No one wants to be accused of cruelty to animals. Next to such debate-stifling buzzwords as “xenophobe,” “neo-Confederate,” and “social Darwinist,” it’s one of the worst things that defenders of individual freedom can be labeled. Here again, gun-toting, hunters’ rights groups are being maligned as sadistic, homicidal hatchet-jobs who love nothing more than to watch furry, adorable woodland critters go the way of all flesh. Did hunters learn nothing from Saturday morning cartoons? All the deer and bunnies want to do is to live in harmony with nature – frolicking through the trees and meadows, tilting their head at unknown insects, playing hide-and-go-seek in the bushes and shrubs, and trying to keep their balance on slippery sheets of ice during the wintertime.
As an animal-lover, it’s hard to resist the semi-hypnotic temptations of the anti-monkey testing, tree-hugging, eco “purists” – because the last thing we want is for innocent, angelic creatures to writhe in unspeakable pain, agonized by man-made torture devices – rifles, claw traps, and the like. After all, we wouldn’t wish such a treacherous fate upon our own beloved Fido or Princess Muffincake. The radical “animals’ rights” crowd – not to be confused with pet-lovers, conservationists, and well-meaning humane societies – use our love of Mother Nature’s blessed creations against us. Why you’re not a black- hearted barbarian, are you? You’re not like those money-grubbing villains on TV who clear out forests, choke dolphins with plastic, and lock baby elephants in captivity just for a quick buck, are you? Of course not, and if the run-of-the-mill commoner could see beneath their “compassionate” façade, the eco-terrorists wouldn’t have so much clout. At heart, these people have a deep-seated hatred for humanity and all of its civilizational splendor. Rarely will they admit that, but it’s a core, foundational tenet of their philosophy.
Come winter, Wisconsin, and other states across the Midwestern plains, will be declaring open season on wolves. And, as usual, the pure-as-the-driven-snow faction of the broader environmentalist movement is screaming bloody murder. Governor Walker, who signed (but by no means authored) the bill calling for the DNR to set up hunting guidelines and establish “kill” quotas for the species, is already receiving death threats. We’ll show him what it feels like to be the “hunted,” they shout. Time for us to turn the tables and give the hunters’ lobby a taste of their own medicine! Justice will be served! Like the French Jacobins, their preferred method of social change is the guillotine. But unlike those murderous rabble-rousers, the eco purists are too cowardly to put their inflammatory, borderline criminal speech into practice.
But wait, there’s more. It was President Obama, the Messianic darling of Progressives everywhere, who removed Wisconsin grey wolves from the “endangered species” list in the first place. Oops. Would they dare propose sneaking past White House security, dragging the Chief Executive out of the Presidential bedroom, and slicing him to bits with a five-pound axe taken straight out of a slasher film? Me thinks not. The eco purists’ unwavering consistency seems to stop when a politician has a “D” next to his name.
Of course, in a rare moment of candor, the Obama administration made the right call. Something about a broken clock, the word “twice,” and a barrel of peanuts – I think. The wolf population here in this state has nearly tripled the “recovery” levels ordained by government wildlife officials. Now that our lush northern provinces are overflowing with wild pooches, it only makes sense to give hunters the green light – not without reason, of course – to gun them down with rifles and shotguns, put up traps, leave trail cameras in forest areas, get hound dogs in on the action, and even conduct night-time searches. Farmers now have more leeway to kill wolves preying on their livestock. New licensing and permit procedures have been instituted for both in and out-of-state hunters, although the fees are obviously much higher if you’re not from around these parts.
These rules, self-proclaimed “animals’ rights” activists crow, are far too lenient. Only a society of ruthless, cold-blooded Jeffrey Dahmers would tolerate this. Sharp-clawed footholds? Grass-covered pits? Why, these are the tactics of a textbook serial killer! Worst of all, we want to send packs of snarling canines after these wolves and literally turn the woodlands into “dog eat dog” dystopias? Gaia, have mercy on us all! It does sound awful, doesn’t it – treating wolves just like any other wild game, to be hung up on the wall like trophies and killed for sport? It’s like we’re collecting sea shells or postage stamps, except with flesh-and-blood living things. How can we sleep at night?
