Okay so everyone’s favorite political villain…yes, Sarah Palin, I’m talking to you…is in the media yet AGAIN. A new TV show on TLC, on Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People TV special, supposedly rigging daughter Bristol’s Dancing with the Stars votes…ahh I should’ve known she wasn’t going away any time soon. While I don’t care much about any of those things, I do have a huge problem with the fact that she shot a caribou last Sunday on her show Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Now I’m completely anti-hunting. Yep, I said it. But what infuriates me in addition to her anti-animal ways are her divisive antics. On her Facebook wall she (or whoever updates her social media sites) writes and on Twitter she tweets,
“Tonight’s hunting episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska “controversial”? Really? Unless you’ve never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather couch or eaten a piece of meat, save your condemnation of tonight’s episode. I remain proudly intolerant of anti-hunting hypocrisy. :) “
Of course she drew ire from some including PETA, who think her “resorting to violence and blood and guts may lure people into watching her boring show,” is a ratings ploy. But she also drew attention from an unlikely source: screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin, a self-proclaimed leather-clad meat-eater, vehemently condemns Palin’s actions on the Huffington Post. He proclaims,
“I eat meat, chicken and fish, have shoes and furniture made of leather, and PETA is not ever going to put me on the cover of their brochure and for these reasons Palin thinks it’s hypocritical of me to find what she did heart-stoppingly disgusting. I don’t think it is, and here’s why. Like 95% of the people I know, I don’t have a visceral (look it up) problem eating meat or wearing a belt. But like absolutely everybody I know, I don’t relish the idea of torturing animals. I don’t enjoy the fact that they’re dead and I certainly don’t want to volunteer to be the one to kill them and if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn’t do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart. I’m able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don’t watch snuff films and you make them. You weren’t killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I’ve tried and tried and for the life of me, I can’t make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I’m able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.”
Anna North, writer at Jezebel , defends Sarah Palin’s hunting, criticizing Aaron Sorkin for equating Palin’s actions to those of Michael Vick’s. You can quibble semantics all you want. But Palin’s hunting and Vick’s dog fighting ring are morally similar; both exploit animals for fun, causing animals’ deaths for their entertainment. North also raises the valid issue (one few people have discussed in this context) of factory farming as being even more inhumane than hunting. North writes,
“…Getting your meat in a package from a slaughterhouse is no better than shooting it yourself (provided you hunt in a legal and sustainable way) — and really, it might well be worse. So to anyone who eats factory-farmed meat, quit wringing your hands over Sarah Palin’s hunting trips and find something better to criticize her about.”
I’m a vegan activist who extols the horrors of the industrialization of our food. I completely agree with North that factory farmed animals live in cruelty. But that doesn’t mean that hunting can’t also be a cruel act. Now, I’m well aware that some people hunt for their food. Many cultures, including American Indians, utilize the entire animal, while exhibiting a reverence and respect for animal life. And yes, I’m familiar with the argument Tim Heffernan of Esquire raises that it’s an elitist view to oppose hunting. But as fewer and fewer people hunt each year, it’s very clear that too many people who hunt do so for sport, NOT for food.
Sorkin posits that Palin shoots the caribou as a political tactic. As he observes, Palin even has her nails done while she’s hunting. While I know the media focuses an exorbitant amount of attention on women’s appearances (and it pisses me off), disproportionately so when compared to men, I think it’s a valid assertion in this situation. Palin uses hunting as a political ploy to leverage herself as a down-home-just-like-you-America lady. This doesn’t surprise me considering that in her run as VP, she talked about how she shops at thrift stores (see, America…I’m not rich or elite, I’m like you!). However, she failed to mention that the “thrift stores” in which she purchased her clothes were designer shops in which frocks, even second-hand ones, cost hundreds of dollars. Heffernan also argues that Palin strategically showcases hunting on her show. He writes,
“Of course, Palin hopes precisely to provoke that response — it feeds perfectly into her political self-narrative — and as the editor of the series, she’s made sure to do just enough to offend the coastal and the squeamish without making herself seem like a freak. (As in: she plays with bleeding caribou hearts, but doesn’t ritualistically bite into their still-beating flesh. Admirable restraint for a grizzly.) But regardless of how this plays out, it’s also simply a fact of modern American life that hunting, in part as a subset of Second Amendment activism, is a politicized act. The 5 percent of Americans who hunt belong to communities where Sarah Palin is most popular. Which is why every shot she lands on SPA, every fish she hooks, will draw her tighter to their hearts — and further from the mainstream.”
As North points out, there’s a lot to criticize Palin for besides hunting (I would say her views on reproductive rights, race relations, foreign policy, gun control, the environment, etc.). But for me, the hunting component shouldn’t be brushed aside. While there are people hoping to bridge the perceived gap between meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans, there are people like Palin making comments trying to drive the wedge between us even further.
Palin behaves like an asshole for making a “statement” by killing an innocent creature. Her divisive comment about how you can’t judge her if you’ve worn leather or eaten meat is bullshit; I do judge her. Palin tries to take a swipe at people she deems liberal hypocrites. The meat-eaters I know (and I think many meat-eaters in general) don’t want animals to hurt. Dr. Melanie Joy (a kind, articulate and fabulous professor) in her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows discusses how overall, people are inherently compassionate and don’t want to see animals in pain. I truly believe that many people each do their part in whatever ways they can to make the world a more humane place.
As a vegan I would love it if no one ate meat. But not all meat-eaters share Palin’s views. I think it’s cruel to shoot defenseless animals, making them suffer needlessly. It’s cruel to set traps, leaving them out for unsuspecting animals to bleed to death. While there may be compassionate hunters in the world, to me it seems like a complete contradiction. If you truly love and respect animals, shoot them with a camera, not a gun.