Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Turning Kids Against Parents One Ad At A Time

I’ve always been a kind of sensitive guy when it came to the great outdoors, and all of God’s creatures. As a boy it bothered me when my friends would want to roast an ant under a magnifying glass, and I could never fathom the entertainment value of pulling the leg off of a spider even if as my friends claimed “they grow ‘em back”. Life was life to me and in it’s lowest of forms I had a sort of built in morality telling me that needlessly hurting animals is wrong. The tough thing about all of this for me was not standing up to my friends and getting them to stop the carnage, on the contrary, I beat up my friends all the time – an issue that came up at my high school reunion. Nope, the tough thing for me was how in the world they could torture animals and not be driven to guilt.

Perhaps I was a little nutty that way, but even now I like to think that generations of spiders and ants owe their very existence to the great and noble Pursuit. Perhaps somewhere in their little holes they hold great feasts, and parades in my honor imbuing me with a degree of psychic good fortune as a tribute to my good deeds. Or, perhaps not.

Either way, I’ve always felt that animals, because they were not our equals and because they were our responsibility, were owed the respect that the subservient deserve as recognition that their lives, more or less, are spent in our service. I’ve carried this belief through to my adulthood, and as a hunter it has at times caused me a bit of embarrassment.

Ethically, morally or any other way I have absolutely no problem with hunting. Animals exist below us on the tree of life, and as a result of this unfortunate (for them) status they are there for our use. If this use involves the application of heat, spices and vegetables in the creation of a tasty meal, all the better! Yet, because these poor fellas are sacrificing their lives so that we have something to pair with an excellent cabernet, well we at least owe them the dignity of a quick if not completely painless death. So as a hunter, when the dog brings a still living, yet mortally wounded, pheasant back to me I have an ethical obligation to snap its neck just as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This sensitivity, as I said, has led me to a little embarrassment in the past. A few years ago, much against my better judgment, I agreed to go ice fishing with a good buddy of mine. We’ll call him Outdoors Man, to protect his identity. Outdoors Man, or OM to his pals, has spent many a patient time with me as I have great enthusiasm for learning things like fishing and hunting, but little or no experience. So I owe OM a great amount of credit for introducing me to these manly pursuits.

Anyway, OM wanted to go ice fishing when we were away up in Wisconsin one winter with our families. Foolish me, I thought we’d wake up, drive out on the ice, catch some fish and be home for a late breakfast. Not exactly.

Instead, we had to get up at 4:30 in the blessed a.m. to go meet the rest of our party at the Country Kitchen. It was never clear to me why this was important since, not being a “morning person” I was not completely lucid during this critical time of male bonding.

Skillet breakfasts finished we headed off to the Great Bay of Green and started driving out on to the ice. We drove for what must have been a half an hour, after which we found ourselves six miles out in the bay with nothing but an ice cooler, drill and fishing poles.

It was then that we heard the “craaaack”. I did some quick mental calculations and figured that we were suspended on the ice over 75 to 100 feet of water. Craaaack. It happened again. Now there was no question in my mind that the other guys had heard these ominous sounds but were doing nothing at all about them so I was presented with the option of sounding the alarm and possibly saving all of our lives, or remaining utterly silent in an attempt to maintain my cool as I prepared for what was undoubtedly my imminent doom. I choose cool.


Ah ha! A development which, of course, lessened the value of cool in my mind considerably. “Um guys what was that”, I said finally deciding that life was in fact worth living. “That? Oh, ha heh, that huh? Oh yeah, she’s makin ice, it’s gonna be a good day”, said one of the more experienced locals in a Fargoesque accent. Apparently, our friendly local explained, the Great Bay of Green continues to freeze throughout the winter and as ice is added to the pack, it squeezes the other ice up and towards shore, causing the groaning, cracking sounds that we heard. I found this explanation less than comforting.

But this wasn’t the source of embarrassment that I was talking about. Nope, my embarrassment that day happened as we began to pull the fish out of the water. The lake perch were running, and soon we had 10 to 15 coming in on our lines. A good day, as our friend had predicted. When we took the fish off the lines I looked around and there was nothing to put them in. “Just throw them on the ice, they freeze up real good” I was told. On the ice? What was this? More needless torturing? Can’t we put them in a bucket or something I asked, you know, so they don’t have to suffer?

This got the biggest laugh of the day. “Suffer, you don’t want the fishy to suffer?” they laughed and laughed at that one. Finally, Outdoors Man explained the underlying logic which had escaped me that day, “it’s a fucking fish man, don’t worry about it”.

Well with no available alternative, I decided that I had no choice. So I dropped the fish with the others and tried to ignore the fact that they were slowly freezing to death and suffocating as well. It may have been a fucking fish, but it deserved better.

So I’m the kind of guy that might actually be open to the above linked PETA campaign, “Fishing Hurts”. The kind of guy that might be open to it that is, if the PETA people weren’t such lunatics. After all they really are only fucking fish and while that doesn’t mean that we can abuse these creatures in anyway that we’d like, it also doesn’t logically follow that we shouldn’t turn these little beasts into a tasty dinner either. And I have some news for the folks at PETA, turning things into tasty dinners is going to involve some unpleasantness for the future tasty dinner.

This is the problem with these people. They take one marginally good idea and then blow it so out of proportion that they go from trying to preserve a little dignity for the animal kingdom to telling children that their daddy’s a killer in seconds flat. This utter lack of proportional response to a completely ethical and moral pursuit removes any credibility to the PETA cause what-so-ever.

As my kids would say, “Fishing hurts? Duh”

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