a National Board Member for the Sierra Club
My resignation from the Sierra Club
received more letters of support for condemning hunting than criticisms
and this was to be expected considering that more than 80% of Sierra Club
members do not hunt.
Of the few who were critical of my
anti-hunting position, they reportedly took offense to my remarks as being
anti-hunting (of course they were) and they insisted that hunters were a
strong conservation lobby and thus essential to protecting wildlife and
I probably should have been more
definitive of my position. Instead of stating that I was anti-hunting or
opposed to hunters, I should have said that I am anti-killing and opposed
The choice is really between
endorsing the infliction of pain, suffering and death or opposing the
infliction of pain, suffering and death.
Pro-killers will say that those
people like me who are opposed to killing are alienated urbanities, of the
privileged class, and insensitive to the traditional rationale that
That argument does not work with me
because I was raised as the eldest of seven children by a single mother in
a small fishing village in a rural area of
. My father was abusive and he was a hunter.
I have spent a large part of my life
in third world nations and on the ocean. I oppose the killing of wildlife
not because I am alienated from nature but because I happen to believe
that you can’t love or respect nature with a gun.
I walked the trap lines in the
Eastern bush as a child. I walked them to free captive animals from leg
hold traps and to destroy the traps. I destroyed hundreds of these vicious
contraptions between the ages of 11 and 18.
I have seen the suffering. In
I watched a mother elephant literally weep for the loss of her calf. In
I witnessed a Canada goose sit for days without eating beside the body of
its mate who had been shot and not recovered. In
I saw a Grizzly cub sitting confused beside the skinned body of its mother
who was killed only for her hide. In the
, I followed a trail of blood for over a mile to discover an aerial
gut-shot wolf staring at me in fear and bewilderment.
What I have observed in the wild is
suffering. It was plainly evident and I felt remorse for the arrogance of
our species for justifying the taking of lives for sport, for enjoyment,
for fun, and for pleasure.
I spent time with big game hunters, some of whom reluctantly led rich
trophy hunters into the bush because they had lost their jobs as rangers
and President Mugabe had ruled that unless wildlife made money the animals
would be eliminated. These hunters described most of their clients as slob
hunters, arrogant and ignorant and expressed their shame at being forced
to participate in the murder business.
I was amazed to discover that a
Texan accountant had won a prize from the Boone and Crocket Club for
bagging a trophy whitetail deer and then he was exposed when it was
discovered that the rack of an animal stolen from a taxidermist in Alberta
had been surgically grafted onto a smaller animal on a game farm in Mexico
where they flushed it out from cover into the sights of the “great
It was John Muir, the founder of the
Sierra Club who first described hunting as “the murder business.”
In a few places in the world people
hunt for survival. In the past, people were forced to hunt for survival.
The constituency the Sierra Club is now courting through its killer
outreach program are not people who have a need to hunt for survival.
They are people who spend more money
on weaponry, travel and related expenses than the value of the meat they
obtain. It is not the meat they are after but the thrill of the kill.
Dick Cheney, when not shooting
lawyers, describes how he loves to see the ducks tumble from the sky.
I’ve heard hunters describe how pulling the trigger gives them an
These are men who slaughter for
pleasure. I call them perverse death deviants and I have no apologies for
labeling them as such. Killing for pleasure is a sickness, no different
than child molestation or rape.
There is no sport in killing an
animal from a distance with a sophisticated tool designed to inflict
death. The name sportsman implies that there is a fair contest. There is
nothing fair about being ripped apart by high powered bullets.
Hunters target the biggest, the
strongest and the best of the species they pursue. This is behavior
outside the laws of ecology. It is unnatural predation and certainly
cannot be condoned by credible conservationists.
Hunters defend their perverse desire
to extinguish life by saying it is traditional. Unfortunately many
barbaric practices are traditional. However, modern day hunting bears
little relation to so called traditional hunting. Hunters today are more
akin to those who eradicated the bison and took only the tongues.
Hunters were responsible for the
extinction of the
duck, the Passenger Pigeon, the Eastern Bison, the Plains Wolf and the
extirpation of the Grizzly from most of the lower 48 states. They were not
only killers they were involved in the act of specicide – the complete
eradication of entire species. This was not conservation.
Hunters cite Theodore Roosevelt as a
big game hunter who was also a conservationist. This is true, he was both.
