Friday, 16 September 2005

Is this your idea of fun?

I love animals. That, as I wrote in a recent post, doesn’t necessarily make me a better person, but the people I saw the other night on the TV are evil.

I wouldn’t have deliberately chosen to watch a revolting programme about taxidermists, but it was very late and the choice was between that Open University programme about autism, which I’ve seen so many times, on BBC2, or a hockey match on Channel Five. So I chose the one where horrible, macho men and women (women can be macho too) were shown shooting innocent creatures just for fun, just to skin and mount them in weird, so-called “natural” poses.

I’d never asked myself where taxidermists got their animals from; I’d certainly never thought they actually killed them themselves, but it seems that most of them do, at least in America. The taxidermists interviewed for that programme were all American and were planning to compete in the World Championship.

One woman was looking for a coyote. A man went to Africa and shot a beautiful leopard. He insisted on being photographed with his foot on it, like in the bad old days of big game hunting. Laughing, he said, “We got to have a little bit of fun.” He was wearing a necklace from which hung fingers, ears, testicles that had belonged to a monkey he’d previously shot too. Another man had killed a curlew and had some problem balancing it on the stand once he’d stuffed it. One taxidermist was accompanied by his 9-year-old daughter, who kept saying, looking at the corpse of a lovely deer lying in the snow, “Cool!” As her father was removing the animal’s heart, all she could say was, “Cool!” She had herself shot another deer and was going to mount it herself.

One of those barbarians summed up their philosophy, “I get pleasure from taking something lifeless and bringing it back to life.” Lifeless? Lifeless! It wasn’t lifeless until you killed it!

I was reminded of what I’d seen, at the meeting of the Residents’ Association, the other night: one of the members is a young man whose flat is full of bits of dead animals, some killed by him. There used to be two fox tails hanging from the curtain rail (he’s now removed them). He proudly showed us a stuffed cat sitting on a chair. It made my skin crawl. I expect he belongs to the Countryside Alliance and opposes the ban on hunting with dogs. He seems a nice young man otherwise, but I feel I’m not even from the same planet.

I know a slap is inadequate. What else can I do?


  1. The idea of hunting gives me the creeps. It is still popular in some circles. Some of my former colleagues used to hunt. It is a class thing too - to be invited to this Hall or that Manor to hunt. I did make my point of view clear to them whenever they joked about their "skills".

    Slaps to all those who cannot seem to think of refined and less cruel hobbies.

  2. Oh, J, this space isn't big enough to contain my sense of disgust at the attitude you describe.

    I can readily imagine how long-ago tribal hunters considered it good ju-ju to display or wear dead animal parts, symbolizing their power as hunters, affinity with the animal they'd killed, whatever. These people routinely went out to kill for food, clothing and fuel - their tribe's survival depended upon their skill with primitive weapons, and they themselves were at considerable risk during the hunt. What possible correlation could there be between that situation and the modern hunter, who goes out with tactical weapons against animals whose habitats are fast disappearing?

    You're so right - a slap is not enough. Taxidermists should confine their "art" to stuffing & mounting dead hunters. Let's display 'em in a museum of "the bad old days".

    [hey, where's my daily word puzzle?]

  3. No. A slap is not enough. This is truly sad.

    I used to oppose all hunting. But now I have given up on hunting deer in Pennsylvania. We now have more deer in PA than there were during colonial times. That's because mankind hunted the wolf and coyote out of existence here. So nothing, but man, kills the deer. People DO eat the deer they kill here. If they don't want to eat them, then the deer are given to a soup kitchen for the poor.

    But the truth is, these guys don't hunt a deer in order to eat it. They eat it because they love going out and killing it. Then they brag about it later.

    PA is full of hunters. Only here while it is a class thing, it is a blue collar class thing.

  4. TanLucyPez, I didn't realize you were in PA! I went to HS in Greensburg; to my horror, the first day of deer season was actually a school holiday. I remember asking my mom if I could stay home the *next* day, so I wouldn't have to listen to my stupid classmates brag about the hunting.

  5. Dreadful pointless thing. It's about enjoying a sense of power, I think. But what is so wonderful in having power over something that is already less powerful than you?

  6. That little girl's enjoyment and the "lifeless-bringing back to life" statement made me sick. These people think of themselves as "artists", too; they are so proud of their "skills"; they spend hours and hours tweaking their creations. During the Championship, they were shown combing fur, polishing beaks and horns, etc. with such dedication - just like cat or dog owners before a show. They have this intense relationship with the animal they've destroyed and "brought back to life". It's perverted, insane.

    The UK vs US class thing is very interesting.

