Pharyngula

I know, everyone’s making a big deal of this, but I honestly don’t care that Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter. People do make mistakes, and hunting is a risky sport with dangerous devices—I simply don’t see it as saying much about his character or capability that he made a potentially tragic error on a hunting trip. At best, it says that maybe he’s getting too old and careless to be armed and in public.

On the other hand, this says volumes about Cheney’s character.

Monday’s hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that 500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney’s 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon.

What the hell…?

I’m not some knee-jerk bleeding-heart animal lover; I think living things should be respected and treated honorably, but that killing is part of the pattern of life. I don’t hunt myself, and I don’t think it is an unquestionable privilege, but I can respect the skill and intentions of someone who does a little game hunting.

But this…it’s simply sickening. Blowing away a horde of pen-raised animals, released in front of you to scurry into your gunsights, is not a sport. It’s disgusting bloody-mindedness, a lazy, cowardly, vicious sort of abuse.

They say that torturing and killing helpless animals is one of the signs of a sadistic sociopath. Somehow, it’s fitting that our vice-president is the kind of guy who takes glee in unfeeling butchery.


Since people are commenting on it, I have to clarify that I don’t think shooting a fellow hunter is excusable—but it’s more a matter of incompetence than malicious intent. We already know this administration is incompetent.

Gary Farber has mentioned the strange lag in reporting the accident (and he has a darned thorough roundup of stories on the matter). That’s also troubling, and it really means they’ve hit a triple on this one: dumb bloody-minded malice, incompetence, and disregard for the law. That’s our Dick.

Comments

  1. #1 John
    February 12, 2006

    In some ways I would rather see them doing that than shooting at wild birds that are members of declining species. But I agree that this practice is especially cruel and unsporting.

  2. #2 ts
    February 12, 2006

    This bunch makes democracy look bad.

    I cry at times at what my country has become.

  3. #3 John
    February 12, 2006

    And Fahrenheit 9-11 has a clip of George W. Bush shooting at killdeer, which is illegal and for which he had to pay fines afterwards.

  4. #4 Carl Buell(OGeorge)
    February 12, 2006

    This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Seems perfectly in character to me. That whole group in the white house seems unable to see the life in most other people, much less birds.

  5. #5 neutrino_cannon
    February 12, 2006

    I’m an avid hunter, and I don’t know a single person in my hunting community who takes kindly to canned hunts.

    They’re basically an exercise in ego-enlargement. You can’t justify them for food production; ranching is far more efficient. There’s not really much challange either, for two reasons. First, there are so many animals released into the area that finding them is not in the least bit difficult. Second, and more personally offensive, pen-raised animals have little fear of humans, and thus do not run when hunted.

    It’s like shooting fish in barrel; specifically tame fish that you filled the barrel with.

  6. #6 Ed Darrell
    February 12, 2006

    The Bush/killdeer incident was when he was running against Ann Richards for governor of Texas. Richards is a lifetime hunter, and it was beginning to look in the papers as though she was more “macho” than George. So Rove set up a dove hunting trip for Bush. Bush promptly mistook a killdeer for a dove and killed it.

    It’s interesting to contrast the Bush camp’s defense of Bush’s obvious, non-hunter goof with their lambasting of John Kerry for having borrowed hunting gear to go shooting — Kerry being another life-long hunter.

    Bush’s camp pokes fun at anyone who is what Bush badly wants to be but isn’t: War heroes, Vietnam vets, hunters, authors, people of grace and intelligence, etc., etc.

    I wonder if there is a name for such a syndrome.

  7. #7 Ed Darrell
    February 12, 2006

    Oh, and I forgot: Contrast Cheney’s shooting of captive-raised animals with Teddy Roosevelt’s ethical, and popular, refusal to shoot a bear on a leash. There is a reason TR is on Rushmore, and Bush and Cheney never will be.

    O, how the Republican Party has fallen!

  8. #8 Mark
    February 12, 2006

    For an interesting contrast, have you heard of the story of of the Teddy Bear?

    It seems that Theodore Roosevelt had a different set of ethics than Dick Cheney. No surprise.

  9. #9 cm
    February 12, 2006

    For a thorough and horrifying treatment of so-called “canned” hunting, of birds, or even of big game animals, I recommend the 2nd chapter of the 2002 book Dominion: the power of man, the suffering of animals, and the calll to mercy by Matthew Scully, a–would you believe–conservative speechwriter who wrote for George W. Bush. It’s an important book overall in terms of society’s moral torpor when it comes to animal suffering, but that section on the Safari Club and the big money that canned hunts generate is most pertinent here.

    Also, you can hear Scully discussing his book on On Point, a great radio show out of Boston, here.

  10. #10 Porlock Junior
    February 12, 2006

    “Strangely enough, no one at Court has any sort of sense that it adds nothing to the glory of a sovereign to cause these hapless wild creatures to be driven into enclosures, in the center of which the noble sportsmen are posted, pouring their shots upon the desperate panting brutes — till all are dead or else dragging mortally wounded on the ground…”
    –from the court of Kaiser Wilhlem II

    “Here His Majesty William II brought down His Most High’s fifty-thousandth animal, a white cock pheasant”
    –Monument in the State Forest of Rominten, erected on the order of the Kaiser

    So you see there are historical precedents, and from the chicken hawks’ sort of guy. That monument could give Cheney something to shoot for.

    [Citations taken from From the Jaws of Victory by Charles Fair, 1971, SBN 671-20997-3, and a very good read about military incompetence "from Crassus to Westmoreland".]

  11. #11 Left_Wing_Fox
    February 12, 2006

    Speaking of Canned hunts, there was a flap a while ago about Acting Director Matthew Hogan of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, appointed March 2005. The man was a lobbyist for Safari Club International, a hunters group that encourages and organizes canned hunts around the world.

    This was my post on it when it happened. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/3/30/205924/088

    He’s since been replaced by H. Dale Hall, whom I don’t know much about.

  12. #12 Ebonmuse
    February 12, 2006

    You shouldn’t blame Cheney for this. He had every expectation that he would be greeted as a liberator by those birds.

