On January 20th, a so-called ‘landmark’ bill called the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act (S. 659) got through the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and now heads to the Senate floor for approval. According to the NRA/American Hunter, this would “protect and advance opportunities for hunting, shooting and fishing across America.” For those in the fight to save wildlife on public lands from harassment, and to defend our nation’s wolves and other native carnivores from persecution, this is a trojan horse with heart-numbing amendments inserted that would allow for continued use of dangerous lead in fishing gear and ammunition (think Flint water crisis), allow polar bear heads and other contentious ‘trophies’ to be brought home into the US, as well as surreptitiously strip protections for our beleaguered gray wolves, removing them from Endangered status under the ESA, and (unbelievably) ensuring that this major change would be exempt from any future legal review.
So, as both sides hunker down to battle this out, the supporters of the bill praise it for protecting hunter’s ‘rights’ and expanding their (already significant) access to virtually every inch of public lands. But is anyone stopping to question if these recreational killing activities (hunting with a variety of weapons imposing varying degrees of suffering for the animals involved) are actually healthy for society?
First, as anyone who lives in ‘hunt country’ knows, non-hunters dare not step foot onto our public lands, parks or even, sometimes, into our own back yards during hunting/trapping seasons. It is far too dangerous for humans, not to mention pets or even protected non-game species. Humans, dogs and ‘non-target’ species are routinely injured or killed ‘by accident’, with the hunters getting nothing but a slap on the wrist – if that much – for the tragedy they caused. Most incidents are dismissed as ‘unintended’ accidents and swept under the rug. Dogs used in predator hunting are routinely injured, mauled (even during training exercises) or left by the hunter to die if they are injured in the fight during a hunt. To support an activity on our public lands which is so bloody, and so dangerous to so many (and for so long) is questionable to begin with. But the other big concern is, what is the mindset and psychology of those who eagerly wait all year for hunting season and who invest enormous sums on gear and licenses, when head out to the woods to intentionally track down and slaughter, or set grim land-mines (traps) for, innocent wildlife?
Well, studies do show that there is, indeed, a link between these lethal, cruel, wholly gratuitous hobbies, and violence or sexual abuse of children. According to a 1995 report in Animals 24-7.org, Michigan stats confirm hunting, child abuse link,
“Michigan children are nearly three times as likely to be neglected and are twice as likely to be physically abused or sexually assaulted if they live in a county with either an above average or above median rate of hunting participation.”
More, the book “The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence” edited by Andrew Linzey, by Sussex Academic Press, discuss that hunters, even if momentarily feeling a twinge of regret when killing a once-vibrant animal, quickly get over it and learn to deaden their impulse towards empathy or compassion. It seems ‘to be successful’, hunters must work through feelings of guilt.
Guilt is known to increase emotional/sexual arousal and intensity, and along with the ‘rush’ of sexual energy unleashed through execution of cruelty, creates a disturbingly fertile ground for sociopathic and/or criminal behaviors, enacted far out in the woods, in isolated areas where there is no witness or peer-induced pressure to abstain from unethical or sadistic ‘acting out’ on the part of hunters or trappers.
The ‘thrill’ of the hunt and urge to chase down and slaughter other living beings, historically, has, indeed, been turned against other humans. Like something out of an apocalypse movie, hunting parties targeting children have, indeed.existed in the modern world, as documented in this disturbing post in Child Abuse Recovery from June 17, 2014. It is widely accepted that hunting activities remove inhibitions from pedophiles and sex offenders.
Is this what we, as a society, wish to support, no less encourage? Do bills like the Sportsmen’s Act, which aim to facilitate and legitimatize these activities while expanding ‘opportunities’ to conduct them, enhance the ‘greater good’, or act as breeding-grounds for sociopaths, psychopaths, child abusers or serial killers?
When any proposed legislation actively attempts to block future review , it smacks of unconstitutionality. When it pertains to something as important as the protection of imperiled species, all for the convenience of hunters and other consumptive and ‘terminal’ users (those who kill or otherwise destroy wildlife and wilderness that belongs to all Americans), at the same time enabling such unsettling behaviors among our population, it’s understandable that such become hot-button issues. The current backlash against so-called ‘trophy hunting’ shows that the vast majority of Americans (according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, a mere 13.7 out of 90 million participate in hunting) oppose either all, or expanded, hunting, and that seems to be causing a panic in the lucrative hunting industry and the NRA, which supports it. So this tiny minority holds the country hostage and ends up dictating public and wilderness lands policies at the expense of the majority.
There are numerous other indications that by embracing recreational and trophy hunting as a ‘noble’ activity, a ‘right’ or a ‘need’, (since, truly, after considering the substantial expenses of gear, transport and licensing, it is not about the need to secure food), we are pandering to the baser impulses in civilization. A quick Google search of ‘does hunting lead to child abuse?’ or ‘does hunting lead to violence against people?’ will turn up a significant number of results like this one: “In many parts of the United States hunting remains a revered right-of-passage for young boys. The tradition of killing one’s first deer often comes sheathed in warrior-like, and frequently sexually suggestive, rituals such as a “virgin” hunter covering his face with the blood of “his” first conquest. Troll YouTube and you’ll find a disturbing number of videos of boys as young as eight killing deer.It’s astounding how many people think this is a wonderful thing. Advocates of this behavior invariably highlight the benefits that come from being in nature, bonding with fathers, and pursuing an ethic of conservation. It’s important to expose the lunacy of this rhetoric. These supposed benefits are, if the above quotes are onto anything, little more than rationalizations for severe violence, violence that could all too easily carry over into the way we view–and perhaps can treat–our fellow humans.”
Even if one is willing to dismiss the psychological and emotional damage done to a child (since most children instinctively adore and are drawn to animals) when they are indoctrinated to harden their developing sense of empathy and compassion and kill the animals they otherwise loved, the red flags surrounding hunting as a pastime are glaring. In fact the connection to trophy hunting and serial killers is clear, as both will stalk and lure their victims, stroke the dead bodies lovingly and collect ‘trophies’ (a head, a lock of hair or other keepsake) of the vanquished ‘beloved’. With these concerns in mind, readers might will consider the folly of allowing a bill such as the Sportsmen’s Act, in it’s current incarnation, at least, to be passed into law.
To oppose the Bi-Partisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2016, please call your senators immediately, and register with POPVOX to leave your comment under the OPPOSE tab.