Hunting for Reflection: Another Talk in Texas

Culture is everything. I gave a talk today at the University of Texas. Students at UT-Austin are as smart as students anywhere. After I presented my ideas about the myriad problems with animal agriculture, venturing into the issue of animal rights, students seemed to be generally receptive to my message. Then came the inevitable question: what about hunting?

Ah, hunting. Texans don’t just hunt, they hunt. It’s life not only for middle class insurance agents in Huntsville, but for high SAT scoring college students in Austin. One student appealed to the Bible’s insistence that humans have “dominion” over animals and thus could shoot them at will. Another made a case for conservation and deer control. Yet another argued that hunting starving animals wracked by drought put them out of misery. When I responded that humans have a duty to minimize the purposeful infliction of harm, one young man rolled his eyes.

I say these students are intelligent, and they are. But intelligence does not mean reflective. One student, whom I know, stated that he ate animals because, well, they were animals and he was human. Really? He ate them because it made him happy. I asked him if he’d eat his dog and he looked horrified and said, “no.”

When I left UT I hopped on my bike and rode to Casa de Luz, Austin’s vegan haven, and had a wonderful lunch of lentils, sweet potatoes, kale, and brown rice.  On my way down to Casa I rode along Lake Lady Bird (pictured above), where I watched dozens of people, young and old, many of them probably hunters,play with their dogs. All the while I was thinking how, for so many of us, the dots are in place.

Culture, though, makes it very hard to connect them.

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About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

3 Responses to Hunting for Reflection: Another Talk in Texas

  1. CQ says:

    Italicizing the verb “HUNT” in Texas is entirely accurate.

    It saddens me to see young boys and their dads in the upper class neighborhood near my house carrying their gun cases to the family SUV on a Friday evening during deer-hunting season. Recently a friend whose children have wealthy classmates told me that her 11-year-old son was itching to go hunting because his friends talked about it so much. His father had grown up hunting but had laid aside his gun to appease his wife. I’m not sure my friend will win this battle.

    Texans can buy specialty license plates with an image of a deer and the words “HUNT TEXAS” on it. I cringe when I see that plate around town.

    I naively believed the “starving deer” argument ’til one day I Googled “Texas deer farms.” This link came up: http://www.deerfarms.com/tx.shtml

    If you run into any of those UT students who argue for conservation and control and against starvation, James, ask for their emails and send them this six-year-old-but-still-relevant link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6433992

    Reflection? When have you heard of parents emphasizing that quality when they raise their children? When have teachers suggested their students take time to reflect upon rather than just research a subject? When have priests or pastors or rabbis or imams instilled in their young or not-so-young congregants the idea that prayer is for reflection, not petitions?

    This essay offers a few insights on reflection time for children: http://fno.org/apr2000/reflection.html

  2. Provoked says:

    I realized how ingrained this thing of hunting (or rather shooting at) animals was a few months ago when I glanced at the game room in the lobby of a family-value-loving Walmart. Not one or 2 but 3 shoot-them-critters-up games geared to boys of all ages.

    It’s not my place to say but between us… Their parents really ought to pay closer attention at what “thrills” their kids are throwing coins at – It will eventually shape what men they will (or won’t) turn out to be. :/

  3. One of the weirdest disconnects I see, here in Washington State(Pacific Northwest), is this: People who love to feed the deer that come to their homes-saying they are so sweet-so cute-so lovable, etc. Then, that very weekend, they tromp off into the woods and shoot a deer! I see this so often and it boggles my mind-every-single-time.

    What kind of disconnect exists with people who have that type of mindset? It would be like petting your dog one day and then shooting the neighbor dog the next. And these are people with plenty of money-they are not killing animals because they can’t afford food-far from it.

    Sometimes I feel like there is a hidden button on these types of people, and if we could only find it, we could reboot them into compassion.

    I dream of a vegan world.

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