There’s life, and then there’s life

Oh, boy, the animal lovers are out again, and that always spells trouble. Check this letter on the Monday page:

Hunting suggests Palin is not pro-life
    The photo in your Monday issue of Sarah Palin and her daughter posing proudly with the caribou that Palin has just shot to death is graphic proof that Palin is not, as she claims and as she is often labeled, “pro-life.” “Anti-abortion” or “pro-human-fetus” maybe, but certainly not “pro-life.”


No, hunting is not proof that anyone is not "pro-life," in the sense that word is used in American politics — not unless the person in question is hunting humans.

A caribou is not the moral equivalent of a human being. The difference isn’t even quantitative; it’s qualitative.

Now if Sarah Palin favors capital punishment — and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she does — THAT would indicate a failure to be pro-life.

Do ya see the difference? Are ya following me here?

This is not to defend hunting, by the way. I’ve never been able to square it in my mind. Killing an animal to avoid starvation, fine. But for sport, no. That, however, is a qualitatively different thing from killing humans.

We have here a hierarchy of moral considerations:

  1. The lightest consideration is that if you want to say one shouldn’t hunt from helicopters, fine — it’s not sporting.
  2. At a higher moral level, one should not hunt for sport alone anyway.
  3. On the highest, a caribou still does not have the moral claim on us that a human does. Not the same at all.

23 thoughts on “There’s life, and then there’s life

  1. Lee Muller

    There is no doubt that radical supporters of abortion, especially late-term abortion, and letting live-born infants die ( like Barack Obama does ), definitely are not “pro-life”.
    A really good book on ethics and hunting is, IN DEFENSE OF HUNTING, by James Swann, PhD, the first person to earn a degree in Environmental Science. He also holds a PhD in Clinical Psycology and was a tenured professor at U Cal Berkeley.
    His psycological profile of the average “environemntalist” is especially interesting.

  2. James D McCallister

    I’m very much against sport hunting, especially the Dick Cheney richboy version (did that whole story remind anyone else of the Monty Python “Upper Class Twit Competition” sketch?)
    If I were starving, even as a vegetarian I probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill and eat an animal. Right now, I don’t have to, and so I don’t.
    Looking at the impact of factory farming, I think it’s quantifiable that the world would be a better place environmentally (and probably karmically) if fewer people ate meat.

  3. bud

    Talk about your oxymorons. Palin kills animals for sport. She opposses Bush on putting polar bears on the endangered species list and pushes to allow hunting wolves from helicopters. Then she claims to be “pro-life”. The anti-choice folks really need to come up with a different term. This one obviously doesn’t fit.

  4. Herb Brasher

    To me, this shows two things:
    1) How far we have come as a post-Christian culture, in which evidently New-age, and perhaps even Buddhist-Hindu thinking is gradually taking over. Under monism, all life is equally valuable, and some forms of vegetarianism (not all) have their roots in New Age. Under a Judaeo-Christian ethic, it is not, and there is even a place for capital punishment (when consistently carried out, which is hard, if not impossible, to do), and to still remain “pro-life” under the latter. Brad is obviously arguing from a “common-sense” position, but I wonder how long common sense will hold a consensus.
    2)That the “pro-choice” position (which is not “pro-choice” for half of the people involved, so not very pro-choice) is throwing up a smoke-screen in order cover it’s own inconsistency. Barak Obama is the one who does not want to face up to his position on infanticide at the state level in Illinois. He needs to do so, or he should have no credibility. I do not believe that I am a racist on this coming election, as some have implied. I would like many other policies that he might stand for. But I cannot vote for a man who would espouse such pro-choice positions, and what is worse, he will bring in people who think the same way he does. This flagrant disregard for human life (not that some of the current policies of the current administration are not problematic as well, in this regard, but they are certainly more defensable in terms of national security) cannot be ignored.
    Even many Catholics are being inconsistent on this point. For many of them, it seems that it is being extreme to to agree with the Vatican, even though a good Catholic is supposed to agree with the Vatican. Well, obviously many don’t but it would seem that the Vatican is being consistent by denying communion is such cases, but then I’m not a Catholic.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Only, as I said, if you think animal life and human life to be morally equivalent.