Gosh darn those enchanting radical environmentalists, with their seductive charms and their captivating appeals to human emotion, rational or otherwise. There are, however, some scientifically plausible points to be had – or so it seems – underlying their righteous anti-hunting screeds. The reason we should leave the wolves’ cozy habitats unmarred and unaltered, it is said, is because allowing them to multiply without any human intervention to speak of keeps the eco-system in check. “These carnivorous creatures exterminate and slaughter other predatory beasts that, left to their own devices, would wipe out smaller species to extinction. Deer, raccoon, fox, and possibly even bear populations are kept in equilibrium, at sustainable levels – just as Mother Nature intended. And so what if a few poodles, Holsteins, and adventurous toddlers are killed in the process? It’s a small price to pay for protecting these relatively gentle, harmless, majestic animals from those barbarous, uncivilized, bloodthirsty, gun-wielding, redneck hunters.”
It’s like these people took everything they saw in the Disney films – which I love by the way – as irrefutable gospel, as if the only reason anyone would want to blow off an animal’s limbs is for their own sadistic pleasure. “What did those poor, innocent creatures ever do to us? They don’t mean any harm. Why are we bulldozing their habitats and turning them into strip malls, casinos, shopping centers, and residential development areas? Why are we destroying their biospheres, chopping down the pines and the redwoods they call home and using it for our own self-serving, out-of-control, soul-sucking consumerist way of life – our boats, our mansions, our magazines, and our factories? Why are we indulging in materialistic extravagance at their expense, with our fur coats, our leather seats, and our Happy Meals?”
To be honest, this was the way I used to think. What can I say? I’m a sucker for animals. I love my dog like any other member of the family. The cattle I showed off at the county fair were my pride and joy. I love serene walks through the hillsides, the fields, the woods, and the coastlines. I feel connected – intertwined – with nature in a way that many people don’t. Personally, even as somebody who supports hunters’ rights, I could never deliberately kill another living creature. So it’s easy to see how I was seduced by an ideology that, on the surface of things, is poetic, compassionate, tender, beautiful, warm, fuzzy, and every shade of sensitive.
But this long-standing belief that human beings must never tamper with nature, no matter what the cost, is based on instinctive, emotional reactions, not fact. It’s based on spur-of-the-moment passions, not logic. Needless to say, human beings need to tame nature for their own survival, for the furtherance of civilization, for the improvement of their living standards, and for the bettering of the human condition. Anybody who has actually taken the time to think this over – rather than formulate whole ideological axioms based on knee-jerk reactions to Free Willy or Homeward Bound (two of my all-time favorite films, by the way) – can tell you this. Anybody who acknowledges that the preservation of modernity depends on these things, and yet still ties themselves to trees with ropes or lets lab animals free, clearly thinks economic prosperity and the lives of millions of people are an acceptable tradeoff for a few squirrels, mice, and spotted owls. For the human race, life in “unspoiled,” “pristine” nature was over in the blink of an eye, with rampant disease, poor sanitation, and deadly beasts – mountain lions, wild boars, grizzly bears – lurking behind every corner.
Without all the snazzy modern technology we have today – machines, tools, computers, transportation, plumbing, electricity, farm equipment, rapid-fire communication, sanitation devices, medical facilities, herbs, drugs, vaccines, firearms, insulation, and all the rest – Mother Nature was a merciless, unforgiving nightmare. We were helpless to defend ourselves, to contain the spread of lethal viruses, to properly nourish our families, to grow crops in abundance, to shelter ourselves from the elements, and so forth. Radicals like Ted Turner and his eco-Nazi pals would rather that 95 percent of the earth’s population dropped dead tomorrow. (The joke’s on these people. Ironically, it’s profit-driven, capitalist land ownership and strictly enforced property rights – the very things that modern environmentalists detest – that are the key to conserving natural resources, protecting wildlife, and minimizing pollution, not more “regulation,” carbon taxes, endangered species legislation, and the establishment of “state-protected” national parks and wildlife refuges.)
