Here’s a response to Bill Maher and his thoughts on hunters.
Last month, Bill Maher commented on his show “Real Time with Bill Maher” that hunting is a “slippery slope,” implying that those who kill animals want to murder other people.
This isn’t Maher’s first time commenting on hunting. In March he wrote a profanity-laced piece on his website angrily insulting a hunter who’d bagged a record wild boar. “That’s some specimen of a pig,” he writes. “And the boar’s pretty big too.”
Maher expects to receive an angry response to his comments to justify his stereotypes about hunters. He’s made a career out of logical fallacies and emotional appeals like these aimed at provoking people, while using abrasive humor to avoid really addressing issues. And in surrounding himself with yes-men on his panel for years, he hasn’t received much of an opposing opinion. As insulting as his implication is to millions of hunters nationwide, we’ll surprise him with as respectful of a rebuttal as possible.
Lets start with Maher’s statement that hunters “get joy” out of killing animals. This is a gross oversimplification of the experience of hunting. Every hunter has their reason for hunting, from connecting with nature to family tradition. It’s rarely about the kill, and when one happens, the reaction is often as much about relief and reverence as it is excitement. Hunting is natural and healthy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t often bring about conflicting emotions.
While it may seem contrary at first glance to an outsider, hunters don’t kill to eliminate life, but to maintain it. Hunters are some of the most enthusiastic conservationists there are – their actions help control wildlife populations and their dollars and actions have collectively done much more to preserve species and wild habitats than any animal rights group or media figure has.
Maher offers no evidence for his claim that hunters all have murderous urges, because there is none. Federal law actually prohibits gun ownership by mentally ill people, and this is enforced by a background check. In 2011, 13.7 million people in the US went hunting. Is Maher really saying every one of these people is tempted to commit murder?
Hunters are driven by our natural urge to kill for food. Mr. Maher is not a vegetarian or vegan, and although he eats meat, appears to not be fully aware of where it comes from. A deer living in the woods and shot by a hunter in most cases has a happier life and a more humane end than a cow or chicken in an industrial farm. But Maher reserves judgement on the people that do the killing of these animals for him. He wants to have the moral high ground – to have his steak and eat it too.
Maher’s commentary has always been more about getting people who disagree with him to react rather than to respond – that’s why he insults them. He doesn’t want change, only controversy. While it’s tempting to simply ignore him, that’s what he’d prefer. The last thing he wants is a reasonable argument from the other side. Oh, and for hunting to get more popular – which the US Census confirms is happening.
In the spirit of compromise, let’s end on some common ground: we can all agree with Maher’s one point on the panel that Americans deserve more time for vacations. Unfortunately, Bill probably wouldn’t like that a lot of us would spend it hunting.