    As I also said, call shooting wolves from aircraft unsporting if you will. But it doesn’t negate being "pro-life."

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most people who shoot wolves from aircraft out West do so NOT because they’re sporthunters, but because they’re trying to get rid of the wolves? Seems like I remember reading something like that in recent years. Sort of the difference between hunting and eradication. This Slate piece seems to suggest what I’m thinking of

  6. george32

    has swan published a new edition yet where he actually cites medical research instead of anecdotal hearsay and radio hosts for the supposed health problems of vegetarians-lost toenails and the like? in discussing the common interests of environmentalists and hunters in habitat preservation, species protection and anti-poaching enforcements he makes some good points though hunting from helicopters hardly seems a way to establish an ancestral connection. if someone wants to hunt wolves like our ancestors on their terrain without modern weapons and conveniences that might establish a connection. otherwise it is like saying glen mcconnell and the boys who like to dress up in costumes and play war a few weekends a year are establishing a connection with our separatist ancestors. that’s as real as disney’s protrayals of animals.

  7. bud

    The term “pro-life” as it relates to abortion is a misnomer, an oxymoron, a contradiction. What “pro-life” should mean is an overall respect for the sanctity of life in general and human life in particular. I have no problem with granting human life a higher moral standing than animal life. But animal life is still life afterall. Someone who gets satisfaction from the slaughter of animals is hardly living up to the term “pro-life”. The term “pro-life” should only apply to people that not only oppose abortion under all circumstance INCLUDING rape and incest but oppose the death penalty, pre-emptive war and, yes, killing animals for sport.

  8. p.m.

    Yes, the Democrats who live in a state riven with sport hunting are “very much against sport hunting” when it’s a Republican candidate doing it 12 states away, but right here in their own back yard, they never say a word about it, and they’re not vegetarians, either.
    Save your hypocritical breath.

  9. James D McCallister

    Ah but I did just “say” a word about it.
    And I am a vegetarian. Better look up hypocritical, ace. Try

  10. HP

    Re: “I cannot vote for a man who would espouse such pro-choice positions, and what is worse, he will bring in people who think the same way he does. This flagrant disregard for human life….cannot be ignored.”
    It *cannot* be ignored. Or understood.
    Because it is i-n-s-a-n-i-t-y.
    We now have that same old choice between the lesser of two evils this November…and murderers on both tickets.

  11. slugger

    Just to add a little fuel to the fire. When you hunt edible game in Alaska you have to eat what you kill or field dress the animal and take it to someone that is going to eat the meat. You cannot under any circumstances leave it in the field without a stiff fine and/or jail time.

  12. bud

    How about torture? Is that a “pro life” position? Here is an excerpt from an article showing McCain’s recent shocking flip-flop on this very important issue.
    2002 On February 7, President George W. Bush signs a directive purporting to authorize torture.
    2005 John McCain champions the McCain Detainee Amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill for 2005, which passes the Congress and is signed into law by Bush, adding one more redundant ban on torture to existing U.S. law, despite Vice President Cheney having lobbied hard against it. But McCain allows a major loophole for the CIA and then keeps quiet when Bush throws out the whole thing with a “signing statement.” Bush and Cheney’s administration continues to torture.
    2006 Time Magazine recognizes McCain’s efforts to supposedly ban torture in naming him one of America’s 10 Best Senators. Time makes no mention of the fact that torture had always been illegal, the fact that Bush had thrown out the new law with a “signing statement,” or the fact that the United States was continuing to torture people on a large scale.
    2006 McCain votes in favor of the Military Commissions Act which supposedly leaves torture decisions up to the president.
    2008 In February, McCain votes against a bill that would supposedly ban torture, and then applauds Bush for vetoing the bill.
    2008 McCain runs for president, and almost nobody mentions his positions on torture, not even his fiercest critics. It is as if the most repulsive moral collapse in U.S. political history has never happened. And yet McCain and his campaign rarely open their mouths without taking us back to 1968 when McCain was tortured. McCain critics even make lists and videos of his “flip-flops” and never mention the most frightening reversal of position imaginable. Are they scared to do so? Are they not really serious about keeping this tortured torturer out of the White House?

