Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
“There will be times when the first shot is not instantly fatal,” Posewitz continues. A brain shot that kills instantly is rare in gun hunting and virtually nonexistent in bowhunting. Most hunters of large mammals don’t aim for the head, but the heart-lung area. Unconsciousness and death are rapid (but not immediate) only if a gunshot or arrow ruptures the heart or aorta.
According to bowhunter Stewart Edward White, an arrow that strikes a nonhuman animal anywhere, including the belly, causes “prompt death.” After a shot to the heart-lung area, bowhunters generally wait at least half an hour before tracking, to allow time for the wounded animal to die from blood loss. After a belly shot they wait eight to twelve hours. Animals who escape with lesser arrow wounds commonly die, over days or weeks, from painful bacterial infection. The Californian Department of Fish and Game has denied that arrow wounding is “inhumane.”
At least half of the elks and white-tailed deer shot with arrows go unretrieved, studies indicate. Bowhunter Clare Conley saw a bowhunting companion shoot a doe through the neck. After waiting an hour, the hunters began to follow her trail. Pools of blood marked places where she had collapsed before stumbling on. “At last we found her,” Conley relates. “She was dying, She was on her knees and hocks. Her ears . . . were sagging. Her head was down, Her nose was in her blood.” From 15 feet (4.6m) away, the Class A archer who had wounded aimed at her head, and missed. “Somehow the doe lurched up. Stumbling, bounding, crashing blindly into the brush,” she disappeared. The hunters never found her. Bowhunter Glenn Helgeland dismisses bowhunting’s “supposed inefficiencies and cruelties.”
To Helgeland the belief that an arrow causes pain is “baloney, mostly.” Another bowhunter has described the pain that an arrow inflicts as “slight” about the same as a clap on the shoulder.” Really? When Conley shot a rabbit through the chest, she screamed, stumbled, and jumped until Conley stomped her to death.
A bullet to the heart-lung area “feels like a bee sting,” a deer hunter contends. As humans can attest, having ribs broken or the chest wall penetrated is excruciating. An animal gun-shot in the lungs suffers intense pain and suffocates when the lungs collapse or fill with blood.
An animal shot anywhere other than the brain, heart or a major blood vessel endures prolonged suffering, especially if left wounded (as are an estimated one-fifth of white-tailed deer hit with shotgun slugs). One hunter recalls a young buck shot in the spine. Bleating loudly, the buck dragged himself through the snow by his forelegs. One of his hind legs dangled by a tendon. A hunting proponent denies “the ‘cruelty’ involved in hunting deer.”
A belly shot causes extreme pain. Gut-shot mule deer and prong-horn antelopes have dragged their stomach and intestines along the ground. His abdomen shot open, a desert bighorn ram attempted to jump a cactus. The spines caught his exposed stomach and yanked it out. When a white-tailed buck was shot in the stomach by bowhunter Ted Nugent, his entrails fell out. But, say Nugent and Helgeland, gut-shot nonhumans only “feel sick.”
Shot, up close, by a “game ranch” bowhunter, a tame Corsican ram jumped when the first arrow pierced his rump. A second struck his back; a third one of his rear legs. The ram started to limp away, but two more arrows hit him in the rump, knocking him down. The ram managed to rise. Dripping blood, he ran to a wire fence that prevented escape. With arrows sticking out of him, he stood shaking, gazing beyond the fence. A sixth arrow pierced his belly. Still he stood, shaking and looking out. Then he collapsed. He kept thrashing, trying to stand. Finally the bowhunter borrowed a rifle and shot the ram from 4 feet (1.2 m) away. Five minutes more the ram thrashed. He was still alive when the shooter began to yank the arrows from his body. At last, with a long, slow exhalation, he died. White calls bowhunting, even by beginners, “humane.”
Bird hunter Vance Bourjaily, too, contends that “hunting is humane.” Along with the pain of being shot, many wounded birds suffer slow death by starvation or gangrene. Studies indicate that more than one-forth of mourning doves and bobwhite quails shot by hunters go unretrieved, and more than one third of ducks.
Before a British-style foxhunt, hunters block fox holes and other burrows to increase the chances that a hunted fox will run to exhaustion. Pursued by about 35 hounds, the fox initially runs fastest; but, bred for stamina, the hounds gain as the fox weakens. The chase may last for more than two hours. By the end, some foxes can only drag themselves. According to the U.K.’s Countryside Alliance, in hunts “all foxes are either humanely dispatched or escape without injury.” A fox caught by hounds is ripped apart. As inadvertently witnessed by a horrified woman in 1998, a fox running from hounds was “covered in blood,” a huge gaping hole” in her side. Caught once more, the fox screamed as she was “torn apart.” A fox who flees into a burrow is dug out and either shot or tossed alive to the hounds. Or, still inside, the fox is attacked by terriers sent below; the underground fight, in which the terriers too may be badly wounded or killed, usually ends with the foxes death. In 1999 a fox overtaken by hounds was bitten on his neck and rump before he escaped down a rabbit hole. Hunting opponents rescued the fox, whom they named Copper, and took him to a veterinarian. Without treatment Copper would have died from shock, the veterinarian reported. Each year in the U.K. thousands of red foxes die in foxhunts; numerous others may escape only to die from wounds or shock. Red foxes live in stable, loving family groups; the death of one red fox strongly affects others. Summer-autumn foxhunting targets cubs several months old. Spring foxhunting frequently kills one or both parents of nursing cubs. Normally the father brings the mother food. If he is killed, she and the cubs are less likely to survive. If the mother is killed, the cubs starve. Supporters call foxhunting “humane.”
Coupling HUMANE with any sport hunting – any chasing, wounding, or killing for fun – empties HUMANE of meaning.
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