Letter From a Killer Ape

 by L. Neil Smith

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

For uncounted millions of years — since long before they were fully human, in fact — people have hunted animals. If there’s anything for which we human beings are best suited, anything for which evolution has naturally selected us, it is this.

For better and for worse, not only in my own opinion, but in that of such diverse thinkers as Robert Ardrey, Jose Ortega y Gassett, Louis B. Leakey, and Ernest Hemingway (to mention only a few), hunting is what made us what we are. It’s often regarded by the ignorant and naive as a source of evil; far likelier it’s the source of whatever kindness, nobility, and aspiration we possess.

Unfortunately, just like a lot of other basic, earthy human activities — like sex, for instance, like childbirth, like Cuban cigars — it can’t adequately be described to the uninitiated, and can be understood (if at all) only by someone who has experienced it.

I’m a hunter. Although I fail to fit the popular image of a loudmouthed beer-guzzling machinegunner of the countryside which the media have invented (and have come, themselves, to believe). I’m a scholar, a philosopher, the author of seventeen published novels, many short stories, and numberless essays like this one. Unprovoked, I’m a relatively gentle soul, a reader, a student of economics and history, a writer, a husband and father, a changer of diapers.

Yet I’ve held big game animals in my rifle and pistol sights and felt my pulse throb, felt my blood sing with a melody vastly older than the human race. I’ve pulled the trigger and ended the life of a creature my own size. (Understand that “sportsmanship” has nothing at all to do with it. The animal is prey and I am a predator, from an ancient, honorable line of predators whose natural weapon, from slingstone to scoped rifle, is technology. Is the cougar concerned with sportsmanship when she breaks a rabbit’s frail neck with her massive fangs? Then why should I — an organism just as natural as she is — be any more concerned than she is?)

I’ve butchered an animal my own size with a knife, been steeped in its blood up to my elbows (certainly not the most pleasant of experiences, but one you accept as a responsibility of the hunt), smelled its hot viscera steaming into the morning mountain air, and taken it — my own weight in meat — back home to nourish my family. No camera “hunt” can touch on this primal experience, any more than a trip to the grocery store can. I am a “killer ape”; I acknowledge it; I accept it; I rejoice in it. Hunting has given me the place I occupy as a creature of history and nature, it took men to the moon, and it will take them to the stars.

In localities where people don’t hunt, they often kill each other by the thousands, instead. People who won’t hunt animals — people like the anti-hunting simpletons infesting the media — usually spend their time and energy hunting down and murdering other people’s dreams. Don’t talk to me about animal rights — animals have no rights, only humans do, since rights are a purely human idea which without a doubt arose in bands of humans hunting together. People who claim to speak for the rights of animals are no more entitled — and no more credible — than those who claim to speak for the non-existent rights of the not-yet-human fetus.

To deliberately hunt members of your own species (especially at the behest of man’s natural enemy, the state) is a perversion. However, to murder the dreams of others in order to aggrandize yourself is even worse than a perversion, and there may be no adequately disgusting word for it. So leave me and my dream, my primal experience, my communication with my ancient heritage — alone.

And I will leave you alone to pursue your own dreams and experiences.


Reprinted from The Libertarian Enterprise for Number 50, July 4, 1999

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