Prof Hoff's "On Killing and the Why of It"
Read this article and mull it over, all of you who hunt or shoot pests. I enjoyed it, and certainly wish that "Prof Hoff" were still around to contribute such articles to the growing body of airgun lore that we all enjoy.
It is both the curse and blessing of being human that enables us to sit as judge and jury on the fate of those creatures with which we compete in the ecosystem. Unlike the organisms displaced, we humans have the power to decide that a shopping mall surrounded by forty acres of asphalt is more valuable to our ends than the wildlife cover it destroys in its making. It is the unexamined arrogance of power that sometimes causes us to thoughtlessly elevate our desires above the well-being of all other creatures.
Indeed, we feed the birds we like -- and then we kill those at the feeders which we deem to be a threat to our concept of jungle justice. I have never seen a starling do the horrible things described in Steve's article. However, I do know enough about Mr. Starling that I have taken it upon myself to eliminate every one I can. Likewise, Mr. and Mrs. Brown Headed Cowbird have convinced me that their way of propagation is an offense to my sense of parental responsibility -- thus they are welcomed under my crosshairs. Woe unto Mr. Rat should he ever appear in range of my airguns. And so it goes, for these and a few other species, I have set myself as the arbiter of their destiny. And I do so without sorrow.
That one can behave so dispassionately is not to say that one cannot have a twinge of guilt. Speaking personally, as I grow older and increasingly come to recognize the fragility of my own machinery, I reflect on the glorious complexity of living systems. Sometimes, at the moment of "thwack" I ponder the lack of compassion that would drive me to send a pellet through a pest species. And then, in an instant, the thoughts evaporate when another (arbitrarily condemned) target moves into view.
I try not to think much about the conflicts that rage within regarding my behavior as an avian assassin. I assuage my discomfiture by taking Mr. Squirrel for the stew-pot -- comforting myself by the unuttered and all-but-unrecognized fact that I have eaten him instead of Mr. Steer or Porky Pig. I dare not examine why I would kill the cowbird and eat of the cow. I really don't want to know that part of my being -- especially when another cowbird cruises in for a landing.
It is a simply brutal truth: Be it for competition in the ecosystem, or for nourishment, life sustains itself only by the taking of life. There is virtually no likelihood that science will one day synthesize a cheeseburger (or a veggieburger) from those dead elements listed on the Periodic Table of the Atoms that hangs here on my chamber wall. We are nourished and enabled by the unwilling sacrifice of that which was (or is) alive.
Alas, it's far more complicated than merely killing for food -- or hiring a surrogate murderer at the butcher shop to do that which we are too cowardly to perform for ourselves. To pluck from the tree and then crush a sweet apple in our jaws is to destroy living, respiring cells by brutally macerating them, thence depositing them in a bath of acid and enzymes so that the nutrients in the apple may become living, respiring tissue in our own machinery.
And so it is that the sanctimonious vegetarian is in no position to criticize the hunter of flesh. Like we hunters who are the sometimes-reviled members in the community of the omnivore, inescapably, the vegan shall be forced to meet his/her need for protein by sacrificing peas, beans and lentils. These PETA-headed guardians of my destiny hear not the cellular screams of anguish when their digestive corrosives dissolve the tissue that sustains them. There seems to be little room in their pointy heads for a recognition of their own brutality. Yet, they would excoriate the hunter.
I have no quarrel with those who prefer tofu over a tenderloin. Nevertheless, I am unsettled and agitated to action and resistance by any who would -- wielding the club of guilt and intimidation -- opt to legislate their menu in my domestic restaurant.
So at the bottom line, each person must decide the extent to which he/she would intervene in what is euphemistically referred to as "nature's balance." Examined carefully, one recognizes that what is thought of as 'balance' is really a dynamic equilibrium that oscillates under the influence of humankind. We can decide what stays or goes. We can influence the fate of all creatures even as we influence the fate of our own prospects. It is an awesome responsibility that at least requires some quiet contemplation in the doing thereof.
I have no wish to upset those who think differently from me. I merely suggest that we give a little thought to the consequences of our acts when we unilaterally decide which lives are to be taken. As for me, I shall continue, to hire the services of surrogate butcher-shop murderers, I shall continue to take game for the table, I shall kill critters I deem to be pests, and I shall continue to be repulsed by roaches and flies -- and wantonly smite them, sans twinge of conscience or guilt. Yet in the doing thereof, I will more than occasionally ponder the consequences of my acts and recognize that I shall probably never understand the why of it all.
Hope you enjoyed it,