The recent story we published concerning Tom Murray's African handgun hunting safari generated some criticism, but mostly support, from Times-News readers.
I believe that sport hunting has been eloquently and rationally defended by Murray himself and by others who wrote subsequent letters to the editor in his support. There's not much I can add to those exchanges.
What I would like to address, however, is the unnecessary ad hominem attack on Murray that appeared in the first letter.
What is it about individuals who hate hunting that leads them to so frequently assert that hunters are "proving their manhood" by killing an animal? Or that any man who enjoys shooting firearms is trying to compensate for a sense of sexual inadequacy?
This kind of gender-baiting innuendo seems to go hand in glove with polemics of this type. The obvious implication is that hunting and shooting are supposed to be all the more despicable for being traditionally male activities.
This might be a good time to point out that Tom Murray's wife, Penny, has been a nationally recognized IHMSA handgun silhouette shooter in her own right. Or that storied trick shot Annie Oakley honed her phenomenal marksmanship skills putting bullets through squirrels' heads. Or that women, while admittedly in the minority, are an increasingly significant presence within the contemporary shooting and hunting community.
While there are some pretty significant biological differences between men and women, one thing the last century managed to teach us is that there are plenty of traditionally male activities at which women excel once they are no longer systematically excluded from participation.
To be sure, hunting truly is "traditional" in the sense of being a shared activity transmitted organically from one generation to the next. The sad truth is that, even today, daughters are statistically less likely to be brought into the hunting tradition than their brothers. In a democracy where women have comprised half the eligible voting populace for almost a century, this does not bode well for the future of hunting.
I've noticed that some people erroneously assume that animal rights movements in the United States are somehow a byproduct of Baby Boomers' flirtations with Eastern traditions that place a high value on avoiding injury to all creatures. This is not the case.
The contemporary animal rights movement, as we have it, is a byproduct of late industrial civilization. The reasoning at its foundation has more in common with Stalinism than Buddhism. The utilitarian philosophy of Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer - prophet of the secular animal rights movement - is so radically egalitarian that it literally places dogs, cows, rats and human children on equal ethical footing.
I've ranted against PETA and the HSUS for so long that some readers may assume that I disdain these organizations simply because their members want to spoil my bloodthirsty fun. But my real beef - pun intended - is the twisted value system underlying the compassionate facade of these groups.
It's kind of like communism. It starts out sounding reasonable, then proceeds to take you to some very unreasonable places. Infanticide. Euthanasia of the elderly - with or without their permission. And worse, if you dare imagine.
Radical egalitarianism has a poor track record when it comes to actually defending the rights of individuals. I've done my homework, folks. I am not making this up.
I sincerely doubt that Pamela Anderson, bless her heart, has bothered to follow Singer's ironclad logic down the moral rat hole it invariably descends. I think this is true of a lot of people who write checks in support of the animal rights propaganda machine.
It would probably be foolish to suggest that Anderson wouldn't be a shill for PETA if her father had only taken her hunting. But women who hunt do know something that Anderson doesn't.
Hunting isn't a proof of manhood. It is a proof of humanity.
George Thwaites is a sports and outdoors writer for the Times-News. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.