Killing…in the name of what!?

I have a question for you, so I’ll just toss it out there: Is the act of killing ever justified?  I’m not just talking about killing people, but killing anything. Is trapping something, using it for your own needs, and explicitly erasing its existence after it has served its purpose, a justifiable act? Is that ever okay? I’m sure that most of you, and hopefully ALL of you, are shaking your heads. Perhaps you are even thinking: No, killing is never, an acceptable resolution.

Apparently, not everyone thinks this way. Meet Christopher Filardi. He does not agree with you. In fact, not only does he believe that killing is a-okay and completely justifiable in the right circumstances, he’ll go one even further and kill an endangered species if the poor creature should be unfortunate enough to cross his path.

I know what you’re thinking: Damned hunters. However, Filardi’s not a hunter with an unquenchable bloodlust. Instead, he’s actually the Director to Pacific Programs at the American Museum of Natural History. Yes, now here is the part where you scratch your head and wonder how a man, who should be protecting scientific breakthroughs, is instead killing them. Filardi is a scientist, and his most recent contribution to the planet was capturing an amazingly rare bird, taking samples of it, and then euthanizing it!

If you’re getting a bit hot under the collar, or you’re starting to curl your hands into fists, and your teeth are starting to grind as you think of his callous dispatching of a bird that had never even been photographed before this moment, then maybe his side of the story will soothe you (spoiler alert: it probably won’t).  I’m not the only one that has been upset about this turn of events, and I don’t mean just the public either. Filardi’s actions have apparently divided the scientific community as well.

According to Mr. Malarkey—I mean, Mr. Filardi—there are somewhere around 4,000 of these birds on the island they’re confined to. This rock solid number must be based on actual evidence, like sightings, droppings, shed feathers, individual song counts, and stuff like that, right? Nope. He’s pulling that number right out of his you know what, based on how many of these birds he thinks the habitat can sustain.

That’s like looking at an apartment building and guessing how many people are inside, assuming that every unit is occupied. But as we know in the real world, there are some buildings that are nearly empty. There are some buildings that are well past capacity. The point is, what an area can hold is by no means an indication of what is actually inside.

Not to mention, after spending 20 some years looking for one of these birds, you’d think if there were 4,000 of these little buggers flying around on an isolated island, he’d have run across a few long before now, right?

Well, to be clear, from his own follow-up article (which reeks of “methinks thou doth protest too much”) where he tries to explain why he killed the rare bird, here’s how he came up with that lofty figure…apparently during his expedition on the island, he “estimate[ed] three pairs and possible offspring” in the research area by how many calls the team heard. At one point, they “detected” three of these birds in a glen…presumably by their calls, since he would have said “observed” or “caught sight of” or something similar if they had been seen.

So. After searching the whole island, he didn’t manage to actually see any birds, but instead heard maybe a total of six.  And this is of course assuming his team could differentiate the varying calls (I bring this up, not to question their credentials, but rather because the bird’s calls are not well-known, so mistakes could easily be made I would think).  In fact, with the captured bird, Filardi made the first ever recording of a male Guadalcanal Moustached Kingfisher’s call.

Okay, so…from the 6 birds (detected from calls, not sight), Filardi then calculated a population of 4,000 birds based on his own assumptions regarding the total suitable habitat. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, this is not especially strong evidence on which to justify the killing of one of perhaps only six birds actually observed to exist.

He also takes the word of the locals on the island and attempts to use it as scientific evidence. The locals have told him that they’re “unremarkably common” to see. However, these people are not expert ornithologists. There have been plenty of times when I thought I saw a fox sparrow and it turned out to be a lark sparrow, or thought I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker and instead it was a red-bellied woodpecker. All I’m saying is that sometimes our eyes deceive us. Passing along an execution sentence based on unreliable eyewitness accounts does not fly inside the court of law, so why should it fly outside? And…AND…we run into the same problem as before…if the birds are so “unremarkably common,” why has it taken 20 some odd years for Filardi or any scientist to capture one?

Official records (you know, using actual data and such) state that there are only 250–1,000 of these birds in existence. I guess that should be adjusted to 249–999.

Well, Mr. Filardi, congratulations! Go you! You got your “unicorn” (the word he himself used to describe the bird he killed). Let’s just hope you don’t run into an actual unicorn or I’m sure its enchanted horn will be sawed off and sitting in a drawer in your museum’s basement not long after the two of you meet.

