A response to the death of an elk
Recently, a fellow parenting friend posted on Facebook about how he and his one year old daughter had just witnessed the death of an elk. Although the killing effected him and has since also affected me as I’ve spent the last almost week pondering this exchange between he and some of his friends about the situation. I also wanted to position an oppositional viewpoint as I grew up in a household of non-hunters yet I now find myself planning and working towards become a bow hunter so I can bring honest free range organic meat for my family’s dinner table. I’ve wanted to respond for sometime now, but just wasn’t exactly sure how to best put my words, so here goes:
Granted anytime an animal dies there is sadness, this issue is extremely complicated and more thought may need to be given to this topic. Instead of avoiding it, this is a perfect opportunity to have open dialog about what this all means and how each of us processes death for food.
First off, no one on this Facebook thread actually knew the hunter and know exactly what they went through to get to that exact point that they witnessed There is circumstantial evidence based on one’s own observations. The hours of scouting, tracking, and woodsmanship that may have gone into this hunt had happened long before the trigger was pulled. Or maybe not. We just don’t know. Additionally. it could also appear that to take a shot into a herd of 30 elk, and dropping what possibly sounds like the herd bull elk in its tracks could also potentially be that of an expert marksman. To not harm any other animals in the herd and to thread that bullet to drop the elk that fast, does not seem clumsy to me. We also don’t know how many times this hunter had been out in the woods hunting this elk, this could have possibly been after many trips to the woods in a relatively short hunting season.
Secondly, for a person to chime in about the use of knives is ridiculous. There are hunts in Hawaii where people track wild hogs with dogs and then once they corner the animal they jump in with a large bowie knife and slit the throat of the hog. So in fact, it’s done. To me that doesn’t seem like a very humane way to take the life of another animal. It should be a quick kill. I’d actually be willing to bet that what this person was really wanting to discuss was the idea of “fair chase.”
Fair Chase Defined:
Fair chase is defined by most as a situation where the hunted is not put in a disadvantaged position and has a real chance to escape.
In the wild, this means you don’t shoot a moose when he is swimming across a lake, you don’t walk up to a caribou mired in the mud and shoot him and if you find two helpless locked-up bucks you do every thing you can to get them apart and let them escape unharmed.
Some extend the definition “fair chase” to not hunting over bait, food plots, watering holes or any other artificial means of concentrating wild animals. Others believe hunting islands, blind canyons or using natural terrain blockades isn’t fair chase either. Short of obeying state and federal fair chase game laws, the concept can get pretty gray pretty fast. Basically it is up to the individual hunter or club or organization to draw the fair chase line in the sand.
Wild animals in nature are always aware of their surroundings and the possibility of predators. Their flight-or-fight is always on alert. That is the reality of their environment. The human notion that if a one runs into a lion in Africa or a bear in the Pacific NW, it’s going to be able to feel remorse for attacking you is ludicrous. Ultimately, we too are animals, but with the ability of reason & rationalization. Both sides of the hunter vs hunted have a chance to win. The hunted animal can flee or attack and the hunter chooses when is the perfect opportunity to take a clean ethical quick kill shot. It’s not a free-for-all in the woods.
My last point would be to all those who commented on the original post, as I’d like to see how many of them would admit that they are actually omnivores and eat meat too, even if on occasion? It would seem that they prefer to get their meat from either their grocery store butcher or from their local farmer and let them do the dirty work of killing their food versus taking their own responsibility for what they choose to eat. I do know that the original poster is a vegetarian and I totally respect that. Yes, there is less blood on a vegetarian’s hands than those of a meat eater. It should be known that animals die so other’s can eat, even if you choose to eat veggies. They just might be smaller animals like field mice, rabbits, moles, etc. They can get chewed up in a tractor or a combine as a farmer is clearing a field (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1). In his book, The Mindful Carnivore, author Tovar Cerulli mentions:
“In my latter days as a vegan, I was shocked to learn how many whitetails are killed by farmers. Considering that deer were being shot to bring us tofu, how vegetarian were our stir-fries? Considering that they were even being shot to bring us greens and strawberries from the organic farm just down the road, how vegetarian were any of our meals?” (http://www.tovarcerulli.com/2011/03/deer-part-of-every-stew-every-salad-every-stir-fry/)
This too is a fact of nature, so as you see it’s not that there are a shortage of complete morons in this world there are those who consider and accept the ramifications of their actions for sourcing their own food and realize it is more complicated issue than just a quip on Facebook.