Extremist environmentalists, too, are leading the opposition to Wisconsin’s new wolf hunting legislation. For them, gloom and doom are the only things that can come of this. Grey wolves, once again, will wind up on the endangered species list, they say. And we’re experimenting with too many “untested” methods that could shake things out of balance. Here’s where their argument shatters to pieces, though: the quotas set by the DNR are very disciplined and rigid – almost to a fault. Even if hunters went on a hardcore shooting spree and “maxed” out on their kill “limit” for the season – which is doubtful, considering that the tribes, as a federal court ruled in 1991, can reserve fifty percent of the quotas on land they “ceded” to the state through treaties back in the late 19th century – the wolf population would still be double the “management” goal of 300 that our conservation agencies laid out not too many years ago. And how do we know if these “untested methods” – canine tracking, nocturnal hunting, assorted traps, and the rest – will work if we, well … don’t test them out to begin with? Trial and error is the only way for us to have any smidgen of foresight into how this stuff would play out if the “kill” meter was raised, so to speak. Again, the quota right now is very conservative – so if it was reached within a matter of days, we could erect the necessary safeguards (i.e. bans on certain hunting techniques) and screech to the season to a grinding halt right there and then. It’s not like wolf-hunting will be a cakewalk for people who are new to this “sport.” Wolves are among the world’s most sophisticated, clever, and fiercesome predators ever. They know how to conceal their presence, hide behind bushes and vegetation, tread the soil without making so much as a crunch, and plan “escape” strategies. They have very acute senses. Most wildlife experts will tell you that these are some of the hardest animals to hunt on the face of the planet. There’s a reason wolves in fairy tales and cartoons – think the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood – are portrayed as sneaky, deceptive, cunning, and devious, as formidable thieves and convincing impostors. It’s because they pretty much are that way in real life.
“Wolves are incorrigible softies,” the regressive anti-hunting crowd assures us. “They’re shy around humans, and they like to keep to themselves. Yes, they’re curious and will stand their ground if they come face-to-face with a human, but they’re more than likely to scurry off because they prefer to prey on sick and infirm animals more than anything. And we don’t have to worry about livestock depredation because it’s very rare. Wolves only like to chew on meat they’ve already savored or seen their fellow pack members feast on. They’re finicky and particular about what they put in their stomachs. They don’t like the unfamiliar, the unknown.” Here again, the eco purists miss the mark. It’s true that, relative to other carnivorous species, wolves are not as dangerous to humans as say, lions or bears – in part because of their size and innate timidity. But once they become habituated to humans – meaning that they’ve “warmed” up to us because we refuse to “scare” them off, gun down the “bolder” ones, or pose any kind of threat to them whatsoever – they’re more than willing go on the offensive. When their food supply becomes scarce – say because the deer or buffalo have been “snuffed” out of the area or other animals wolves feed on have migrated with the shifting of the seasons – they, in desperation, will pretty much rip apart and dig their teeth into anything that moves.
Wolves start by surveying human settlements – towns, cities, campgrounds, villages – in the shadows of the night, scanning the area for potential prey. It’s a gradual process. They start by wandering, say, the streets and sidewalks, howling and barking at domesticated dogs. When their fear of being torn to shreds has been vanquished, they then start with the weaker animals, like chickens and cats. They then move on to sheep, cattle, and beloved family pets. Next thing you know, they’re chasing schoolchildren around, not necessarily coming into direct contact with them, but rather, playfully nipping at their backsides, almost like a “frisky” feline clawing at a ball of yarn. They start to get brave. If the humans haven’t done anything to intimidate them, that’s when they make their move. They rabidly attack unsuspecting victims, usually by the head and feet, and tear them limb from limb.
