It takes a real man to shoot trapped and caged animals for the pure fun of killing. Real men like former NRA Executive Director John Sigler who was photographed participating in a canned pigeon hunt at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem, PA in 2012. The caged pigeons, tossed into the air and shot by he-men, are not killed for food but “rather for the hunting equivalent of dog-fighting,” says the Daily Kos. They are left “to die agonizingly over the course of hours and days,” as disturbing videos show.
Live pigeon shoots like the one at the Philadelphia Gun Club thrive in Pennsylvania. District attorneys “regularly block attempts by humane officers to file cruelty charges for the inhumane treatment of wounded birds,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer because the club and hunt sponsors and fans are so well connected politically. Sigler, for example, is the head of the Delaware Republican Party.
Of course, the poster child for thrill killing is former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney did not have to plead for an organ transplant to save his life like 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan; he received one last year, “because my heart had gotten so weak after six heart attacks and 30-some years of heart disease that it was, you know, it was at the end,” he told the press. Of course, many contend he never had a heart. But Cheney’s reprieve thanks to someone who died has not given him new reverence for life. In fact, it has inspired him to indulge in his favorite pastime.
The Denver Post reports the Veep will participate in Wyoming’s One Shot Antelope Hunt in September. The event is a duel between Wyoming and Colorado and “the team that kills the most antelope in the shortest time wins,” says the Associated Press. Nice.
While some defend hunting as more honest than eating food from factory farm conditions, not Dick Cheney style hunting. The nation still laughs at how Cheney shot his companion, attorney Harry Whittington, in the face instead of shooting a quail in 2006. But Cheney’s love of put-and-take or canned hunting is hardly funny. Even hunters agree it is as brave as hitting women and children.
In 2003, Cheney’s hunting party killed 417 pheasants at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, PA; Cheney personally killed 70 pheasants and an undisclosed number of ducks. Three years later, Cheney headed to Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club in a caravan of 15 sport utility vehicles–with an ambulance–at a local-taxpayer cost of $32,000. Nor was this Cheney’s ﬁrst visit to the 4,000-acre club, which costs $150,000 a year to join and features a male-only clubhouse.
Gun-club staff would not divulge whether the Veep was shooting pheasants, ducks or the “Hungarian partridges,” the club advertises, but a New York Daily News photographer snapped a photo of a Confederate ﬂag displayed in a Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club garage. What? Racism and gun extremism linked?
Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said neither Cheney nor his staff saw the ﬂag. Did she go on to spin for Paula Deen? Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that Cheney “leave immediately, denounce the club and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate and murder to black people.” Feminists and animal lovers no doubt agreed.
Why single out Cheney’s treatment of animals in light of what his policies did to people? Because they come from the same sadistic, exploit-the-powerless impulse in his brain. Birds raised for canned hunts at gun clubs and in state “recreational” areas are grown in packed pens like factory farmed chickens and sometimes fitted with goggles so they won’t peck each other to death from the crowding. When released for “hunters” like Cheney, the pen-raised birds can barely walk or fly–or see, thanks to the goggles. They don’t know how to forage or hide in the wild and sometimes have to be kicked to “fly” enough to be shot. Whee! Some hunters say shooting the pellet-ready tame animals, which offer no resistance, is like having sex with a blow-up doll.
For the Veep to pursue his addiction to the “programmed massacre of scores of tame, pen-raised birds” despite all the “negative publicity it has generated for him” suggests a deep psychological disorder, said a 2006 letter to the editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
There have been other Executive branch thrill killers, too. Former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and the late Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr, pleaded with the Botswana government to keep trophy lion hunts available, for trophy hunters like them. They were members of Safari Club International (SCI).
In 2006 the NRA helped SCI defeat an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the House of Representatives that would have banned the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada. (SCI offers a “Bears of the World” award, a kind of National Geographic for the bloodthirsty, in which hunters have to kill four of the world’s eight bear species which include imperiled polar bears.) The NRA also works against spay neuter legislation for dogs and even defends puppy mills.
And speaking of the NRA, why isn’t board member Ted Nugent under psychiatric care or behind bars? Last year he was found guilty of illegal black bear hunting in Alaska including failing “to locate and harvest” a bear he wounded so it could be put out of its misery. In March he reportedly tweeted, ” I took my machine gun in the helicopter — in the Texas hill country – me and my buddy ‘Pigman’ …his name is ‘Pigman’ – I’m the swine czar. I killed 455 hogs with my machine gun. I did it for Bill Maher and all those other animal rights freaks out there.”
The NRA also helps fund the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, called a “charity” but “little more than the social directorate of the National Rifle Association,” says the Tampa Bay Times. The Foundation throws soirees for lawmakers and actually brags “no organization has access to so many elected officials.” The Foundation sponsored a gathering with legislators last year at a resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C. that included a wild hog hunt and firing of guns with silencers, reports the New York Times.
With the killing of Trayvon Martin, many are looking at how Stand Your Ground laws empower racism and bullies and create armed vigilantes. But the remorseless thrill killers among gun extremist ranks shows another disturbing side to the bloodlust.