By Craig Shapiro
How do you teach a child to kill?
That’s what hunters do, right? They teach their sons and daughters to kill.
I don’t mean hiding in a tree stand or waiting idly in a blind until a deer, bear or duck comes into killing range. All that takes is a cold disregard for the life of another being.
What I mean is, how do you teach a child that it’s OK to terrorize animals and destroy their families? Is bloodlust ingrained, or do Dad and Mom have to nurture it?
I’ve been wondering about that ever since reading about the Youth Bear Hunting Day in Maine. Last month, children 16 and under armed themselves with rifles, bows and arrows, and crossbows and spent the day slaughtering the state’s iconic black bears.
If only this odious killing spree were an exception.
But Wisconsin is also putting on a two-day deer hunt next month, for children ages 10 to 15. The kids don’t need a certificate to point their weapons and fire as long as they’re “mentored” by an adult.
One writer in South Bend, Indiana, even lamented that some parents have shirked their responsibilities because they’ve stopped teaching their children to kill. But not to worry, he wrote: The sponsors of a recent pheasant kill “are stepping up to fill the void.”
He would have been heartened by a Chicago writer’s account of dove-hunting season’s opening day: The “coolest” thing he saw was a father leading his two young daughters onto the killing field.
What are we teaching our children? That massacring wildlife is some kind of noble tradition?
Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors may have had to hunt for food, but today, hunting is a senseless blood sport. Less than 5 percent of Americans hunt, and most of them aren’t killing to survive. They’re killing because they want another head or pair of antlers to hang on the wall.
Are we teaching our children that hunting is a “sport”? Last time I checked, a sport pitted evenly matched, willing opponents against each other on a level playing field.
Are we teaching them that many animals suffer prolonged and painful deaths when they’re blasted with a bullet or pierced with an arrow? One study found that some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes and that 11 percent had to be shot two or more times before they died. A biologist estimated that more than 3 million wounded ducks go “unretrieved” every year.
A couple of the news stories that I read said that children will get to “harvest” a deer or bird. This language is as predictable as it is disingenuous. Hunters like to use the word “harvest” (“cull” is another favorite) to lull the public into forgetting that hunting is the same as slaughtering. Are our children learning to think of hunting as mere harvesting?
Hunters also use “harvest” to pretend that they’re keepers of the environment. But they aren’t targeting sick and injured animals and putting them out of their misery — they’re looking to “bag the biggest buck” and win bragging rights. What do children learn from that?
All that hunters do by killing is to create a spike in the animals’ food supply, which increases breeding among survivors and attracts newcomers. And they’re abetted by fish and game agencies, which design “wildlife management” programs to ensure that there will always be more animals to kill, not fewer.
You can’t tell me that putting a crossbow in the hands of a 10-year-old doesn’t desensitize that child.
A crossbow. In the hands of a 10-year-old.
What are we teaching our children?