Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Purple Line

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The nation is polarized, red and blue, heartland and coasts, small town and city. Not a day goes by without a talking head making mention of the “growing cultural divide.” A few commentators respond angrily to such an assessment, pointing out that the populace has more in common than the media would have us believe. About the time you begin to think this may be the case, some other war of words is reported and the purple line appears anew. Having grown up in a small, southern village, I find myself loyal to many “red state” values and sensibilities, but my politics and philosophy – not to mention my living in New York City – make me very much a “blue stater.” This push-pull relationship weighs on me, but one aspect of the “us versus them” context is particularly vexing: hunter versus environmentalist.

Firstly, I should state that I do not believe hunters and environmentalists occupy opposing poles. As outdoor writer Ted Williams put it in his excellent 1996 Sierra Magazine article, “Natural Allies,” “Hunters and anglers have a long history of protecting and restoring fish, wildlife, and habitat.” Unfortunately, most environmentalists and hunters view one another as the enemy. One of my good friends - a proponent of animal rights – points out that “there is such stridency on both sides of the aisle that it’s virtually impossible to fashion an argument that either side couldn’t cram into their rubric.”

Many members of the Sierra Club were outraged by Williams’s suggestion that environmentalists should work with hunters to protect the ecosystem. Letters poured in to Sierra Magazine, condemning Williams for his “Neanderthal form of recreation,” and stating that “no matter how politically correct you portray the mind of the hunter, killing for pleasure is sick.” Comments like these miss the point. Killing for pleasure is sick, but I know hunters who view the kill as an unfortunate part of the experience, myself included. (The Neanderthal comment is just plain ignorant; Homo sapiens out-competed our extinct relatives, in part a result of our superior aptitude for hunting.)

“Hunter is a term that can include everyone from the fire-power yahoo who is simply out to kill something to what Stephen Kellert calls the “Nature Hunter,” who knows a great deal about wildlife and wildlife habitat and is deeply conscious of the paradox inherent in killing these creatures he loves and respects. Indeed, many of the most vocal and articulate critics of hunting abuses are hunters themselves.”
-Robert Kimber, Living Wild & Domestic


For many anti-hunting environmentalists, though, the "Nature Hunter" is a lie. To kill is to be subhuman and disrespectful.(1) Such an attitude is common at the extremes of the animal rights movement. Longtime People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokesperson, Cleveland Amory, was influential in this regard. He believed that “all animals should be protected – not only from people but as much as possible from each other. Prey will be separated from predator, and there will be no overpopulation, because all will be controlled by sterilization or implant.” Amory’s utopian ideal is an expensive exercise in futility and it betrays his God complex, albeit one birthed of good intentions. In 1990, U.S. News & World Report published a cover story entitled, “Should Hunting Be Banned?” The two dissenting “voices” were that of Cleveland Amory and my father, George Reiger. Their debate was a familiar one. My father argued that hunting is not about “pleasure killing” and that “sportsmen” – a term I loathe – foot the bill for most United States conservation programs. Amory argued that hunters are barbarians who should be locked away. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Hunting proponents like to cite the excise tax on hunting equipment, be it guns or ammunition, and the revenue from hunting licenses, pointing out that hunting and fishing continue to pay for more conservation projects than all environmental groups combined. Anti-hunters respond by suggesting that similar taxes on binoculars and camping equipment would make up for money lost if hunting were prohibited. Such back-and-forth bickering is unproductive and unfortunate, but Ted Williams sensibly suggests that the marriage of these two forms of taxation could do a world of good in the meantime, providing many more millions of dollars “a year for ecosystem management.”

Returning to Williams’s 1996 plea in the pages of Sierra Magazine, I realize how incredibly vital his message is. In fact, it is more pertinent today than it was nine years ago.

“More than 50 million Americans fish, and 15 million hunt, yet environmentalists have made scant effort to forge any lasting alliance with them to protect land and water that sustain wildlife. ‘Environmentalists don’t reach out to sportsmen,’ says Chris Potholm, a professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College in Maine. ‘If they did, they’d be invincible. Whenever sportsmen combine with environmentalists, you have 60 to 70 percent of the population, an absolutely irresistible coalition.’”


