The Thrill of the Slaughter

By Kit Smith

Dick Cheney has started a new trend: Don't eat the rich, shoot them! On Sunday, good ol' Dick "accidentally" shot and injured one Harry Whittington, a lawyer and multi-millionaire from Austin, Texas. Whittington was standing behind the vice president when he was shot. Cheney spun around when the quail were released, purportedly to shoot at one, and peppered Whittington with shotgun pellets.

The prey Cheney was "hunting" were pen-raised birds released into an enclosed area. This practice has been previously criticized by such radical animal protection groups as the Humane Society, as well as many dyed-in-the-wool hunters. You've heard of the Humane society. They do outrageous things, like write letters to the editor and fight in the court system. They try to put a stop to nasty things like leg traps, and ask you not to kill endangered animals or eat horses. What's wrong with these people?

In December, 2003, Cheney and Friends went hunting at the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, Pennsylvania. A dog handler described the "hunt" for WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, printed December 18th of that year in the Billings Gazette. "We release pheasants off a hill, and they shoot them. They all stay in their blinds up ahead of us. The other guys like me, we have our dogs and we run them. We stand below (the hunters) and every bird they shoot, our dogs retrieve them." Like those odds? Five hundred farm-raised pheasants were released for the "hunt," and Cheney's 10-person hunting party killed at least 417 of them.

The quail are farm-raised, like chickens. Similar to domestic turkeys, they've lost much of their instinct to survive in the wild, and they don't fly very well. They are fed and cared for by people, and have about as much inhibition as a New York pigeon. Except these poor buggers are then let loose so people can kill them, like live skeet. They serve two types of people: those who can't hunt worth a damn, and those who don't want to get dirty but enjoy killing dozens of birds without moving around.  

Federal law also allows canned hunting of any animal native to the continent. (In Texas, the provision has probably been stretched to include ligers, unicorns and Mexicans.) These animals, like the quail, are hand raised on ranches. The "hunter" pays his cover charge and decides which animal he wants to hang on his wall. Said animal is bribed to an open spot with something tasty, like Pringles or Hostess cupcakes. While he's licking the grease and sugar off his whiskers, BLAM! He's shot dead. Just like an African safari, but without the malaria and all those pesky black people. Plus, Texas is fairly centrally located, so a person can snuff out the life of an endangered animal in a day trip. (You need a permit, however, if you want to hunt deer.)

In 2003, the Humane Society sent letters to a number of media outlets including the New York Times Op-Ed section. Among the statements included by the Humane Society's senior vice president, Wayne Pacelle, was the following: "If the Vice President and his friends wanted to sharpen their shooting skills, they could have shot skeet or clay, not resorted to the slaughter of more than 400 creatures planted right in front of them as animated targets."

"The Humane Society...deplores the shooting of captive birds and animals where traditional 'fair chase' hunting ethics are discarded and kills are guaranteed...Canned hunting belongs in the same category as other forms of animal abuse, like cockfighting and bullfighting. It's hard on animals and easy on people and it should be against the law."

The Humane Society's website discusses proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, which would allow trophy hunters to shoot endangered species in other countries and import the trophies and hides into the United States. Currently, the act protects species in foreign nations, by barring pet traders, circuses, trophy hunters, and others from importing endangered species, even if they're dead already.

Hunting is extravagant enough, in a society where people practically throw food down your throat as you drive down the street, but what Cheney does isn't hunting; it's a manufactured massacre. You'd think he gets enough of that at work.

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