 

Illustration: J G Keulemans (1842 - 1912), Novitates Zoologicae

Illustration by:   J G Keulemans  (1842 – 1912);  Novitates Zoologicae

 

 

Idiot Hunter (No, Not That One)

I know I rant a lot about trophy hunters, but the subject fires me up, so bear (pun!) with me because my blood is boiling yet again from the actions of another bloodthirsty member of the human race.

By now I think we’ve all heard about the killing of Cecil the lion by the fearsome loathsome Minnesota dentist who lured the lion out of his protected area so he could be slaughtered. I’m not going into that. I have someone else I want to talk about.

If you haven’t heard of Sabrina Corgatelli, well, she’s a piece of work. Her hunting philosophy is so riddled with holes you’d think that she hunted it herself.  She’s been jumped on by quite a few people due to her outrageous activities, so she felt the need to defend herself. The article about her “defense” can be found here and, wow, is she delusional. So delusional in fact I don’t even know if she is of sound enough mind to even own a firearm.

Let’s go through my top three complaints with her hunting philosophy:

1) As she says, “…giraffes are very dangerous animals. They could hurt you seriously very quickly.” Yup, that’s always been something that’s kept me up at night. How many kids in Africa are killed each year on their way to school because a horde of maniacal giraffes decided to go on yet another one of their notorious murderous rampages? Sharks, velociraptors, king cobras. They’re child’s play compared to what we all know about giraffes. I guess that’s why they have such thick glass at the zoos we all visit. These homicidal beasts that attack without provocation must be eliminated before they can cause more harm to the human race! Please, Sabrina, end their tyranny over the African savannah once and for all. What a load of BS. I’m sure they could hurt you. Hell, most anything could hurt you. But outside of leaves on tall trees, I’ve never heard of anything being terrified of a giraffe.

2) Quoting the Bible was one of her go-tos. Now, I’m not anti-religion at all. Please don’t think I’m speaking down at the Bible. I’m just not so sure that a passage from Genesis should be taken so literally. Besides, even if it is taken literally, it doesn’t even say that we should be hunting for fun. In fact, it very clearly states that hunting should only be used for survival purposes. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” “…go out to the field and hunt game for me.” I have a tough time believing that it was hunger that drove Sabrina to kill a giraffe, an impala, and a wildebeest. She’s never heard of Safeway? Until I see photographs of her eating every last morsel of meat off that giraffe I’m calling B.S. on her Bible excuse.

3) Last but not least, check out the caption for her one photo: “My Impala I got today!! What a beautiful animal!” So beautiful that it’s gotta be removed from the planet!? How does this make sense? Does her brain seriously work in a way where when she sees something “beautiful” the first thought that follows is how great it would be to erase it from existence? That’s like finding a never before seen Monet painting and immediately burning it. Why? Because it’s beautiful! Was the impala butt ugly when it was alive and only death released its beauty? I simply don’t understand how beauty and death go hand in hand. Or more importantly, how beauty and life DON’T go hand in hand for her.

She also claims that she respects the animals she kills. What the hell? I respect a great deal of people. I don’t think I’ll be killing any of them. In my mind killing is the ultimate form of disrespect you can perpetrate on another living being, animals included. How exactly is killing something showing respect? Exactly how does that make sense? Go into work tomorrow and tell your boss, “Why yes, I have the utmost respect for you sir, so I’ll be shooting you with a high-powered rifle while you enjoy your lunch today. Because I respect you so much. Oh, and you’re beautiful. You’re just so beautiful and I respect you. So you must die.”  Why not just be honest with yourself and say you enjoy killing for killing’s sake? Which is what it all boils down to…

Long story short, Sabrina is an idiot. Why? Besides what I already wrote above, this quote from Sir Roger Moore (a man whom I respect, but will not attempt to kill) says it best:

“In a world with boundless opportunities for amusement, it’s detestable that anyone would choose to get thrills from killing others who ask for nothing from life but the chance to remain alive.”

If only everyone shared this view.

Destroying Beauty

I figured what better way to come back than with a rant?

If you’ve seen or read “Fight Club” you may remember a standout line where, in the movie, Edward Norton’s character says to Brad Pitt’s character, “I wanted to destroy something beautiful” after he had bludgeoned angelic Jared Leto’s face into a puddle of blood and broken teeth. The line is shocking because it’s a ludicrous notion that’s meant to give the audience a glimpse into the depths of which the demented, angry, and twisted psyche Norton’s character had plummeted to. The amount of hate one must feel to see something so beautiful that you feel the need to bring upon its annihilation must be immeasurable. But, surely that’s just entertainment. It’s just an emotion presented in a book and in a movie for sensationalism, right? Right??