In case the relevance of Potholm’s point is missed, he continues:

“The biggest mistake enviros make is they always look to the Democrats first. If I can get the sportsmen on board, then I get them to bring the Republicans.”


Bingo. In a country divided, bringing both political parties to the same table, in support of the same agenda, is a rarity. Backroom “nuclear” avoidance discussions aside, bi-partisan legislation has been the exception to the rule in the last six years. When it has occurred, it has often been the result of Republican voters, particularly “red staters,” calling on their representatives to act in the interest of the environment.

“Cowboys Are Their Weakness,” another Sierra Magazine article (Marilyn Berlin Snell, July/August 2005), tells the story of Karl Rappold, a Montana cattleman who traveled to Washington, D.C. to demand better protections for the Montana Rocky Mountain range when it was under threat of development for natural gas exploration. Rappold hasn’t had an easy time of it. At home, he is viewed with ambivalence. On one hand, Rappold is from a long line of traditional cattlemen and he is widely respected in the community. On the other, he has put much of his ranch into conservation easements and he freely associates with folks from the Nature Conservancy and other environmentalist groups. “He notes that in Montana ‘the word wilderness sends fear through people’ because they worry that it’s just land seizure by the federal government.” Such red state distrust of environmentalism will die hard, but Rappold’s involvement, and that of others like him, is cause for celebration. When he met with his representative in Washington, he was heard out because of who he is.

“’We were his people,’ says Rappold. ‘We weren’t environmental people. We were grassroots people from the Montana Rocky Mountain Front, the people who live and work there.’”

Why is it, though, that so many red staters distrust environmentalism? It goes beyond their states’ rights concerns. Ted Williams describes how hunters, fishermen, ranchers, farmers and rural folk alike have been wooed by developers and the energy industry.

“While environmentalists have been ignoring or alienating sportsmen, developers and their hirelings within the wise-use movement and Congress have been seducing them by dressing up in camouflage and flouncing around at photo-ops with borrowed shotguns. For example, the 50 senators and 207 representatives of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus loudly profess to defend fish, wildlife, and sportsmen but consistently vote to destroy habitat….These voting records make perfect sense when you check some of the funders of the caucus’ money-raising tentacle: Alabama Power, Alyeska Pipeline Service, Dow Chemical, International Paper, Weyerhaeuser, Champion International, Mead, American Forest and Paper Association, National Cattlemen’s Association, Olin and Phillips Petroleum.”


Even some of the “sportsman” publications have been turned into mouthpieces for the moneyed development interests. Leading up to the 2004 election, Outdoor Life published a “Voting Guide” for hunters and fishermen. Not surprisingly, it recommended voting for George W. Bush. The Texan would fight to protect your right to hunt and own firearms, whereas New Engalnder John Kerry would “take your guns away.” The accusation is patently false; though Kerry did support gun control legislation, none of it dealt with shotguns or bolt-action rifles, the primary firearms used by hunters – and we all know just how beholden Bush is to the energy industry. More than any other United States president, George W. Bush has rolled back the clock on environmental progress. Whether either group wants to admit it, this means he is adversely affecting both hunters and environmentalists.

It’s high time the purple line becomes the purple core, bringing together rather than dividing.

Photo credit: uplink.space.com

(1)Many of my friends think a conservationist who chooses to hunt is a hypocrite. How can you kill animals if you want to protect them, they ask? I distinguish between preservation and conservation. A preservationist who choices to hunt is a hypocrite in my mind, but a conservationist is not. Many environmentalists advocate the extermination of invasive or “alien” species in order to better conserve biodiversity. A preservationist believes this is wrong, and that Nature will right any wrongs in due time. The preservationist is right, if considering only the geologic clock, but conservation is about making the world suitable for the greatest variety of life now, not long after humanity and countless other species have expired.

10 comments:

Devo said...

Let's put Cleveland Amory and Ted Nugent in a room together with two pair of nunchucks and see what happens. Then we should blow up the room. And set the ashes on fire. PETA sucks at life. We hates them, precious.

Mikhail Capone said...

