Author’s note: In recent years, I’ve given serious thought to some of my urges and actions as they pertain to fishing. I’ve realized a few things, one of which is how I feel about catch-and-release fishing. I’ve done a lot of this in past years, particularly in remote parts of Alaska, where there was no way to preserve fish, but also in my own backyard. Although I’m at heart a “meat” fisherman, over the past four decades of fishing in Alaska, I’ve hooked hundreds of trout, halibut and salmon with no intention of taking them home and eating them. At one time, in some quarters, I would’ve admitted this with pride. Now I feel only shame. I’ve told you that so I can tell you this. — LP
In the beginning, we humans didn’t have much to do with animals. Other than fearing some of them, we simply chased them down, killed them and ate them. Later on, after we had learned how to plant enough grain so that we could stay in one spot without starving, we had enough time and energy to think up ways to use animals for our entertainment. The modern term for this is “blood sports.”
The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines blood sport as “any sport that involves animals being killed or hurt to make the people watching or taking part feel excitement.” By this definition, blood sport excludes sports involving only humans (such as football), but includes coursing (chasing animals with dogs), baiting (setting dogs against confined animals for sport), combat sports (such as cockfighting, dogfighting and other activities in which humans use animals for sport). Bull fighting is a blood sport. Unless done for food, hunting and fishing are blood sports.
“Blood” is part of “blood sports” because blood is usually drawn. One or more of the animals often dies, either at the conclusion of the event or later, as a result of injuries. Even if the losing animal survives, it often is killed by the owner because it was the loser.
Money is almost always involved in the blood sports. Spectators pay to see them, and cash betting is common. Many industries support the blood sports. Among countless others, these include the travel, lodging and sporting-goods industries. When you go to Belize for bonefishing, or to Africa for a trophy game animal, many businesses appreciate your patronage.
Throughout history, blood sports have been popular. In parts of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, fox tossing was all the rage among the aristocracy. Inside a large corral, several teams of two people, often mixed couples, would hold slings. When the caged animals were set loose in the arena, they would run around looking for a way out, and would run across the slings, which lay flat on the ground. If the sling holders pulled them taut at just the right moment, they could toss a fox as high as 24 feet. It must’ve been great fun. In “Deutsche Jaeger,” published in 1719, author Hans Friedrich von Fleming describes a famous animal tossing held in Dresden by Augustus II the Strong. Participants tossed some 687 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers, 21 wild cats, 34 wild boars and three wolves.
Over the centuries, using animals for fun has been challenged for moral, religious and cultural reasons, but blood sports have survived. To this day, cockfights are held in many countries — Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Iraq, Pakistan and most all of Asia, to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they were being held on the Kenai Peninsula.
Dog fighting, where “man’s best friend” is put into a confined space with another of its kind and urged into a snarling, bloody fight, has been popular worldwide throughout history. Now illegal in most countries, it’s a felony in the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped it. The second-largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history occurred on Aug. 23, 2013, and involved suspects in Texas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Ten were arrested and indicted on charges of felony dog fighting. Authorities confiscated $500,000 in cash from dog-fighting gambling activities that occurred during the 3-year investigation leading to the arrests. Authorities seized 367 dogs in the bust.
Most of the people who get their kicks by abusing animals do so secretly, but some are quite public about it. For example, many anglers, fishing only for the fun of it, hook king salmon, force them to fight for their lives, “play” them until they are exhausted, then release them to an unknown fate. Even when the numbers of these fish migrating to their spawning grounds are so low that sustainability of the stock is in doubt, these people continue to catch and release salmon. Some of these salmon die. Others don’t successfully reproduce. As with fox throwing, both men and women enjoy this blood sport, and seemingly are proud of what they’re doing. As with dog fighting and cock fighting, money is involved.
I can’t help but wonder. If people get some kind of perverted enjoyment from seeing animals being abused, and suffering and dying, what else do they do for entertainment?
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.