Taking the life of elephants for sport is a travesty. A person feeling inner satisfaction at the death of any creature they have just destroyed warrants some kind of intervention. Smiling broadly for the camera as the person stands over the body of an elephant or tiger or lion or family of chimpanzees or deer or caribou or giraffe or any other wild creature on this earth is another travesty, one that lies at the core of our humanity.
So why do some people do it? What darkness lies there?
Better question — why do so many of us praise them for their courage?
Because there is no courage shown when the animal is attacked from the safety of a blind as the creature innocently moves through its familiar territory. There is no courage shown when the trophy hunter/sports hunter stands waiting for the animal to emerge from a safe place, harried into the open by those hired to shout and scare it— so the hunter can then shoot it from a safe distance with a big, high-powered gun. Or from the safety of an SUV. Or from a low-flying airplane.
Trophy hunters have described the rush they feel at their success. Deer hunters often say the same thing. I listened to a child of eleven tell me he felt excited when he killed his first deer from a blind.
It is a curious rush, a curious need that is only fulfilled by extinguishing an innocent animal’s life.
Because the animals are innocent. They do not use reason or pride or ego or entitlement to defend their behavior. By instinct they hunt the prey they were designed to hunt, and always for food they require to live. In this they live out God’s extraordinary design for life on earth.
It could be said, however, we are all suspect in this desire to kill the animals, for in those countries where meat is consumed there are slaughterhouses and factory farms where animals are killed every year to feed us. We give that killing job to those willing to do it, but we also are willing to have it done so we can satisfy our carnivorous desires.
The violence of the trophy hunter/sports hunter is an evocation of our dark side, for they happily kill creatures for no reason but the rush it brings to them, to their need for that power. In this way, they serve as the shadow of our own dark complicity, for we allow the killing of the billions of animals we raise for food, creatures who have no place to run. In the United States alone, 25 million animals a day are slaughtered for food. And we abrogate our responsibility for this every time we buy meat or poultry or fish for our table.
Our physical selves do not actually need to eat meat of any kind to survive. Whole countries on this earth are already exclusively vegetarian, including a billion people in India.
We must ask, again, why do we find it okay to cause grave injury to the creatures of this earth, whether for food or for trophies? For it is wrong. We are not hunter-gatherers from 30 thousand years ago. We have alternatives. Yes, we can choose another way.
I’m not a vegetarian, yet. But I wonder now every single day why not. For I, too, help push forward the dark agenda of death to innocent creatures in my desire — my desire, not need — to eat poultry and fish. It is getting harder and harder to live with that, and with the knowledge that as long as I do, I, too, am complicit, and allowing some measure of the dark side to co-exist within me, even if I pretend it does not.
We humans have been killing one another for a long time, yielding to that violence over and over. Maybe if we had reverence for this earth and compassion for the animals, we would begin to have both for each other.
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
~ St. Francis of Assisi