In the Presence of Death

One of the things I talked about on this season's Gun Nuts is an (apparently) common ritual on many of the TV hunting shows. When hunter and guide (or whoever) walk up on some poor dead beast the likes of which you and I will never see, and which they have killed inside of 26 minutes, they exchange High Fives and a hearty "Yay, Hah", like one of them just rode the late Bodacious for 8 seconds and lived to tell about it.

Now call me old, mean, and cranky, but I think this shows about the same attitude toward animals as the kids who think that meat comes from the supermarket wrapped in cellophane. It does not. It comes from an animal who spent its last moments alive bawling in terror in a slaughterhouse.

If you are one of the High Five set, a reminder: The animal at your feet over which you exchange hand slaps is not there voluntarily. It spent its last day on earth hoping at whatever level animals hope that it would live another day. Given a choice, it would not have given up its life to make you joyful.

Other, very diverse, hunting cultures do not slap hands and yodel. I've seen Bakwena tribesmen in Botswana throw a handful of sand on the hooves of a departed beast and murmur a prayer thanking it for the gift of its life. In Germany, at the end of a hunt, there is an elaborate torchlight ceremony in which the day's bag is laid out in rows, and honored en masse.

I have nothing against a handshake and a "Good shot," or something like that, but it should be tempered by the realization that being alive is something of a miracle and that death is the opposite of a miracle.

In other words, show a little respect.