent documentary on the Roosevelts by Ken Burns on PBS. Teddy Roosevelt did more than any other president in setting aside lands as National Parks, National Monuments, Wilderness Areas, etc. and has been described as our “great conservationist president.” Yet this is the same man who went to Africa and killed over a thousand animals because he found it so enjoyable. How can this be a conservationist? It hurts my brain. Are people just that callous, so blind? I’m beginning to think they are. And they call it “sport.”

I am not religious. I live in an area where we commute closely with nature and see its cruelty on a daily basis. Last summer I saw a raccoon catch a duckling and it started killing it by first eating its legs. How can one believe in “intelligent design” when it’s obvious that the designer is a sadist? A benevolent designer could have done so much better. But I hope I am wrong. Maybe there is a heaven, and if there is, I hope God is a buffalo.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 14, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.