BOOK REVIEW: Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife

Man Kind?  Our Incredible War on Wildlife (A Cass Canfield book)

Can I ask again for a more up-to-date book taking a critical look at the sport hunting industry? Most of the anti-hunting books out there are getting pretty long in the tooth.

First published in 1974, this is a look at recreational killing from the venerable animal welfarist, Cleveland Amory. Despite its age, Man Kind? remains a quick, snappy, and intelligent read; and unfortunately, many of the issues covered remain all too current.

Animal friends will be pleased to see the hunting community’s hair-trigger persecution complex is not a development of the Internet age:

In spite of the hunters’ control of Federal and State Fish and Game departments and other local authorities, their dominance over virtually all of the largest “conservation” and “wildlife” societies…the hunters, nonetheless, have a persecution complex which is truly remarkable.

Amory later writes,

[T]he hunters’ persecution complex is not only evident from their reaction to television and motion pictures, it also carries over to virtually any unfavorable notice—no matter how mild.

Some things never change. And of course, we still have the irrational hatred of Walt Disney. Amory quotes the then-president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation in a 1973 speech:

“In the Wonderful World of Disney animals are cuter than people…Now this is the Bambi syndrome. The Disney films may not have started out that way, but once it became clear that sentimentality and outright anthropomorphism would make money, that’s the way the films went.”

First of all, newsflash, animals are cuter than people. Who would you rather have napping at the foot of your bed, a cocker spaniel or Dick Cheney? And secondly, the personal threats the hook-and-bullet crew feel from cartoon animals is endlessly amusing. Hunters to this day have conniption fits over every re-release of “Bambi” and “The Fox and the Hound.” And the fur industry hates “101 Dalmatians” as much as pet stores welcome it.

The author makes reference to the many wildlife “advocacy” groups that support hunting, but often neglect to tell their contributors this fact. (Another thing that has not changed.) Those who see the Audubon Society as a group of kindly old ladies with binoculars may want to pay attention to Amory’s passage on John James Audubon, who not only blasted countless birds, but also enjoyed trapping, snaring, baiting, and all manner of other bloodsports. A particularly odious passage from his journals describes a pit fight he attended of farm dogs against three wolves. We read that In 1971, a coalition of groups signed a petition in support of Canada’s massacre of baby harp seals, including the Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, Trout Unlimited, and The National Rifle Association. In fine and typical form, all of them! One wonders why the NRA didn’t seize the moment and rename itself the National Rifle and Hakapik Association.

Another feature of the hunting community that hasn’t changed is their willingness to attack any company that partners with a humane organization. When ARCO was going to donate a percentage of the subscription sales of an environmental magazine to the Fund for Animals, the Outdoor Writers of America raised such a stink among the hunting contingent that ARCO dropped the Fund, and amusingly, donated to a radical anti-highway group instead. If anything, hunting groups have gotten more obnoxious in their attempts to divert funds from humane entities.

Canned hunting was still in its infancy when this book was written. Man Kind? includes a reproduced flyer from the YO Ranch—a “menu” of exotic species with the prices hunters can pay to shoot them. The YO Ranch is still in business, and it has spawned countless fenced-in hunting enclosures in which weekend warriors can blast captive-raised animals till their credit cards run out.


The dog and cat fur industry—so memorably exposed by HSUS in the late ‘90s—was still enjoying a fly under the radar in 1974.

Dogskin coats indeed turned up in New York’s Saks Fifth Ave. The Saks manager…protested that the skins were “Chinese coyote.” But it was no use, and before the day was out, Saks agreed to cease and desist from putting on the dog. … The fur industry has, as Fur Age Weekly noted, ‘long made extensive use of dog skins.’

Meanwhile, fashion writer Marilyn Bender wrote a word of caution about the cat fur jackets that periodically showed up among the children’s “fun furs.” Quotes Amory:

”Some children are allergic to cat fur and others break into tears when they recognize a household pet on the hanger. The same holds true for pony.”

Other things have changed, and for the better. Man Kind? captures an era in which the AR movement was still struggling to find its voice and guiding principles. Amory captures this exchange without comment:

”You eat meat, don’t you?” shouts a fur worker. “You wear shoes.” “Yes,” replies an animal woman, “and I work for humane slaughter. Furs aren’t even slaughtered-they’re tortured.”

Today’s AR groups without exception promote veganism, and many have made it the main focus of their campaigning. The meat industry, by far, affects more animals and inflicts worse suffering than any other animal use industry, so this shift in priorities makes good sense. Amory also at various points depicts wild animals such as wolves and cheetahs with their celebrity owners, which would also be considered unacceptable by  today’s standards.

And if you just need to get your blood boiling, check out this little gem, quoted from Reverend Roy Johnson in “Trapline Ramblings:”

“If a man beats his wife every day, she suffers because she has an immortal soul. But if he beats his hound-dog, it may yelp some but it won’t suffer because it has no soul and no consciousness.”

(book review originally appeared at goodreads.com)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Reggie Gewant
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 21:43:32

    Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thanks Nonetheless I am experiencing concern with ur rss . Don?t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

    Reply

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