  13. #13 Chris Clarke
    February 12, 2006

    Ebonmuse wins.

  14. #14 Troutnut
    February 13, 2006

    I’m an avid hunter, and these canned hunts make me sick, too. It’s like fishing in a small aquarium.

    I like to go out and shoot predictable human-released targets for practice. It’s called trap shooting or skeet shooting, and we usually shoot at little orange and black discs of clay. Using live birds for this target practice is really deplorable… it’s the ultimate spoiled, pansy, pampered rich-boy recreation.

    That said, you should care that Cheney shot another hunter. This isn’t something that “just happens” to anyone born without his head six feet up his ass. There’s no such thing as an innocent hunting accident. There is never, under any conditions, any excuse to shoot a fellow hunter. It’s simply too easy to avoid. I’ve been hunting safely since I was ten without so much as a single close call. None of my hunting friends have had a close call. Hunting accidents are the result of idiot shooters, and there are no exceptions.

  15. #15 Karen
    February 13, 2006

    Not being a hunter myself, and having grown up in northern California, my experiences of hunters have been mostly positive.

    My uncle, farming in southeastern Minnesota, often sent venison from fat bucks who’d been grazing his fields all year and ravaging his vegetable garden (he hunted legally, and usually caught his limit).

    Here in California, there is a wonderful group of duck hunters called Ducks Unlimited, who’ve had a hand in nearly every legal protection of marshland habitat. So they kill some ducks — who are NOT endangered — and many other wild animals benefit.

    I can’t see either my uncle or the Ducks Unlimited hunters EVER behaving so despicably. These White House monsters are less than human.

    p.s., off topic: NEVER feed a cat venison. It’ll take them a week to give up the hunger strike and go back to that horrible cat food.

  16. #16 Geoffrey Brent
    February 13, 2006

    I haven’t seen any mention of the fact that birds shot with buckshot are pretty useless for eating

    Might want to get confirmation on that ‘buckshot’ before drawing conclusions from it. The only news outlets I’ve seen claiming ‘buckshot’ so far are a couple of News Ltd. Australian papers; Reuters and several others say ‘birdshot’. IMHO, most likely explanation is that somebody at News Ltd. had no idea ‘buckshot’ and ‘birdshot’ were different things; hunting’s not as high-profile an activity here as in the USA.

  17. #17 Gary Farber
    February 13, 2006

    P.Z., the important issue, I think, isn’t the hunting.

    As I pointed out at 4:32 p.m. RMT, the important issue is the fact that this news didn’t come out for almost 24 hours, and only because of the connection of Katherine Armstrong to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, whom she called (presumably she knew that with Whittington helicoptered to the hospital, the news was going to leak anyway) that Whittington was subsequently reported in ICU also underlines the seriousness, which as I wrote, should be obvious when you’re hit in the face with a shotgun blast of birdshot from a few feet/yards away.

    I see that, as often happens, some 6-8 hours or so after I posting on these and other points, other bloggers are catching on; I don’t get why most bloggers weren’t on the time-delay issue fairly immediately. What if Cheney had had a heart attack? Or died of one? No news of that, either, for 22+ hours?

    I think that’s rather the more important story than the sins/virtues of canned hunting, but that’s just my opinion, of course. (Debating the carelessness involved in this particular accident, which Whittington is apparently in the ICU also rates higher in my book, but opinions will vary; seems to me as if an awful lot of smart bloggers on the left bought Katherine Armstrong’s spin about how innocuous all this was, too; why are people so gullible?)

    I’ll probably write up a little post on Chris Mooney’s talk here in Boulder sometime tomorrow, by the way.

    Geez, I’d really hoped I’d get to watch a movie this weekend, if not during the past week. :-(

  18. #18 Pro-LIFE??!
    February 13, 2006

    So it was a “canned” hunt. So what? So he shot a fellow hunter. Good, he deserved it. Why was he out there at all? How is murder even legal in the first place? Sadly, Cheney will likely die before he can be thrown in prison for his crimes. Although, even if murder was made illegal tomorrow, he’d still get away with it. Civilized? How can we be civilized when murder is legal?

    Alright, maybe I should just do something constructive. Imma go hunting for humans. Trust me, the population is outrageous, and so many other species would benefit!

  19. #19 IndianCowboy
    February 13, 2006

    my crowd tends to be the more ‘salt of the earth’ conservative/libertarian with as much distaste for ‘that wuss W’ as ‘that damned frenchie Kerry’.

    Canned Hunts=silly. I don’t hunt, but if I did, it’d be with a damn boar spear or a bow&arrow. I’m an avid firearms enthusiast and my car still smells liek cordite from my last range trip, but I don’t see much honor in hunting with a chemically powered rifle.

    If kerry’s a lifelong hunter, he’s an atrocious one. I’m a relative newbie to the gun game and when I first saw the pictures from his hunt, I was astonished by his lack of understanding of a. gun safety. and b. the basic mechanics of operating a device as powerful as a shotgun. He looked more ‘green’ out there than I did my very first time shooting clays, or indeed, any of the people I’ve introduced to firearms.

    Ed, agree wholeheartedly with the TR comment. I long for the day when I can vote for a republican in good conscience. (maybe Tom COburn when he’s up for re-election, we’ll see how well his porkbusting goes).

  20. #20 Inoculated Mind
    February 13, 2006

    I think I might be able to top Ebomuse:
    “He’s comin’ right for us!”
    And finally, I say that given the eve on which this event took place, that Cheney be given a Darwin Award Honorarium for almost removing some bad genes from the collective pool.

    Seriously, though, these things only “just happen” when complete idiots are holding the guns. Notice how the blame is all being put on the guy who got shot, and not the one with the gun. Are there any civil suits to be had in this?

    I can’t wait to see them dodge this… the lies will be stacked higher than the pretzel and beer fiasco.

  21. #21 Bob Mottram
    February 13, 2006

    There are pheasant shoots in my neighbourhood, and indeed much of the surrounding moorland is specifically engineered as suitable territory for pheasants to live and breed. I don’t really have an objection to people going shooting providing that they’re shooting animals which are bred and maintained in a sustainable way, and that they’re not just taking pot shots at endangered species.