He lived in a time when killing for pleasure was accepted but it was also
a time when racism was accepted as normal and it was considered abnormal
for women to have any rights, especially the right to vote. Roosevelt did
set aside land to conserve much in the same way that the British
aristocracy set aside land as exclusive hunting preserves to keep out the
The Sierra Club is spending hundreds
of thousands of dollars to reach out to invite killers to join the Club.
The leadership of the Club believes that the over 80% of Club members who
don’t take pleasure from killing must be tolerant of the less than 20%
who do. They want to bring in more killers into the Club.
There is a big difference between
hunting and killing. Photographers and film makers can hunt wildlife. It
actually takes more skill to hunt a Mountain sheep with a camera than with
a rifle. Any nimrod can pull a trigger and send a high velocity bullet
unexpectedly into living tissue to shatter organs and induce shock. The
photographer brings back nobility, a creature caught in its natural
habitat in harmony with the world around it.
The killer watches his victim tumble
from the air or crash to the ground as it chokes and gurgles on its own
life blood. The photographer brings back life. The hunter brings back
I have been a hunter myself. I’ve
never killed anything but I have stalked and hunted human poachers. I have
destroyed their ships, their rifles, their nets, their longlines and their
harpoons. I have snatched clubs from the bloody hands of sealers and
defended myself from their attacks. My form of hunting is much fairer and
gutsier than these killers who prey upon their unsuspecting and innocent
victims. I target the guilty not the innocent.
Once I trekked with Kenyan rangers
across the plains of Tsavo on the track of poachers. We followed their
trail of elephant carcasses rotting on the ground with only their tusks
removed. We found the criminals. They fired on us and killed one of our
rangers. We did not kill them. We wounded two and arrested seven. They
were armed with AK-47 rifles and our rangers were armed with British
Enfield 303’s. We were up against a superior foe and we beat them. It
was not sport. It was not fun. It was dangerous and necessary work and the
objective was to save lives, not to extinguish lives.
That is the only kind of hunting
that makes sense today in a world with a human population approaching
seven billion. If every American exercised their “right” to kill, the
ducks, geese, quail, elk, deer and other creatures would disappear quite
quickly. There are simply to many of us and not very many of them.
It can hardly be an egalitarian
sport if only a minority of citizens can realistically participate.
Instead of encouraging hunting, groups like the Sierra Club should be
discouraging the number of hunters. The nation and the world needs fewer
killers of wildlife – not more.
over a hundred million songbirds are gunned down every year. Elephant
populations have been reduced by 70% in
since I worked on poaching patrols there in 1978. World fisheries are in a
state of collapse. Wildlife is getter scarcer and there is more need now
than ever for protection.
Why can’t we protect wetlands
simply because wetlands need to be protected? Why is there this demand
that killers are needed to help protect wetlands simply because they want
to slaughter ducks?
geese mate for life. Shouldn’t it bother us that we shatter tens of
thousands of these relationships every year? Why should we tolerate the
accumulation of lead and steel shot in the marshes and estuaries? Why
should we tolerate the legal murder of human beings that we label as
hunting accidents, especially when the victim is a non-killer, perhaps a
child some nimrod has mistaken for a deer.
The son of Sigmund Freud was walking
on his own property in
when a hunter shot and killed him. The killer was found not guilty because
the death was ruled an “accident”.
When a stranger can kill you on your
own land and get away with it, it demonstrates that our tolerance for this
legal killing has gone over the top of acceptability.
One killer wrote me to say that my
“radical anti-hunting” ideas were unacceptable for a member of the
Board of the Sierra Club. When did opposition to killing, to the taking of
life, to the extinguishment of a living creature, to the wasting of a
sentient being become a radical idea?
Sometimes I think we live in such a
bizarre world where advocates for life are considered radical and
proponents of death are considered normal, where violence is considered
acceptable and non-violence is dismissed as unpatriotic or cowardly.
Few killers question the morality of
their actions. Once you have reached a stage where you can inflict cruelty
and death, thoughts of morality, empathy and respect have long since
For if a killer of a deer could feel
the pain and anguish of his victim or see the fawn starve because of a
mother that did not return they would have little appetite for the meat.
Humans who have crossed the line
into dealing death and inflicting misery have become alienated from the
wonderment of life and no longer see or appreciate the magic of being
Life is to be cherished, protected,
defended and championed, not to be wantonly and cruelly destroyed, and
certainly not for so frail an excuse as pleasure or sport.