PETA works very hard at shocking people and being extreme, because that's the only way to get and airtime in the corporate media. Just look at how visible most other NGOs are to the general public and you'll understand. I think they do a good job, and the anti-PETA sentiment comes more from people hating the mythic PETA or people who can't read between the lines of PETA's media image than from people who have actually read this:

http://www.peta.org/about/faq.asp

As for "I know hunters who view the kill as an unfortunate part of the experience, myself included." What do you think the ratio is?

My own experience with hunters seems more along the line of people who want to feel all military in the woods or something like that, playing Rambo with guns and then jumping on their AT vehicle.

Some have even proudly told me about following wounded creatures for a while, thinking how cool it was that there was a blood trail, and then when they found the said creature still alive, they took out its eyes with their hunting knives, etc. It's all a game - and if it wasn't fun, they wouldn't do it.

Hungry Hyaena said...

Mikhail:

Shocking people via extreme measures is not the only way to get adequate news time, though it certainly doesn't hurt. Unfortunately, the shocking news PETA activists are so good at generating does little to further their cause or make others think anew.

More importantly, most "other NGOs" are accomplishing far more than PETA, even if they are less vocal about it. PETA does little to conserve habitat, thereby aiding in the protection of many animal species, and little to assist in sensible environmentalism at large. Instead they opt to scream over seal clubbings or release ferrets from zoos when they could focus on more critical, less "cute" issues like fish populations or thoughtful management of suburban areas.

I believe PETA has their heart in the right place, but many PETA activists provide the general public with "proof" that they prefer irresponsible behavior to real progress.

I am interested in animal welfare (as defined by PETA) and, in some cases, animal rights. I have read reams of text both by and about PETA, including books by Ingrid Newkirk, their current president. I believe I am able to "read between the lines of PETA's media image" as a result. (Read the excellent article, "The Extremist," by Michael Specter in the April 14, 2003 issue of The New Yorker for a good look at PETA's philosophy. I embrace much of it, but vehemently disagree with some.)

The ratio of hunters like myself to hunters who are out for "fun" is not good, but that doesn't mean hunting should be condemned at large. Most people are unsafe drivers, but I hear no cry for the prohibition of driving. Obviously, this is a silly comparison, but I do find it frustrating that the whole must be condemned for the sins of the majority. Not every individual who hunts is a blood-thirsty moron, and the stereotypes are enough to make me tear out my hair...or at least have it turn white while still in my twenties, which it seems to be doing.

I know hunters such as those you describe and I want nothing to do with them. Curiously, I've learned that even some of these men have poured millions (in some cases single-handedly if they have the means) into habitat protection and conservation causes. They may hunt for reasons I find repugnant, but they are doing far more good for the environment than I am.

You are right, though. Add up the "Nature Hunters" and wealthy, conservation-minded yahoos and you still have but a small fraction of all hunters. It's an unfortunate reality. But this doesn't mean the majority doesn't understand the importance of habitat protections and the relationship between habitat and huntable populations.

Lastly, any person that would "take out" an animal's eyes while it is still alive is not a hunter, they are a torturer and probably dangerous to all animals, humans included.

Mikhail Capone said...

PETA: "Shocking people via extreme measures is not the only way to get adequate news time"

What do you suggest? I have access to US media from here and I know what they cover and what they don't.

If you go to any sizable vegetarian forum (ie veggieboards), you'll see that more than half of the young veggies were influenced by PETA, directly or indirectly (the video Meet Your Meat seems to be a common starting point).

PETA are not working on the same things as the Sierra Club & co for sure, and no organization can work on all issues, but they got many companies to stop unnecessary testing on animals, have put a lot of pressure on factory farms to clean up their act and done a lot of investigative stuff, etc. A lot of people would never have heard about any of it and looked further, and never have questioned their eating habits, without red paint of fur or showing videos of cute animals being clubbed (ie. media stunts).

I'm not saying I agree with everything PETA does. It's just that I'm tired of always hearing about the bad and never the good. Are we so afraid of controversy on the left? The right sure knows how to use it.

Hunters: The problem I have with hunters is that most seem to have a very utilitarian view of nature. If some animal can't be hunted, not much effort will be done to protect it, and their view of a healthier forest is usually one where you can kill more animals, or bigger ones at least.

