While in Britain, fox hunters raised hell over Tony Blair’s plans to end fox hunting by pushing an anti-hunting bill through Parliament, incumbent president George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry are both striving for the rifle hunting vote, as if they fear a similar backlash by not backing sports hunters.
While I think the National Rifle Association is correct to interpret the Second Amendment as the right to own a gun for protective purposes, rifles are clearly meant for the purpose of hunting. The NRA obviously takes under its wing a lot of hunting enthusiasts … er, “nature’s noblemen.”
Well, perhaps the hunter is a nobleman of nature. He is thinning the herds, he is giving quick death to animals that may not survive a hard winter or become the prey of ruthless predators, he is careful never to kill more than is necessary (sometimes). Hunters are in tune with nature, no doubt. Perhaps because, much like nature itself, they are cold and callous about death.
While I think hunting animals with rifles, ensuring an accurate shot for as little suffering as possible, is preferable to a pack of dogs ripping a creature to shreds as with fox hunting, hunting is nevertheless a cruel practice. But I also don’t think that it’s the government’s job to outlaw hunting – people will only torture animals anyway, if they’re so inclined, and it is up to the individual whether or not they respect life.
Having said that, back to the issue at hand: Why prey so hard for the hunter’s vote?
It’s the culture; a machismo sentiment that stipulates that you have to be hard. Hard men make hard choices, and that’s whom we want in the Oval Office. As far as I’m concerned, Bush already made a hard choice by launching the “unilateral” toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime. He does not need to shoot quails to be seen as tough.
In travelling through swing states such as Ohio and West Virginia, Bush and Kerry both laud the hunter’s tradition and say they discover their love of the “sport.” If you want the hicks on your side, this is what you do, come election time.
Somehow, I think even rifle-owning Jack, Larry, Chuck and Bubba can be made to understand that there are more important issues dominating the nation’s welfare than whether or not the president shares their love of donning a deer-stalker and creating loud noises and seeing the blood flow or the feathers fly. But nevertheless, you gots to be killin’ or on Election Day you be illin’.
Matthew Scully, a former White House aide during the Bush Administration and author of the book Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, says of the President:
I don’t recall Bush having hunted before then as president, or having hunted since. Left to himself, without the pleadings of political advisers or hunting groups in need of affirmation, the president seems to prefer more innocent recreations like riding bikes, clearing brush or playing with the dog. I have a suspicion he is, in this respect, actually a bit like President Kennedy, who had to be dragged along for a deer hunt at the LBJ ranch, and didn’t care much for the experience.
Kerry, meanwhile, as Scully reports, shot a bunch of pheasants in front of the rural media in Iowa during his swing through the Midwest.
Scully – a political conservative – argues that while it’s silly to talk about bestowing human rights on animals, they should be accorded respect as fellow creatures. I have argued the same myself. True nature lovers don’t kill for sport.
Bush, though while not a particularly avid hunter before his campaign, has become rather lax with the issue – even turning a blind eye toward the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as it imports endangered species for trophy hunters. I don’t suppose the United States would be in a position to lecture Canada about their outrageous seal culling.
As Mr. Scully points out in his piece, passage of the bipartisan sponsored Captive Exotic Animal Protection Act of 2004 would mark significant progress. Animals may not have ” human rights,” but any compassionate society is wrong to not accord them a satisfactory modicum of decency and respect as living, sentient beings.
For those who think I’ve suddenly taken a sharp turn toward the Left, it is not so. Even Leftie-liberals, as many people correctly point out in this survey, seem to care more about humans than animals. Like Matthew Scully, I balance my conservatism with a concern and love for animals, and any bill that would place restrictions on hunting and strive to protect native and endangered species has my support.
Kerry can claim support for the proposed anti-hunt legislation, and thus claim the high moral ground, but he demonstrated with the Iowa pheasant-shooting stint, that, true to his flip-flopping nature, he will play politics with the appropriate crowd, whoever they may be.
We should only have a “Sportmen’s Bill of Rights” when, as the joke goes, animals are given guns too.