I have witnessed the Darwinian, dog-eat-dog world on numerous occasions. It is truly a world of fang, claw, might, and brawn. There is very little tenderness in the wild; there is mainly an indifferent or fearful view of other animals towards each other.

There might be some tenderness in higher mammals towards their young, but that doesn't last long. Adults will take care of themselves first and foremost and eventually try and dominate the young who will someday return the favor.

As a hunter I can appreciate the unpleasant side of the contract. But I'm not sure that is an apt description. For me it is not unpleasant. I actually enjoy the hunt, the whole hunt. I enjoy the process of getting ready, the exactness of detail to be truly prepared if the moment of truth were to arise, and the beauty and relaxation provided by Mother Nature.

There is one unpleasant side the hunt, though. Every so often, you're going to be involved in an ugly kill. I don't like it when these happen. I don't like it all. I figure that somewhere around 5 to 8% of kills are ugly kills. I define an ugly kill as one in which I don't make a clean killing shot.

But after years of hunting, hunts that have included ugly kills, I can tell you this with great certainty: I am the most humane killer in the woods. All deer/turkey will die. The best death they can have is at the point of my arrow or the point of my gun.

Jim Sogi writes:

Before we get too bleary-eyed, animals can be vicious in their quest to propagate. It's vicious out there in the wilds and the markets. Rarely is quarter offered in reality. 

Laurence Glazier writes:

HirogenThe comments about the turkey are not dissimilar to actions of humans to humans in distressed parts of the world, e.g., Sierra Leone. We are fortunate enough to be domesticated animals, but the wild human being is fearsome.

Now, the creatures sharing Scott's wonderful land are fortunate to have such a considerate steward, but though they are usually unaware of the moment of their transition, perhaps they live their lives in a more heightened sense of insecurity than otherwise, observing other members of their group being removed from their tribe, and being sorely missed if they too are taken. How is a balance kept between animal and human interests, both the good and the gory episodes?

The sound of a cow bellowing for days on end after its calves are taken is testament to the anguish of separation animals can feel.

So the question is, how do we act to animals? And that depends on our perception. In what way were aboriginals perceived to enable "wise and intelligent" people to hunt them?

I would also note that the tools and practice of hunting and warfare go hand in hand, and wonder if these histories will always be linked. Without wishing to sound like Kenny Schikler, of Goodnight Burbank, Star Trek dealt with this well in its allegory of the Hirogens.

Scott Brooks replies:

I'm not sure the cow is bellowing from anguish over the loss of its calf. Calves are frisky, much like small children, and want to run and play and explore. They have a tendency, like small children, to wander off. The mother calls them back with her bellowing. If a calf disappears the mother will keep looking and bellowing to call the calf back in. It may be instinctual or hormonal. She calls the calf because it's bred into her genes. Or maybe as her udder/teets burgeon with milk, she may be compelled to call the calf to come eat.

On my farm, calves are able to wander onto the grass between their fence and roads — "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" situation. But they won't wander too terribly far from mom, who will eventually call them back. And every year there are a few calves that are rejected by their mothers and have to be hand-fed by the farmer/rancher.

I can't say for sure that cows don't feel anguish, but from what I've seen, I doubt they do. 

[Editor's comment: There is a fascinating discussion available online, on research in this field, which is called Cognitive Ethology.]


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