It's kinda like feeding a cow real well because you know you're going to eat it. Sorry if I can't whip up much enthusiasm for that kind of thing.

And the healthier an ecosystem becomes, the more hunters become against quotas, roadless areas, regulations and laws to put it off limit - no need for it, they say, see how healthy the place is! Sure they help when things go bad, but it's a vicious circle, I think.

Hunters would make for nice political pressure through sheer numbers, but people who walk around with guns killing animals are not exactly nature's best hope for a recovery, IMHO.

Hungry Hyaena said...

Mikhail:

Your assertion that US media outlets prefer the blockbuster story to the thoughtful editorial is accurate. This doesn't mean there are not plenty of articles dealing with the lesser "exploits" of groups like the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Amnesty International or other NGOs. None of these groups frequently make the front page of a newspaper. In fact, most are relegated to the margins, but they are there and their work remains essential, all without drawing the ire of the masses.

My frustration with PETA lies not in their extreme tactics - though I find these ludicrous and unfortunate; the antics of spoiled, bored rich kids - but in their misunderstanding of wildlife and biology. As you point out, no one group can tackle "all the issues," but to be devoted to the "ethical treatment of animals" is to understand how an action relating to one species can/will affect another. I have seen little from PETA to suggest that they understand such relationships. When they "free" animals from kill shelters or laboratories, they do so indiscriminately, resulting in animals that will die due to climate in some cases and unfortunate introductions in others. To "protect" Bambi - for that is what all deer are to the majority of PETA activists; they understand little of deer biology or natural history and often wouldn't want to - they sacrifice countless other species' habitat, without giving a thought to those less photogenic animals.

I loathed them as a teenager, forgave them and accepted them in my early twenties, and now, after having read much and talked with many, many PETA people on the sort of veggie boards you mention, I am frustrated again.

I want them to be on board in the push for sustainability, but despite my assurances that I am a commited conservationist, they won't have a white boy with a gun on their team. If they are so short-sighted as to overlook the potential benefits of such an alliance, it hurts all of us...and humans are animals too, lest they forget.

Of a personal note, I think I'm one of the most "animal sensitive" people I know. PETA vaunts the likes of Albert Schweitzer for his compassionate treatment of earthworms on a hot sidewalk, but they can not accept that I act the same way. This very evening I stopped to move a catepillar - I couldn't figure out the species, but it was a striing yellow fellow with brilliant green projections on either end - from the sidewalk so that it would not be trod upon. But because i also hunt, I am deemed a bad man. This failure to accept complexity, to demand absolutes in a world in which none exist, is as disturbing to me as the battle drums of the religious right. Such is the thinking of the limited mind. Until PETA activists grow up, they will remain folks who have their hearts in the right place but their priorities askew.

This is not meant as a condemnation of ALL PETA members. I do know several thoughtful PETA activists and I have had long online "conversations" with some who make sensible, articulate arguments for the essential value of PETA. I agree with them, despite my disappointment in the group overall.

As for the hunter's "utilitarian view of nature"...
This is true of most hunters, myself included. But I also think my interest in sustainability and human rights is borne of utility. When I purchase organic products and study the label to see how far it was transported or what percentage is cotton, I am acting in a utilitarian fashion. Unless human population pressures were removed from the equation, stewardship is a matter of utility. No wildlife biologist will tell you otherwise. The web of life is complex and most uneducated hunters do not realize how significantly one action may affect another, unconsidered factor, but the ones they do comprehend are approached in the utilitarian way you describe.

The synonyms of utilitarian, according to a quick dictionary check, are practical, pragmatic, useful, while the antonyms are detrimental, useless, negative. If hunters are in the utilitarian camp, they have good adjectives on their side.

If you can't whip up much enthusiasm for the fat cow example, then I presume you also loathe investments, college funds, real estate and any other short term pay, long term gain approach. This is unfortunate, as conservation depends on such sacrifices. The example you give is easy to wag a finger at - I also find it sad - but it skews the argument from one of practical relationships to land and fellow animal to one of moral and emotional rejection. This is a classic PETA tactic and, while effective and legitimate (we should all confront our personal moral demons and come to our own conclusions), it is aiming for fire and brimstone when we need considerate dialogue.

