In Defense Of Sarah Palin's Hunting

There are lots of problems with Sarah Palin and her show/campaign ad. Hunting isn't one of them.


After Palin shot and butchered a caribou on Sunday's show, PETA VP Dan Mathews issued this criticism: "Sarah seems to think that resorting to violence and blood and guts may lure people into watching her boring show. But the ratings remain as dead as the poor animals she shoots." Meanwhile, Palin tweeted that "Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather couch or eaten a piece of meat, save your condemnation of tonight's episode. I remain proudly intolerant of anti-hunting hypocrisy. :)" Aaron Sorkin, blogging for the Huffington Post in his capacity as Social Network writer/animal rights expert, disagrees:

Like 95% of the people I know, I don't have a visceral (look it up) problem eating meat or wearing a belt. But like absolutely everybody I know, I don't relish the idea of torturing animals. I don't enjoy the fact that they're dead and I certainly don't want to volunteer to be the one to kill them and if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn't do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart.

Which, fair enough — everybody has a different moral compass when it comes to food. But does feeling a little bit bad about the animals you eat make you superior to someone who feels cool enough about the whole thing to flay a reindeer on television? Sorry, it doesn't.

Sorkin makes the point that hunting on Palin's show is a PR move, and that she relishes the chance to fire back at those who criticize her gun-toting ways. Totally accurate. Palin's whole show is one big commercial for the 2012 election (as many have said), and her modus operandi is to draw criticism and respond to it in a way that makes her look better to her base. One way for her opponents to handle this is not to give her what she wants all the time — save the criticism for times when it's really merited. This isn't one of those times.

Sorkin also says to Palin, "for the life of me, I can't make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing." But famed ethicist (and vegetarian) Peter Singer made just such a distinction in a 2007 interview: "the aim of a hunter is to kill the animal with as little pain as possible — or it should be. [...] It seems pretty clear that the dogs that didn't fight well that Michael Vick and his associates killed were not killed instantly at all." Singer also says that dog-fighting and hunting "are both really very minor cruelties in the terms of the scale of things. The big thing that is going undiscussed here is the industrial raising of animals for food."

You can talk all you want about how gross it is to butcher an animal on television, or how unseemly it may be to celebrate when that animal dies. But squeamishness and decorum don't help the billions of animals killed in slaughterhouses every year. They don't give a shit if you feel bad about their deaths. But their lives do matter — and though humane facilities exist (thanks Temple Grandin!), many animals are still raised and slaughtered in horrific ways. Hunting has its problems too, but if you're going to eat meat, there's something to be said for eating an animal that got to live in its natural habitat and eat its natural diet (rather than, say, the corn-based cattle feed that may be contributing to antibiotic resistance). And while Palin may intend to make political hay out of her caribou kill, she's also clearly planning to eat the beast — she and her dad skin it carefully and she explicitly states that it's going to feed her family.


Too much hunting has the potential to destroy species and ecosystems, and if you believe that all killing of animals is wrong, you're obviously never going to approve of it. But if you're meat-eater like Sorkin, getting your meat in a package from a slaughterhouse is no better than shooting it yourself (provided you hunt in a legal and sustainable way) — and really, it might well be worse. So to anyone who eats factory-farmed meat, quit wringing your hands over Sarah Palin's hunting trips and find something better to criticize her about. Trust me, there are a lot of options.


In Her Defense, I'm Sure The Moose Had It Coming [Huffington Post]
'Sarah Palin's Alaska' Appears To Be Using Animal Hunting Controversy To Improve TLC's Ratings [NY Daily News]
Sarah Palin's Deadly Bid For Attention [PETA]



I disagree with this, kind of.

A friend of mine forwarded me a picture the other day of a toddler sitting on the back of a dead buck, holding his antlers like handlebars, 'riding' the dead deer. It had a little blurb below it that said, 'Tell Santa I'm going after Prancer next!' So, so freaking funny, right? Several other friends posted it on Facebook, too.

I am a vegetarian, just to note that, but I am not against hunting, necessarily. I have family members who hunt and have hunted all of my life. They process the meat and give it out to family, and utilize every part of the animal. They don't hunt just to kill things and don't have deer heads mounted on their wall, but come hunting season, my Uncle is out there. I don't hate him, or think anything about him other than respect. Because he hunts for food solely. Even though I don't eat meat, I can't find fault with him or with others who hunt for food.

I spoke on the squirrel thread a few weeks ago and got ripped apart because I talked about my redneck brother in law and how he shot a whole bunch of squirrels at a family reunion and sat there and skinned them all in front of small children and several others (including myself) who were squeamish and bothered by the whole thing. He wasn't doing it for food; there was a house full of food. He is a sadist who has a history of animal abuse, and he shot them and skinned them in front of everyone for the shock factor.

People like him, Sarah Palin (who killed something just for television ratings) and the folks who took a picture of their baby on a dead deer just for kicks, are the kind of people who do not deserve respect. They are taking life just for the sake of it, for blood sport, for fun. To feel superior over something. I can take your life away and skin you with my bare hands, oh what an awesome human I am. Let's pose with this dead carcass, shall we? No. Those people suck. I find no fault with people who eat meat, but the majority of them can at least see their place in the world and on some level give thanks to the animals who gave their lives to feed them. Those who haven't the smallest modicum of respect for life and treat animals as sport, well they can go to hell.