    Shooting hundreds of birds does seem excessive unless you’re actually doing it for commercial purposes to sell the meat, and shooting caged birds seems very unsportsmanlike.

  22. #22 Frankie
    February 13, 2006

    Wow, this reminds me of the hunting trips of Nicolae Ceaucescu in Romania, only Ceaucescu was hunting bear not birds. David Quammen detailed the excesses of this brutal dictator in a chapter of his book Monster of God. It’s the same thing really; the ruler is given an enormous number of easy marks to satisfy his bloodlust and his bottomless ego.

  23. #23 guthrie
    February 13, 2006

    I think this an appropriate place to leave this:

    If a sportsman true you?d be, listen carefully to me.

    Never, never let your gun pointed be at any one
    That it may unloaded be, matters not the least to me.
    When a hedge or fence you cross, though of time it cause a loss
    From your gun the cartridge take, for the greater safety sake.
    If ?twixt you and neighbouring gun, bird may fly or beast may run,
    Let this maxim e?er be thine, “Follow not across the line.”

    Stops and beaters, oft unseen, lurk behind some leafy screen
    Calm and steady always be, “Never shoot where you can?t see.”
    Keep your place and silent be; Game can hear and game can see.
    Don?t be greedy, better spared is a pheasant, than one shared.
    You may kill, or you may miss, but at all times think of this:
    “All the pheasants ever bred won?t repay for one man?s dead.”

    Written by Mark Beauboy, M.P., for his son H.M. Beautoy, on reaching the age of 13, in 1909

  24. #24 Dunc
    February 13, 2006

    Troutnut and guthrie are right – the very first thing you’re supposed to learn about shooting is that you never, EVER turn round with a gun to your shoulder, no matter what the quarry does or whether you think the gun is loaded or not. You do not turn round until the gun is broken and the cartridges removed, and then you keep it broken and pointed at the ground.

  25. #25 watertiger
    February 13, 2006

    what? give the birds a fair chance?

    that would be positively . . . democratic.

  26. #26 rlrr
    February 13, 2006

    The Most Dangerous Game was the first thing I thought of when I heard this news…

  27. #27 cleversponge
    February 13, 2006

    It brings to mind the hunting scene in The Rules of the Game.

    cp

  28. #28 Lya Kahlo
    February 13, 2006

    Dispicable behavior that explains, I think, his eagerness to send other people to die overseas. He probably daydreams that those poor birds are penned up terrorists. Shooting defenseless birds must make him fell all manly, since he was never actually brave enough to join the armed forces.

  29. #29 Drew Thaler
    February 13, 2006

    Bloodlust and ego sounds about right, Frankie.

    I don’t hunt, but I’m in favor of hunting rights. But that sort of thing — shooting pen-raised animals, that’s not hunting. That’s sheer killing lust. Right up there with opening fire in a petting zoo.

  30. #30 Daddy-O
    February 13, 2006

    Killing helpless animals raised in captivity so it’s easier to get the notch on your belt…animals with the instincts bred out of them to help them further escape…released en masse to increase the chances of bagging prey…bagging DOZENS of these hapless birds, even though they don’t have a chance, they don’t even think to fly away off the property, so the hunter can just keep shooting, like a video game…

    Liberals just don’t get it. And that’s a good thing.

  31. #31 Jake
    February 13, 2006

    417 birds?? What I want to know is what they’re going to do with all of them? 10 people can’t eat that many pheasants before they go bad…

  32. #32 notanumber
    February 13, 2006

    Does it surprise you that someone who shoots pen raised animals would shoot another human?

  33. #33 halfmad
    February 13, 2006

    As far as Teddy and the bear, as I recall he only spared its life when others begged him–am I remembering that correctly? Also, elephants aren’t weaned until they’re three years old. That elephant most likely would have starved to death.

  34. #34 sputnik
    February 13, 2006

    I just keep seeing that scene from Rollerball (the old one with James Caan) where the spoiled rich bastards are at a party, shooting flamethrowers at these magnificent old cedar trees, cheering as each one goes up in flames.

    Sick sick motherfuckers, and sick sick Cheney.

  35. #35 Ian H Spedding
    February 13, 2006

    …and another quote that the “canned hunt” brings to mind comes from Act I of Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance, in which Lord Illingworth remarks: ‘The English country gentleman galloping after a fox – the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable’.

  36. #36 DurianJoe
    February 13, 2006

    Well, I am a bleeding heart, kneejerk animal lover. In America circa 2006, there are very few people who must survive as hunter-gatherers. The rest of us can live very healthy lives as vegetarians, so this “killing is part of the pattern of live” argument is just nonsense.

  37. #37 Anonymous
    February 13, 2006

    If you like the pheasant hunt, you’ll LOVE these:

    http://www.argentinadove.com/argentina_dove_hunting.htm
    http://www.cordobadovehunting.com/cordoba-argentina.html

    The photos from the first link, and the video from the second link, are especially worth viewing. I know I’ve seen a photo of a pile at least twice that size…having trouble finding it, though.

    These aren’t captive-bred populations, though I’d hesitate to call them “wild,” either. Regardless, it’s the volume and the pampered, “lordly” atmosphere that get to me.

  38. #38 Mysticdog
    February 13, 2006

    Here in new mexico, there was a controversy a few years back when they wanted to remove the old buffalo herd from Ft. Wingate property. The Republican governor at the time, Gary Johnson, decided the best way to do it was to let him and some of his best fundraisers go out and “hunt” them.

    The buffalo were about as tame as any creature couldbe – they’d been around humans all their lives, and would take food from a strangers hand. It would be the equivalent of hunting on a dairy farm.

    So the joke was that they would hunt them with a 45 automatic in one hand, and sugar cubes in the other. When the buffalo was eating the sugar cubes, they could blow their brains out.

    For republicans, its always about the power to kill. the hunting is just a nusiance on the way to the killing. Caged “hunts” make perfect sense for them.

