Friday, February 1, 2013

Final Thoughts on the Short Hills Deer Hunt

“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Rights are bullshit - there, I said it. They’re an illusion, a pie-in-the-sky ideal. More like “wouldn’t it be nice if things were this way” rather than the way things actually are. They’re principles, propositions and beliefs, not carved-in-stone laws. Sometimes they’re called natural rights and sometimes they’re called inalienable rights, like the right to life. But they’re still all bullshit.

If we all have the right to an education and clean water, why are so many of us without either? And doesn’t a child have the right to go to school without being murdered by a gun-wielding maniac? But it happens. Without respect for another person’s life, what good are rights?

Aerial shot of protest and blockade at Pelham Road entrance
And then there are those whose rights seem to carry more weight than the rights of others. Take the First Nations deer hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park a few weeks ago. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the native deer hunt in Short Hills was “a traditional hunt by First Nations exercising their treaty rights.”

Because the First Nations wanted to exercise their treaty rights, my rights – including the right to enjoy a public park I help maintain – were not only secondary to the natives’ treaty rights, but for the first two weekends in January, were actually taken away.

Why didn’t I have the right to enter a provincial park funded in part by my tax dollars? My “right” to hike through a provincial park was suspended so a group of natives who don’t even live in the area could exercise their treaty rights. Their “rights” trumped mine.

And why were the native hunters allowed to drive their trucks and suburban assault vehicles into the heart of a provincial park when non-native hunters, during their hunting season, are not?

On the second Saturday and Sunday of the hunt, Niagara Regional Police shut down Pelham Road, stopping any vehicular traffic from driving past the Pelham Road entrance to Short Hills where the protesters were set up.

Niagara Regional Police shut down Pelham Road
This effectively killed any chance the protesters had to educate passersby about the deer hunt at Short Hills. Sure, the protesters still had the “right” to assemble peacefully, and they still had the “right” to exercise their freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the only ones around to listen to their message were a couple of pigeons sitting on the telephone line across the street.

The police said they shut down the road because they were concerned about public safety (somebody being hit by a car because they might stand too close to the road was the reason given). Then why wasn’t the deer hunt shut down when the police learned that several groups of protesters were inside the park? So much for public safety…

Because of the political tension surrounding the hunt and out of a fear of being labeled racists, the police ignored the rights of one group of citizens to accommodate the rights of another.

And what about the rights of the animals not to be hunted down and killed? What gives anyone the right to take the life of another? Whether you’re native or non-native, if you kill other animals when you don’t have to (meaning the human body doesn't require animal flesh to maintain good health or nutrition), saying you respect those animals is just more bullshit.

When killing becomes a “right”, perhaps it’s time to say that certain “rights” are wrong. Instead of the Idle No More movement, I’d like to see a Killing No More movement. Extending our circle of compassion to include the animals is the first step.