L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 50, July 4, 1999
Letter From a Killer Ape
by L. Neil Smith
Special to 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.
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