Surreal Speciesist Sunday
One Leslie O. Collier, recreational murderer of all types of sentient nonhumans, was pardoned by President Bush for killing two bald eagles decade ago (here‘s the article from today’s New York Times).
Mr. Collier’s crime was unlikely and, he said in an interview, unintended. While hunting, he began noticing the reappearance of wild turkeys, decades after they were believed to have died away. But he feared that a pack of coyotes in the area would not give them a chance to breed. “I got it in my head that if we got rid of the coyotes, the turkeys would get off to a better start,” Mr. Collier said. So he laid a trap of ground beef laced with the pesticide Furadan, which, under federal law, may not be used as animal poison.
Seven coyotes died after eating the beef. But several other animals fed on their carcasses and died as well, including the bald eagles.
Is your jaw on the floor?
Am I the only one who finds it surreal that the routine killing of tens of millions of turkeys for one meal or the brutal and illegal poisoning of seven coyotes aren’t a problem, but the death of the bald eagles– now that’s a real travesty?
Collier was sentenced to two years of probation, ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, and had to give up his collection of hunting guns. He learned that he’d been pardoned while working at a cattle auction (the speciesism continues) on Monday and was back out stalking and killing (deer) on Tuesday.
A decision, made a very long time ago, gave the bald eagle a status enjoyed by no other animal in the US. Meanwhile the turkey’s status, unfortunately, would involve “to be eaten by Americans by the tens of millions, not just all year, but on one particular day as a celebration of thanks.” Most people simply don’t see that all of this is based on some random human decision, or on some human decision with an easily debunked rationale. Here’s what Ben Franklin wrote to his daughter about the turkey and the eagle.
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country . . .
“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
Unlike Franklin, I don’t have anything against scavengers. Dogs are scavengers (and greyhounds are no exception). I won’t judge their moral character. But I do question the moral character of people who set out to murder sentient nonhumans, whether in what they’ve told themselves is a “humane” way or not. It’s not necessary, it’s cruel, and there should be a law against it. Pardoning Collier simply positions him to continue killing for fun. Though he’s just one person, each animal he kills is an individual who deserves to live his or her life without being terrorized and slaughtered.