Wrong. It just happened in real life and the perpetrator (the Edward Norton) of the story, sadly, is an 11-year-old kid. Read the story here.

The deer he killed was not for the family’s survival. Hell it wasn’t even for their love of venison. This child and his father sought out this specific deer especially for his looks. This was an act of brutality purely for the sake of sport and in my honest opinion, trophy hunting is for Neanderthals. Though that’s sort of unfairly insulting to Neanderthals since all they really hunted for was meat…hmm…I’ll have to rethink that insult. Hunting for meat is one thing; hunting for sport is another thing entirely.

The saddest part for me is that this kid is being told by his family that what he did was a good thing. They’re proud of him for destroying such beauty. He’s being praised for taking the life of an extremely rare animal. What possesses someone to want to do that? To see something that only comes about once in 20,000 (some biologist claim as rare as 1 in 100,000) births and decide that the greatest thing to do would be to wipe it from the earth? And, perhaps even more disturbing, what does this say about our society if the entire community has rallied behind him? Well, maybe not the entire community, but certainly a good portion of them.  The hunting community anyway.

Of course the family is going to “honor” the deer by having the whole damn thing stuffed and mounted instead of just the head. I mean, it is albino so a little respect please! Imagine if this were not a game animal but anything else. For example, say someone stumbles across a very, very rare species of redwood that hasn’t been seen in god knows how many years. They take a chainsaw, cut it down, and burn it so they can save the ash “forever.” What if a miner uncovered a precious piece of dark green jade that no one has seen in a thousand years and then just smashed it to dust with a sledgehammer? How would these people be perceived? They’d probably be condemned rather harshly for treating our planet so poorly. Or at least be called idiots for their selfish destruction of such rare objects. So why isn’t it the same with this boy? Why is he a hero for what he did?

Sure, sure, I understand the argument that perhaps the deer population was overflowing and hunting them would actually help the local ecosystem. Valid enough…although this method has been argued and proven scientifically to be somewhat counter-productive. But even if that were the case, I would think the town would give this special, rare animal a pass. Instead of gunning for it (literally), they’d let it live its unique life to the fullest while they fire rounds at the more common-looking whitetails grazing in their backyards (if venison is what they were after). You’d think the town would want to be known for something special, something unique (since, again, albino deer are so very rare) – “the town with the white deer,” or some such thing.

To me, this gives hunting a bad name. Trophy hunting. And how sad that this boy is learning at a young age that when you see something rare and beautiful, the first thing you should do is kill it.

As Ellen DeGeneres said “I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”

Photo: Daily Press & Argus)

(Photo: Daily Press & Argus)

Time for Another Rant (Or, The Glorious Hunter Extraordinaire)

So, I have to rant once in a while. Who doesn’t, right?  For me, it’s usually about animal issues…sometimes having to do with idiotic news stories and the like. But mostly animal issues.  I would apologize but I’m not necessarily sorry — ranting can be cathartic and if I bring up a subject that helps enlighten even one person, so much the better. Don’t worry though.  I try not to get on my soap box too often….I’m afraid of heights.

Well, for a little while now it’s been hunting season on the Eastern Shore so that means I have the great pleasure of waking up not to my somewhat annoying alarm, but to multiple gunshots as near-sighted hunters try valiantly to shoot geese as they streak across the sky.

You have to just see these guys (and gals) and the lengths they go to – it’s amazing.  Let’s see, they put out decoys, use scent markers, mating calls and even food to draw out the animals and then, using a high-powered gun, simply pepper the sky with shot while trying to snag a goose. It’s all very impressive and superior.  I seriously doubt that these hunters put this much effort into any other aspect of their life.  Although with a level of “cheating” of this magnitude, it may be better if they don’t.

Now, most of the hunters I know claim that they kill because it puts food on the table. Quite a noble feat.  But if that’s the case, then why do so many of them feel the need to mount the heads of their kills on the walls of their den?  I know nothing whets my appetite more than seeing a glass-eyed deer head staring out vacantly over the big screen t.v.

