Monday, 5 September 2011

Understanding

Whenever you travel to another country other than your own you have to accept that the culture and and it's people will be different to what you are used to. I think the world sometimes doesn't view America as being foreign, as so many things we have in our lives come from the US, but foreign it is and a tourist I am. To quote a line from my visa application: I am a non-resident alien in the United States.


Throughout my time in crossing the United States by bicycle I have come to understand the American way of life, but some things I just can't come to terms with, and probably never will.


Take RVs for example. To quote the author Bill Bryson: why would you take a house on vacation? In a world where energy supply is becoming scarce these things hardly help, as most only achieve around 4 miles per gallon! Once they get to their campground with their RV (some also towing the family car) THEY will not walk from their site to the bathroom 50 yards away. Instead they use a golf buggy! I'm not making this up. I see it all the time. Sadly I also see that most of these people are anything but slim.


But this is not the subject of my blog today.


Hunting wild animals for anything other than feeding oneself has bothered me for a long time and it is huge in America.


Back in Montana I learned a few things about hunting from someone who had shot elk. At first I was disturbed by this, especially as the stuffed heads of the magnificent beasts adorned the walls of his home. However, as he elaborated I understood and accepted his reasoning. This wasn't hunting for hunting's sake. The meat from just one of these animals can provide food for many meals for a family, and times were hard and money was scarce. It was also hard work and a challenge to find the game and bring it to a swift end. He would then have to butcher it on site and walk many miles back out, carrying the large quantity of food.


This I understand.


Back in Scotland we charge high prices for the idle rich to shoot red deer on certain estates, an annual cull which is vital to control numbers as the red deer no longer have a natural predator. This I also understand. Just a few years ago the UK government banned fox hunting due to it's level of cruelty bestowed upon the quarry and the pointless nature of it other than to entertain the idle rich. Some argued that it was part of our heritage and should be preserved. Funny but I wasn't hearing the argument for the fox.


What gets me with hunting in the States, and makes me very angry, is those who adorn themselves in military-style combat gear and arm themselves with weapons that would down a T-rex, never mind an elk, and the only thing they want, and this is the problem, is a trophy. To stand there with gun in one hand and a dead animal at their feet, grinning in their achievement of mindlessly blowing this animal away for no purpose other than to satisfy their testosterone personality, so they can swig a few beers at their local bar and brag about what a hero they consider themselves to be.


Some will read this and disagree with me. Well, that's OK. This blog is, after all, just my opinion. But consider this: hunting also includes the slaughter of bears. These magnificent animals pose no real threat to us and I do not believe that the vast majority want to shoot bears for the meat. I saw a petition the other day to try and extend the shooting season by two weeks in the spring and fall. Why?


On one occasion a number of weeks ago we got to know a nice family who themselves hunted. At first they were talking passionately at the beauty of the wild animals both in the vicinity of their home and those they had seen abroad on holiday. Then in the next breath talked about killing them! Ending the life of the very animal they admired. I was speechless to say the least.


There are definitely two different breeds of hunter in the States, and the one I refer to and have a problem with is clear I think. What possesses someone to want to do this? To have a desire to go out and kill another living thing for the fun of it! To have a stuffed head on their wall, or a rug to walk upon, all for a single second of pulling a trigger and taking a life that has more right to be in the area it lives in than we do.


I've met many Americans who feel the same way. One felt so strongly that they wanted the trophy hunter to be strung upside dpwn by their toenails in the town square and shot themselves.


I'm not sure that's a cure but it is encouraging to know there are those who have a conscience toward killing animals just for the sake of it. But this is not my country and it could be argued that I have no say in the matter and it is none of my business. However, at the end of the day we, the animals and the flora are all part of a delicate balance on this planet, the only place we all have to live and need to share responsibly.


Now that is my business.

1 comment:

Don said...

I feel the same as you about RV's and hunting for sport, Graham, but here's the rub: I met plenty of RV-driving, gun-toting citizens on my trip across America, and I liked them almost without exception. I wish I didn't, but they were so good to me in the campgrounds and on the roads along the way that it was too wonderful to believe. No, I haven't changed my stripes. I'm not buying a gun or trading in my bike for an RV, but I certainly have softened my view of the people who think differently than I do.

A few people asked me before I went on the trip if I was going to carry a gun. They saw that as an absolute necessity and some were even annoyed with me when I told them I wasn't. Well, it wasn't necessary! All the way across no one even so much as said a cross word to me. That's something I don't think the people in the RV's ever get to experience. They don't know how many kind people there are out there because they are in their not so little boxes. Ditto for the gun-rights fanatics who believe that everyday could be your last in the great shoot out of life. What a great thing to see things from the perspective of a bike, where you find out that the world is not such a bad place after all.

My best to you guys as you finish up your trip. It was such a great summer! Don