BOOKS: Beyond The Killing Tree: A Journal of Discovery

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1996:

Beyond The Killing Tree: A Journal of Discovery
by Stephen Reynolds.
Epicenter Press (POB 82368, Kenmore, WA 98028), 1995. 192 pages. $19.95, hc.

“…I have never been in sync with
anti-hunters,” Stephen Reynolds declares
somewhat provocatively in Beyond The
Killing Tree. “I haven’t respected their opinions
because the majority have never hunted.
They don’t understand the need or the craving
for the chase.”
While Reynolds himself has hunted,
and enjoyed it, he has also undergone a
change of heart. Witnessing too many death
struggles of noble and innocent beasts for no
better purpose than the “craving of the chase”
or thrill of the kill has caused him to reconsider
the longterm price of indulging the
craving.


In bringing up such a thorny issue,
Reynolds has taken the bull by the horns, so
to speak, and has voiced one of the greatest
challenges to the animal rights movement:
the apparent fact that hunting and killing provides
a high that will not respond to rhetoric
or appeals to humanitarianism. Apparently it
is like an addict with his substance of choice:
though he knows it is destroying his life and
harming those around him, the joy of the
high outweighs any other consideration.
Added to this already powerful
force is the fact that, “this sort of person
[successful hunter] may have been looked
upon with reverence in the old days. He
would have been constantly hunting and
killing and bringing in the meat for the entire
village.” Indulging one’s favorite high and
receiving respect and approbation for it is not
a combination that lends itself easily to paradigm
shifts.
Unfortunately, Reynolds does not
pursue this potentially important and intriguing
line of inquiry––at least not in a way that
is readily accessible. He tries to draw the
connection by illustration, citing examples
from his own life, including experience as a
professional hunting guide, and later, as a
game warden, in various parts of the U.S.
We can follow Reynolds’ adventures,
but somehow the “discovery” he
intended to share is not so evident as it might
have been. Beyond The Killing Tree remains
primarily a memoir, and the chasm between
hunters and non-hunters remains as deep and
as dark as ever.
––P.J. Kemp

 

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