Just ask the folks who live in India. Hindu spiritual customs and superstitions bar adherents from dropping even a single blood of wolf, in fears that it will bring bad luck. During one fateful year back in the 19th century, hundreds of people – mostly children – were maimed. The number of wolf attacks on humans, relative to India’s wolf population, remains at record levels compared with the rest of the world even to this day. When the Soviet Union confiscated guns from the civilian population, the number of fatalities and woundings caused by wolves on the prowl surged to unprecedented heights – although this was covered up by the communist government for many decades, as to conceal the downside of cracking down on firearms. Throughout the 1500s up until about the late 1800s, wolf attacks in Europe were very common. Only aristocrats and elite members of the nobility, for the most part, were allowed (or permitted by social custom) to hunt these animals. Before European settlers arrived to the New World, Native Americans were routinely terrorized by packs of vicious, savage, and bloodthirsty gangs of wolves. It wasn’t until they equipped themselves with rifles and shotguns that wolf-related fatalities declined to almost zero.
Americans, historically – especially in the early colonial period – were armed to the teeth. Almost every man, woman, and child carried a weapon with him or herself – especially when venturing onto unknown frontiers and unexplored wilderness. The wolf population was more abundant here than in the Old World – and yet they attacked with much less frequency and tended to be on the shyer side of things than in Italy, France, Spain, and elsewhere. This tends to be the way it works: in areas where wolves are protected by law and have land set aside to themselves, they’re a lot more merciless to humans and livestock. In areas where they’re fiendishly tracked down and hunted, they keep their distance. They know their place. It doesn’t take a master’s degree in biology to figure that one out.
As for this insistence on the environmentalists’ part that wolves won’t feed on livestock if we just leave them be, facts are not their friends. In just the past two years alone, the DNR has received over 100 complaints from farmers about livestock depredation. In recent decades, the average for Wisconsin has been … zero – up until now. With the wolf population booming – and residents of this state having very little legal recourse to rid themselves of these predators – the wolves are now accustomed to the presence of humans, and are willing to sneak into the barnyard at dusk to snatch themselves a little midnight snack. Also, apparently, they’ve been responsible for the loss of dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals that humans hold near and dear to them. This just goes to show how to stupid it is for the holier-than-thou “animals’ rights” warriors to pick sides before knowing all the details. Combine that with the fact that wolves almost made Alaskan caribou completely extinct before state officials started blasting them from helicopters, and you’ve got one hell of a conundrum these people find themselves in. Keeping wolf hunting illegal guarantees the survival of that species, but wipes out others in the process.
Many of the people who oppose the hunting and trapping of wolves seem to be of either two strains: urbanite city slickers or pseudo-educated Ivy elites. They should try spending a few weeks in wolf country – raising cattle and looking out for their youngsters in what would seem to be a very treacherous environment. They frown on the cold-hearted peasants from their ivory towers and think, “What a bunch of uncivilized brutes. Why, of all the nerve. How can they sleep with themselves at night knowing they’ve left a Mama wolf lying in a pool of blood? Where is their heart? Where is their compassion?”
They’ve never seen the scratches and scars of a bruised up wolf attack victim. They’ve never been surrounded on all sides by a pack of snarling, ferocious, sharp-clawed wolves with bloodshot eyes and teeth barred, ready to pounce on them and rip their bodies to shreds. They’ve never seen the dismembered corpse of a four-month old puppy or two-year-old toddler who was unlucky enough to cross paths with one of these beasts. The only thing they know is what they see with their own two eyes, in their inner bubbles – in the academy halls, the laboratories, the air-conditioned offices, the cubicles, and the streets of the bustling metropolises in which they so comfortably live.
Wolves are majestic creatures and should be admired for their beauty. But it’s not like they’re just soft, cuddly teddy bears that you can run up to and squeeze with all your might. This isn’t a Disney film. This is real life.