Thursday, August 17, 2006

The manly art of hunting
If true, this is completely contemptible.
Troy Lee Gentry, half of the country music duo Montgomery Gentry, has been charged with killing a tame bear and then making it look as if it was a hunting trophy, authorities said on Wednesday.


According to an indictment unsealed this week, in October 2004 Gentry paid $4,650 to shoot the "trophy-caliber" bear named "Cubby" at the Minnesota Wildlife Connection in northern Minnesota, which advertises itself as a place where animals can be photographed in the wild.

After using a bow and arrow to kill the animal inside its pen, Gentry and the owner of the preserve tagged the bear and registered it with the state as if it had been killed in the wild. A videotape was edited to make it appear that Gentry had hunted down the bear.

Gentry's lawyers are using the classical defense for people caught doing unethical things, "My client did nothing illegal." This is complete misdirection and changing of the subject. The crime that Gentry is accused of is a technical one dealing with how he tagged and reported the kill; I have no opinion on the legal question. The way in which he killed the bear is not against the law and I have strong opinions about that. He bought a tame bear from a photographer and staged a fake hunt in a fenced area just to get a trophy and a home movie. That is cowardly and unsportsmanlike.

I explained my opinions on hunting last winter when Cheney was shooting major contributors to the Republican Party.
I've spent my entire life in the Northwest among hunting people. Most of my male relatives hunted and many of my friends do. Though I don't hunt myself, I did learn safe gun handling at a very early age. My father was a cowboy and was very serious about such things. Every so often one of my friends takes me out target shooting, just to make sure I remember which end of the gun to point away from myself (despite their best efforts, I remain a terrible shot. I blame my vision; they blame my attention span). Consequently, I'm not especially impressed with the tales of Cheney's "hunting trips."

Every hunter I know hunts for food or as an excuse to spend a day in the woods. A large percentage of the meat I ate growing up was game: deer, elk, moose, caribou, and, once, bear. With that background, I find trophy hunting a little creepy, and what Cheney does, not hunting at all. As
the Humane Society noted after a 2003 "hunting" trip of Cheney's:
Monday's hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that 500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney's 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon.

"This wasn't a hunting ground. It was an open-air abattoir, and the vice president should be ashamed to have patronized this operation and then slaughtered so many animals," states Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States.

This is not hunting. It's not really sport unless you call it something like "organic skeet shooting." It's blood sport. Cheney killed "70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks" in one afternoon. There's no way he was planning to eat all of those birds. The object is simply to rack up an impressive kill score. Real hunting involves--well--hunting for things, actually walking around and looking for game, not loitering around the buffet, making small talk, and waiting for the help to hold something in front of your gun so you can shoot it.

This kind of mass game killing was popular among Europe's royals before the First World War. It forms a fairly convincing data point for any argument comparing the current United States to a decadent imperial power. The Bushes are our Habsburgs and the Cheneys are our Bathorys.

Shooting domesticated, captive animals is a vile blood sport. It is not real hunting. It is cowardly, unsportsmanlike, and should be illegal. Whether or not he did anything illegal, if Gentry really killed the bear under the circumstances described, he a completely contemptible excuse for a human being and does not deserve anyone's support. Some country music fans are justly outraged by this. I'll be interested to see how Gentry's post scandal career compares to the Dixie Chicks'.

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