And when you’re talking “big game” hunting, just who exactly grills up coyote, elephant, lion or giraffe anyway? Sorry if I have a hard time believing the excuses hunters come up with when it’s probably more truthful to say they simply enjoy killing. Their moral compasses aren’t exactly pointing due north if you get what I’m saying.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but not once have I mentioned the word “sport” in this post and there’s a good reason for that.  Hunting is not a sport. Now if a person were to go out with nothing but their bare hands and come back home with a lion in tow, I admit that I would be duly impressed. But there’s nothing impressive about someone laying out bait, setting up decoys, hiding behind a tree (or in the case of big game hunts, being led right up to the target by a guide), and shooting an absolutely oblivious animal with a high-powered gun.

As if the environment changes things somehow. I mean, think about it.  If you were sitting in your living room, dressed in drab clothing that looks like your couch, drinking beer for hours in silence, and waiting for a mouse to come out from behind the bookshelf, and wander onto a cheese-laced mousetrap…well, you’d be a loser. But do it outside and substitute a wolf or a hippo or a deer for the mouse. Well, now you’re a hunter!

And some hunters will go to the most asinine extremes just to kill something….anything.  Take prairie dog hunting.  Yes, this is a “thing.” All prairie dog hunters do is hunker down in a lawn chair, oftentimes setting off a charge underground that scares the prairie dogs up and out of their warm and cozy homes, and then shoot them in the head when they pop up. It’s like some perverted Whack-A-Mole game. The funny part is that the difficulty level looks just about the same.

Image

Look at the athleticism in these prairie dog hunters

Then there’s the charming Brady Bunch clan that’s been seen around the internet posing and smiling over the body of an elephant they killed while it was eating. How impressive, right? It must take great skill to kill a herbivore during its lunch break.  And the children especially look pleased with themselves.

Image

Trophy hunting safari

Teaching a child to kill anything is not something to be proud of in my opinion.   If these same kids go home and kill the neighbor’s cat, you better believe they’ll get a completely different reaction from society.   So what makes one acceptable and the other not? Therein lays the irony of hunting. During these specific months and at this specific place and with this specific animal, you’re good to go.  But take that exact same mentality someplace else, kill a stray cat or a dog on the street for instance, and you’re an unhinged monster. I guess I just don’t understand how hunters rationalize the difference when there really isn’t one.

Time for a Rant (Or, the Black Rhino Fiasco)

Tell me if this sounds like some backwards, contradictory, nonsensical craziness to you or if it’s just me that’s finding the following news story absurd.  The Namibian government, under intense pressure to save the ever dwindling and extremely endangered black rhino species, recently allowed the US-based Dallas Safari Club to launch an auction raising money for conservation efforts of the species.  Well, that sounds really nice, doesn’t it? Where can I donate? And what’s up for auction?

Oh, the prize…a hunting permit to kill a black rhino.  The critically endangered black rhino.

I rechecked what I wrote and there are no typos. The winner of the auction designed to save the black rhino from extinction gets a permit to kill a black rhino. Let’s just all take a minute to let that sink in. It’s like having a weight loss plan of doughnuts and bacon. Training for a marathon by smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds each day. Getting over a fear of clowns by watching IT. Nothing about this makes sense. If anyone actually thinks the money the government is receiving is purely for conservation efforts, they’ve got to be the most gullible suckers on the planet.

The safari group has said on record that the winner of the auction (a man who shelled out a whopping $350,000) doesn’t have to kill the rhino. He could just shoot it with a camera if he wants.  Of course we all know that’s not going to happen.  And the group is fine with the particular rhino they have in mind to kill because, according to them, it’s old and aggressive. My question is, aggressive to whom exactly? Is it roaming around a heavily populated metropolis goring people to death as they’re trying to get to work? No, it’s out in the grasslands of Africa away from people.  How is its aggression getting in the way of anything? I’m not sure anyone involved truly believes this rhino is a threat anyway.  Sounds more like a rationale to excuse horrific behavior perpetrated by a less than transparent government and a hunter who obviously has more money than he knows what to do with.

The winner himself said that he wants to be “intimate with a black rhino.” I don’t know what kind of childhood he had, but when I want to get “intimate” with something it rarely ever means—no, wait, it NEVER means—killing something. Is he really going to have deep, longing gazes into the rhino’s eyes late at night as he stares at its head mounted on the wall of his den? Is that going to stimulate some sort of spiritual connection that he’s been craving for all the years of his life? If so, he needs to be committed.

