Founder, United Poultry Concerns
After reading the ANIMALS 24-7 article Killing the Female: The Psychology of the Hunt this morning, I forwarded it to Bill Crain. Bill teaches psychology at City College of New York. He and his wife Ellen Crain cofounded and direct Safe Haven Farm Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York.
Bill, 73, on January 2, 2019 is to report to the Sussex County Jail to serve 15 days in jail on his sixth conviction for nonviolent actions taken while protesting against the annual black bear hunt in New Jersey.
I wrote to him, “I don’t know if you subscribe to ANIMALS 24-7, but reading this article today, I thought of you, including that you are a psychologist who is about to be incarcerated in a few days, once again, for taking a stand against killing bears. I will be thinking of you. I cannot say “praying,” although I wish there were an equivalent word with no theological associations.”
I am struck by the recurrent attitude, expressed by many of the sources quoted in Killing the Female and elsewhere, that what is wrong with killing animals for pleasure, status, etc., is not what the animals themselves suffer, in the process of losing their lives, often leaving bereaved mates and orphaned young, but rather what the killing does to the “boy” who pulls the trigger, hooks the fish, or sets the trap.
The subheading “When the symbolic turns sinister,” midway through “Killing the Female,” appearing above an account of how Montreal rampage murderer Marc Lepine shot pigeons before shooting and stabbing 14 young women to death, links the killing of humans and nonhumans.
Yet it could also be misread as implying that only when a hunter expands from hunting (stalking, terrorizing, wounding, killing) nonhuman animals to human targets does the hunting become “sinister.”
In both of the above examples, the animal victim is absorbed into a strictly human-centered perspective. The animals, conveniently, are about “something else.”
“Sport hunting was normal & expected”
I came from a background comparable to that of the hunters whose lives are described in “Killing the Female.”
Sport hunting was normal and expected in my family and community in Pennsylvania. When I was in grade school, schools closed on the first day of deer season, and probably still do.
My father , a lawyer, hunted rabbits and ring-necked pheasants (pen-raised pheasants turned out on the first day of hunting season), then “cleaned” them in the basement.
He said he didn’t hunt deer because he didn’t want to have to lug them through the woods. His defense of rabbit hunting was “everything hunts the rabbit.”
My father and his friends hunted grouse, squirrels, and small birds, but I don’t recall anything about turkeys, who by reputation are the wariest and most difficult of “small game” to stalk and shoot. Maybe turkeys were “too big” to lug through the woods.
Ate some, rest discarded
We ate some of my father’s killings, and the rest simply disappeared.
There was talk such as, “Hell, I don’t want them; give them away. Or throw them away.”
One of my uncles loved to tell the story about how he threw away twenty pheasant pies his wife had baked.
Not until Tim, the oldest of my three younger brothers, was a teenager, and wanted to spend Saturday with his girlfriend, do I recall a family conflict over hunting. My father flew into a rage when Tim announced that he didn’t want to “go huntin’” with his dad. He was accused of being “a girl” because he preferred to be with a girl that day.
Retriever & beagles
My middle brother, Amos, had his eye knocked out with a slingshot when he was five, yet he grew up to be an avid small-game hunter with a penchant for killing pheasants and quails.
He could admit that some nonhuman animals had feelings. His own family had a golden retriever named Coffee, who was kidnapped from their yard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Weeks later, when they somehow got her back, “Coffee’s fur had turned white from fright,” Amos said.
My father sport-hunted well into his 80s, half blind, and Amos, missing one eye, was still an obsessive hunter the last I heard. I don’t know what he does these days. I don’t want to know, unless he has laid down his weapons.
My father kept a succession of hunting dogs at the far end of the yard. These beagles had a wooden doghouse filled with straw and lived at the end of a long chain tied to an iron stake.
Whenever I visited “Nellie,” or “Gus,” or whoever was there at the time, the dog would cower inside the doghouse or approach me crouching, with his or her tail curled under trembling back legs. My father trained his dogs by hitting them with a work-gloved hand. I’d hear them whimpering from inside the house.
Dogs hauled in the trunk
I heard stories about hunting dogs who had heart attacks running in the fields because they had been tied up, without exercise, for months between hunting seasons. My father took the beagles out for runs during the year to keep this from happening.
In the fall, the men stood in the kitchen in the early morning talking about the great day of killing that lay ahead, then load Dad’s dog into the trunk with the other dogs, all yelping, and off they’d go.
I HATE the mentality and behavior of “hunting” and “fishing” and guns. I HATE machismo in all its forms. I hope this article is correct in suggesting that hunting (so-called) is on the wane.
Thank you for publishing Killing the Female: The Psychology of the Hunt.
Karen Davis, PhD author says
Thank you, ANIMALS 24-7, for publishing my account of some memories of hunting episodes in Altoona PA when I was growing up. Indeed, I have more memories. Like the time I literally thought I would choke to death once while hiking in the woods with my father and brother Amos, and Amos said to my father about their visit to the ring-necked pheasant farm earlier that morning: “I just wish I had had my gun.”
Then there was the time many years later when Amos was getting married in Louisiana, and I’d painted a watercolor of a quiet rabbit in a field of flowers as a wedding gift for Amos and Laura. My father, Amos, and I were in the car, and my father said, when the painting was unwrapped, “That rabbit better not show up during hunting season.” (Ha ha.)
In college one time, Amos told me he’d be perfectly happy in life as long as he had “a cabin and a gun.”
In the other areas of his life he was not a violent person, but shooting “game” animals and anticipating shooting them triggered a different gene, it seemed.
Once again, thank you for covering this topic superbly and for including my response.
Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns http://www.upc-online.org
I wish to thank Karen Davis and ANIMALS 24-7 for this article. I too grew up and live in hunting country. The article’s observations are spot on. I was very fortunate in that my immediate family did not hunt, but many, many other people around me did, and I made observations very similar to that of Davis.
It is my observation that hunters in their teens through early middle age are most obnoxious. Even the most basic, dog-and-cat animal welfare topics that most people support, are something to mock and ridicule. People who express discomfort with hunting, and especially vegetarians, are mercilessly teased and insulted.
A lot of the money hunters spend, even those who no longer hunt nearly as frequently, seems to go to signaling values not directly related to the hunt itself. Everything from furniture and truck accessories in hunting camouflage to memberships in the NRA and similar groups.
Jamaka Petzak says
I know a really nice, personable, intelligent, decent person who delights in hunting. He has a gun dog and is raising his son to be just like him when it comes to this “sport”. He hunts trap-released pigeons whom he and his family do not eat or need to utilize in any way. It is part of their culture/heritage to hunt. He is a good, kind person, but I cannot understand why anyone would kill harmless birds released from boxes.
In my family, ancestors were hunter/gatherers, but none of my male relatives that I know of ever hunted. Many did fish, though, and all had omnivorous diets.
Education in compassion and respect for all living beings is definitely the answer, and the only way societies will ever change. I advocate for what would be called humane education universally, from the earliest level all the way through the most advanced.