A recent show which has been airing on Australian TV is called “Living With The Enemy”. For ten days, two people on opposite sides of a social debate live with each other, five days at each place, and hopefully learn something and maybe change their opinions. I’ve already seen one about immigration in general, one about immigration from Africa, and one about whether such a thing as non-extremist Islam exists.
They’ve all been very debate-provoking, and it tends to take my family quite a long time to get through an episode because we keep pausing and discussing. Within my family, we’ve had some quiet differing views on some of these topics, so it’s been interesting. But I’ve been on the “justified” leftist side the shows have been biased towards.
However, this time, I wasn’t. This episode was about hunting. A farmer by the name of Steve spent the time living with an “animal liberationist” called Felicity. It was constant arguing, as per usual, but I was definitely siding with Steve.
Felicity’s opinion was that animals are people, too, and hunting is a violation of basic rights and morals, and basically that anyone who hunts or eats meat is a mindless killer. She constantly belittled Steve and other hunters, referred to them as “psychopaths”, “detached from their empathy”, and questioned him about “what have you learnt from this experience?”
Steve, on the other hand, was presented in a particularly bad light. They made a fuss of him being “a devout Christian who believes that animals aren’t on the same level as humans”. He was a farmer, but this was hardly mentioned. And Steve, of course, hunts.
I can understand Felicity’s opinion. As a Christian myself, I may not believe that humans and animals were created equal, but I can certainly understand her point that we shouldn’t go around mindlessly harming other creatures. After all, as a Christian, I believe that we were given dominion over the animals and it’s our responsibility to protect them.
And it’s here that I swing to Steve’s point of view. In the second part of the episode, he went on a hunting trip to a friend’s property. That friend ran sheep, and had a big problem with foxes and pigs harming his stock and killing the lambs, and so called Steve in to help get fox and pig numbers down.
This is where, I think, the show failed. Or perhaps it was Steve and his friend Robert who failed. The whole hunting trip, Felicity just kept banging on about them enjoying the hunting, and mindlessly killing the pigs, and disrespecting the pigs. The voiceover commented that there are more wild pigs in Australia than humans, and they’re known for killing lambs. And I just kept thinking, surely, surely, they could have shown Felicity some of the sheep and lambs who had been hurt by the pigs.
Felicity kept saying, “Surely these animals have a right to live? Surely they have a right to die naturally and peacefully? Surely you can see that this is cruel and unnecessary?” If someone had just shown her a mutilated sheep – mutilated at the hands of the pigs and foxes – surely she would have understood? Even if she hadn’t understood the need to cull the pigs, surely it would have got her thinking. What gives the pigs more right to live and die peacefully than the sheep? The sheep, at least, are useful. They give us wool; they feed us. And more than that, those farmers are responsible for those sheep, and responsible for protecting them, even if it means killing pigs.
Last year, we trapped a fox and sent it away to be put down. This caused uproar on FaceBook, when my mother uploaded a photo of the trapped fox. “You have no right to kill it!” people told us. “It’s a living creature and it deserves to live!”
Well, that may be so, but you’ll have to forgive me if I felt no remorse. I can understand others’ perspectives. If I’d seen that fox in isolation, reasonably old and with a cataract in one eye, I would have felt compassion for it, too. I would have wanted to save it and protect it and whatever.
But I didn’t. And why? Because I knew that that fox was responsible for killing between fifty and a hundred of my chooks over the previous two years. And let me tell you, when foxes kill chooks, they don’t go about it in a swift and painless manner such as that fox received at the Animal Welfare League!
When a fox goes after chooks, he bites and claws at the neck, first, which hurts but doesn’t always kill. Then he gets the scent of blood in his nose, and sometimes a fox will go at all of the chooks before finally leaving, and not taking any chooks with him. He leaves a yard full of injured and bloody chooks. Last autumn, a fox got into a coop of some twenty birds, and although I found six or seven still alive on the scene when I got there, only two survived. One still has a limp.
So, no, sorry, I couldn’t feel sorry for that fox. I couldn’t want to free it, because I knew it would just go on injuring and killing my birds – creatures for whom I was personally responsible. If I owned I sheep farm, and had pigs killing my lambs, I would either go after the pigs myself or, since I don’t know how to hunt myself, I would call someone in to do it for me. It’s not about whether the pigs are being killed or not, it’s about protecting my stock.
While I don’t agree with senseless hunting – hunting for the sake of hunting, hunting for ivory – I can find no fault with hunting to protect stock or even hunting for food. Early in the episode, they were staging a protest against duck hunting, and filmed an encounter with a duck hunter. When asked what he’d do with the dead ducks, he said simply, “I’ll eat them.”
I’ve mentioned previously my stance on commercial poultry, and I believe the same applies to duck hunting. While I can’t pretend to know exactly why that hunter was hunting the ducks, they fact that he said he’d eat them says a lot to me. Perhaps he, like me, knows the cruelty and unnatural conditions of the commercial broiler chicken industry. Perhaps he has chosen to hunt wild ducks and eat them, because he finds it preferable to eat something which has lived a good life, rather than something that has never seen the sun and has been force-fed hormones.
What I can’t understand is Felicity’s unmoving stance. She talks about hunters not being connected to their empathy or emotions, but they are, in a different way. They are emotionally attached to animals – they love their dogs, they feel a sense of responsibility for their stock – but they are also logical and sensible about it. They understand that if they didn’t hunt and cull the pests, their stock would be in trouble, the environment would be in trouble, and native animals would be in trouble. They understand that emotions have, at some point, to give way to common sense.
At the end of the episode, one of the hunters (perhaps Steve) observed that Felicity is too connected to her emotions and her beloved empathy for fellow creatures. Her empathy tells her that any sort of killing is unnecessary, and violent and senseless. Her empathy tells her that pigs should not be killed. But what does her empathy tell her about the sheep? Surely she also feels empathy for the sheep, who live in fear of fox and pig attacks, of their lambs being taken? How is the plight of the sheep any less than the plight of the pigs? Does she still feel empathy for them, but believe that she should let them be killed painfully simply because it’s not humans who are carrying out the killing? At least Steve and Robert made a point to kill the pigs swiftly and cleanly.
I expect I’ll get a lot of angry comments about this post, just as I have previous posts about evolution. It’s a touchy topic, so that’s natural, particularly if the point of view being expressed is not the politically correct one.
This is just my opinion on the matter, and like most people, I consider my opinion to be right, just as readers will no doubt consider theirs to be correct. But I also think that so many “animal rights activists” don’t understand the facts of live. They don’t understand the facts of rearing livestock, and the problems one has to deal with.
Farmers and other livestock owners aren’t mindless, and they’re not just about the money. In the episode, in reference to pigs with scoliosis, Steve said, “If I knew my neighbour was treating his pigs like this, I’d report him.”
People who live in the city, disconnected from where their food comes from, disconnect from the facts of life, don’t understand this. Perhaps that’s why animal rights activism is such a big thing. I don’t think anyone can be a mentally sane being and not form attachments to animals, or feel there’s something wrong with the way animals are treated in commercial meat, egg and milk production. But people in the city, who don’t deal with livestock, shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who have to make the decisions to protect their own animals.