Sunday, May 14, 2006

cruel? not.

Someone told me recently that I have pictures of cruelty to animals on my website. These are pictures of my birds hunting and catching game. The game is either dead, or it is alive and unharmed. There's no cruelty.

It's all about intent. Cruelty is inflicting pain and suffering for the sake of causing pain and suffering. Cruelty is deliberately prolonging dying any amount of time longer than necessary.

Hunting sometimes causes pain and suffering during the infliction of death. Hunting as a whole is not cruelty.

For millennia man has hunted for sustenance. Hawks hunt. Dogs hunt. Cats hunt. Insects, spiders, fish: they all kill other animals to eat. The way animals kill is rarely pretty, and often does prolong death, especially when the skills of hunter and hunted are evenly matched. My current hawk, if left to himself, will yank out an eyeball first, then start biting the head. My previous hawk was more refined, usually suffocating first before eating, but not always.

Cats are cruel, especially neurotic, well-fed housecats that don't regularly get out to hunt for food like honest animals. Give a housecat a mouse, and it will drop it in the bathtub and play with it a few hours for practice. Honing the skills it instinctively thinks it needs, but doesn't by its lifestyle. A real mouser doesn't have time for this bullshit.

If they were logical, people who call hunters cruel would lump together everyone and say hawks, dogs, cats, bugs and fish are just as cruel. The entire world is cruel. Life is cruel for making us die. However, those people don't exhibit logic. Hunters, as higher animals, are supposed to be "better" and accept the fact that meat is only socially acceptable when grown in supermarkets. They forget that someone's got to kill the chicken and put it in a styrofoam coffin. They mysteriously blank out this part of the equation. But the really mysterious thing is, quite often, they love cats.

In dreams of the animal-rights extremists, no one eats meat. They are entitled to their opinion. I am entitled to mine, which says meat is tasty and nutritious, and cooking it is fun. Hindus are intelligent enough to realize that not everyone is Hindu. They don't badger you about hunting, killing, or eating meat. They don't vandalize your car or belongings in this cause.

Certainly, hunters vary in their degrees of skill. Sometimes one shoots a deer, and misses the vital spots that will drop it right away. There are a hundred factors, and sometimes just dumb luck, that can cause even an experienced hunter to miss the drop shot. If hunters were cruel, they would walk away satisfied they've successfully inflicted pain. But this isn't the case. Every hunter who wounds an animal tries to track it down and finish the job.

Nor am I perfect in determining if an animal is going to survive my hawks' grasp. I'm not a veterinarian. But knowledge handed down from my falconry sponsor, and my own experience, makes me a fair judge. If it's going to die from its injuries, I kill immediately. If unwounded, I let it go. I've misjudged on less than half of one percent of my quarry. One time the birds mortally injured an animal and it escaped; I looked for it until dark but didn't find it. Another time the birds mortally injured an animal, and we found it within 15 minutes and put it out of its misery. I don't intend any of these mistakes, and I feel deep sorrow and pity when it happens.

Sure, hunters kill animals, same as ranchers and farmers. Just don't call us cruel.

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