Dick Meister: Stalking and killing for sport

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister is a San Francisco writer. You can contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns

Imagine leading a snarling hound – or a pack of them – to chase a badly frightened bear or bobcat up a tree for you to shoot to death. There are lots of hunters – "sportsmen," as they're called – who think that to be great fun.

Boy, are they mad at Gov. Jerry Brown for recently signing a bill that will outlaw the practice in California beginning next year.  As the bill's author, State Senator Ted Lieu, noted, "There is nothing sporting in shooting an exhausted bear clinging to a tree limb, or a cornered bobcat."

California legislators thankfully are not the only ones who agree with that. The barbaric practice of using dogs to hunt bears has been banned in two-thirds of the other states. But why not ban it everywhere, along with all other hunters' cruelties?

Why? Because, say hunting advocates such as Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, that would infringe on hallowed traditions of hunters that date back hundreds of years. Not to mention that it would deprive states of the thousands of dollars they collect for hunting tags. In California, the state's take amounts to $278,000 a year for bear and bobcat tags alone.

Nielsen said he has received thousands of phone calls and letters protesting Brown's bill signing.  That, sadly, should be no surprise. Many people, if not most people, seem to approve of stalking and killing our fellow creatures for sport.

Every year, more than 20 million hunters are out searching America's countryside for winged and four-legged victims. And manufacturers of guns and other hunting equipment, and state fish and game departments, including California's, are trying hard to increase their incomes by increasing the number of "sportsmen" who are chasing innocent animals. They're urging more Americans, including youngsters, to go out and kill for sport.

Think especially of the message that's being delivered to the young. As opponents of hunting have long argued, it tells impressionable youngsters that it's all right to violently take an innocent life for the fun of it.

Certainly we still kill animals for food. But that is not the same as killing them for amusement. You can argue that killing animals is still necessary for survival, at least unless you're a vegetarian. But killing them for sport in today's circumstances is cruel and unnecessary.

In a fully civilized society, the money and energy spent by government agencies and others to promote hunting would instead be devoted to protecting our fellow creatures from human killers, and expanding and protecting their habitats, too many of which are now game preserves open to hunters.

We could at least deny hunters and their bloody practices the respect and approval of society and its leaders that they now enjoy. This is the 21st century, is it not?

Dick Meister is a San Francisco writer. You can contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.