Yesterday while reading at the picnic table around dusk, I heard the unmistakable sound of shotguns firing. Several, in fact. And I wondered what season it was. The answer is: wild turkey. Turkey actually has two seasons, spring and fall.
I found this out from the website of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. http://myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates/
In the process I learned that several animals are permitted to be killed in Florida at any time of year by any means. These animals are rabbits, wild hogs, raccoons, possums, coyotes, skunks, and nutria. Bobcats and otters have a short season, but beyond that, you can kill them any time. The difference is in how many of them you can kill in or out of season. Even with raccoons and possums, there are certain restrictions, such as what type of gun you’re allowed to use, and “spotlighting” is prohibited.
Quail and squirrels have a distinct season, and beyond that season you aren’t permitted to hunt them at all. This would be educational news for my neighbors across the street who would sit out in their back yards and kill them with BB guns, then eat them for dinner. I’m not sure how many laws that breaks. If I had a BB gun, I might shoot a few myself–except for the part about believing that you have to eat what you kill (or give it to someone who will). And I am not eating a squirrel. Although I have, as a child. It was fried. The only thing I ever flatly refused to eat was frog legs.
I have mixed feelings about hunting. But I eat meat, so it would be a little hypocritical to be against it. Meat does not magically appear in a styrofoam container with shrink wrap in the grocery store. Of course, hunting and factory farming are two different subjects.
My attitude about hunting changed drastically when I moved to Iowa from Louisiana. From the time I crossed the Missouri line until I covered the distance to Des Moines (about 80 miles), I saw 8 dead deer by the side of the Interstate. This was in summer. That fall, they made it legal to hunt bucks, does…and fawns. What? It was okay to kill Bambi?
Then I remembered my trip. The deer were starving and desperate, taking risks they might not otherwise have taken. Was it better to be hit by a car or starve than it was to be killed by a hunter? Answer: No.
But let’s think about some of the other animals on the “anytime” list in Florida. Otters? Noooo. Those cute playful little things? And nobody eats otters. And rabbits–it’s okay to kill Thumper? At least people eat rabbits.
Of all the species named, my least favorite are wild hogs and raccoons. At least you can eat them (well, not me, but it happens). I think of them as the most dangerous animals on the list–wild hogs because they are amazingly aggressive; raccoons because they are prime carriers of rabies. Now that I think about it, I might eat a wild hog under certain conditions–slow-smoked and accompanied by massive amounts of beer first.
One of my employees has a newly planted vegetable garden which is being attacked by armadillos. Every morning she comes in to work threatening to shoot them. People do eat them, I learned, but she doesn’t plan to. (And I’m in no danger of it either–I’d rather eat frog legs.)
So the question is, is it okay kill an animal for its fur or its horns or antlers for sport? (No.) Is it okay to kill an animal for food? (Yes.) Is it okay to kill an animal who is danger of dying a slower and more painful death, such as starving or being hit by a car? (Yes.) Is it okay to kill an animal because it’s a pest? (Pest being something that gets in your way, kind of like a weed.) Therein lies the rub, as Hamlet would say. Guardedly, I say, Yes. If you’re growing a garden which will help feed your family, and an animal threatens it, then you don’t really have much choice, whether you can eat it or not. It’s war. Kill or be killed. Even if the thing killed didn’t “deserve” it, and was only doing what came naturally, including trying to feed itself in the way it knew how.
I have personally never killed an animal, except for a fish or two. I’ve only ever fired a shotgun once, and that was at several clay targets which lived to tell the tale. Fat chance I would hit any of them. My shoulder was numb for a week.
However if I were threatened physically by an animal (including a human), I would do everything in my power to kill it. That’s just the way it is. Life is a series of moral judgements, and I’ve made mine. Ghandi, I’m not.