John Muir Betrayed


Some members of C.A.S.H. have asked about a few large environmental organizations. This newsletter is dedicated to articles regarding several.

Whom when I asked from what place he came,
And how he might, himself he did eclipse,
The Shepherd of the Ocean by Name,
And said he came far from the main-sea deep.
– Edmund Spenser
A.C.E. 1590

Captain Paul Watson’s letter of resignation from the National Board of the Sierra Club has been freely distributed within the animal rights community and beyond.

C.A.S.H. asked Captain Watson to write something specifically for the C.A.S.H. Courier and he was kind enough to write the following:

On April 21st, 2006 on John Muir’s 168th birthday, I resigned as a National Director of the Sierra Club in protest of the Club’s sponsoring of a contest entitled, “Why I like to Hunt.” The contest offered a hunting trip to Alaska as the first prize.

This is now the 21st Century, yet the Sierra Club is encouraging behavior today that John Muir condemned in the 19th Century. They are doing that by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on hunter outreach programs.

Throughout his life, John Muir supported rights for wildlife. You can read his philosophy in the pages of A Thousand Mile Walk, Mountains of California, or The Cruise of the Corwin. His other writings also include passages that defend wildlife and condemn the overlordship of men over beast.

It was this philosophy that brought me to the Sierra Club in 1968 and it was why I became a member. I joined an organization with a legacy and a tradition of respect for wildlife and nature, an organization that appealed to hikers, bird-watchers, naturalists and climbers, not those who profess to love nature with a gun.

I joined the Sierra Club of John Muir, David Brower and Ansel Adams, not the modern day aberration of Carl Pope.

In 1867, two years after the close of the Civil War, John Muir walked from Indiana to Florida in order to observe both flora and fauna. Arriving in Florida, he was shocked by the totally callous regard of people for alligators: “Many good people believe that alligators were created by the Devil, thus accounting for their all-consuming appetite and ugliness. But doubtless these creatures are happy and fill the place assigned them by the great Creator of us all. Fierce and cruel they appear to us, but beautiful in the eyes of god. They, also, are his children, for He hears their cries, cares for them tenderly, and provides their daily bread.”

Muir suggested that all creatures are brothers and equal in the eyes of their creator. Several pages later in A Thousand Mile Walk, Muir expresses his views on man’s domination over the animal world even more strongly:

“Let a Christian hunter go to the Lord’s woods and kill his well-kept beasts, or wild Indians, and it is well; but let an enterprising specimen of these proper, predestined victims go to houses and fields and kill the most worthless person of the vertical godlike killers, —oh! that is horribly unorthodox, and on the part of the Indians, atrocious murder!

Well, I have precious little sympathy for the selfish propriety of civilized man, and if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord Man, I would be tempted to sympathize with the bears.”

In the latter part of the 1800s, Muir wrote: “Now, it never seems to occur to these far-seeing teachers that Nature’s object in making animals and plants might possibly be first of all the happiness of each one of them, not the creation of all for the happiness of one. Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?

And what creature of all that the Lord has taken the pains to make is not essential to the completeness of that unit – the cosmos?

The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge.”

John Muir defended rights for animals. He believed that not only did wildlife have an equal right to live with humans on this planet but that it had a great deal to teach us if we would only attempt to open up channels of communication.

What is amazing is that Muir lived at a time when there were far fewer people and many more animals and much more wilderness, yet he had the vision to see the consequences of human arrogance. He was advocating rights for animals and for wilderness a century before these ideas evolved into a movement.

Muir recalled a time when he encountered sheep hunters during a hike up Mount Shasta where he observed a kill:

He wrote: “We went up to the ewe, She was still breathing, but helpless. Her eye was remarkably mild and gentle, and called out sympathy as if she were human. Poor woman-sheep!”

He also wrote: Hunters slaughter wildlife without any thought of the interdependence of all life. On board the Corwin, white hunters approached three polar bears valiantly trying to make an escape over the ice-floes:

“The first one overtaken was killed instantly at the second shot, which passed through the brain. The other two were fired at by five fun, fur, and fame seekers, with heavy breech-loading rifles, about forty times ere they were killed. From four to six bullets passed through their necks and shoulders before the last through the brain put an end to their agony… It was prolonged, bloody agony, as clumsily and heartlessly inflicted as it could well be, except in the case of the first, which never knew what hurt him.”

Shortly afterwards the bodies were hoisted aboard the ship and skinned to be taken home “to show angelic sweethearts the evidence of pluck and daring.”

Similar procedures were carried out with walruses by the great white hunters from San Francisco: “These magnificent animals,” Muir writes in the Cruise of the Corwin ” are killed often times for their tusks alone, like buffaloes for their tongues, ostriches for their feathers, or for mere sport and exercise. In nothing does man, with his grand notions of heaven and charity, show forth his innate, low-bred, wild animalism more clearly than in his treatment of his brother beasts. From the shepherd with his lambs to the red handed hunter, it is the same; no recognition of rights – only murder in one form or another.”

This voyage to the Arctic in 1881 taught Muir much about his fellow man.

Muir’s meetings with Theodore Roosevelt led to the creation of the National Parks in the United States, but this did not prevent Muir from engaging in lively debates with Roosevelt over the ethics of hunting, even calling Roosevelt’s love of trophy hunting “childish.”

Muir openly referred to hunting as the “murder business.”

Yet the Sierra Club founded by John Muir today features pictures of smiling Sierra Club staff posing with their recently slaughtered trophy animals.

I think it is incredibly disrespectful for Carl Pope and the staff of the Sierra Club to use the web pages of the Club as a gloat and boast statement for their conquests over wildlife. Are these people so emotionally inadequate or immature that they need to flaunt their perversion to the entire Sierra Club membership? Do we really need to see them posing with big smiles with freshly slaughtered animals? What purpose does this page serve other than as a perverse vanity page? Is the object to recruit hunters and turn off animal lovers?

And to actually host a contest to promote hunting with an all expense lethal kill thrill in Alaska as a prize, this is akin to spitting on John Muir’s grave.

The Sierra Club was founded by John Muir to respect wilderness and to honor nature. It is amazingly hypocritical for the Sierra Club to be posting this pro-slaughter blasphemy on the same website where the words of John Muir proclaim that hunting is the “murder business.” It shows their antipathy for the sentiment and will of the noble founder.


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561