Monbiot and the Deer

Guardian newspaper columnist and conservation writer George Monbiot published a piece this week titled “I shot a deer …”

I found it fascinating, from a ‘hunters’ perspective. George had (with noble intentions) put himself behind the rifle scope, to stalk and attempt to shoot a deer. Which he did, humanely. In this latest blog (prompted by his own followers calling him a ‘killer’), George made the mistake of describing ‘finding and stalking the innocent animal’. A short sentence that immediately identifies the mindset of a man who would let loose wolf packs and lynx upon the British countryside. In a word, confused. A hungry wolf is hardly likely to canter past a benign creature such as a sheep to catch a galloping red hind, is it? Aren’t sheep ‘innocent’ too?

George attempts to justify his deer cull (which has upset many of his supporters) by describing his angst at what was a pre-meditated exercise. Training, stalking then shooting the beast. He described it as “a gruesome, horrible experience”. The cynical would say he did it for the money unless of course he didn’t get paid for the documentary in which it featured. I am deeply cynical when faced by so-called conservationists who make a living from being contentious. Unlike Packham (anti-hunter extraordinaire) at least George Monbiot places himself in between the extreme polarity of animal rights activism versus shooting conservation.

To be fair, George goes on to explain why his deer needed to be culled. It eats tree seedlings and therefore destroys forests … so perhaps not so ‘innocent’? He also reasons why contraception and fencing aren’t viable solutions to the population explosion. The article doesn’t once mention the rich source of protein which culling deer provides. Venison. Nor the rural economy and tradition built around such a valuable and sustainable resource. But he wouldn’t, would he? For George is a vegan and the documentary in which he shot Bambi was another underhand poke at the livestock farmer and the meat industry.

One of the major components of this article is the reaction of animal rights activists to his act and their accusations of ‘speciesism’. They argue that no creature should have a lesser right to life than another. Including humans. Thank God such thoughts didn’t prevail when our species first stood on two legs. None of us would be here now. With due respect, George argues, as I would, that “no animal can sustain its existence without privileging itself above other life forms”. Which is why wolves and lynx kill deer and sheep. They need to eat. And which is why Homo sapiens the hunter still ventures out with gun, dog, trap and net to fill the pot or protect crops and livestock. There is no human with a closer affinity to nature than the hunter or stalker. Because to succeed as a hunter you have to understand and respect all that is natural. Flora, fauna, environment, season and weather. You also have to get past that “gruesome, horrible experience” mantra and think in the same way as Georges wolf or lynx.

Perhaps the most satisfying revelation within George’s article is the recognition that veganism can’t exist without the death of certain other creatures. Something many of his followers struggle to understand. 

Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, February 2020

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