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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.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Collier – the whole story is a mess from the beginning of the poisoned burger to the targeted victims, the "collateral damage" – an animal auction, then the coup de grâce… deer hunting. Definately a surreal nightmare of speciesism.

    Reminds me of a meal the decadent Romans used to prepare for their feasts: a cooked phesant egg, inside a chicken, inside a goose, inside a pig, inside a cow… Hello vomitorium!

    Since this was my first vegan "ThanksLiving" Day – I was not prepared for the media barrage (or the emotional connections) which resulted.

    Poor turkeys – cousin to the poor brutalized chicken… I've heard it said that man mistreats birds so because of envy. They have wings… they can fly & are closest to angels and gods. Well, I don't know about all that – what I do know is they deserve their lives just as all the other creatures -with feathers, fur or scales do.

    I found a copy of a Nov. 1937 Farmer's Progressive magazine – There was an article concerning "T" day and it said that it *may* be appropriate to serve "turkey" (but not essential (?) – So what went from that to the 260 million slaughtered birds now? Could it be the establishment of the United Turkey Federation – 10 years later? Betcha!

    Anyway, the article closed with this lovely poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay –
    Thanksgiving Dinner:

    Note not a mention of a single sacrificed bird… And all is well.

    November 30, 2008
  2. John Carbonaro #

    The U.S. Constitution recognizes life, liberty, and the pusuit of happiness, as long as individual pursuits do not infringe on these same rights granted to all. Yet, animals are not afforded these same rights by virtue of a very undemocratic, speciesist hierarchy. When human animals exploit non human animals such as the turkey, they might as well be putting the american bald eagle, symbol of freedom , in the holocaust oven.

    December 1, 2008
  3. Larry #

    FYI, it is not considered "murder" to kill an animal. Don't believe me? Ask any judge or cop in this country. I bet you kooks don't think animals can be murderers. If a lion kills a gazelle, did the lion commit murder? If a pit bull mauls an infant child to death, did the dog murder the child? Nope. Your double standard serves ONLY to make people look bad, and to make animals look good.

    December 20, 2008
  4. mary martin #

    Dear Larry,

    In the unlikely event that you come back to this site, may I first just say "Welcome," but also say that I moderate comments and though calling people who care about the rights of other sentient beings "kooks" isn't the worst thing that can happen, it is quite rude. I ordinarily do not allow name-calling, and in the future comments from you, should they include rudeness and name-calling, shall not be published.

    Next, may I direct you to the Oxford English Dictionary, which Angus Taylor, PhD, of the University of Victoria, pointed us to regarding this very issue: when is murder murder, earlier this year ( Taylor quotes the OED and says this:
    In the Oxford English Dictionary, the first three listed senses of "murder", considered as an act of killing, are:

    (a) The deliberate and unlawful killing of a human being, esp. in a premeditated manner; (Law) criminal homicide with malice aforethought (occas. more fully wilful murder); an instance of this.

    (b) Terrible slaughter, massacre, loss of life; an instance of this. Obs.

    (c) The action of killing or causing destruction of life, regarded as wicked and morally reprehensible irrespective of its legality (e.g. in relation to war, death sentences passed down by tribunals, and other socially sanctioned acts of killing); an instance of this.

    The third is relevant for our purposes: Murder is morally reprehensible killing, regardless of its legality.

    Larry, it is not morally reprehensible for a lion to kill a gazelle. Lions are carnivores and they need to eat gazelles in order to survive. In addition, they do not farm them, drug them, control their reproduction, maim them and torture them. They kill them as efficiently and effectively as they can, and then they tear into them with their teeth and eat their flesh raw. Humans, on the other hand, are not equipped to do such things as kill gazelles with our bare hands and teeth, and then eat them raw. We, Larry, are not carnivores. We do not need to eat the flesh of another in order to survive.

    It is morally reprehensible to kill another when you do not need to. That's what makes it murder.

    Good day, sir.

    December 20, 2008

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