I respect your humble opinion, Mikhail, and I always appreciate your comments, but if, after reading many of my posts on hunting, you still feel that hunters are bad guys and animal rights activists are good guys, you've either rejected my ideas and ideals (your perogative) or simply don't believe that I feel the way I do. I am a hunter, albeit an infrequent one for the time being. I am one of those "people who walk around with guns killing animals." Does that make everything I stand for irrelevant? If you really feel that way, I fear the worst for the future of the environmental movement and, ultimately, for humanity. Not because everything will necessarily fall apart (though it could), but because I believe a world where people no longer know anything of nature is a world devoid of what some might call a soul.

Mikhail Capone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mikhail Capone said...

> Your assertion that US media outlets prefer the blockbuster story to the thoughtful editorial is accurate. This doesn't mean there are not plenty of articles dealing with the lesser "exploits" of groups like the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Amnesty International or other NGOs. None of these groups frequently make the front page of a newspaper. In fact, most are relegated to the margins, but they are there and their work remains essential, all without drawing the ire of the masses.

First of all, I should make it clear that my respect for PETA (I am not a member, btw) comes from their promotion of the veg*n diet and trying to make people aware that animals are not just automatons that don't mind being put in cages and killed. “Freeing” animals from labs is not helping those particular animals, although footage from a labs where you see animals being electrocuted, poisoned and mutilated should be seen by people who “don't mind [unnecessary] animal testing”. I'll admit that I haven't really paid attention to much of PETA's stunts, so maybe they have done more stupid ones than I think. But I repeat: its their promotion of veg*ism that I like. www.cok.net does a good job at that too, but without the stunts.

As for other NGOs not being controversial, you have to understand that you can't always make parallels directly between issues. When you tell people that they are killing animals by eating and that its not right, of course you can expect most people to instinctively defend their eating habits and feel that PETA is preaching and being invasive, and even get really aggressive for lack of logical arguments. A NGO that would spend its time telling people that they are criminal and causing the world's problem because they drive SUVs would necessarily get a lot of flak from many people the way PETA does, unlike the Sierra Club which doesn't step on that many people's toes.

So lets be careful comparing PETA to other orgs.


> My frustration with PETA lies not in their extreme tactics - though I find these ludicrous and unfortunate; the antics of spoiled, bored rich kids - but in their misunderstanding of wildlife and biology. As you point out, no one group can tackle "all the issues," but to be devoted to the "ethical treatment of animals" is to understand how an action relating to one species can/will affect another. I have seen little from PETA to suggest that they understand such relationships. When they "free" animals from kill shelters or laboratories, they do so indiscriminately, resulting in animals that will die due to climate in some cases and unfortunate introductions in others. To "protect" Bambi - for that is what all deer are to the majority of PETA activists; they understand little of deer biology or natural history and often wouldn't want to - they sacrifice countless other species' habitat, without giving a thought to those less photogenic animals.

I agree with you here.

> I loathed them as a teenager, forgave them and accepted them in my early twenties, and now, after having read much and talked with many, many PETA people on the sort of veggie boards you mention, I am frustrated again.

> I want them to be on board in the push for sustainability, but despite my assurances that I am a commited conservationist, they won't have a white boy with a gun on their team. If they are so short-sighted as to overlook the potential benefits of such an alliance, it hurts all of us...and humans are animals too, lest they forget.

Think about it a second; PETA is saying that the fact that animals are dumber and of another species than us doesn't give us the right of life or death over them, that they too can suffer, be afraid, be happy, feel pain, etc. Basically, it's: "If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth -- beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals -- would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals?" & "A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral."

How could they possibly say: “oh, and btw, hunters are welcome aboard!”

> Of a personal note, I think I'm one of the most "animal sensitive" people I know. PETA vaunts the likes of Albert Schweitzer for his compassionate treatment of earthworms on a hot sidewalk, but they can not accept that I act the same way. This very evening I stopped to move a catepillar - I couldn't figure out the species, but it was a striing yellow fellow with brilliant green projections on either end - from the sidewalk so that it would not be trod upon. But because i also hunt, I am deemed a bad man. This failure to accept complexity, to demand absolutes in a world in which none exist, is as disturbing to me as the battle drums of the religious right. Such is the thinking of the limited mind. Until PETA activists grow up, they will remain folks who have their hearts in the right place but their priorities askew.

