Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney's bird hunt and trout stocking

Prof. Myers has a post over at Pharyngula that comes down hard on Cheney not for shooting his buddy, but for shooting about a hundred birds on a "canned hunt". I almost posted the below as a comment, but then I thought twice about it because I'm not sure it makes much sense. Is it the sheer numbers of birds that were killed that makes the bird hunts unethical? Is it that you can catch and release fish? Or you're only allowed to keep 6 or whatever? What do you think?

Now I'm not trying to defend Cheney. At least not in general. But I think it's problematic to argue that canned hunts are unethical and "game hunting" is not. It just seems that using a high powered rifle to hunt deer is just barely a little more "part of the pattern of life." State game commisions manage deer populations for hunters. Sure they want to maintain "natural" or reasonable deer populations because they are part of the native fauna, but I'm pretty sure keeping hunters happy is part of their management practices.

What about fish stocking programs? Rainbow and Brown trout are stocked extensively, millions of fish a year, all over the range of the only native salmonid in eastern North America, the Brook trout. In fact, here in southern Indiana Rainbow trout have been introduced into some streams that haven't supported native trout populations since the last ice age (maybe?) and very rarely if ever manage to hold Rainbows over the summers. These fish are raised and stocked exclusively for sport fishing. Maybe in some places they are stocked for ecological reasons, to keep down populations of other invasives, but I doubt that's very common.

I guess the question is are fish on par with birds? Or do you disagree with fishing as well?

I agree that shooting a hundred birds just for shits and giggles is a bit whacko, but I think it's not as clear cut an ethical issue as you make it sound. But I'm no ethicist, so what the hell do I know?


Void of Content said...

Canned hunts are really no different than raising animals on a farm with the intent of slaughter. In both cases, the animal is raised to die. In this regard, there seems to be a disinction between canned hunting and game hunting, but you certainly can't take the moral high ground if you buy your hamburger at the grocery store.

Really, though, what's the difference between raising cattle for slaughter and raising corn for harvest? In both cases, the living thing is killed in order to produce food. So what that the cow has eyes. Pain, you say? Consiousness? Who has conciousness? Do you?

It seems that the only consistent positions are that of the vegan, who eats nothing that prevents the organism from continuing or reproducing, and the one who finds no fault with any of these activities.

As far as I can see, the only ethics that can ever be argued are that of sustainability, both in terms of survival of the species and in our relationship with the planet. There is certainly no morality, only that which makes the most sense.

Anonymous said...

Well put Void of Content.

Furthermore, castigating Cheney for a canned hunt after everything else he's done is like arresting Al Capone for tax evasion. Oh, wait that happened. Even so... my point stands.

By the way, I've read that Cheney is an expert bird hunter and in his younger days shot skeet on a semi-professional basis. He never misses a shot going away and to the right, but somehow he managed to blast this lawyer right in the fahtcha on that same arc Saturday.

And it just so happens that the victim, a realestate mogul as well as a litigator, recently pushed forward some reforms of the Texas penal system, much to the chagrin of the Bush camp. I think he made the lynching of retards officially illegal. So ipso facto, Cheney invites him out to the old Texas prarie for a "talk," which of course ends with one of them getting shot.

Cheney's own people don't deny it.

"He felt badly, obviously," said Cheney advisor Mary Matalin to the Washington Post. "On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the (rules). He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to."

Bush sent him out there to gun down the opposition, that's what they're saying (there is no one who enjoys hanging the mentally handicapped in an informal setting more than George Bush Jr.).

So keep an eye out. I predict that 2006 is the wierdest year produced by this decade yet. I predict the Congressional elections are decided by a bloody battle pitting the hardchore idealogues of both sides against one another.
The middle class will move into fill the void with their currently unpopular rehtoric of political moderation, hard work, and cocktails at 5 p.m. I think Thomas Jefferson would be proud.


Anonymous said...

Fish are definitely better than birds. Jesus didn't multiply birds (or cows for that matter), he multiplied fish and turned water into wine. Farm-raised fish are clearly superior to canned poultry.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments my Christian brother made above. Even though some people say Jesus comes across as a wishy washy bumper sticker theologian who really didn't offer any practical advice on social organization, I say stick with tradition.

If tradition was a boat, and I the captain, I would stay on the proud vessel even as it was dragging me down to a watery grave.

What Would Jesus Do?
He would cry and tell us to do as we're told.

PZ Myers said...

I think the problem is the hypocrisy. Hunting is supposed to be this manly, sporting activity, where you have to have some skill to bag any game.

What Cheney was doing was getting liquored up and going out to kill small animals.

He wasn't hunting. He was enjoying an evening of casual butchery. He might as well have announced he was going to pull the wings off flies, but instead he calls it "hunting".

Void of Content said...

pz -

So your argument is that anything that causes unnecessary suffering is unethical? Surely many experiments that you have performed have caused suffering of organisms. I'd imagine you'd say that this isn't unnecessary because it advances science, and therefore is good. Are you making a utilitarian argument: a little bit of suffering is OK if it reduces more suffering somewhere else?

This is clearly a slippery slope - where to draw the line?

If someone enjoys pulling wings off flies, then the suffering of the fly is offset by that persons enjoyment. Can we compare the suffering of the fly to the enjoyment of the torturer? I don't see how - it's a zero sum game.

Cheney's 'casual butchery' is actually not that unusual, and seems to give some sort of enjoyment and satisfaction to the participant. Like the fly torturer - how to compare the losses and gains?

OK, so you could say that human suffering is what should be minimized. If that's the case, then canned hunts are back in style.

You could say that medical experiments are accepted by the general public, but fly torturing is not. Yet, this is clearly another slippery slope... (The general public, and even scientists, have a history of fickleness.)

So, I can't see arguing for ethics as "suffering minimization" in any fashion.