    Public outcry prevented the hunt, incidentally.

  39. #39 pmacfar
    February 13, 2006

    Slightly off-subject but equally important, I think:

    “The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat”

    Why is the phrase “rank and file” a synonym for “ordinary” (or in this case, “honorable”) hunters? I don’t know many hunters, but I can’t imagine their mindsets are those of the automatons (or, more charitably, the soldiers) who are called to mind by the phrase “rank and file.”

    It seems to me there is something wrong (or Fascistic) with a culture where someone uses such a phrase and it’s not noted nor commented on.

  40. #40 DurianJoe
    February 13, 2006

    Nomen:

    I appreciate what you’ve written, but natural predators tend to weed out the sick and weak; human hunters do not make that distinction and often go for the biggest and healthiest.

    I say, reintroduce natural predators wherever possible. Where that is not feasible, employ birth control. Where that is not feasible, and for only those animal species whose numbers must be reduced, hire either sharpshooters or allow highly trained hunters chosen especially for both their skills and ethics, to do what must be done in the most humane and ecologically wise way possible.

    As for canned hunts, they and those who participate in them are beneath contempt.

  41. #41 Hattie
    February 13, 2006

    I had a great idea. Why not set up slaughterhouses specifically for people who like to kill animals? Instead of importing all those Mexicans workers? It would be recreational and great money saver, too, for meat packing outfits. And it would mean fewer illegal immigrants in Kansas!

  42. #42 Coragyps
    February 13, 2006

    Hattie: I kind of like the idea of Cheney working on the killing dock at a chicken plant – cutting the throats of 4500 fryers a day with a kitchen knife. At minimum wage.

    Yeah!

  43. #43 maurinsky
    February 13, 2006

    A canned hunt is par for the course for this administration. They like to game every situation so they can win – elections, evidence for war, hunting.

  44. #44 lower tiberius
    February 13, 2006

    In my view the VeeP is a dysfunctional psychopath doing an impersonation of someone that got appointed an executive position to the ranch owner’s mother’s corporation, namely Hallibuton, many years ago. The “victim” ? He’s merely someone who was appointed a seat by then Texas Gov. Bush to a position on a controversial oversight commitee (of which the Director at the time was driven out by resignation for resisting orders from headquarters) at a time when a Bush family friend’s funeral business was being investigated for allegedly unearthing corpses from their final resting places and throwing them in the woods to make room for more bodies. They have since been hired by taxpayer contract to do cadaver and interment work in New Orleans, LA …. Mississippi, and Alabama as a result of the tragically preventable loss of human life, private property devastation and profound non-action on the part of any federal government agency in regard to the macabre debacle Hurricane Katrina was in my view allowed to become. I’ve shot skeet (clay pigeons) before with a shotgun. It was enjoyable and rewarding. What the Vice President of the United States is doing by his actions in not only Pennsylvania but in several other states including in Texas on a 50,000 acre private ranch is not sporting it’s more akin to psycho-surge thrill killing of helpless and harmless domesticated birds. P.S. I guess the difference is skeet don’t bleed for the Vice President.

  45. #45 Paul Riddell
    February 13, 2006

    According to rumor, George W.’s first comment was “Uhhh…like, this sucks worse than anything has ever sucked before. Huh huh huh huh.” Time for the two of them to go back to frog baseball, eh?

  46. #46 slpage
    February 13, 2006

    Not only is this cowardly and unsportsmanlike (the canned hunting), I might also mention that at least a couple other right-wing pro-war pro-hunting but draft-and-service dodging characters have also engaged in these antics – Ted Nugent (who reportedly shit in his pants for 3 days in a row prior to his draft physical so as to be declared unfit, not sure if it is true) and Gerald ‘Major Dad’ McRaney.

    Should we be surprised?

  47. #47 Matt T.
    February 13, 2006

    Deer hunting is big where I grew up (rural Northeast Mississippi), as is turkey hunting, raccoon hunting and dove hunting. I personally haven’t been out hunting in 10 years (never did care for it much, only did it to bond with my dad, and as soon as I moved out of the house I was done with it), but in the combined time, I can think of, off-hand, maybe a dozen accidents involving one hunter shooting another. In each and every case – except one – it involves the shooter screwing up or disregarding normal gun safety. For example, once a pair of brothers were hunting on posted land, got caught, ran to their truck and jumped in with their guns loaded. One shot the other in the leg.

    My own brother got hit in the leg with some buckshot once, a freak occurrance. My cousin shot at a buck almost directly in front of him, and a shot came out his barrel almost parallel to the line of fire. Hit my brother right in the upper thigh. So these things do “just happen”, but it didn’t take my cousin almost a day to tell Momma and no one blamed it on Baby Brother. That, to me, is the most telling aspect of all this nonsense.

  48. #48 C.J.Colucci
    February 13, 2006

    What’s the hunting equivalent of “chickenhawk?”

  49. #49 Dianne
    February 13, 2006

    It is sometimes said in psychiatry that anything people are willing to do to animals they will eventually be willing to do to other people (ie, sociopaths will progress from killing animals to people, etc.) Looks about right to me. These guys need to be in mental institutes or maybe jails if they don’t have any actual psychological pathology except an inability to control themselves.

  50. #50 wildlifer
    February 13, 2006

    DurianJoe first wrote:

    Well, I am a bleeding heart, kneejerk animal lover. In America circa 2006, there are very few people who must survive as hunter-gatherers. The rest of us can live very healthy lives as vegetarians, so this “killing is part of the pattern of live” argument is just nonsense.

    You must live in the city, as out here in the sticks, there’re a bunch of us who grow our own gardens and kill, or catch our own meat. Who wants to buy a bunch of steroid-injected meat or poisoned produce? But who makes the bucks to buy the “specialty” items? Not me.

    You can have your (animal friendly?) veggies and your psuedomeats … how many species have lost habitat for the monoculture of soy??? … good luck to you.
    And then:

    I appreciate what you’ve written, but natural predators tend to weed out the sick and weak; human hunters do not make that distinction and often go for the biggest and healthiest.

