“This morning at 8:22 a.m. Abby was blessed with her first bear at our cabin.”
Sounds like Abby just gave birth to new life, huh? A bundle of joy, perhaps. Something to celebrate, for sure?
I’m afraid not. Abby and her family were celebrating death. Abby had just shot an innocent bear, most likely in the back. These words were the beginning of a gushing tribute, with photos, and the thrill of the kill was apparent. Indeed, the family shed tears of joy that their little girl had graced their family with the biggest kill to date.
Coming from the United Kingdom and living in Portugal, I have no idea who the Putman Family are. All I understand is that they have a television show in the United States and a following on Facebook (where their tribute was posted).
I’m guessing the family was a little surprised by the outpouring of disgust and outrage that followed. In comments, they pointed out that this was about animal control and the harvest. Their supporters strenuously agreed. We are just teaching our children survival skills, they said. It’s the way of the woods. We have to practice our shot, just in case of a crisis, you know. It’s better than eating mass prepared meat from the grocery store (they may have a point, there). A city person would never understand. There are too many bears.
Yet, looking at the photos, none of these reasons rang true. The thrill of the kill was so apparent and so appalling, even more so because the killer was a child.
I hold my hands up. I am vegan, but I did eat meat for four decades of my life. I miss meat. Life is definitely not the same without cheese and, yet, I stick to a plant-based diet for the animals, first and foremost, but also for the environment. For our world.
The amount of land that is needed for cattle is too much. Our need to constantly consume everything and anything is destroying our home. We only need to look at the Amazon burning to the ground for evidence of what we are doing to our world.
Before you judge me for being soft or even a city girl, you may be surprised to know that I spent many summers in my childhood at my grandparent’s smallholding in the countryside. I’m 41 years old so it’s quite a while ago.
My grandma was a real woman of the land, a relic from the past. She taught me how to tend to the soil, how to reap and how to sow. She kept chickens and rabbits and she didn’t hide me from the nature of life. “There, Sammy,” she would say as she passed me the fresh corpse of a twitching bird she’d killed with her own hands. “We need to get this in the oven. Go on girl, start plucking.”
She was taking care of her family the old-fashioned way. She took good care of her chickens and rabbits. There was never an ounce of pride in the fact that she was killing animals. There was never a thrill in the kill.
I used to pride myself on the fact that I knew where meat came from. For me, meat didn’t magically appear, wrapped in cellophane and smelling of bleach, all nicely stacked in the grocery store. Meat was once a living, breathing creature. A chicken with a broken neck, still warm to the touch. A rabbit without its skin, waiting for the pot.
So, I do understand why self-sufficiency is important, especially in terms of growing your own vegetables. My childhood experiences mean that I could never be called a “city girl” nor do I judge my grandma for her actions. She was just taking care of her family the way she had been taught. The old-fashioned way.
I understand that there are issues with the overpopulation of bears in certain parts of the United States but I also understand that we are the problem. We caused the ecosystem to be knocked out of sync as we continue to gobble up land all over the earth, like a plague of locusts. Bears, in particular, are roaming into towns for one reason only, because we have taken their lands and their food. They are hungry. What are the animals supposed to do?
As for population control, I have no answer. Perhaps, we have gone too far, but we should never blame the animals. The blame rests at our door. We are the predators, the aggressors. We also need to be the answer.
Shooting animals dead for the thrill of the kill is not the way of the woods. That’s utter tripe. Guns were created by us, not nature, to secure our position at the top of the food chain. Without guns, we’d be the fodder. Shooting an animal in the back for sport is called being a coward in my book. Nothing can justify it. Kill with your bare hands, if you must, but never suggest there is any bravery in shooting an animal.
Which is why I was so deeply saddened by this story. The photograph of a little girl smiling up to the camera, gun in hand, as she crouched above her prize, a dead, innocent bear on the ground, made me feel so sick to the stomach that I held my head in despair.
I don’t blame the little girl at all. She is doing what she has been taught. Her value system is already in place to see animals as prey and her as the slayer. No value for life, whatsoever.
So, what is the answer? We need to evolve. To change. We need to grow up. We need to be better humans for our children. For our animals. For our planet. I changed and evolved away from eating animals because I realised that there is a different way that allows us to coexist with animals by becoming vegan. We don’t need to kill animals at all to survive. We don’t need to keep doing things the way they have always been done.
We can teach our children to be better than us. So, they can develop their compassion and empathy for all living things—to value life above all else. We need to teach our children to take care of our animals and our planet before it’s too late.
Our children need to be taught to give a damn, my friends, and that starts with each and every one of us. Otherwise, there is no doubt in my mind that we really are all f*cked.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2019. All Rights Reserved.