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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Lions and squirrels

I own one gun, a .22 bolt-action, tube-fed rifle that my parents gave me when I turned 13. I shot it often with my cousins around the dairy farm. The primary targets, besides empty bottles and cans, were the squirrels that infuriated my grandmother by eating the pecans on her trees. Sometimes we picked off birds too, especially the obnoxious blue jays. We used snakes swimming on the surface of the fishpond for target practice. Point is, I have a certain amount of blood on my hands as a low-level hunter — and I'm not about to apologize for that. I enjoyed it and I learned from it. The fact that I haven't fired my rifle in decades doesn't matter because I might pick it up again someday.

Family and friends are hunters of deer, bear, wild turkey, feral swine, etc. I don't share their enthusiasm for that, but as long as they do it safely and in accordance with the rules I do not criticize them. All those animals are plentiful, and some populations need control. Likewise I see no issue with fishing, even sport fishing. (Trapping, that's a different question.) On the dairy farm there was an endless supply of squirrels, birds, and snakes. North Carolina has over 1,000,000 white-tailed deer, and Texas has over 2,000,000 feral swine. Those are target-rich environments.

In contrast, hunting animals that are classified as extinct in the wild, endangered, or vulnerable (in the sense of extinction) ought to be unlawful, except in defense of person or property. Africa has fewer than 50,000 lions, and they've been declared vulnerable to extinction. For this reason I have no sympathy for Walter Palmer. May he be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, may his prosecution deter others, and may laws be tightened where necessary. I like Delta Air Lines' announcement that they won't transport animal trophies from Africa.

Some persons, some companies, and some nations make a lot of money on big game hunters like Palmer. Too bad. His ilk should have to find other ways to conjure up expansive visualizations of their manhood.