It can be hard to see what all the fuss is about here. It’s not as if the deer are being chained to a stake in the parking lot and the hunters given a free shot from 20 paces. The preserves tend to be at least a couple of hundred acres, and they’re just as wooded as “real” forests. It’s only slightly less difficult to bag one than it is in, say, a state park. And at the end of the hunt, the result will still be the same: The deer dies.
But the preserves test our arguments – both pro and con – by stripping the issue to its essence. Is the “sport” of hunting merely the thrill of killing something, or is there something nobler involved? How close to “like shooting fish in a barrel” do we have to get before our sense of fair play kicks in? If the animals are just being shot for their antlers and not for food, what does that say?
No, animals do not have “rights” – we’re not going into that absurd territory. But how we treat animals – especially the most defenseless of them – says a lot about what kind of people we are. There are laws against animal-fight operations not just because of the animals’ welfare but also because certain human behavior is unacceptable.
Indiana is in an interesting position on this issue, one not many would have predicted. Only a handful of states have banned canned hunts, and the current disagreement about the ban gives Hoosiers a rare opportunity to look at the larger issues without the usual clutter. We should not waste it.