    Not true. For one thing humans have been “natural predators” for tens of thousands of years. The other, in the interest of small children, pets and livestock, most natural predators have been eliminated over a majority of their range.

    I say, reintroduce natural predators wherever possible.

    I’m with you here. Children, pets, livestock be damned. Natural selection works.

    Where that is not feasible, employ birth control. Where that is not feasible, and for only those animal species whose numbers must be reduced, hire either sharpshooters or allow highly trained hunters chosen especially for both their skills and ethics, to do what must be done in the most humane and ecologically wise way possible.

    Just say no, to birth control … in animal populations anyway. Very bad idea. It would select against reproduction, reguardless of survival traits.

    As for canned hunts, they and those who participate in them are beneath contempt.

    Yeah, but I still don’t care about a bunch of exotic Chinese chickens … It wouldn’t hurt my feelings none if they killed 1000 everyday of the parasitic invaders.

  51. #51 DurianJoe
    February 13, 2006

    Wildlifer, here are my responses to your responses:

    You wrote:

    “You must live in the city, as out here in the sticks, there’re a bunch of us who grow our own gardens and kill, or catch our own meat. Who wants to buy a bunch of steroid-injected meat or poisoned produce? But who makes the bucks to buy the “specialty” items? Not me.”

    Yep, I live in the city. Wouldn’t have it any other way. I agree with you that the flesh that comes from factory farmed animals is filthy. As for poisoned produce, I try to buy organic whenever possible. Our local farmers manage to grow their crops organically, and their prices, at farmers’ markets, are resonable. Society as a whole needs to move to organic farming.

    “You can have your (animal friendly?) veggies and your psuedomeats … how many species have lost habitat for the monoculture of soy??? … good luck to you.”

    You’re right, animals are unfortunately killed in the harvest of vegetables. However, that is not the same as deliberately killing them for meat. Moreover, far more grain is consumed by livestock than consumed directly by people, so the meat industry is responsible for killing more animals, both through the harvesting of grain and the livestock themselves, than the vegetable industry. The key is to do what we can to reduce the number of animals killed, and being vegetarian is one major step in that direction.

    You wrote, “Not true. For one thing humans have been “natural predators” for tens of thousands of years. The other, in the interest of small children, pets and livestock, most natural predators have been eliminated over a majority of their range.”

    Humans didn’t always have high-powered rifles and all the other advanced technology they have now which enable them to kill any animal, regardless of its health. In any event, even if cavemen did manage to kill the best and healthiest, why take our moral cue from cavemen? Regarding your second point, killing predators for the sake of protecting livestock is yet another argument in favor of vegetarianism.

    I said,, reintroduce natural predators wherever possible. To which you rejoined, “I’m with you here. Children, pets, livestock be damned. Natural selection works.” Note that I used the words, “whevever possible.” Obviously we shouldn’t do it if it leads to kids or pets being killed. As for livestock, see my comment above.

    I wrote, Where that is not feasible, employ birth control. Where that is not feasible, and for only those animal species whose numbers must be reduced, hire either sharpshooters or allow highly trained hunters chosen especially for both their skills and ethics, to do what must be done in the most humane and ecologically wise way possible.

    You responded, Just say no, to birth control … in animal populations anyway. Very bad idea. It would select against reproduction, reguardless of survival traits.

    Good point, but killing animals does the same thing, with the added harm of taking their lives. Look, either you want to reduce the population or you don’t. Birth control reduces the population without spilling blood.

    I wrote, As for canned hunts, they and those who participate in them are beneath contempt.

    You wrote, “Yeah, but I still don’t care about a bunch of exotic Chinese chickens … It wouldn’t hurt my feelings none if they killed 1000 everyday of the parasitic invaders.”

    You have feelings?

  52. #52 coltergeist
    February 13, 2006

    I loved this line from the AP article:

    “Armstrong said she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail.”

    Talk about lazy and unsportsmanlike. They cannot even be bothered to trudge around the forest like a decent hunter, they drive around in a car looking for unwary targets (who are naturally unwary because they were bred in captivity). Then they get out of the car and shoot the poor birds. And this passes for hunting? How is that sporting? Can’t they just go shoot skeet? Probably because they are lousy shots. Cowards. Cowards with guns, which is even worse.

  53. #53 Jim Ruwaldt
    February 13, 2006

    Yes, I would like to know what’s going to happen to all those carcasses. If they’re going to be eaten or some of them mounted, then I don’t think the canned hunt is really such a big deal, as long as the birds were killed rather humanely. As someone wrote, how different is it from all the meat lying in supermarkets? It always irks me that people get upset about people killing their own meat, instead of paying someone else to do it for them. At least most people here seem to be accepting of typical hunters. I agree that canned hunts are unsportsmanlike, and I certainly wouldn’t participate in one, but, if the meat is all used, how is that any different from raising your own?

    In Indiana we had a debate about what to do about the deer in one of the state parks. These were disgustingly emaciated things that only survived on sightseers’ handouts. There was the suggestion about sterilizing them, although I think that was recognized as being impractical. The possibility of hiring a sharpshooter and distributing the meat to homeless shelters was raised but got no interest. Finally, a hunt was allowed, which was essentially canned, since the hunters could just pull over to the side of the road, get out, and shoot. I personally have nothing against hunting in state parks, as long as the hunters aren’t going to be a danger to the sightseers. Unfortunately, deer season would happen at the same time as this park gets lots of people in for the fall colors.

  54. #54 Peter
    February 13, 2006

    I grew up in the rural midwest and went hunting a few times as a kid. My father was a big hunter/fisherman. Although he enjoyed it, he did not kill for pleasure; he only killed what he intended to eat. I don’t know if he specifically taught it to me, but I have always believed killing for pleasure was wrong. Unfortunately, at the time it was unquestioned “fact” that eatting meat was required for survival, so we had to kill for food and hunting was one means to that end.

    It was only when I grew up and learned that eatting meat wasn’t a necessity that I realized that virtually all hunting and animal agriculture in modern society was ultimately “killing for pleasure” and not much different from the canned hunts or fur farming I found abhorrent as a kid.

