June 3, 2007

Fred the pig

Posted in animal advocacy, hunting, veganism at 3:56 am by nevavegan

There was a story on the news recently about a young boy named Jamison Stone who shot and killed a half ton hog. What we learned later was that this was a canned hunt, and Fred the hog (yes, he had a name) had been raised like a pet. He loved and trusted people and didn’t understand that they could turn on him. He was later sold to a “game reserve” where people pay to hunt tame animals so they can get easy trophies.

The boy who shot Fred shot him several times over the course of three hours, while chasing the wounded hog through underbrush in the fenced enclosure from which Fred could not escape. Fred died a slow, agonizing death, becoming weaker, bleeding, trying desperately to stay alive as he was shot over and over.

To most people this should be heartbreaking.

My father is a hunter and has hunted my entire life. He also dislikes hunts that strike him as unfair. He’s about “sportsmanship.” While I was growing up he confronted other hunters that broke laws to make hunting easier, such as putting out salt licks to attract deer and then shooting them when they come to get the salt. He also argued against “spotlighting” where men would drive trucks at night to places where the deer congregated, sources of water usually. Then they would turn their headlights on suddenly. The deer would be stunned by the bright light and freeze in place, so they could be shot before they even tried to run.

In truth, all hunting is unfair of course, because humans use guns. If you want to be fair, try to chase down a cow and then bite her to death with your own teeth, or claw her with your fingernails. Because that’s natural, right? But that’s a whole different issue.

I haven’t had a chance to talk to my Dad about Fred, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like it. He would say it’s wrong to teach an animal to trust and love humans, only to chase him on a harrowing hunt, as he slowly bleeds to death. That kind of thing is just wrong.

But anyone who feels uncomfortable at the thought of Fred’s death should know this. Even with a slow painful, three-hour death, he had it better than nearly every other pig out there. The ham on a sandwich came not from a canned hunt, it came from a pig who was born into confinement and misery and lived in misery his entire life, start to finish. Then he rode on a truck, crammed to the point of injury with other pigs to a terrifying slaughter house, where his slaughter was not gentle or humane, but likely painful and bloody. Pigs have incredibly sensitive noses, noses that let them seek out delicate truffles growing underground, a scent the human nose cannot detect. So I imagine they can smell the overwhelming stench of death as the truck pulls up to the slaughterhouse, and they’re forced with electric prods to walk to their own deaths.

Can killing another for our own purposes ever be fair? Can it ever be humane? Whether that purpose is the “thrill of the hunt” or because we like some bacon in the morning?

Fred’s death is the perfect opportunity to go back to the core of the issue. So long as we own living creatures and treat them as objects for our own purposes, we are not any different from the boy who shot Fred, or his father who brought him to the canned hunt, or his relatives who watched Fred’s agony and did nothing. As long as animals are simply means to our own ends, then any cruelty we heap on them will be tolerated. Because we cannot both objectify and protect. We cannot both use and respect. We cannot both kill and be kind at the same time.