Fish and Blame

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With a photograph of the California Fish and Game Commission president proudly holding his trophy-hunted dead mountain lion splashed all over websites and newspapers of late, it seems time to ask ourselves a basic question. Just what kind of relationship do we wish to have with the other creatures that share our planet?

Humans are a top-of-the-food-chain predator and as such, can make the argument that they have the right to kill animals for food. As a non-vegetarian myself, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that we do not, although an inner voice tells me that might be so, and urges me to think more about giving up meat once and for all instead of avoiding this or that particular kind as I do now.

Although the commissioner said he ate the lion, I suspect that if he did, it was like the hunter of old eating the heart of his victim -- a gesture designed at best to imbue the hunter with the characteristics of the hunted, or at worst, a macho display of dominance. What really was the purpose of this killing? The wide grin on the face of the commissioner couldn't have made it more clear. He enjoyed it.

Is this truly the kind of person we want heading the commission that oversees California's relationship with wildlife? The Department of Fish and Game gets much of its revenue from hunting and fishing licenses and perhaps there's the rub. The agency was established primarily to oversee the regulation of what is called consumptive use of wildlife, the so-called harvesting of game whether for food, fur or sport. If money were identified that could provide sufficient revenue from other sources, a transformation would be inevitable.  Maybe it's time to look at this possibility, a small tax on outdoor items such as binoculars or bird books, perhaps, or a small permit fee for hikers and mountain bikers.

I'm no expert in government finances, but it seems time for agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game to reflect the fact that most of us go into the outdoors not to kill animals, but to enjoy them alive and intact. 


With a Perspective, this is Carol Arnold.

Carol Arnold is an environmental planner and writer living in San Francisco.