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Killing Tradition

Inside Hunting and Animal Rights Controversies

Simon Bronner

Publication Year: 2008

Across the country and around the world, people avidly engage in the cultural practice of hunting. Children are taken on rite-of-passage hunting trips, where relationships are cemented and legacies are passed on from one generation to another. Meals are prepared from hunted game, often consisting of regionally specific dishes that reflect a community’s heritage and character. Deer antlers and bear skins are hung on living room walls, decorations and relics of a hunter’s most impressive kills. Only 5 percent of Americans are hunters, but that group has a substantial presence in the cultural consciousness. Hunting has spurred controversy in recent years, inciting protest from animal rights activists and lobbying from anti-cruelty demonstrators who denounce the custom. But hunters have responded to such criticisms and the resulting legislative censures with a significant argument in their defense—the claim that their practices are inextricably connected to a cultural tradition. Further, they counter that they, as representatives of the rural lifestyle, pioneer heritage, and traditional American values, are the ones being victimized. Simon J. Bronner investigates this debate in Killing Tradition: Inside Hunting and Animal Rights Controversies. Through extensive research and fieldwork, Bronner takes on the many questions raised by this problematic subject: Does hunting promote violence toward humans as well as animals? Is it an outdated activity, unnecessary in modern times? Is the heritage of hunting worth preserving? Killing Tradition looks at three case studies that are at the heart of today’s hunting debate. Bronner first examines the allegedly barbaric rituals that take place at deer camps every late November in rural America. He then analyzes the annual Labor Day pigeon shoot of Hegins, Pennsylvania, which brings animal rights protests to a fever pitch. Noting that these aren’t simply American concerns (and that the animal rights movement in America is linked to British animal welfare protests), Bronner examines the rancor surrounding the passage of Great Britain’s Hunting Act of 2004—the most comprehensive and divisive anti-hunting legislation ever enacted. The practice of hunting is sure to remain controversial, as it continues to be touted and defended by its supporters and condemned and opposed by its detractors. With Killing Tradition, Bronner reflects on the social, psychological, and anthropological issues of the debate, reevaluating notions of violence, cruelty, abuse, and tradition as they have been constructed and contested in the twenty-first century.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. viii-ix

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pp. xi-xv

My “field” for this project was mostly in the woods. I benefited from able guides navigating me through sometimes rough terrain and helping me see the forest for the trees. I started going to camp as an escape before it became fieldwork, but once the project took shape, the men at Camp Hunter and other haunts were wonderfully receptive to being ...

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Prologue: Taking Aim

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pp. 1-25

“We have been whaling in this town for centuries, so why shouldn’t we continue?” Yoshinori Shoji, vice chairman of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, defensively addressed the reporter from the Guardian who had come to the tiny fishing village of Wadaura for the protest-filled opening of the 2007 whaling season (McCurry ...

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1. Ritual and Controversy at Deer Camp

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pp. 27-97

Many places in America are both venerated and vilified as hunting havens—Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri among them. They rise to the top of national surveys recording the number of hunters licensed. In terms of the percentage of total population participating in hunting, other places with hardy backcountry reputations fig-...

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2. The Pigeon Shoot Controversy

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pp. 99-170

At the end of the twentieth century, pigeon shoots, often described in media coverage as “folk tradition,” made front-page news. Every Labor Day from 1987 to 1997, animal rights activists protested the community-sponsored shooting contest in the rural Pennsylvania German hamlet of Hegins.1 Stories about the protests were carried on national ...

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3. The Hare-Coursing Controversy

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pp. 171-214

The Hunting Act 2004, known colloquially as “the ban,” signaled a monumental legal change and social divide in Great Britain. The contentious effect of the act was to outlaw hunting with dogs in England and Wales after February 18, 2005. Parliament spent over 700 hours debating the ban in 2004, and one index of its political as well as social ...

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Epilogue: Future Shot

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pp. 215-245

"I’ll tell you why I’m the future of hunting,” eighteen-year-old Meredith Odato said after winning the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s youth essay contest. “Hunting is not only a tradition,” she continued, “but also a remarkable way of life; a lifelong process devoted to the establishment of character and knowledge, unique qualities known ex-...


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pp. 247-255


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pp. 257-290


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pp. 291-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780813126418
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125282

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2008