Hunting: The dark side

Most of us are carnivores (well, omnivores hopefully) who consume meat that has been processed in factories. In Eric Schlosser’s famous book Fast Food Nation, he describes the ConAgra Beef Company in Greeley, Colorado, which permeates the entire town with the smell of steroid-injected cattle being slaughtered by workers who are up to their knees in blood all day long. We’re a nation of animal killers, and it’s not surprising many people see hunting as a more honorable alternative to ground-up cow coming off an assembly line.

But when you’re talking about hunting as a sport, much of the issues raised have to do with access to weapons instead of the act of killing animals. I have no doubt the majority of hunters are responsible people, and I don’t agree with taking away everyone’s guns—I actually like guns. However, there is a psychological aspect to the violence of hunting that may be genuinely bad for humanity and is almost always bad for children. Just because we live in a violent, carnivorous culture doesn’t mean that we have to become numb to it or perpetuate that violence further.

Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who murdered 20 children and six adults at Newtown Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, was taught to shoot by his mother, Nancy, who was among his victims. He was far from the first school shooter to have been taught gun violence by their parents. In fact, if you read PETA’s blog, you will find a myriad of examples of crimes committed by children who were taken hunting by their parents.

The Jonesboro school shooting of 1998 involved a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old who took their grandfather’s hunting rifle, with which they were taught to stalk and kill animals, and killed four students and a teacher. An 18-year-old deer hunter in Pennsylvania shot his 14-year-old girlfriend’s parents in 2008. The incidents go on and on.

Hunting enthusiasts and NRA lobbyists are deeply offended by the insinuation that hunting has something to do with creating killers. But why is it more acceptable to blame movies and video games for society’s violent tendencies than the fact that children are being taught from a young age that killing a living thing and watching it die qualifies as a sport? Don’t we already know that most of the famous serial killers throughout history were cruel to animals as children?

Psychologists will tell you that this is the sign of a disturbing mental problem in a child, and yet we accept the idea of giving this child a weapon and teaching them how to use it “responsibly.”

I know that infringing upon the rights of adults to hunt is a slippery slope and that not every person who hunts would ever harm a human being—I’m sure the vast majority wouldn’t. But if we are having a conversation about our violent culture, it seems ridiculous to ignore the fact that killing animals for fun can impact your psyche as easily as killing computer-generated humans in Call of Duty. And most hunters do not manifest after age 18. As PETA said in their letter to President Obama after Sandy Hook, condemning gun violence against humans but condoning it against animals sends “mixed messages.” We can worry about the hypocrisy of slaughter houses later.