Hungry Like The Wolf

I like hunting, but I need justification for ending a life, even the life of a small rodent. In my mind, there are two valid reasons for hunting: use (including meat, leather, other useful animal bits) and pest control. Killing an animal for a trophy or simply for the thrill seems extremely wasteful to me.

My father hunts foxes and coyotes, and this requires a different justification: competition. Since my father primarily hunts deer and small game, he is in direct competition with coyotes and foxes. He reasons that if he doesn’t kill the coyote, the coyote will kill the deer that he wants for himself. I don’t buy that as a justification for killing foxes or coyotes.

In the first place predators play an important role in population control. And population control, you may remember, is one of the reasons for hunting in the first place. My father wants all the deer to himself, but there are already too many deer. The deer population in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is so high that there are more deer-car collisions here than in almost any other state. So from a simple balanced ecosystem stand-point, we want more predators, not fewer.

My second (and more aesthetic) objection to hunting predators is that it doesn’t seem sporting. If I shoot a rabbit I eat it, but hunting is still primarily for sport; and shooting your competitors is simply not according to Hoyle. If killing the competing predators is acceptable, then is the next logical step shooting other hunters? Perhaps Dick Cheney wasn’t a terrible shot with atrocious gun-handling habits; he just wanted all of the game for himself.


Beer of the Week: DAB Original by Dortmunder Actien Brauerei: I thought that the “A” in “DAB” was for the word “aktion” (action); that’s why I have paired this beer with an action-packed hunting reading. However, the word is actually “actien” (joint-stock?). Oh well. The beer itself is good, but not remarkable. It is much better than comparable American macro-brews, but this German macro has its own mass-production stamped all over it.

Reading for the Week: War and Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy – Book Seven of War and Peace includes a grand wolf hunt. After the wolf is captured, the hunters move on to small game. The dogs in the hunt are worth entire villages and their owners are keen to test them against each other.

Question for the week: Given the cost of equipment, travel and time off work,how expensive is a pound of game meat really?


8 Comments on “Hungry Like The Wolf”

  1. Cole Simmons says:

    The hunt is the best scene of the book. The amount of human happiness (and aesthetic beauty for the reader) it inspires is worth the wolf’s life and the price-tag of many small villages.

    Of course I am not wedded to this view … but why not? Why not this “measurement” compared to the measurement (making the smallest impact on the world as possible) you offer?

    • I am not sure that I do advocate a “least impact” approach to nature; I do still hunt and eat meat and wear leather shoes. (Although eating meat in some cases actually is the “least impact” approach. cf. this article about how many mice die as a result of grain farming

      I actually had Montaigne’s essay Of Cruelty on my mind as I wrote this post. I do not enjoy cruelty or death for their own sake. I do, however, enjoy hunting. How can these be reconciled? My attempt at reconciliation here has been to value the utility of the hunt above the suffering caused. Once the utility of the hunt is removed, it is killing for the sake of killing. Although that may not be malum in se, Montaigne observes that one result may be the development of a “proneness toward cruelty.”

      • Cole Simmons says:

        Perfect, I think your response brings things into sharp relief. ASIDE from being guided by reason, I opine that the best guide to life is CRUELTY. First to yourself, and Second in expecting it from others. Third – a cruel one gets to take pleasure in the position his cruelty places him in – he is almost always at odds with the opinions of his peers (today) and his cruelty leads him to contradict them, which leads to conversation. And by being guided by what few are guided be, the lover of cruelty (really of HONESTY) benefits from a natural guard against the accretions dogmatism.

        Cruelty does not lead to inane violence. For instance, I saw a young man once do violence to an animal for no apparent reason. However, upon reflection, it became easy to see the lie(s) he operated upon. ONE: he might have wished to impress onlookers with his ability to disregard life and inflict harm. If this was his motivation, he took pleasure in the act because he thought the impression he made on others would benefit him. Maybe he thought it was good for people to be scared of him. In this way he was not cruel enough – he did not wish to see how meaningless such opinions are, that whatever fruit could be gained from such opinions is of little value. TWO: he might’ve not cared at all about his reputation and actually took pleasure in hurting the animal. If this was his motivation, he took pleasure in the exertion of his power. He failed to be cruel enough because the exertion of one’s power over a clear inferior proves nothing. “Your are strong and smarter than a Cat” is not a compliment an honest man desires.

        But I will go read Montaigne’s “On Cruelty.” I am sure it is very good as all things by that man tend to be. Please do not think I am a monster (or myself very cruel) – I prefaced the apology for cruelty with the qualifier that being guided by reason is preferable to being guided by honesty. And I really do mean it! Maybe I should write about being guided by being Contrary, because sometimes that seems to me a guiding light.

      • Your second paragraph reads as an indictment of cruelty. The cruel man has a reasons for being cruel, but they are shitty reasons so he doesn’t achieve his goal. Such, I suspect, is always the case.

        I would like to see a distinction between “cruelty” (as something vicious) and “violence” or “severity” which could exist without vice.

  2. Cole Simmons says:

    I accept the distinction between violence and cruelty – hence “inane violence” is referred to in paragraph 2.

    If you read paragraph two as an indictment of cruelty it means we have different understandings of the word.

    • “I accept the distinction between violence and cruelty – hence “inane violence” is referred to in paragraph 2.” This makes it sound like you are defining cruelty as “inane violence.” I am sure that is not what you meant, but that is what this sentence seems to say.

      I clearly did not understand your second paragraph. I am not at all sure that the failure to understand stems from any deficiency on my own part. If you’d like to try to reword it to make it more intelligible, feel free. First, perhaps you should give your definition of “cruelty” since you have stated that you agree with my assertion that cruelty is a vice but persist in claiming that said vice should be a “guiding principle”.

      • Cole Simmons says:

        Paragraph 2 was meant to show that what is commonly called cruelty – inane violence – is not cruelty in the most meaningful sense of denying falsehoods.

        I don’t know why you think I think cruelty is a vice.

      • Clearly the problem was that we did not have an agreed upon definition for the word “cruelty”. Your definition of the word “cruelty” is entirely novel to me. Where have you ever seen the word “cruelty” used to mean “denying falsehoods” before?

        EDIT: In answer to your question about why I said that you thought cruelty was a vice, when I proposed a provisional distinction between cruelty and violence, I explicitly stated that the distinction hinged on cruelty being vicious and violence being morally neutral. Then you said that you agreed to the distinction.

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