    I've removed the word verification thingy - on a trial basis - because Still Life, who uses a voice recognition prog. finds it very difficult. I've already had one spammer on this post; if I get a lot more I'll put it back.

  7. Just horrifying, and you're exactly right about the comment of bringing something back to life.
    I didn't realize that they have actual shows and that their "skills" were judged. And the fact that someone was exposing their child to such savage behavior should constitute as abuse.
    Besides, the word puzzles are fun.
    bela, the word verification is really not a problem for me. I am just now learning this new program so I haven't perfected everything as of yet. Typing in a few letters by hand will keep my physical therapist happy!

  8. You see what I mean about learning this new program? The sentence about the word puzzles being fun was supposed to be at the end... I'll get it right eventually.

  9. Oh, I don't know what to do now: I meant to say that I was having some problems with the word verification myself: it kept refusing to work the first time. Perhaps Blogger was buggy at that point.

    I haven't had any more spammers this weekend (do they just work 9 to 5? LOL!), but I'll put it back on. If it starts driving me nuts, I'll scrap it again.

  10. Hi Bela,

    I'll add my two cents here (at the risk of getting slapped!) to say that I enjoy deer hunting, for the purpose of getting food for my family. While I wouldn't be opposed to having the head mounted, it isn't really my personal interest in hunting.

    All the hunters I have met are respectful of the animals they kill and don't take any joy in killing for it's own sake. They do it for food and to spend time outdoors.

    People who hunt just for a trophy are far removed from the average deer hunter in upstate NY. I would guess, (and certainly hope!) that they are a small minority of hunters. Like in PA, we in upstate NY also have a deer overpopulation problem.

    We humans, like it or not, have been predators for millions of years. We have a predatory instinct. You may not agree, but I personally have a predatory instict. So does the cat you love so much. It's part of us, ugly as it may seem. It has a purpose.

    We humans have killed off the wolves, coyotes and mountian lions in my part of the world. The reality of it is: if we are not going to reintroduce those predators here to keep things in check, (and we aren't) then *we* need to be the predators who are at the top of the food chain. It's a responsibility. Otherwise, deer actually create an imbalance in the forest ecosystem. It's more complex than it appears to be on the surface.

    Plus, deer meat is delicious and very nutritious, and I think it's less cruel to shoot a deer for food that has had the chance to be wild and free then to buy a package of meat in a supermarket wrapped in plastic that has come from a factory farm and never seen the sun or runn outside.

    If you are a vegetarian, that is your choice, more power to you, but I'm not. I eat meat, and when I do, I try to purchase it from local free-range farmers, or shoot it myself. To me, this is more honest, and more responsible than pretending meat is disconnected from real animals.

    It may be disturbing to see a few wackos who view hunting as a sport for a "trophy", but to me it's more disturbing to see teh oridinary sight of someone eating factory farmed chicken or pork, knowing how those animals lived, and died in horror. To mention it is impolite, and those same people will sneer at hunters for being cruel. Pretty hypocritical, don't you think?

  11. K, I was specifically talking about people who derive enjoyment from killing animals, not about people who hunt, then consume the animals they’ve killed.

    There was absolutely no doubt the people who took part in the programme were enjoying what they were doing: they acknowledged it themselves; they weren’t ashamed of it; in fact, they were proud of it. I quoted some of what they said verbatim. I feel the same about those upper-class British twits who hunt with dogs (it’s now illegal, but they refuse to stop): the blooding of first-time hunters, etc. – it’s barbaric and, to me, absolutely inexcusable.

    As you say, we humans are predators; in fact, we are all sorts of other things too and some of those things we have managed to curb; we are not supposed to be ruled totally by our instincts any longer. I’m afraid that that, by itself, can’t be used to justify hunting. The need to feed oneself is the only reason I’m prepared to accept. (The argument about spending time outdoors doesn’t wash either: there are lots of outdoor pursuits that don’t imply depriving innocent creatures of life.)

    I am not a vegetarian and I am aware that most of us are hypocritical when it comes to farming, etc., but, as long as free-range chickens, etc. cost more than factory-farmed ones, people will choose the cheaper option. It’s true: we do mistreat animals before they are killed in order to provide us with food, but I don’t think any of the people in charge actually enjoy seeing those animals suffer. They’re probably completely inured to it and don’t give it a thought. It’s not nice, but not so objectionable.

    I’ve always lived in big cities, but, as a child, I used to spend most of my holidays on a farm: I have seen rabbits and chickens being killed. I also remember the farmer coming back from hunting with his dog and bringing back a couple of hares or a brace of pheasants. We used to eat those animals. When the hunting season was on, I wasn’t very happy, but I certainly don’t remember seeing any glee in his or his friends’ eyes when they got back home. And that’s where the difference lies.