It’s important to link responsible hunting with the larger issues of livestock production, because the same activists oppose both. But in making the case, one writer went straight into the ditch.

Since the same folks who decry the consumption of animal foods because of concerns about farm animal suffering are almost always opposed to killing wildlife, defending both hunting and trapping comes with the territory for those who support livestock production.

Unfortunately, a recent response to a story about fur trapping in Tennessee that was published in the Hartsville Vidette under the headline “Don’t Be a Hypocrite About Animal Welfare” prompted probably the worst “defense” of hunting I think I’ve ever read.

“As society becomes more urbanized and people lose touch with the natural order of things, there is an increasing anti-hunting sentiment,” the author, who’s the paper’s outdoor columnist, wrote. “About all that most folks know about wildlife — and animals in general — is the Bambi-type of poppycock they see on Disney films.”

Fair enough. Can’t argue with any of that, although the Disney empire was built on something more substantive than poppycock. Nevertheless, it’s valid to note that people born and raised in cities often have no connection with, nor understanding of, the dynamics of balancing an ecosystem with multiple species of prey and predator inter-related with each other.

The writer continued: “One responder to the trapping feature said she was disgusted by the idea of killing animals and — I’m paraphrasing — she is raising her five children to feel the same way. Unless she and her five children are vegetarians, she’s a hypocrite.”

Uh, oh. The vehicle that was supposed to bring us to an intellectually powerful position has hit a patch of ice, and it’s starting to slide.

“I can assure her that a beaver caught in a quick-kill trap suffers far less trauma than the cows, pigs and chickens on which she and her kids dine.”

Spinning uncontrollably . . .

“That goes for the five deer I killed this season. Each suffered a demise as humane, if not more-so, as the livestock and poultry that make up her kids’ Happy Meals.”

 . . . and straight off the pavement into a ditch.

An argument that’s all wrong

The writer goes on to explain that, “Those neat little packs of Chicken McNuggets didn’t magically appear. I wonder if she has a clue how they got there? If not, maybe she could take a tour of a poultry farm sometime. Those chickens, like the cattle and hogs she eats, didn’t pass away peacefully in their sleep with their family gathered around the bedside.”

That’s right. Those animals didn’t pass away peacefully, they were slaughtered! And by workers who are apparently a whole lot more brutal that all those conscientious, professionally trained hunters.

One shot, one kill, right?

Look, I appreciate the people who support hunting making the point that one cannot weigh in on killing wildlife from a perspective that’s divorced from issues of population management and habitat protection. To put it simply, you can’t just ban hunting and then walk away, assuming everything will be just fine.

In rural areas of Tennessee, along with plenty of other states, the deer population is out of control. Thanks to farming and development, there are more food sources now than the deer herd historically had available, and with the absence of natural predators, the end result is predictable — overpopulation.

As alternatives to hunting to manage the overcrowding, anti-hunting activists have advocated the use of birth control pills in water sources that deer drink (ineffective) and transportation of animals into more remote areas (logistically impossible), neither of which has ever worked to maintain stable deer populations.

But the response to the argument that hunting is cruel and inhumane shouldn’t be a catalog of animal suffering on ranches and at packing plants that is even worse!

And for the capper, the writer misrepresents the demographic that supports hunting bans.

“I don’t respect hypocrites who rail about ‘killing poor, defenseless animals’ while chowing down on a juicy sirloin or fried chicken leg,” he wrote. “Until they wipe the grease off their chin and start living on tofu and bean sprouts, they should button it up.”

Uh, dude. Most of them are living on tofu and bean sprouts.

Here’s a far better response, courtesy of a commenter to the article, who explained the difference between animal welfare and animal rights as succinctly as I think I’ve ever seen:

As animal welfare advocates

  • We seek to improve the treatment and well-being of animals.
  • We support the humane treatment of animals that ensures comfort and freedom from unnecessary pain and suffering.
  • We believe we have the right to "own" animals — they are our property.
  • We believe animal owners should provide loving care for the lifetime of their animals.

As animal rights activists

  • They seek to end the use and ownership of animals, including keeping pets.
  • They believe that any use of an animal is exploitation, so we must stop using animals for food and clothing.
  • They want to obtain legal rights for animals, as they believe that animals and humans are equal.
  • They use false and unsubstantiated allegations of animal abuse to raise funds, attract media attention and bring supporters into the movement.

That comment shouldn’t have been posted at the end of the article, it should have been the lead.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.