Eating Earth

Environmental Ethics & Dietary Choice

Eating Earth

Eating Earth

Environmental Ethics and Dietary Choice

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ISBN : 9780199391844
Publisher : Oxford University Press; (October 2014)

Food choices are the number one determinant of an individual’s environmental footprint.

Eating Earth

In our day-to-day lives we often act without thinking, behave without thoughtful intent, and live without conviction. This is nowhere more evident than in our eating habits.

Eating Earth

Eating Earth offers a concise examination of the environmental effects of dietary choice, including animal agriculture, fishing, and hunting. The first chapter examines greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, waste and dead zones, freshwater depletion, deforestation, predator control, and land use—including the ranching industry’s public lands subsidies—stemming from animal agriculture.

Chapter two investigates the environmental effects of fishing, exposing the indiscriminate nature of hooks and nets, the tragedy of bycatch, and the “silent collapse” of ocean ecosystems.

Chapter three outlines the historic connection between the U. S. Government, wildlife management, and hunters, then systematically unravels common misconceptions about sport hunting, debunking myths of hunting as merciful, just, economical, and ecologically sound.

At the end of each chapter, Kemmerer critically examines alternatives—organic and local, grass fed, aquaculture, new fishing technologies, and enhanced regulations—ultimately indicating a vegan diet. Kemmerer’s writing, supported by nearly 80 graphs and summary slides, is straightforward, clear, and punctuated with wry humor.

Interview: Animal Voices Radio
Co-Op Radio, 100.5 FM. with Alissa Raye.

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Introduction to Eating Earth

Hunting and “Fair Chase”

Excerpt from Chapter 3, “Hunting Hype,” pages 125-127

Deer hunting would be fine sport, if only the deer had guns.

William S. Gilbert, from “Quotations about Animal Rights”

Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they’re in the game.

Paul Rodriguez, from “Quotations about Animal Rights”

“Fair chase” is envisioned as the “ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of free-ranging wild game animals in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the animal” (“History”). Perhaps the most disingenuous aspect of Western hunters is the deceit of “fair chase,” a concept that forms the cornerstone of U.S. “game” laws and lies at the core of the Western hunting ethic (“History”; “About the B & C Club”).

A “fair fight” involves opponents who are equally matched and who choose to engage in battle under a particular set of rules. For example, if one combatant is much smaller or younger, that combatant is disadvantaged, and the fight is considered unfair. If one combatant has a wooden bat and the other has a .45-caliber automatic pistol, the fight is considered unfair. Or, if one person ambushes an unsuspecting passerby, the ensuing fight is not considered fair.

“Fair chase,” if we are to use English without stretching the meaning of words beyond recognition, ought to be similar. By what stretch of the imagination does a deer willingly become a hunter’s target? Is an armed man a fair match for an unarmed duck? How can the stakes be equal when a hunter choses to come to the field for recreation—for fun—while the “game” animal is merely going about his or her day and has no interest in being hunted, yet may or may not be wounded, maimed, or killed in the course of the hunter’s great adventure into the outdoors?

“Because today’s North American hunters are generally not facing starvation if they find no success in the hunt, they have the luxury to drum up “rules of fair chase to make the hunting experience a more exciting challenge”—and to assuage moral concerns/guilt that accompany such an unfair “sport” (Luke, “A Critical Analysis” 9).  “Hunting and fishing involve killing animals with devices (such as guns) for which target animals have not evolved natural defenses. No animal on earth has adequate defense against a human armed with a gun [or] a bow and arrow” (Bekoff 121). By what stretch of the imagination would it be possible for a hunter toting modern weaponry not to have an “unfair advantage” over geese, elk, bears, gophers, and quail? In the absence of an “improper or unfair advantage”—by definition—roughly 50 percent of hunting excursions would result in hunter deaths at the “hands” of their equally matched, read-to-kill “opponents.” If hunting entailed “fair chase,” I suspect there would be precious few hunters.

In truth, hunting does not entail any chase. It is extremely difficult to shoot fleeing wildlife, and it is pretty much impossible for a running, gasping hunter to successfully aim and fire a gun. Hunters are therefore most likely to fire at wildlife who have not taken flight, who have likely not even noticed the hunter’s presence (which is easy to accomplish with today’s long-range, precision weaponry). Instead of engaging in “fair chase,” hunters conceal their presence in the hope of killing hapless wild animals as they graze, nap, or scan the horizon for predators. The realities of hunting better fit the definitions of:

  • “ambush”—attack from a concealed location (“Ambush”)
  • “massacre”—“killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting” victims, including the “wholesale slaughter of animals” in a way that is “cruel or wanton” (especially apt for bird hunting) (“Massacre”), and
  • “assassination”—“to injure or destroy unexpectedly and treacherously” (“Assassinate”).

Regardless of the transparent ruse of “fair chase,” many hunters seek an even greater “improper or unfair advantage” through “advanced electronics, weaponry, chemicals, and camouflage, all designed to eliminate every last shred of chance . . . despite the fact that finding a deer to kill has literally never been easier” (Heffernan 25). Hunters, like many other contemporary people in industrialized nations, seem obsessed with gadgetry.

If we look honestly at hunting, “fair chase” is a misleading incongruity concocted in the hope of “retaining the hunt as an enjoyable” and legitimate form of recreation, despite the fact that such killing is completely unnecessary and embarrassingly easy (Luke, “A Critical Analysis” 3). “Fair chase” is a lie designed to cover up what is, in truth, a completely unnecessary ambush and massacre/assassination.