And to be honest, what kind of hunter is this guy? Rhinos happen to be one of the easiest things to kill. Their eyesight is crap so you can practically walk right up to them before they even know you’re there. Plus, it’s going to be a guided hunt which means he’s just going to be led to where the rhino is known to be and have it pointed out to him. Basically, this guy spent over a quarter of a million dollars to shoot a fish in a barrel.

The ironic part is that now Huffington Post is reporting that he’s been receiving death threats. Police officials and the FBI are working together to keep him safe. Does anyone see the irony here? I’m in no way hoping for ill things to befall this guy, but come on, how can he honestly still go through with this hunt after he himself is being hunted?  Shouldn’t there be some moment when the light bulb comes on above his head and he says, “Whoa, so wait. Killing something that doesn’t want to die is…not cool?”   Because the thing is, this “winner” could easily choose to be a part of the larger scope of life instead of its downfall.  He could recognize the farce the Namibian government and his precious hunt club are advocating for what it is, and try to save an animal. And there’s an amazingly easy way to accomplish that last part…simply don’t kill it!

black_rhino

Click photo for info on the Black Rhino hunt

Pest Problem (Agreed – But Who is the Pest!?)

I’m not sure if you saw but recently Time Magazine had a cover story with the bold headline “America’s Pest Problem”. Dun dun duuuunnnnnnn. Sound the alarms and make sure you have plenty of non-perishables on hand, people. The article went on and on about this surge in animal population sizes where deer and the like are so numerous that they’re turning well-regulated and prim suburbs into veritable zoos. Gardens are being eaten, there’s crap everywhere, occasionally there’s a car accident when a deer wanders into the street at night. And, gosh darn it, something has got to be done about this! People pay good money on those mass manufactured mini-mansions. They don’t want to see a rabbit ruining their lawn. God forbid a raccoon should meander briefly onto their property. Yes, this is apparently such a big problem that it made Time. Really!?

I’d be completely behind joining some think tank and huddle up with scientists to figure out how to solve this vexing conundrum if it weren’t for one little thing. Ummmm…maybe animals aren’t the pests. Maybe, just maybe, we people are. Humans, I’ve noticed, seem to have this amazing talent that when they want something, they just sort of show up, give it a good once over, and if it happens to meet their needs they declare that it’s now theirs. Conquest is just in our genetic code. But let’s think about it a little. We build these suburbs smack in the middle of nature and then are surprised when wild animals make their way into the backyard? Not only that but when we see one of these animals we get angry that they dared to wander through our neighborhoods and are more likely to bash its head in with a shovel than to just let it wander right on out again of its own accord. Let’s not forget, it was their neighborhood first!

Imagine that you’re sitting in your living room watching TV and some guy just walks in and starts strolling around the room. He bounces on a chair, rubs the grain of the coffee table, opens and closes the blinds, then nods in approval, rolls a mat on the ground, and falls asleep. You, obviously shocked, poke him awake and when he opens his eyes to look at you he says irritably, “What are you doing in my place?” You reply, “I’m sorry, sir, this is my place. I live here. I’ve been living here for years. See, my stuff is all over the place.” He just sighs, rolls his eyes, and responds, “Ugh, something just has to be done about this pest problem.”

That wouldn’t be cool, would it? Yet it’s pretty much what’s happened as we press farther and farther into the environment.

We, as a species, can’t just take and take and take and assume that there won’t be repercussions. We killed all the wolves and coyotes so our toddlers can play hide-and-seek in safety. I know, I know, but that was the rationale people used. Anyway, with those animals gone not only will Little Tommy not get mauled but it also shouldn’t be a shock that the number of deer is going to rise. How is that not expected? Take away predators and guess what happens? So now there are a ton of deer and rabbits and chipmunks and pheasants playing loud music, doing drugs till the wee hours, setting off firecrackers, and engaging in gang activity. Oh wait, no, they’re not the ones doing that. But chewing leaves and drinking water from streams is practically the same thing, right? So how do we resolve that? Maybe we begin by understanding that the world is not our buffet but also, and perhaps more importantly, realize that sometimes we have to share.

But that seems a long way off. The article didn’t quite bring up a “Let’s All Get Along” plan. It went more towards the depressingly expected “Let’s Just Kill Them All” plan instead. And with that, hunters around the world rejoice because now there’s an official reason to get out there and shoot something. It’s for the good of the neighborhood, damn it. The government is telling me to kill, honey. That’s right, Mr./Mrs. Hunter, go kill something — it’s very important work you’re doing.

Time Magazine Cover