Contradictions and confronting cruelty

Juxtapositions can be hard to accept. For some, the notion that I hunt for food while loving wild animals can feel contradictory, inconsistent or even hypocritical. Yet life is full of yin and yang polarities. I love to plant a garden and watch it grow—to nurture potential into promise and then into plenty. Rarely do I confuse people when I serve them beets, carrots, or parsnips from the garden—killing the plant—providing nourishment. Yet with hunting, I can confuse.

I hunt for many reasons. I love to engage in wild nature, to spend time in protected places that are more wild than tamed and to learn about, and from, the animals whose homes I enter. I revere in low-impact mountain craft and acquiring knowledge that transcends heritages and histories. And I love the connection of knowing where my food comes from and honoring the animals that sustain my family, be it animal or plant.

“What did you do to the elk to make it taste so good?” It’s a question I often get when sharing the bounty with others. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic are the only tangible and material ingredients added — somehow I think reverence or deep love for that animal is the true secret sauce.

One could say killing is killing. The act is the act, that is irrefutable, that is what happened. And in a reductionist view of existence that is the only thing that happened. Yet my relationship with plants, with animals — with life — transcend mechanics of Newtonian physics. Intention and respect, not just action, provides context. Even if taking life appears cruel — beet or buck — with gratitude and reverence there is a difference.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission recently took a huge step towards confronting cruelty to wildlife by banning killing contests in an 8-3 vote. In doing so Colorado’s wildlife— including coyotes, foxes, and prairie dogs —are not allowed to be targeted for “sporting events” in which rewards, sometimes cash, are bestowed upon the winners. Such “contests” are about killing; not hunting or providing sustenance to your family. CPWs decision makes a statement, alongside our neighbors in Arizona and New Mexico, both of whom took major steps in banning killing contests last year, that killing for killing’s sake has no place in our state, or culture.

Though there is much that still needs to change with the agency’s aging policies as the American West confronts and contends with 21st century realities, I commend the leadership that the CPW commissioners showed in this decision— putting wanton killing squarely in the crosshairs of their sights and eliminating it from Colorado. I have a newfound hope that the agency will continue the march towards aligning our state’s wildlife management approaches without contradiction to 21st century science and values.

Dave Levine

Communications director, WildEarth Guardians

Resident, Crystal River Valley