    While I am offended by canned hunts and the callousness of those who get pleasure from the suffering of animals, I can’t help but remember that 9 Billion chickens are bred and slaughtered each year in this country with very little concern. But then, this issue isn’t really about the animals is it? For most people, unfortunately, it is about sportsmanship and attitude.

  55. #55 Peter
    February 13, 2006

    PZ:

    killing is part of the pattern of life

    Lots of things are patterns in life, but that doesn’t mean it is right for humans to participate in them. In some mammals, including chimps, males commit infanticide when they replace the previously dominant male. In most(?) mammals, males mate with the female and then leave her to raise the offspring on her own. On last night’s episode of Nature a female spider killed and ate a male who was too persistant in trying to mate with her. Don’t female preying mantises normally kill and eat the males as well? Yikes.

    Nature may be “red in tooth and claw”, but that isn’t the basis on which I want to develop human ethics.

    The Darwinian world is a very nasty place: the weakest go to the wall. There’s no pity, no compassion. All those things I abhor, and I will work in my own life in the interests of thoroughly unDarwinian things like compassion. — Richard Dawkins

  56. #56 Stuart Eugene Thiel
    February 13, 2006

    I had a history teacher in high school who was a walking encyclopedia of prominent politicians, mafiosi, and others who had been killed in “hunting accidents.” He said, often, that if you ever want to kill someone and get away with it, take him hunting.

    Any indication that Whittington was, perhaps, threatening to divulge the minutes of the 2001 Energy Task Force?

  57. #57 wildlifer
    February 13, 2006

    Just going to hit on a few points.
    First, Chinese chickens AKA the Ringed-neck Pheasant are an exotic species which in part along with habitat loss is responsible for the decline in NATIVE Prairie Chickens. They are nest parasites and have been know to run the Prairie chickens off of their booming grounds.
    So yeah, I have feelings for the native Prairie Chicken and would squash all the EXOTIC Chinese chickens (see Norway Rat, German, Oriental cockroach) under the wheels of my truck given the chance.
    But I don’t support “canned hunts” per se.

    Yep, I live in the city. Wouldn’t have it any other way. I agree with you that the flesh that comes from factory farmed animals is filthy. As for poisoned produce, I try to buy organic whenever possible. Our local farmers manage to grow their crops organically, and their prices, at farmers’ markets, are resonable. Society as a whole needs to move to organic farming.

    That’s amusing. You have the same view of “factory farms” as I do of cities. AKA Cesspools of humanity. If organics are available here, they’re top dollar. Maybe that’s a short coming for living out here in BFE, 40 miles from any community larger than 300. But I think not.

    You’re right, animals are unfortunately killed in the harvest of vegetables. However, that is not the same as deliberately killing them for meat. Moreover, far more grain is consumed by livestock than consumed directly by people, so the meat industry is responsible for killing more animals, both through the harvesting of grain and the livestock themselves, than the vegetable industry. The key is to do what we can to reduce the number of animals killed, and being vegetarian is one major step in that direction.

    Oh, okay blood spilled for your choice is moral … I see how this is going to go … like talking with a Fundy Christian. But not only is blood spilled, habitat is destroyed at a faster pace causing more blood to be “spilled.” Bottom line is, no matter what we do animals are impacted – but the best option is to save habitat.

    Did everyone see this:
    Bush Administration Moves to Sell National Forest Land

    WASHINGTON – The Bush administration will unveil a proposal Friday to sell up to 200,000 acres of national forest land in “isolated parcels” ranging from a quarter of an acre to 200 acres, much of it in California.
    The sale is part of a National Forest Service plan to raise $800 million over the next five years to pay for rural schools in 41 states, offsetting shrinking revenues from sale of timber from national forests. The Bureau of Land Management also plans to sell federal lands to raise an estimated $182 million over five years.
    Environmentalists charge that the short-term gain would be more than offset by the loss of public land. Congress would have to approve the land sales, but it has rejected similar recent proposals

    Back to the topic:

    Humans didn’t always have high-powered rifles and all the other advanced technology they have now which enable them to kill any animal, regardless of its health. In any event, even if cavemen did manage to kill the best and healthiest, why take our moral cue from cavemen? Regarding your second point, killing predators for the sake of protecting livestock is yet another argument in favor of vegetarianism.

    See, I don’t see anything immoral about eating meat, and you do. That’s your choice. Your technology argument is rather valueless. Where’s it written only the weak must be taken? I would argue, the weak don’t survive to be taken by humans in the first place. A park where I worked as a naturalist had 4 times as many deer than the habitat should support. The result was young and weak deer died from toxic shock due to tick infestation.
    Plus, vegetarianism is too much of a religion for my tastes. :)
    But my point is, if you remove man from the food chain you have to replace him with something, and birth control is not a rational option. Ask any woman you know how much it screws them up. And we expect it to work properly on animals? When do we administer it and how to only a part of the population? And to which individuals in the population?
    But I like the predator option. Would be nice to see the return of mountain lions and red wolves to my area.

    I said,, reintroduce natural predators wherever possible. To which you rejoined, “I’m with you here. Children, pets, livestock be damned. Natural selection works.” Note that I used the words, “whevever possible.” Obviously we shouldn’t do it if it leads to kids or pets being killed. As for livestock, see my comment above.

    We disagree here. I think it should be everywhere possible. And while we’re at it lets get all the cattle of the continent and reintroduce bison in their place, eh?

    You responded, Just say no, to birth control … in animal populations anyway. Very bad idea. It would select against reproduction, reguardless of survival traits.

    Good point, but killing animals does the same thing, with the added harm of taking their lives. Look, either you want to reduce the population or you don’t. Birth control reduces the population without spilling blood.

    I don’t see the problem with spilling blood. You chose to and that’s fine. And like I said, birth control is not a rational option – except perhaps in city and state parks where you could live without them reproducing for 3-4 years. And what ever resulted wouldn’t matter because of immigration.

