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I Couldn’t Wait To Get My Elephant ~ Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman

I Couldn’t Wait To Get My Elephant ~ Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman

“To live without killing is a thought which could electrify the world, if men were only capable of staying awake long enough to let the idea soak in.”

Henry Miller, The Henry Miller Reader (1959)

 

I’ve written before about my disbelief and sorrow that it is still legal to hunt endangered animals in certain parts of the world. But when I read recently about the widely publicized case of the elephant shot and killed by American hunter Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman, I couldn’t help but feel driven to write about this subject again.

For those who don’t know the story, Teressa shot an elephant in response to a challenge from a fellow hunter, who told her that no woman had ever killed an elephant with a bow. In her own words, “I couldn’t turn down the challenge… I couldn’t wait to get my elephant.”

Hunting elephants for sport is legal in some parts of Africa and many tour companies allow tourists to visit on organized hunting trips. In the US, it is perfectly legal to bring home the body parts of an endangered animal.

Hagerman’s trip was paid for by several sponsors including the bow company, PSE, and Foxy Huntress, a company that makes hunting clothing for women. Hunts of a Lifetime states on their website that they are “proud to be a sponsor of Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman on her recent elephant bowhunt… and wish Teressa well on her next big-game adventure!”

Mail Online describes the elephant’s fall: “The injured creature staggered 500 yards, leaving a bloody trail, before crashing to the ground.”

What seems to incense many people about this story is the fact that Teressa killed an elephant, an animal whose species is bordering on extinction, and an animal that people tend to care about. Elephants are endearing creatures – gentle giants who delighted us when we first discovered them as children. They’re intelligent, sociable and loving to one another. They can live to the age of 70, and they often live with the same tribe for their entire lives, caring for each other’s young. Many people are aware that elephants in the wild will likely be gone forever within 10 years or so. It is perhaps for this reason that many of us allow ourselves to care about them.

In Africa, where they eat elephant meat, it’s likely that they don’t think any more of it than we think about eating venison or goose in the west. As stated by Gary Francione in his book ‘Introduction to Animal Rights’, hunters in the US kill “at least 200 million animals a year, not counting the tens of millions that are wounded and not retrieved.” Many private game preserves offer hunters the opportunity to kill exotic animals who have been purchased by the landowner from a circus or a zoo, and some of these preserves advertise that they will custom-order species ‘not already in stock’.

According to the website of the US Fish and Wildlife service, the most recent survey report in 2006 indicated that 12.5 million people, 16 years old and older, “enjoyed hunting a variety of animals within the United States”. They hunted 220 million days and took 185 million trips. Hunting expenditures totaled $22.9 billion. An estimated 10.7 million hunters pursued big game, such as deer and elk. There were 4.8 million hunters of small game including squirrels and rabbits. 2.3 million hunted migratory birds such as doves or waterfowl, and 1.1 million hunted other animals such as woodchucks and raccoons.

On the Hunts of a Lifetime website, “almost any type of hunting or fishing trip can be arranged”. Hunters are invited to plan “an outdoor adventure that you cherish and remember the rest of your life.”

I once spent a short time working at a small, quaint motel near a National Forest, which was popular with hunters during the killing season. I did my best to avoid the gazes of the slaughtered deer on the walls. To me, they seemed to be trapped in the eternal hell of never being laid to rest, forever to be displayed as ‘trophies’ to celebrate the great achievements of their own executioners. They would stare at me when I entered a room, still silently pleading for their lives, forever frozen in the sorrow of their final moment. I couldn’t ignore my sadness or guilt, though I tried not to look into the eyes of those who were once majestic animals, members of a family and a tribe, innocent beings with feelings and even emotions, whose lives had been cut short by one of my own kind.

Teressa is not alone in her bloodlust, nor in her callous disregard for the sanctity of another life. She is simply the product of a society that thinks absolutely nothing of killing the defenseless innocent for pleasure.

As Mark Twain said,

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is unknown to the higher animals.”

With all the advancements of human ‘civilization’, our addiction to killing keeps us in the dark ages, in the world of savages. It stops us from cultivating our capacity for kindness, empathy, and justice; the very qualities we need to develop if we are to move forward into a safe and prosperous future, in which we do not fear one another.

It has been 2500 years since vegetarianism was promoted by both the Buddha and Pythagoras, as they simultaneously introduced to the world the noble idea that humankind has an ethical duty toward our fellow creatures, and that duty includes abstaining from eating them. Pythagoras, considered by many to be the father of vegetarianism, said to his followers, “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.” The Buddha, living in the East at the same time as Pythagoras was living in the West, said to his followers, “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”

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99 comments

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4:17PM PST on Jan 2, 2010

I love elephants and this really breaks my heart. Let nature take care of itself but we humans are destroying the habitat for these animals who also call earth their home. Hunting of any animal really saddens me.

5:46PM PDT on Aug 12, 2009

"For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love."
Pythagoras,

4:43PM PDT on Jul 13, 2009

As a woman i'm not proud of hearing another woman killing a animal that is near extincition. If I was one of her sponsors I would of cancelled it. I think you have nothing to be proud of in this case.

3:05PM PDT on Jun 11, 2009

I suspect Teressa has grown up with a little too much testosterone influence. Perhaps her father, brothers and uncles are a family of sport hunters. It's sad that she felt she had to accept this vulgar challenge to "fit in" or show she could "piss with the big boys" or maybe it was a stunt to get the boys interested in her at all. In any case, if Teressa's friends jumped off a bridge, would she follow?

