Cougar photo shocks, but hunt ethical

The claws came out in response to our story (and accompanying photo in our online edition) showing a hunter holding up the body of a massive cougar, but not in the way we expected.

Jay Mykietyn holds the 160-pound cougar a friend of his shot in the Pend d’Oreille last month.

Jay Mykietyn holds the 160-pound cougar a friend of his shot in the Pend d’Oreille last month.

The claws came out in response to our story (and accompanying photo in our online edition) showing a hunter holding up the body of a massive cougar, but not in the way we expected.

Instead of animal rights activists lamenting that such a majestic and wild beast had its life prematurely snuffed out for man’s enjoyment, it was hunting supporters posting online comments in defense of both the practice itself and the integrity of the local man in the photo.

It’s a shocking image, the man holding the body of the cat (not the same person who shot the animal) was dwarfed by the sheer bulk of the 160-pound beast with paws as big as dinner plates.

In the background, a hunting dog can be seen, raising the question about whether using dogs to chase down wild animals so men with guns can finish them off should be considered fair sport.

But perhaps a reflection of the rural lifestyle that defines the West Kootenay, few people tackled this angle in their comments on our website (www.trailtimes.ca), rather honed in on how hunting supports, in essence, the 100-Mile Diet.

Few people have qualms about popping into Safeway or Ferraro’s and grabbing a pack of hamburger, a leg of lamb or chicken breasts, but how many would do so if they had to actually slaughter the animal themselves?

We suspect there would be a lot more people turning vegetarian if chopping the head off Tom Turkey was part of putting Christmas dinner on the table.

Admittedly, there’s a big difference in the public’s acceptance of killing a domestically raised chicken versus being confronted with the knowledge that a rarely-sighted beast like a cougar has been shot for dinner.

But few creatures in the wild die from a long, peaceful life — most are eventually hobbled by injury, disease, starvation or ravaged by another beast. Being shot by a hunter can be seen as somewhat more merciful in some respects, with a quicker death.

Beyond the point that a hunter kills the animal he will eat himself, rather than relying on others to do the dirty work, the activity is ethical in other ways — the animals roam free and are not raised in small pens like calves for veal, in battery cages like chickens in factory farms with their beaks burned to keep them from pecking each other to death, or cattle packed into feedlots and dosed up with antibiotics to stave off the “disease of the month.”

Being able to source out where our food is coming from is the healthiest and thus most desirable choice out there. Beyond raising your own livestock, hunting provides the best possible opportunity for this.

Hunters as a group are responsible, pay the necessary fees for the privilege of stalking and killing beasts in the wild and help manage the wildlife population in the process.

While being confronted with a photo and story such as this can be unsettling, killing an animal for meat is an example of human intervention into nature that deserves no criticism.