  58. #58 Virge
    February 13, 2006

    Men grow old but manly men stay bold
    When they have a huge haft to hold.
    What makes us better than beasts, so I’m told, is our tools
    (…and brains, but it’s plain what reigns).
    For animal rights I won’t give a cent;
    It’s munitions that make men magnificent…

    WWTLD?

  59. #59 Nomen Nescio
    February 13, 2006

    DurianJoe: i can agree to disagree on the finer points of the ethics of carnivory and killing. if i had to defend my standpoint i could go on for hundreds of kilobytes about my views on those subjects, but i’d be the only one here who really cared to hear about my opinions on those, so i’ll spare you.

    i’ll just note – without intending offense – that you truly must be a city dweller if you seriously think birth control is a realistic alternative in herds of wild animals. it’s tricky to explain the details of just why that alternative is infeasible in practice, because there’s so many of those niggling details, but i’d love to show you in practice.

    if you should ever vacation in upstate lower peninsula Michigan, contact me. i’ll be happy to take you for a few day-long hikes through select parts of the Pere Marquette State Forest – if we’re really lucky, and the time of year is right, we might even manage to spot from a distance some of this state’s one-point-seven million whitetail deer. until such occasion, please just take my word for it that it is far, FAR easier (and more effective, not to mention cheaper) to cull the herd by hunting than by any form of non-lethal birth control… and that if hunting does not cull Michigan’s deer herd, then Michigan’s freeway traffic surely will.

  60. #60 rocketrod80
    February 13, 2006

    He’s certainly got all the marksmanship skills of a five time draft-dodger, eh?

  61. #61 wildlifer
    February 13, 2006

    Michigan’s probably in the same shape the rest of the nation is in.
    Hunting may cull the herds, but populations are increasing exponentially. Right now Oklahoman’s harvest more deer annually, than were in the state 20 years ago. And every year breaks another harvest record. And every year, there’s a record population.
    This is bound to peak .. I hope for the deer’s sake, sooner or later, but the deer seem to be adapting to more and more “urban” areas – moving to the city – and losing their fear of humans in areas they’re not hunted. They can become habituated to humans quite rapidly in just a generation or two.

  62. #62 DurianJoe
    February 13, 2006

    Indian Cowboy: Don’t know what to say to you except — an no offense intended — you didn’t follow a healthy vegetarian diet. Maybe you are an exception who cannot live as a vegetarian diet, but methinks if you had consulted a nutritionist you could have pulled it off.

    Nomen: I do not doubt that birth control for animals can often be problematic. Where it can work, I think it can be used. That’s the extent of my opinon on that subject. Like you, I could go on for pages and pages about the ethics of vegetarianism (veganism, really), but these discussions are really done much better face to face, in comfortable chairs and with plentiful bourbon and scotch at hand.

    For those who care about the related subjects, it’s all out there on the internet. I’d start with http://www.factoryfarming.com

  63. #63 Nomen Nescio
    February 13, 2006

    no, actually, Michigan’s deer herd is fairly well maintained — its approximate number is set by DNR policy and maintained at or near that target by hunting. the finer details of what the number should be in each part of the state, and just how to go about maintaining it, is the subject of a neverending public debate — with DNR officials and the hunting public being the major debaters, predictably enough. but that’s like the debates about how exactly evolution happens – the big picture, namely that the state herd is being maintained, is beyond dispute.

    lacking hunting, it would go on a short but dramatic exponential increase, yes. many other states have drastically increasing ungulate populations because of a bad combination: fewer natural predators (wolves) than ever in history, and better living conditions (deer adapt to suburban and farming communities very well) than they have ever had, combined with a falling population of human hunters. Michigan lacks the third, and (in most parts of the state) the second, factor. (in the upper peninsula, we even lack the first one.)

    it is of note that the local deer herd is highest in the southern lower peninsula, which is most heavily populated, and most clearly suffers from all three of the factors i mentioned. population there will only peak if hunting is increased, or traffic kills increase to replace the hunting cull, or food sources become overgrazed; of these, i believe the first would be by far the least destructive.

  64. #64 Nomen Nescio
    February 13, 2006

    my apologies; i should have mentioned another useful tool the Michigan DNR has for controlling wild animal populations — habitat management. of course, this is only really possible on public land, so will be less efficient in the more populous parts of the state.

  65. #65 SEF
    February 13, 2006

    It’s difficult to regard Cheney as unusual there from the UK perspective, with its long-standing tradition of spoilt royals, hangers on and witless wannabes.

  66. #66 Sergio
    February 13, 2006

    To those who might give Cheney the benefit of the doubt by saying that most of us eat slaughtered animals every day, think about Cheney’s motivation. Does anybody really think he was killing those animals to put food on anybody’s table? No, he was doing it because he is a sick, self-absorbed psychopath and the absolute lowest form of life on this, and possibly any other, planet. That being said, I’m sure many fundies pray for the sky pixie to watch over him on his dangerous “hunting” trips. If a sky pixie does exist and if there is any justice in this world, next time Cheney will accidentally turn his irreducibly complex rifle on himself and pull the flagellum-like trigger. I’d have no problem praying for that.

  67. #67 Ron Sullivan
    February 13, 2006

    What if Cheney had had a heart attack?

    He doesn’t have the necessary equipment.

    Wildlifer, where can I find more about ringneck pheasants as nest parasites? Didn’t know any galliforms did that. (And what species’ nests do they parasitize?)

    Durianjoe, in spite of your appealing nickname, I have to zing that anyone who proposes to substitute wildlife birth control for hunting or any other predation must be not only a city-dweller, but male, and has never had to juggle different versions of pills and gooey stuffs to find one that didn’t make him sick and miserable, but still worked. Unless of course you’re proposing deer condoms. Do you have any idea how chancy contraception is? Have you considered its secondary effect on native predators?

    And the idea that why “blood is spilled” matters in the least is incredibly narcissistic. Canned hunting sucks. Factory farming sucks. Neither fact mandates veganism, or has all that much to do with the subject at hand — nondomesticated animals.