Hunting has become like many other forms of animals exploited for profit. The person spending the "big bucks" to kill "big game" gets some kind of perverted rush, just another "adrenaline junkie".

For all the people that spend money to go to Africa to kill endangered anmimals, how about they go and protect African women and children in refuge camps. These women face rape and murder when they leave the camp for water or fire wood. There's gotta be an adrenaline rush when facing a genocidal, African rapist.

Does anyone remember the movie "Powder"? There is a scene where the main character, (who has telekinetic powers), forces a man who's just shot a deer, to put his hand on the terrified, dying animal and he feels everything that deer is feeling.
Oh, if only.

Great article Angel.

2:23PM PDT on Jun 11, 2009

There will never be enough words to describe the horror of killing just for the pleasure of killing..... We are in the 21st century and still we have these horrendous practices worldwide... How, I wonder, can these practices be banned, stopped, prevented?? vanished from world cultures???
From bull fighting, dog's fights, wildlife hunting, to sea creatures killed for furs and stupid oriental soups, or dolphins slaughtered to show manhood???? Where are we people?? In the times of the coliseum?? If that is the case, then I propose that instead of killing innocent creatures, why don't the hunters start a hunting "sport" to kill rapists, kidnappers, sea pirates, murderers in ranchs or places set up for this purpose???? the hunters would then make something good for humanity...........

11:36AM PDT on Jun 7, 2009

Kate,

"mass extinctions and imbalances aren't caused by us, and we have a responsibility to make things right if we can."

Every mass extinction and all the worlds imbalances HAVE been caused by us. And yes it is our responsibility to make things right but killing is not the answer. Like Dan implied below the only over populated species in the world is humans and do you think that a mass cull of them would be better for the ecosystems and would prevent the "slow death of species across the board" YES it would but as Dan said below this will never happen.

What right do we have to "control" (what a laugh) their population when we can not and will not control ours. We are the ones who are destroying the worlds ecosystems by clearing the land, killing or running off the animals so that we can build our cities on it or use it for farming.

We are the destroyers of the world we are not the saviors of it by any means. Until we realise that we will keep destroying everything until there is nothing left - not even ourselves.

Besides like Angel said - deer are breed to kill - there is no natural overpopulation of these animals. I lived in the country side for most of my childhood and I never ever saw a starving or diseased deer and I have seen a lot of them. We provided a refuge for lots of deers during hunting season and you would be surprised at how many of them where actually tagged by their breeders. Of course tags where removed.

Hunting is murder!!!!!!!!

10:29AM PDT on Jun 7, 2009

Kate,

Ecosystems have done very well for thousands of centuries before humans decided to 'manage' them in our infinite arrogance. There is absolutely no ecological need to kill or 'manage' deer. If anything, it is the human species that should be managed, but we're not ecofascists when it comes to our own right to avoid being culled. What you propose is ecofascism.

10:23AM PDT on Jun 7, 2009

Kate,

It's not the same thing in the sense that elephants are actually endangered. That's true.

But the point I'm trying to make is that it's a reflection of the same mentality.

As long as we collectively agree that killing innocent animals is okay, whether they are deer or elephants, people will continue to kill endangered species, because they will not believe in their right to life.

The 'overpopulation' of deer that hunting advocates like to point out, as if they are somehow doing us all a favor by keeping their numbers down, is highly questionable.

In the US, most game animals are managed through artificial habitat manipulation whose objective is higher reproductive rates and greater population precisely so that hunters will have animals to kill.

Whether on public or private land, the overwhelming majority of animals that hunters pursue are purposefully nourished, sheltered and restocked to ensure that their populations remain high enough to meet hunter demand.

Hunting is a business, just like every other form of animal killing.

The federal government dispenses funds to state wildlife agencies based on the number of hunting licenses they sell.

Even whitetail deer are managed and manipulated by wildlife agencies to maintain high populations for hunters.

10:07AM PDT on Jun 7, 2009

Deer hunting and Elephant hunting are two separate issues to most people. Lumping all hunting together waters down the (incredibly important) message that killing endangered species is completely unacceptable.

The white tailed deer population in this country is grossly overpopulated, resulting in habitat loss for a number of native, threatened species, as well as mass die offs of the deer themselves due to starvation and disease (which I believe would be a much worse fate than a quick death at the hands of a human). The Audubon society knows this, as do other conservation organizations.

It's. Not. The. Same. Thing.

Animal rights activists that don't give a hoot about balanced ecosystems make me insane. Please, please examine the laws of nature, of balance, of predators and what the lack of them does to entire ecosystems, before judging all hunters equally.

The unnatural death of some animals whose natural predators have been removed (which is the original sin here, I'll grant you) is to me far better than letting entire ecosystems collapse, resulting in a long, slow death for species across the board. Just because human activity is not directly involved in an animals death at the end of a gun doesn't mean that mass extinctions and imbalances aren't caused by us, and we have a responsibility to make things right if we can. Sometimes this means hands off (elephants) and sometimes it means hands on.

10:19AM PDT on Jun 6, 2009

Anyone who believes that taking revenge on Teressa would be appropriate action misses the point of my article entirely.

I have no desire to fan the flame of violence and hatred by encouraging people to direct it at Teressa or other hunters.

The problem is the fundamental flaw in the ethical fabric of society that views animals as property, whether they be elephants, cows or chickens.

It is our addiction to the products of death and violence that keep us in such a violent mindset that we, as a society, believe that it's justifiable to kill a defenseless animal for pleasure.

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