I do not “deem you a bad man”, but I do think that you would cause less harm if you did not eat animals, however infrequently you do. Now of course it is not my place to judge you – and I am not doing so, except maybe positively because I think you seem extremely intelligent, sensitive and you do quite a lot of good from what I can read on your blog – and I too could improve my life in many areas. What I don't agree with is that there's isn't any problem with hunting, even the most respectful kind.


> As for the hunter's "utilitarian view of nature"...
This is true of most hunters, myself included. But I also think my interest in sustainability and human rights is borne of utility. When I purchase organic products and study the label to see how far it was transported or what percentage is cotton, I am acting in a utilitarian fashion. Unless human population pressures were removed from the equation, stewardship is a matter of utility. No wildlife biologist will tell you otherwise. The web of life is complex and most uneducated hunters do not realize how significantly one action may affect another, unconsidered factor, but the ones they do comprehend are approached in the utilitarian way you describe.

My “utilitarian” comment was made in a certain context. I am not saying that all actions that are made with utilitarian motivations are bad, just that it is not motivation enough to really protect nature in anything but a limited fashion. A utilitarian view of nature is what caused the problems in the first place. We should profit from nature, but nature shouldn't exist on the condition that we profit. Nature's benefits should be a byproduct of its existence, not the reason for it.

> The synonyms of utilitarian, according to a quick dictionary check, are practical, pragmatic, useful, while the antonyms are detrimental, useless, negative. If hunters are in the utilitarian camp, they have good adjectives on their side.

See above.

> If you can't whip up much enthusiasm for the fat cow example, then I presume you also loathe investments, college funds, real estate and any other short term pay, long term gain approach. This is unfortunate, as conservation depends on such sacrifices. The example you give is easy to wag a finger at - I also find it sad - but it skews the argument from one of practical relationships to land and fellow animal to one of moral and emotional rejection. This is a classic PETA tactic and, while effective and legitimate (we should all confront our personal moral demons and come to our own conclusions), it is aiming for fire and brimstone when we need considerate dialogue.

I think it's a false analogy. Investments and college funds are used to accomplish a certain objective. Other means could be used to reach that objective, and a good person would try to use the mean that is the best/less destructive/most ethical. ie. Working is better than robbing random people, investing in armament factories or blowing up a bank. Fattening up a cow has the objective to eat. But I say, treat the cow well, eat something else and let the cow live. Eating meat is inefficient and destructive from an ecological point of view, it's bad for your health in most cases and it's arguably unethical and cruel. So I say eat something else. There's moral in there, but there's also a utilitarian vision (heh).

> I respect your humble opinion, Mikhail, and I always appreciate your comments, but if, after reading many of my posts on hunting, you still feel that hunters are bad guys and animal rights activists are good guys, you've either rejected my ideas and ideals (your perogative) or simply don't believe that I feel the way I do. I am a hunter, albeit an infrequent one for the time being. I am one of those "people who walk around with guns killing animals." Does that make everything I stand for irrelevant? If you really feel that way, I fear the worst for the future of the environmental movement and, ultimately, for humanity. Not because everything will necessarily fall apart (though it could), but because I believe a world where people no longer know anything of nature is a world devoid of what some might call a soul.

Here I can almost feel your emotions rise to the surface, and so I won't point out that most of this paragraph is a straw man against me. But to make it clear: I don't believe that hunters are bad guys, although I don't like hunting (there's a difference there) when it's not done by a carnivore species or someone who would otherwise starve. I also believe that you have the best intentions in the world, but that if you really like animals as much as you say you do, that maybe if you thought about the future animals you plan to kill you'd have second thoughts. I don't know, that's between you and yourself.

As for me being a problem for the environmental movement and humanity and all that, I'll let time tell about that. We can never know, can we?

Hungry Hyaena said...

