Harvesting versus hunting

 

One interesting effect of spending three weeks in the bottom of the Grand Canyon is the fresh view you bring to the “rim world” outside the canyon afterwards. Some of the novel experiences are pleasing (“oh yeah! Getting around is so convenient!”) while others are puzzling. One such moment occurred while I was catching up on local news. An Arizona Republic article, describing the controversy over whether to continue allowing bow hunting in the McDowell-Sonoran mountain preserve, a 17,000-acre area outside Scottsdale, with picturesque desert trails, popular with hikers, bikers, and equestrians, refers twice to killing game there as “harvesting.”

One of these euphemistic uses is by a bow-hunting advocate and representative of the Mule Deer Foundation. One expects such understatements from the public relations crowd, those types who constantly churn out such gems as “right-sizing” (which used to be unpleasantly though accurately called “down-sizing”) and “Obamacare” (i.e. “the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”).

What caught my attention, however, was that a local game and fish official, Kevin Bodmer, who was also interviewed for the story, was also paraphrased using “harvest” to describe the act of hunting. Has this terminology become ubiquitous, I wondered? I try to follow coverage of debates regarding hunting, hiking, and other uses of Western wild lands pretty closely, and as a rhetorician, I pay attention to the kinds of language being used. For some reason, this one seems to have slipped out of the spin cycle and into the general lexicon when I wasn’t looking.

Sure enough, after doing some digging, I found "harvest" substituted for "hunting" in all sorts of places. Of course the NRA is on the “harvest” bandwagon (see this example from their website), but interestingly, they aren’t consistent – “harvest” is mixed in with more straightforward verbs like “kill.” The Arizona Game and Fish Commission, on the other hand, are so harvest-happy that (in addition to being used by their spokesperson) it appears in their mission statement: their task is to establish “policy for the management, preservation, and harvest of wildlife.” The Ohio Department of Natural Resources amusingly allows new hunters to print out a “My First Harvest” certificate. The term has even shown up periodically in HCN (such as in this 2010 opinion piece by Wendy Beye), though usually in reference to reports or other documents.

At this point you may be thinking, “So what?” Don’t we have more important things to worry about than hunters’ verb choices?” I concede that – we do. And, everyone is guilty at one time or another of euphemizing away the starker features of their lives. But I hope you see that this one has some interesting implications. It’s ironic that, during a time when there is a movement towards more transparency in food production (witness the scrutiny over the meaning of “organic”), the basic fact of killing wild animals is being deflected by some toward the fuzzier, more nostalgic “harvest,” which conjures up images of Grandpa mowing the hay or rustic villagers picking grapes.

To point out this discrepancy is not an admission of anti-hunting bias, either; I think humanely killed game can be a far more ethical food source than factory-bred and slaughtered livestock. However, when misleading terminology such as “harvest” pops up in proposed legislation, such as the NRA-backed “right to hunt and fish” constitutional amendments that have been passed or are pending in many states, it has the potential to lead the unwary into accepting practices they may not otherwise support, such as hunting with dogs or assault weapons. So let’s call it what it is: killing. People have always killed to eat, and will continue to do so. Rather than linguistically sanitizing that fact, we should focus on best practices in hunting and land use in general.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Jackie Wheeler teaches writing and environmental rhetoric at Arizona State University.

Image of a "harvested" deer courtesy Flickr user dukkillr

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIV
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
    Provide stewardship and protection for the Great Burn wildlands along the Montana-Idaho stateline. This position is based in Missoula, MT, where a river runs through...
  • DEVELOMENT DIRECTOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness is seeking a qualified Development Director to manage the fundraising success of our growing organization, including the team-driven implementation of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • SAN JUAN BASIN ENERGY CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is seeking a full-time San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer located in Farmington, New Mexico. The San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer focuses...
  • WILDLIFE PROGRAM MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) is looking for a passionate, experienced, and motivated Wildlife Program Manager to lead campaigns to protect and enhance wildlife and...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "This thriving citizens organization exemplifies the ideal of public involvement in public processes."- Billings Gazette Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, &...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR
    Western Colorado Alliance is hiring for 4 positions, 2 Full Time Community Organizers, 1 Part Time Community Organizer and a Part Time Membership Coordinator. For...
  • BUSINESS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    Thorne Nature Experience is looking for a Business Operations Director who will work in partnership with the Executive Director and Thorne's Directors and Managers to...
  • WILDERNESS CONSERVATION CORPS - OREGON
    The Siskiyou Mountain Club is hiring interns for the 2020 Field Season. Interns utilize non-mechanized tools to complete trail restoration and maintenance while gaining job...