Okay, I'm back, although I had to use the snow thrower again today. The city plow drivers thought it would be fun to bury my walkway that goes from the sidewalk to the street. Anyway, now I'll try and answer some questions. J
Tovar asked me to clarify my statement regarding my problems with "the integration of Native American spiritualism into the psychic of the American hunter as a cure-all for what ails hunting to provide "the" answer to why we hunt."
The problem is this: Hunting, as we all know, is under constant attack and hunters are being asked to explain the "why" of their desire (or need) to hunt. The majority of hunters, when asked this question stumble about for an explanation. Why should they produce an answer other than one I heard from Peter Capstick when asked about why he did something: "because it pleases me." But, that answer is then redefined as being selfish, blah, blah. In other words most answers can be turned against the hunter. A strong moral explanation for many hunters is provided through spiritual connections. A foundation for this explanation can be found in the commonly shared experience (among hunters) that they do experience a spiritual connection with nature when hunting. Some hunters take this explanation a step further and acknowledge a spiritual connection with the animals they hunt. It is easy to take this perfectly legitimate relationship between the hunter and nature and combine it with Native American spiritualism. This combination, some believe, provides an iron clad explanation for hunters. It doesn't. To the best of my knowledge there is absolutely no connection between North American Native Spiritualism as it relates to hunting and hunters, and the evolution of Western Civilization and hunting. In fact, as early as the time of Herodotus there were rumblings against sport hunting by non-hunting, urbanized Greeks. But hunting remained a significant part of the social landscape and has persisted for all these millennium—so why? I believe hunting exists within our genetic makeup, whether we live in the city or on a farm. It exists because we came from predators (the "scavenger/gather" theory has long been put to rest). Even our closest living relatives in the genetic forest hunt and kill when it suits them (and they will also periodically practice cannibalism, just a side note). Simply put, I maintain we hunt because of who we are. If humans had been denied that predator's gene what odds for survival would you have given the human race? As for suppression of the need to answer that predator's gene, I'm sure therapists have field days trying to unscramble that mess!
My principle of being responsible for animals is quite simple. It began with a long term project for Soldier of Fortune magazine. In the mid-80s I wrote a series of articles on the animal rights movement. As a result of my research (which spanned several years) I found myself trying to position myself on the question of animal rights. What I finally settled on was the principle that "animals do not have rights—people have responsibilities." A deep analysis of my statement produces a wide range of supporting statements, all of which end with the premise that we are responsible for the survival and welfare of animals, domestic and wild. As an example consider the black rhino. In 1993 I had the opportunity to spend several days with Peter Hitchins (founder of the SA Save the Rhino and Elephant Trust) and he pointed out why losing the rhino would be catastrophic—more than 600 symbiotic species of bugs, beetles, etc. would also become extinct. Hitchins pointed out that we alone are responsible for the near extinction of the rhino, in part from over hunting and in large part because we insist on altering the habitat. No other species on this planet now, nor at any time in history, has had the capability to change, and has changed, the entire eco system of earth. We, as a species, have chosen to use this ability to make these changes. That makes us responsible for every other living thing on this planet. Thus, we do not maintain a species to hunt them; we maintain the species because it is our responsibility. We hunt because it is who we are, not because it is who we want to be. That is why we feel that spiritual connection between ourselves and nature when we hunt—we are of nature.
Holly, I hope that I've addressed your question about my position on responsibility for animals. I don't see it as patronizing but as accepting our responsibilities (stewards of the earth simplifies it, I suppose). I suppose we could fine tune the statement from "for" and use "to" except when we say "for" aren't we using the prepositional to indicate that our actions are intended to provide for their welfare (survival)? J At least I hope I've managed to explain myself.
My feminist statement does deserve expansion. As I said earlier, we find ourselves faced with two distinct feminist movements—outside and inside hunting. The movement outside hunting, that attacks hunting, insists that hunting is a physical manifestation of male dominance over females. Perhaps nowhere else is this more fully defined than in Brian Luke's essay "Violent Love: Hunting, Heterosexuality, And The Erotics of Men's Predation," published in the 1998 (24.3) Feminists Studies. There have also been a number of excellent essays published in Environmental Ethics over the past few years and hunting is frequently vilified as being a form of male gender domination. These claims are found throughout contemporary culture. My primary field of study has been in literature but I want to emphasize that the attacks against hunting are not new and we should not do history a disservice by implying that the hunting debate is new (last 200 years). These attacks, as I've pointed out previously, extend as far back in history as the concept of sport hunting.
As I read Dr. Smalley's essay "The Modern Diana" I was pleased to see how thoroughly she explores the literature, especially the male voice in it. I am really pleased that we have followed many of the same text trails in our research. I would like to have seen, however, a bit more history on the evolution of outdoor literature's male voice. The later 19th century incorporation of the feminine voice to soften the male writing was a strong retreat from the direction men's writing had been taking. The early 19th century direction was in large part a response to the claims of the softening of the American male after the revolution and it was attempts to boost American masculinity. (Remember, we had performed rather badly in the War of 1812 except for a few Marines, sailors and Andrew Jackson's rabble, a lesson not lost on the press who were criticizing America's manhood.) Americans needed heroes and strong, independent, virile, men who were successful hunters (and could deal with the blood side) were also thought to be good defenders of the nation. That underlying premise has not been abandoned and one of the most obvious studies of this was in 1978's The Deer Hunter. The way I read Dr. Smalley's work is that women's role in hunting has evolved from one of justification of the sport (the feminizing) to a search for equalizing of roles in hunting. This is also the conclusion I have reached in my own work and I'm curious if you agree. Today, as the role of women has changed, women inside hunting have increasingly clashed with the outside feminist movement which is pushed from behind by anti-hunting elements.
How's that long-winded reply? Answer any questions and, I hope, create more that we can discuss?