  68. #68 Lisa
    February 14, 2006

    my first responce was “what an idiot! shouldn’t he have something better to do with his time.” and then i thought, “what if it was intentional?” no one will ever know, but it’s interesting to think about.

    strategically, it’s beneficial right now for Cheney to shoot someone. in the articles, he comes off as a regular guy, just like his constituents, and since this IS an election year, it couldn’t hurt his party to look more easily to relate to. Shooting someone made him look tough, made him have something in common with the people he suposedly represents, and the image of him hunting is going to generate even more money from NRA members.

    More importantly, there’s been a lot of scandals running through washington right now. the hunting incident is embarrassing for the US, but in a funny and irrelevent way. (what? you didn’t laugh when you first heard this?) it makes good news and doesn’t hurt anyone. (besides the guy that appears to have been shot) Between Cheney hunting and the olympics being well on its way, Bush gets a break from making headlines for spying on us, everyone involved in the Abramoff/Libby scandal (which Cheney is linked to, it should be his name in the news every day) gets less press coverage for a few days, and everyone who’s been screaming over the budget passing with huge financial aid cuts has something to laugh over. how can we take these people so seriously if they do dumb stuff like this? and, the less seriously we take them, the lower the standards they will be held to. i haven’t looked, but i wouldn’t be surprised if something awful landed on page 37 of the New York Times because the focus was on Cheney shooting someone. Not that I’ve looked, because I read my paper online, but who would know if something was there or not?

    (this is the conspiracy theorist in me. i have no proof. i wouldn’t be surprised if it was intentional, or if it never actually happened, but of course, i have no proof. the image of cheney shooting his friend, a lawyer no less, feels too stupid to be simple.)

  69. #69 DurianJoe
    February 14, 2006

    Ron Sullivan, I’m glad you like my nickname. It’s hard to come up with a good nickname that’s not already taken these days.

    Regarding birth control for deer and other wildlife, maybe I’m a nut, but then again, if that well-known group of radical vegan wackos at the USDA thinks birth control might work, perhaps it’s not such an outlandish idea after all:
    http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/fsheet_faq_notice/faq_wsgonacondeer.html

    Lastly I agree wih you that nothing mandates veganism. However, I believe there are sound ethical reasons for choosing veganism.

  70. #70 G. Tingey
    February 15, 2006

    Vegetarian diet?

    Sorry, I’ve looked at my teeth in a mirror.

    I evloved to be an omnivorse.

    So there.

  71. #71 DurianJoe
    February 15, 2006

    G. Tingey, are you talking about those sharp canines you have? The ones that gorillas, who are vegetarian, also have?

    Regardless, despite the shape of your teeth, you also evolved with a brain capable of making moral choices.

  72. #72 DurianJoe
    February 15, 2006

    G. Tingey, are you talking about those sharp canines you have? The ones that gorillas, who are vegetarian, also have?

    Regardless, despite the shape of your teeth, you also evolved with a brain capable of making moral choices.

  73. #73 Kristjan Wager
    February 15, 2006

    G. Tingey, are you talking about those sharp canines you have? The ones that gorillas, who are vegetarian, also have?

    I’m fairly sure that gorillas eat other stuff – as a matter of fact, a quick google on “gorilla food insects” (without the quote marks) returns quite a few hits, where it is explained that while gorillas eats mostly vegetarian, they also eat insects (as a side note, one of the sites noted that gorillas don’t drink water, but obtains it from their food – interesting).

  74. #74 A
    February 15, 2006

    Does anyone support using hunting to cull the human population? Why not? We’re increasing beyond control. If you raise any form of moral objection, you are immediately disqualified from supporting hunting to cull populations.

  75. #75 Rurality
    February 15, 2006

    I’m not a hunter, but have a cousin who operates quail hunts off his property in GA. It’s one of many things he does in order to try to make enough money to keep the family farm in the family.

    Most of the quail are pen-raised, for a couple of reasons. It’s more economical for him, because even though he has to pay for feed, he has many fewer losses due to wild animals. Also, the quail will of course disperse within a few weeks if released in large numbers.

    I’ve seen the quail, and they’re not tame. They’ve got a good healthy fear of people, and can hide in the brush as well as a normal quail as far as I can tell – although if he’s kept them for a while, some do tend to come back to the pen to look for food. He releases a certain number of them the day before (or the morning of) the hunt so that there will be plenty of them for the hunters to “find”.

    Having said all that, it does seem to me an incredibly lazy way to hunt. And I didn’t know that it was legal for hunters to shoot so MANY in one day… are there no bag limits for canned hunts? (Maybe this varies by state?) It seems so wasteful.

  76. #76 Nomen Nescio
    February 15, 2006

    A: you’re making the unstated assumption that there can be no moral justification for speciesism. that’s overly sloppy; you could at least try to defend it.

  77. #77 DurianJoe
    February 15, 2006

    Rurality, your cousin raises birds for the sole person of providing them as living targets for guys who enjoy bloodsports. I hope your cousin has redeeming qualities to offset this moral crime.

  78. #78 Todd
    February 15, 2006

    Why can’t we have a canned hunted where bleeding heart liberals are targeted for sport?

  79. #79 Richard Jorgensen
    February 16, 2006

    A flushed Texas blue quail rises predictably in a starburst pattern and at the shooting distance reported by the hunting party of 30 yards, the “accidental” target hit (Mr. Whittington) would have been some 30 feet off the ground to be hit. This guy could be making more money as an NBA star than as a lawyer. Also, a 28 guage shotgun shell has only about 260 pellets in the load. Reportedly the victim had 200 pellets in him (75% of the shot capacity of the shell) at a distance of 30 yards away. There should be a wide pattern and decreased shot pattern density at that range. Mr. Cheney is either a great shot or a great liar. I believe we have another case of “weapons of misdirection”.

  80. #80 Gerard Kennedy
    November 24, 2006

    I’m a relative newbie to the gun game and when I first saw the pictures from his hunt, I was astonished by his lack of understanding of a. gun safety. and b. the basic mechanics of operating a device as powerful as a shotgun.