by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Day By Day, Americans Hurt or Killed Without Taking Much Notice
Sept. 11 is a sad date, when, on both sides of the border, we remember the victims of the greatest act of terrorism ever committed on American soil. And two months later, Nov. 11, is another sad day for many of us as we remember our war dead on what is called Remembrance Day, here in Canada, and Veterans Day in the United States.
Remembrance Day was perhaps more than poignant this year as volunteers in the military of both countries fight and die against terrorism in Afghanistan, while the leaders of our respective countries struggle to find a way to cut the loss in lives and money that the “war” has caused, without looking like our side lost.
Such thoughts were in my mind on this year’s Nov. 11 as a series of e-mails reached me, sent by an American who monitors a particular type of incident as they are reported in various local media. They told about a guy shot in Ohio, who will recover, as will a 16-year-old boy from Richville, Minn., who shot himself in the foot, and another 16-year-old Minnesotan who, while sitting in a truck, was struck by buckshot from his misfiring father. They’re luckier than a 37-year-old man who down in Louisiana was shot dead in the company of his 13-year-old son.
Still on the same day, Nov. 11, I read of a 24-year-old who was shot in the leg in New York state and was admitted to a hospital in serious condition. And still on the same day a young man, age not given by the media, was struck in the hip — not by a bullet or shotgun pellets, but by a broadhead arrow, a weapon that is far more dangerous than a box-cutter.
Assuming two men who went missing will be found safe and the guy who took a rifle bullet through his foot will be okay, it was perhaps not that bad a day — only one outright fatality was reported.
What is depressing is that these e-mails, while spiking in fall and winter, continue day after day year-round as Americans and a smaller number of Canadians are under assault. An organization that tracks these assaults did a survey for the years 2004 and 2005, and found that kids under the age of 18 accounted for all of these attacks. There were 27 children between the ages of 11 and 18 who were killed outright, most shot dead. Not as bad as 9/11, but over time it would sure add up.
Still, because it is so incremental, as terrorism goes it hardly counts, compared, let’s say, to a car bomb exploding in a marketplace in Kabul or Baghdad, or a drone missile strike against a wedding party in Afghanistan. And the fact that so many of these injuries are self-inflicted or directed toward friends or family takes the edge off.
Heck, these perpetrators aren’t really terrorists at all, just hunters. And their near daily mayhem, as reported in the media, is dutifully monitored by the Committee To Abolish Sport Hunting.
I recall the horror on another November day, Nov. 6, 2006, when a friend of a friend, a woman in her 60s who, having just moved to her dream retirement home, decided to go for a walk with her dog. She purposely chose the day before the deer hunting season opened. What she didn’t realize was that she had moved to an area where the season started a day earlier than where she used to live. She was shot dead by a hunter.
Before anyone tells me, yes, I know that as spare-time activities go, hunting is relatively safe. Hunting is not terrorism. A hunter can shoot anyone anywhere and at any time, and just so long as it can’t be proved to have been intentional, or even if it was, he or she cannot be charged with terrorism. I am used to guns; they don’t panic me the way they do some folks, but having had shots come in my direction on three or four separate occasions in my life while I was birding, I now avoid areas where I know there are active hunters. They terrify me, be they terrorists or not.
But, in the United States, as of the signing into law the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006, anyone who does much less, who damages property, can be charged as a terrorist. I’m not defending acts of vandalism, arson, theft or harassment. I don’t do those things nor do I know anyone who does, but such crimes already were well covered by law, which is as it should be.
My dad and his friends and their allies from other nations, including those who never returned from the battlefields of Europe, North Africa and Asia, fought for freedom that Americans have given away, or allowed their government to take from them. Vandalism is and should be illegal. Harassment is and should be illegal. Arson is and should be illegal. Making and/or using incendiary devices, if they aren’t Fourth of July fireworks, is and should be illegal. Similar things have, sadly, been done by frustrated people trying to help animals. I think they should face the consequences, but those consequences should be in keeping with the nature of the crimes. Suffragettes and civil rights workers also broke laws in the interest of fighting their own respective causes. Civil disobedience is a tried and proved engine of social reform.
But it isn’t terrorism. A woman being shot dead as she walks her dog on a public hiking trail in the forest terrorizes me far more.
This was a particularly depressing Remembrance Day for me. And the day after, and the day after that, the litany of hunting “accidents” continues to appear on my computer screen.
Terrifying, if you ask me.