C.A.S.H. thanks Louise M. for sending us the article

It’s bad enough that 20 million adult Americans find it great fun to hunt down and kill their fellow creatures of the winged and four-legged variety. But now they’ve intensified their efforts to recruit youngsters to join them in killing for the sport of it.

Thanks to the rise of the animal rights movement, reduction of open space, availability of other leisure activities, environmental awareness, anti-gun sentiment and the increasing cost of hunting equipment, the number of hunters, although still high, has declined steadily. And with that has come a steady decline in the revenue of state fish and game departments, which rely heavily on hunters’ license fees to meet operating costs.

Thus most states have been holding “junior hunts” and otherwise encouraging children in their teens, or even younger, to join their fathers in stalking other animals. Manufacturers of guns and other hunting equipment have enthusiastically added their support.

The results have not been pretty. Consider the experience of a hunter helping his 14 year old son make his first kill in last November’s Junior Deer hunt in Maryland, as described by Washington Post reporter Nelson Hernandez:

“A year-old spiked buck strolled out of the woods…paced around nonchalantly, oblivious to the gun trained on him from 120 yards away….A deafening shotgun blast pierced the air. The deer crumpled in its tracks. The son’s face glowed with satisfaction, the father’s with pride.

Although hunting is largely a macho thing, the new recruits include girls, the most notable of them another Marylander, eight-year-old Sierra Stiles. That’s right: eight years old.

Sierra is one of some 10,000 children nationwide with hunting licenses, a 4.5 foot-tall third grader who skipped school to go hunting in October, when she brought down a 211 pound bear from 50 yards with two shotgun blasts to the chest.

“I was scared, because bears will eat anything!” she said. “I was really, really, really happy…The bear won’t eat now…won’t eat a thing.”

Sierra Stiles is not alone. There are plenty of accounts of young hunters who’ve been taught to kill by men describing themselves as “sportsmen”. Listen to this testimony from a hunter recalling his first experience at age 14.

“I could hardly believe it! I was finally going to shoot a pheasant on the wing and see him fall out of the sky. I would be a real hunter…It was the first solo hunt of a young boy who was reaching longingly toward manhood. It was truly a coming of age.”

In a truly civilized society, the money and energy being spent by the government agencies and others to recruit young hunters and otherwise promote hunting would instead be devoted to protecting our fellow animals and expanding and safeguarding their habitats. It’s not just the animals that need protecting. Think of the message that’s being delivered to the young — the message, as animal rights activist Jamie Kemsey notes, “that it’s acceptable to commit an act of violence and take innocent life simply for the fun of it. In these violent times, we cannot afford, under any circumstances to condone such morally bankrupt actions

Dick Meister is a San Francisco columnist. He can be contacted at www.dickmeister.com.


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