Hunting Exposes Dark Side
Published November 18, 2003.
By Mike Lozon. Holland Sentinel.
The city of Holland's proposal to slaughter renegade deer on Windmill Island and the Michigan Legislature's push to paint bull's-eyes on the backs of docile mourning doves serve to shine a light on the darker side of humanity's soul.
I find it disconcerting that we can be so sanctimonious about human life but label as expendable our fellow creatures on this planet when they disrupt the status quo, or when we desire to abuse them for sport, entertainment, research, or nourishment.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated," said Mohandas K. Gandhi, who delivered India from the bonds of British colonialism through non-violent civil disobedience.
By his measure, the United States is a long way from winning any awards for greatness. The deer and dove issues sadly bear that out.
The city is seeking permission from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to allow qualified city employees to kill deer on the island with a bow and arrow because the animals are eating too many tulip bulbs.
After the hunting proposal became public, I was heartened to see a number of letters to the editor in The Sentinel opposing such a hunt. Said one letter writer: "To callously decide that the deer on Windmill Island need to be killed as a solution to the damaged tulip-bulb crop is not surprising. It's quick, easy, and eliminates the alternative of finding more humane methods of dealing with the issue."
Just as disheartening was the almost equal number of letters that opposed the "controlled harvest" not for the sake of the deer but because the hunt was only open to city employees. Those letter writers thought it only fair that the hunt should be open to the public through a drawing.
On the state level, a number of our esteemed legislators are gunning for the mourning dove in an attempt to curry favor with hunters. This isn't the first time legislators have sought to change the dove's status from song bird to game bird. But earlier this month, a bill to accomplish that goal was passed in the House by the widest margin ever. Fortunately, the Senate isn't expected to consider the measure anytime soon.
A number of Sentinel letter-writers also voiced opposition to changing the dove's current designation. According to one protester: "Mourning doves have been a protected songbird since 1905. Doves are ground-feeding birds that provide valuable natural control of pest weeds. They are not overpopulated. They do not threaten or harm other species or crops, and they do not provide a viable human food source."
Sadly, our inhumanity extends far beyond tulip-eating deer and an innocent song bird. So-called sportsmen still bait wild animals as a way to lure them to their death. Some have the gall to hunt in wild-game preserves that fence the animals in for an easy kill. And, incredibly, there are still those who barbarically maim animals with steel traps before destroying them.
Aside from the blood sports, our society still condones the mistreatment of animals for our entertainment at circuses, rodeos, and water-theme parks, like Sea World. The most recent example of misuse that came back to literally bite an animal entertainer occurred in Las Vegas, when showman Roy Horn was mauled within an inch of his life by a tiger before an audience of 1,500 at the Mirage hotel. Horn, of the illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy, has made a career out of exploiting the large cats in his stage show.
Away from the entertainment venues, there are still far too many animals subjected to cruel experiments for medical research and even consumer-product safety. And the lives of some farm animals, grown for human consumption, are less than ideal -- especially calves raised for veal meat.
If we are to be true to our humanity, we need to become more aware of how other animals are treated in our names. We should strive to prove wrong a damning bumper sticker I once came across: "Humans aren't the only species on earth. We just act like it."
And we should emulate James Herriot, the British author and veterinarian, who dedicated himself to his belief in this saying: "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all."
Mike Lozon is a free-lance writer who specializing in histories of Michigan businesses.
- Songbird Protection Coalition