No Fun Allowed!

And we shall call it Massachusetts!

And we shall call this land Massachusetts!

A few months ago I complained in a post about all the hoops my home state makes me jump through to get a hunting licence. Well, I am on the verge of completing one of my requirements, participation in a hunter’s education course. It has been much more fun than I imagined it would be.

The course instructors are all experienced hunters and exemplary conservationists, truly concerned about wildlife preservation. They try to instill in their students a high level of hunter’s ethics that go beyond the strict demands of the law. So it surprised me when some of them would complain about outdated or contradictory state restrictions on hunting, like the prohibition of hunting crows on Tuesday, or the fact that you can hunt squirrels with high-powered rifles (an unethical waste of meat) but not deer.

Among the state prohibitions they complained about was the ban of hunting on Sundays.

It is what we call in Massachusetts a “Blue Law”. The Blue Laws date back to our Puritan forefathers who thought it right and proper to forbid people from doing anything fun on Sunday. Most Blue Laws, like the ban on dancing, have lapsed. A few years ago the state even allowed, under certain restrictions, alcohol to be sold on Sundays. But the ban on hunting remains.

Actually, the ban on Sunday hunting dates back to Medieval Europe, and it made sense in that context. Here in America hunting is traditionally a poor man’s sport, but in Europe it was always a rich man’s sport, usually restricted to the nobility.

The Medieval nobleman was first and foremost a warrior, and he always had to be ready to ride off to fight for his overlord or to defend his own lands against invasion. Hunting was considered a fun way to stay in shape for war. The dogs would scare up a stag or boar, and the nobleman and his entourage would chase the animal on horseback over hill, forest and stream until the dogs cornered the beast and the lord would dispatch it with a spear. It would have demanded great skill and stamina as a rider and spear-man, as well as intimate knowledge of the local geography, all of which would be needed in time of war.

I admit this looks like fun.

I admit this looks like fun.

The Medieval Church sometimes tried (unsuccessfully) to put restrictions on war. In fact, the whole notion of “chivalry” was an attempt by the Church to tame the violent impulses of the Germanic tribesman who ran the continent after the fall of Rome. Some historians even interpret the Crusades as an attempt by the Church to direct the destructive impulses of Medieval warlords at something useful, like reconquering the Holy Land. The Church banned warfare on holy days, Sundays, and during Lent and Advent. Since hunting was closely associated with war, it too fell under the ban.

There was probably also a kill-joy spirit to the Church banning hunting on those days, but it does not seem to have been the dominate motive.

By the time you get to the Puritans however, the kill-joy spirit seems to have been the only remaining motive. There is much to admire in the tough Pilgrims and Puritans who settled the inhospitable Massachusetts Bay, but they were kicked out of England for a reason. The rise of Puritanism in England contributed to a civil war, during which the Puritans took particular pleasure in vandalizing pretty churches out of the conviction that the pleasant and the pious do not mix. Arriving in Massachusetts they did their best to separate the two, and one of the few remaining causalities of that separation was the hunting ban, not because it was a vain and warlike diversion for the rich, but because it is fun.

Why does the blue law ban on hunting survive, but not the ban on dancing? Because the rich folk in the Boston suburbs like dancing, but not hunting. They like to imagine that their own pastimes are all well and good, but the pastimes of others are somehow wrong. Hunting is cruel, so pass the pate fois gras.

I’ve commented in the past about how there is a tinge of classism in the gun-control movement. I wonder how much of our “shaming”, kill-joy culture is nothing other than class warfare by other means. I honestly don’t know. Sure, cigarettes will kill you, but who is hurt more by exorbitant cigarette taxes, the rich smoker or the poor smoker? Who would be more hurt by proposed taxes on carbon output, rich car-owners or poor car-owners? Rich people trying to heat their houses, or poor? Being fat is unhealthy, but who is on the receiving end of this emotionally exploitative anti-obesity movement? America is a strange country insofar as poor people are fat, and rich skinny, the opposite of every other country on earth.

And who is more likely to go to jail over our drug laws, a rich drug user or a poor one?

I’ll have more to say on this subject in a future post.

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20 comments

  1. Why do you need to shoot animals for sport?

    1. Like most predators I enjoy hunting, though not so much the killing part. I have another post on the subject called “Small Furry Rodents
      I do not think there is anything immoral about going to the store and buying meat (passively participating in the industrial-scale killing of an animal) but I think it is more honorable to do the killing yourself, and most honorable when the animal has a fair chance to escape.

      1. But you hunt for sport, yes?

      2. Yes, I am not starving.

  2. ”Yes, I am not starving.”

    Sorry, I should have expounded. Why do you hunt then, as you are not hunting for food?

    1. Because I enjoy it, coming, as I suppose you do too, from a long line of hunter-gatherers. It gives me pleasure. It is the time that I am most focused, and most at one with nature, participating first hand in getting my dinner, instead of passively going to the market. I get a similar feeling from fishing, gardening, or picking wild mushrooms. Who would not rather fry a trout he caught himself rather than open a can of tuna? How can you appreciate the animal you are eating if you never even saw it alive?

  3. I don’t generally have to hunt carrots. They are quite obliging in that respect.
    I might concede you had a valid point if you hunted solely for food – HAD to. As you don’t, I find the whole business quite distasteful to be honest.
    I will be silently cheering for the bear…

    1. Please do cheer for the bear (or in my case rabbits and squirrels), since he has a good chance of survival; that is what makes hunting a superior form of consuming meat. No use cheering for the generically modified farm animals on the conveyor belt to the slaughterhouse.
      But I suppose there is no arguing about taste.

