A piece I put up on here earlier this week seemed to have provoked much interest and emotion (The Misinformed). Many people took it to be a defence of foxhunting (a passionate and divisive subject) and so launched into the usual diatribes about hounds ripping animals apart and a perceived hunting elite charging about in red coats? That was not the purpose of my post at all. If you read through liberal eyes and not an anti-hunting (the term hunting covers a plethora of activities) red mist then you will realise I was questioning how the future of our species will cope if ‘progress’ smothers the bushcraft and fieldcraft skills that we have developed across several millennia. Skills that dragged us from crawling on all fours to the highly developed species we are today. I must admit to being amazed at the few critics of my piece who said that now, in the 21st century, we have evolved beyond the need for hunting? And again I am taking that as a broad-brush statement meaning that these folk think that we have evolved beyond killing an animal for the table, to protect a crop or to protect a herd. For the benefit of the misinformed (I won’t apologise for the use of that term again) that is what ‘hunting’ is. One creature killing another for food, to feeds its dependents or to protect its territory. Unless I missed out on a biology lesson or two, homo sapiens are animals too
Forgive me for analysing this a bit further and attempting to follow their reasoning? If mankind can’t have a mandate to hunt, then it is denied the right to an alpha species status. So, logically, we shouldn’t farm either. If we can’t hunt then we shouldn’t round up and selectively breed animals for food or fibre. It took a hell of a long time to evolve from hunter to herder and for both to compliment each other. Thousands of years. So I will happily ignore claims that a hundred years of urbanisation have negated the need for the hunter / gatherer / farmer to exist.
One constant companion of the hunter has been the dog. It has been genetically proven that every dog species today has a common genetic link to the wolf. A relationship with the wolf and its subsequent hybrids developed over those millennia which added an advantage to our pursuit of meat for the table. A relationship which benefited both species (incidentally, the fox has a genetic missing link to wolf and dog). The hybrids, the first hounds, added speed, scent awareness and hearing advantage to the hunters toolbox. If that relationship hadn’t been forged, none of you would have a pet dog today. Fido would be extinct. The wolf or wolf/dog would have been simply another food source. We, mankind, developed an ability to synchronise with another species and develop that relationship into a beneficial, symbiotic partnership. Dogs were evolved to hunt for food and to protect crops (ironically usually from their genetic predecessor, the wolf).
Every day millions of folk turn on their TV sets to watch the wonders of the wild in their living room and exalt the magnificence of the prowling lion or sprinting cheetah pulling down a wildebeest or impala. Full-on hunting action complete with blood and guts, in glorious HD format, brought into the home via superb technology and filming while the viewer is stuffing their sanitised cardboard beef burger down their throat. Everyone says ‘Wow!’ TV awards are dished out for the superb, raw educational content of the documentary series. And I applaud that too. But hey? Chasing down a rabbit or hare for the table? Where’s the difference? That’s where greyhound racing was founded. Oh, I remember. It’s because, according to my recent ‘protagonists’ the reason we don’t need to hunt is because meat is readily available in the supermarket. Because we have ‘evolved’ and it’s the ‘21st century’. Really? So how did the meat get there? That’s where you ‘hunting critics’ really need to focus your attention. Wild meat like venison, gamebird and rabbit … meat drawn from the field using gun, trap, net (or bow in the USA) … is pure, untainted and hard won.
Culling vermin to protect crops and herds is legitimate. It helps spring lambs and poultry to live a free-range life with reduced threat of predation. The most vulnerable time for crops is while breaking ground as shoots. Depending on the crop itself, vermin control will save valuable acreage. Of course, these are arable crops … so how can a vegetarian contest this? A woodpigeon can devour up to 150 peas in one sitting, storing them in their crop. I could put up a photo to prove this but I don’t need to and you really wouldn’t want to see it. Just pull a pack of Bird’s Eyes peas out of the freezer and count them. Divide the contents of the bag by 150. Work out the cost of the cost of the bag per 150 peas. Multiply that by the estimated two million woodies in the UK right now. Then realise that I’ve just talked about one feeding session. Don’t ever try to tell me that hunting, crop control and vermin control is non-essential in the 21st century. There is almost a case for a national industry in woodpigeon control alone.
The one thing I abhor above all things is hypocrisy. If you eat meat, it came from a dead animal, which didn’t commit suicide. If you are vegetarian, your food was protected from predation and contamination, the latter probably by chemical intervention. The former by pest control by people like me. Get used to it. Accept it.
I could get into a serious rant here about the ‘The Misinformed’ but I’ll cut it short with a few simple questions. Where does your dog and cat food come from? How many creatures does your cat kill when let out? Is TB in cattle acceptable? How many of you have had your hen house trashed by a fox? Does a beef ‘finisher’ herd die of old age? What bird lays sausages? Did you have turkey for Xmas? How many trees were cut down to print Fifty Shades Of Grey? How would you deal with hitting a deer on a country lane and it didn’t die but lay there kicking?
One of my critics this week called me ‘condescending’. You’d better bloody believe it. Because I live in the real world. Not a pampered, Disneyfied, shallow landscape where wildlife and conservation are comfortably squeezed between Eastenders and the News At Ten and distorted for political agendas.
Before you brand me as ‘angry’. I’m not really. I love the countryside, what I see in it and what I achieve in it. But I actually spend a lot of time there. Hunters do. If you are anti hunting, can you say that of yourselves?
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, June 2015