  13. slugger

    Let me tell you one thing about torture. If I were a soldier or even the FBI, CIA or whatever. If I knew that the captured individual had information that would save many US lives, I would torture him until he either kicked the bucket or gave us the information necessary to prevent the murder of fellow americans. The body would never be found.

  14. p.m.

    But, for the life of me, I can’t see the logic in Mr. Warthen’s statement above:
    “Now if Sarah Palin favors capital punishment — and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she does — THAT would indicate a failure to be pro-life.”
    Capital punishment is reserved for killers. How is that not pro-life? Preventing a killer from killing again seems pro-life to me.
    And what could possibly equate a convicted murderer to an unborn child in Mr. Warthen’s mind?

  15. bud

    Slugger, your hypothetical is not relevant. Torture is not a particularly useful way to obtain information. Most people would torture someone to find the whereabouts of a nuclear bomb but that’s not what this is about. McCain was tortured in the Hanoi Hilton by people who felt just as strongly about their position as our military people do in theirs. McCain’s captors tortured him to try and learn information about American bombers so they could save Vietnamese lives from being napalmed. What is the difference? Sounds like you’re ok with what the North Vietnamese did to John McCain.

  16. slugger

    You are a twist and turn artist. There are people in the military and certain other occupations that have to commit themselves to secrecy when given certain classified information. It is no differnt as a US citizen as citizens of other countries. It goes with the territory that if you are captured, you will probably die or give the enemy the information that they require.
    What happened to John McCain is something that we would never hope to happen to any of our men or women with information required by the enemy. The measure of the man is if he has the information that will help history destroy an enemy and does not give up the information during torture.
    That is a two edged sword. McCain is a military hero. Obama is a Manchurian Candidate that has yet to be discovered.

  17. Anonymous. Very.

    If only I could draw…
    I have a whole new series in mind that involves this photo:
    and this new SC open season on gators…
    Could Robert use a muse? A paid muse? My series of cartoons involves certain public figures, a hunt to raise money for breast cancer awareness [read: pink tags on the humans], an alligator counting the money, a little siphoning of the proceeds for hot sauce and a little more siphoning for swashbuckling beverages.
    Oh! I promise it would be swell, Wally — and you’re sure to get a few heated shouts from its publication………………

  18. Mike Cakora

    Ah, the culture wars are ruining our language.
    Folks favoring abortion didn’t like being called “pro-abortion” so around 1975 they coined the word “pro-choice.” It simply means “favoring a right to abortion.”
    A bit later the anti-abortionists decided to upgrade their image by creating the phrase “pro-life.” It simply means “opposed to abortion.”
    Using the original meaning, there’s nothing in “pro-life” that’s inconsistent with supporting capital punishment or self-defense. If one wants to argue from ignorance that there is, then the response is that a duly-constituted judge and jury can levy such punishment for a conviction of a capital offence, so if you want to treat abortion in that fashion…
    Brad’s point on eradication is pertinent: the wolves are killing game that the locals rely on for nourishment. The local folks hunting caribou and moose are not sport hunters, but rather subsistence hunters who eat what they kill.

  19. Mike Cakora

    Humans need a balanced diet and a steady source of vitamin B12. B12 is found primarily in animal products such as meat fish and milk. It’s also available by injection for those on restrictive vegetarian diets.
    What’s the impact of low B12 levels on vegans and vegetarians? It shrinks their brains.

    Those with higher levels of B12 were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage than those who had lower levels of the vitamin.

    This seems to explain a lot of behavior, no?
    I’ve also heard that “vegetarian” is an old Indian word for “poor hunter.”

  20. Lee Muller

    Alaska has been shooting wolves from airplances to control their overpopulation since way back in the 1950s. Go look at some Outdoor Life or Field and Stream magazines from the mid-1960s for photos.
    Caribou herd populations increase and decline in natural cycles. Ignorant men with agendas try to take credit or place blame. Right now, caribou all over the world are a high levels.
    Wolves have been protected in the Lower 48 states for over 20 years, but populations are so high in Minnesota, Montana and Idaho that limited hunting is being allowed ( if the phony environmentalists don’t stop it in court ).


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