  4. As I said, if it was purely a matter of feeding yourself, your actions might be considered excusable. And I say might, because you always have the choice to eat meat or not.
    That you do it firstly because you consider it enjoyable – and have the audacity to presume I would smacks of an egotistical frame of mind that is quite staggering and a little disturbing – and not out of necessity and then try to justify it with some notion of it being more honorable is disgusting.

    I truly don’t think you would be a nice person to know. Maybe one day, effective gun control will see the end this type of aberrant mentality.

    1. I have some sympathy with vegetarians, but I am not one. Humans are omnivores and I do very poorly on a low-protein diet. If I am going to eat meat, I will do it the right way insofar as practical. And if I am not a nice person, why have you hit my blog like 100 times this weekend? Not that I mind, but you should ask yourself if there is not some co-dependency or battered-wife syndrome going on.

      1. Lol Battered wife syndrome.
        I originally nipped over in response to your comment to me on Violetwisp’s blog.
        I found some of your essays very interesting.
        Until we got into discussion over the hunting I only regarded you as a Christian and didn’t have any views beyond that about whether you are nice or not.
        The hunting post I commented on because I believe that a person who would kill for fun rather than purely for necessity is somewhat disturbed and strikes me as slightly sociopathic.

      2. I knew you would come crawling back to me.
        Just to clarify, it is not the killing I enjoy, but the hunting… and the eating. If I am a sociopath, then so is everyone else who eats animals.

      3. I haven’t crawled since the days of giving my kids piggy back rides across the lounge.
        I leave all the crawling and getting ones knees to the religious.

        No, sir, from my experience, those that eat meat just tend to switch off to the realities of what happens to the animals.
        I have never met one that takes pleasure in the death of an animal, they just don’t think of it.
        I reiterate, if you were hunting just for food, I might understand.
        The food aspect is secondary as you would hunt even if you were unable to eat what you killed.

        ”It is not the killing I enjoy, but the hunting… ”
        If you only enjoy the hunting then go and play some form of Paintball.
        There you get to ‘kill’ and you even get to shoot humans. That should satisfy any latent fantasies, or manly shortcomings surely?

      4. Ha! Manly “short”comings! That’s cute. Now get on the back of my motorcycle before I blacken your other eye! Anyway, I always eat what I kill.

  5. ”I always eat what I kill.”
    Yes, so you keep saying, but you stated you enjoy the hunting and would hunt whether you ate or not so why not hunt a human with a paintball?

    1. I don’t eat human.
      Distinction: I do not need to hunt in order to eat, but I never said I hunt and don’t eat. Hunting and eating go together in my mind.
      I enjoy Laser Tag, because it is tag, and snowball fights (a folk tradition here in the Northern Hemisphere). I think that is why people enjoy paintball, but I find paintball is too reminiscent of actual violence against people for my taste. A personal quirk. You say people block out the death to the animal when they buy meat at the market. Well, I do not block out the imitation violence to people in paintball, and it makes me feel a little sick. For the same reason I generally do not watch violent moves or boxing.
      Yes, the species matters to me.

  6. I love your chat with Ark!

    But apart from that, this is an argument I’ve heard from other American Christians before and I’m wondering if it’s one of those doing the right-wing Christian rounds:
    “Sure, cigarettes will kill you, but who is hurt more by exorbitant cigarette taxes, the rich smoker or the poor smoker? Who would be more hurt by proposed taxes on carbon output, rich car-owners or poor car-owners? Rich people trying to heat their houses, or poor? Being fat is unhealthy, but who is on the receiving end of this emotionally exploitative anti-obesity movement?”
    Not smoking, not pumping out yucky and damaging fumes, and not eating yourself into a difficult life and early death, are all actually useful in life. Are you suggesting that we patronise people and let them continue uninformed about the cycles they’re putting their children through? Parents who smoke are more likely to have smoker children, parents who over-eat unhealthy food are more likely to bring up obese children who have little hope of their bodies recovering. You seem to be promoting the idea that ignorance (for it is often ignorance that allows these harmful habits to continue) should be protected because it’s picking on poor people and limiting their choices to make their lives more miserable.

    And don’t even get me started on people with power complexes wanting to shoot sentient beings for fun. Honestly, I despair for the human race – so much progress and so much idiocy.

    1. I’m happy to entertain you.
      I think in the next post I admitted that I am not completely sure about this problem. On the one hand the government can claim it is acting against the exploitation of the poor by unscrupulous companies selling tobacco or junk food, but who is to say the government is not just exploiting the poor by taxing their behaviors? The government, after all, benefits from the taxes gathered.
      Is this idea popular among the political right now? Funny, it comes from Marx: everything the ruling class does is to promote its own interests, even to the extent of convincing everyone (including themselves) that they act for the general good.
      The difference between me and Marx on this issue would be that Marx would say it is always this way, while I would say that it is often this way.

      1. Well that sounds a little more sensible. “who is to say the government is not just exploiting the poor by taxing their behaviors?” – possibly anyone who can see the damage that smoking and obesity do to people’s lives. Also anyone who isn’t paranoid about what governments are. For all their shortcomings, they are a group of people we elect to make decisions for us. If you’re not happy with your representative, go have a word with her or him, or stand yourself.

        No attempt to defend the squirrel slaughter? I’m off to poke pins in next door’s cat because my natural hunting instinct is calling.

      2. It is nice to be able to hold governments accountable, but governments can always take steps to make themselves unaccountable. A culture of accountability is a fragile thing, and those in power will always end up arguing that their power is for the best, and shield themselves from popular opinion.
        Regarding hunting, I see no reason to add to my comments above.

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