DEAR DR. FOX: I have a gripe against you being against all hunters. Deer hunting has been our family tradition for generations. Maybe you need to apologize or clarify. -- R.E., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR R.E.: I apologize if I have offended any readers in the past over my animal rights advocacy and critical comments against hunters, with the exception of most Indigenous subsistence hunters, of whom there are fewer and fewer around the world.
Right now in Minnesota (where I live) and several other states, more hunting and significant culling of herds is called for, both ecologically and to control the spread of chronic wasting disease. Those efforts must include continued state protection of gray wolves, which were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act list in October. Under laws in several states, gray wolves can be shot, snared and trapped legally. Just this past November, two radio-collared wolves being studied by conservation biologists were found to have been shot and killed by hunters.
My beef with deer hunters is specifically against those who see the wolf as a competitor and want wolves' numbers reduced, their families and bonds torn apart. In so doing, they diminish the beneficial ecological services healthy wolf packs provide, including keeping the deer herds and forests healthy and possibly reducing zoonotic diseases like Lyme disease and chronic wasting disease. The latter afflicts deer, elk and other cervid populations across many states where cougar killing is also condoned as a sport. These particular hunters also diminish themselves via their expressed and acted-upon prejudice against wolves and the many American citizens who want the wolf protected, along with Indigenous peoples who revere them.
My main gripe and deep concerns are with sport and trophy hunting: Simply killing animals for some kind of enjoyment, I believe, is a culturally sanctioned and deeply embedded manifestation of empathy-deficit disorder. This affliction has a long history in human slavery and other degrading forms of oppression, exploitation, objectification and inhumanity against man and beast.
The empathy-deficit disorder is evident in the corporate world, especially in the agrichemical pesticide sector that harms consumers and other species, as well as the environment we share. Where is the feeling and responsibility for harmful consequences beyond profit margins and investor satisfaction? Desensitization and rationalization can cement this empathy deficit into society. Dysbiosis and dystopia result, as we are witnessing today.
The empathy-deficit disorder is not only culturally embedded, but there is evidence of familial, generational and possibly genetic transmission. Such abnormal character development and expression might best be prevented through the incorporation of humane education in all grade schools, along with related ethics, animal and human rights and associated rule of law. The general public should be aware of annual turkey and pigeon shoots, bunny bopping, rattlesnake roundups and coyote-killing contests, not to forget illegal dog fights and other such contests.
If the endemic mistreatment of animals and killing for fun is not opened for discussion in America’s classrooms, the ethical and civic education of our children is defective and deficient. Our ultimate well-being is in that freedom of spirit which enables and empowers feeling for, loving and living with others.
MEDICATION TO REDUCE STRESS IN SHELTER ANIMALS
The anti-anxiety drug trazodone hydrochloride may reduce stress and thus boost disease resistance when administered within 48 hours of intake into an animal shelter, according to a study accepted for publication in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. Animal shelters are inherently stressful places for vulnerable animals, leading to weakened immunity and higher disease susceptibility, study leaders Jennifer Abrams and Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere write. (Full story: TheBark.com, Jan. 21)
I would add that dogs who must be regularly groomed but are very stressed by the experience, where it cannot be done in-home, would benefit from this medication given the day before and the day of grooming. Similarly, dogs going into a boarding facility and suffering separation anxiety may benefit from this prescription drug. For shy and fearful cats, gabapentin can help reduce stress and distress prior to a veterinary appointment and when being boarded.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)