Dove hunting mirrors U.S.’ war outlook

Hunting mourning doves goes against everything the United States stands for.

Minnesota, through its 2004 omnibus fish and game bill, is perched to become the 40th state to allow such misguided activities, despite that mourning doves have not been hunted in Minnesota since the end of World War II.

Few legislators seem to care that these sentient beings are monogamous and mate for life. In other words, if you kill a bird, its partner lives alone for the rest of its life. Despite this, some hunters and legislators assert that dove hunting teaches family values. For example, Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, argued that “the DNR was in favor of the season and that the experience is ideal for youth – learning etiquette, spending time with family and being out in nicer weather.”

While I doubt that hunting teaches any life lessons, I recognize the obvious contradictions in messages such as this. While we consistently teach our children to “do no harm,” we simultaneously allow them to participate in our own, adult fits of rage and violence. The bumper sticker that matter-of-factly stated “Kick their Ass and take their Gas” comes immediately to mind, but there are clearly other examples of the ways in which we indoctrinate youth with glorious visions of war, violence or heroic death.

Perhaps the most worrisome argument used to support dove hunting: It is the most numerous bird in North America, so we cannot possibly put a dent in its numbers. Lest we forget, a little more than a century ago, the passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird on the planet. In the eastern United States alone, they numbered in the billions, more than any other bird in North America. Another poor argument used by dove-hunting advocates: We need to join the likes of Wisconsin and Michigan, states that recently passed dove-hunting legislation despite the fact that mourning-dove hunting has been illegal in Michigan since 1905, longer than any other state, and that the mourning dove is Wisconsin’s state bird of peace.

Outside the United States, doves have historically been a universal symbol of peace, love and divinity for thousands of years. All humans, particularly if they have any religious affiliation or are in favor of marriage, should be mortified that we are even suggesting a dove-hunting season! As a result of doves’ universal recognition in every country and every religion as symbols for peace, it seems that the opposition to dove hunting should be bipartisan! Furthermore, mourning-dove hunting goes against everything the United States stands for as a so-called “peace-loving people.” Is it essential that we kill doves?

A war-loving people

Despite our government’s decision to invade Iraq and the recent assault against mourning doves in Wisconsin, Michigan and now Minnesota, I do not believe Americans are not a warmongering people, nor are they truly, at their core, pro-war. As anecdotal evidence, I take the example of my father, a staunch Republican from western New York state, who confided in me in early 2003 that he opposed the idea of the war in Iraq. He knew intuitively there would be a great loss of life, not only to U.S. soldiers but also to innocent Iraqi civilians.

Rather than use the example of my father or, for that matter, my entire family, I could just as easily take the pulse of the U.S. people. The CBS poll taken in early February 2003, on the eve of the war in Iraq, tells the true story. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they felt the United States should “wait and give the United Nations and weapons inspectors more time” – an idea that has been blasted by President George W. Bush’s campaign advertisements.

As Amy Goodman, co-host of “Democracy Now!,” stated in her latest video, “Independent Media in a Time of War”: imagine if we had continuous coverage of the war, with particular emphasis on the images of dead soldiers and civilians for one week. Perhaps the war would end. Perhaps the husbands and wives of soldiers in Iraq can reunite with their loved ones. Perhaps, like mourning doves, those reunited couples could be pairs for life. Perhaps we could take a giant step toward peace as an indispensable civic ideal.

We have to imagine that another world is possible. And then we must act for peace – peace for all sentient beings – to turn back the tide and create civilized possibilities for the future. Mourning doves are symbols of peace, not targets. Perhaps we should take our cue from nature and emulate mourning doves rather than shoot them.

Joel T. Helfrich welcomes comments at [email protected]