Mikhail:

Firstly, I want to clear up the issue you address at the end of your most recent comment. I did not mean to imply that you are "a problem for the environmental movement and humanity." I intended to express my frustration at the inability of those with the same general goals to set aside their individual differences in order to benefit the "movement" at large. That paragraph was not meant as a swipe at you and I apologize if it came across that way, particularly if you felt I was using you as a straw man.

Evidently, we like PETA for the same reasons. As I stated previously, I think PETA has their heart in the right place; it's their tactics that upset me. The Sierra Club doesn't "step on too many toes," yet somehow everyone and their mother knows that SUVs are excessive and even Ford has partnered with TSC to market it's new hybrid SUV. One can write off such a partnership as sleeping with the devil, but throughtout history, progress has often come at some short-term sacrifice, moral or otherwise. This is why I feel I must compare PETA to other organizations. Theirs is an ethical/moral crusade, but for me so is the work of many other NGOs.

You write: "How could [PETA] possibly say: 'oh, and btw, hunters are welcome aboard!'"

You're right, of course, but I was not suggesting they embrace me as a member of PETA, but rather accept that someone like me might be working toward the preservation of biodiversity and other conservation causes. It's the same old broken record with them. "How can you be a conservationist and a hunter? Isn't that an oxymoron?" I've answered the question patiently for years and I will continue to do so. It just gets very trying at times.

More frustratingly, PETA seems all too eager to have leather wearing style queens (like so many of their celebrity spokespeople; Paris Hilton, for example) come onboard. In fact, some of their celebrity fronts eat meat, yet the PETA powers that be seem comfortable using the status and renown of people to garner more exposure and potential memberships.

You write: "What I don't agree with is that there's isn't any problem with hunting, even the most respectful kind."

I agree. As I've said before, anything that upsets me as much as killing an animal is inherently troubling. I don't doubt that killing another human would be little more difficult than killing any other large mammal. The heart pain one feels after executing a deer is intense and not at all pleasant, I assure you. Why do I continue to do it? I suppose I have a tough time explaining the tremendous stretch and change in context which occurs when I approach the kill. It sounds animist and hokey to say I feel that much closer to the rest of creation, that much more a part of it, after a kill, but this is the case. Hunting led me to be more conscientious about the natural world and to be as interested in natural history and wildlife biology as I am.

You write: "A utilitarian view of nature is what caused the problems in the first place. We should profit from nature, but nature shouldn't exist on the condition that we profit. Nature's benefits should be a byproduct of its existence, not the reason for it."

This is half true. True utilitarians plan ahead. It is not in their best interest to use indiscriminately. Sustainability is utilitarian, not boom and bust. Your last two sentences are dead on, although, because we are nature, the equation can get fuzzy.

You write: "Fattening up a cow has the objective to eat. But I say, treat the cow well, eat something else and let the cow live. Eating meat is inefficient and destructive from an ecological point of view, it's bad for your health in most cases and it's arguably unethical and cruel. So I say eat something else. There's moral in there, but there's also a utilitarian vision (heh)."

I couldn't agree more. And, yes, my financial analogy was a rhetorical stretch.

Please don't feel attacked. I enjoy debates such as these, as they always inform my thinking, even if I will sometimes get carried away or supremely frustrated, realize that, generally, we are on the same page, aiming for the same sort of improvements. Like the thrust of this post suggests, I hope that one day the warring feifdoms of the environmental movement will make a treaty and move forward.

Mikhail Capone said...

Amen!

I think that the reason why there's conflict on the environmental side is because, unlike our "enemies" in the industry and dominionists-conservatives & co, we don't have a top-down, faith-based approach.

Scientific skepticism and individual choice and all that.

I also must point out that when I write a post criticizing something, I am doing just that; not criticizing the person as a whole. I'm sorry if you felt personally attacked by anything that I've said.

I'm usually fairly methodical and not personal when I debate, which could come from the legal training, or explain why I went in law in the first place.

Anyway, lets move on.

Wildbird said...

Clevland Amory one called hunters as bloodthirsty gun nuts showing he is stupid and in fact he once even said to save the ducks from the hunters by draining the wetlands A TOTAL JERK i mean i wouldnt even bother reading any of his books they just prove he is stupid