Exposing the Big Game
Living Targets of a Dying Sport
Forget hunters’ feeble rationalizations and trust your gut feelings
Exposing the Big Game challenges the archaic, yet officially endorsed, viewpoint that the primary value of wildlife in America is to provide cheap entertainment for anyone with a gun and an unwholesome urge to kill. Portraits and portrayals of tolerant bears, loquacious prairie dogs, temperamental wolves, high-spirited ravens and benevolent bison will leave readers with a deeper appreciation of our fellow beings as sovereign individuals, each with their own unique personalities.
Above all, this book is a condemnation of violence against animals, both historic and ongoing. It explores the true, sinister motives behind hunting and trapping, dispelling the myths that sportsmen use to justify their brutal acts. Exposing the Big Game takes on hunting and defends the animals with equal passion, while urging us to expand our circle of compassion and re-examine our stance on killing for sport.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- Exposing the Big Game with spectacular photography and horrifying narrative,
Exposing the Big Game, by Jim Robertson, Earth Books, 2012
This book should come with a warning: you will be exposed to some horrific information and heart-breaking tales of the War on Wildlife. Viewer discretion is advised. Government discretion is also advised: politicians not only allow but encourage wildlife hunting for various "management" reasons in many jurisdictions, and humanity should have come up with a better way by now. As for those who kill for fun ...
Robertson is one angry author-photographer, and we soon see why. In North America it began about 12,000 years ago (with the migration of the first murderous humans): the escalating eradication of wild species. This book jolts us with contrasts, i.e. between the wondrous photos of animals and the hideous word-pictures of the cruelties visited on coyotes, wolves, bears, bison and victims of leg-hold traps. Some of us cannot even read it, it is too graphic. Yet the photos inspire, and re-ignite activist desire to lobby -- yet again -- for wildlife and an end to hunting whether for business, pleasure, or wildlife "management."
Best of all the book educates us on the ways of our wild compatriots -- their parenting, their emotions and lifestyles, and their clever survival adaptations (they are just like us human apes ...!) Ultimately perhaps only that felt sense of the evolutionary, neurological and behavioural connectedness of life forms on this planet will take us beyond argumentation to a place where casual animal killing becomes universally recognized as inherently repugnant.
In an e-book era this one should be acquired in printed book form. So much is lost online, where in cyberspace we are overwhelmed by constant extreme stimuli both positive and negative. Were we not so jaded by all that this might have been a landmark book along the lines of Rachel Carson's, Thoroeau's, Farley Mowat's and others who woke up a somnolent public. Can books still do that? (or in a post-literate age does everything have to be film and youtube?)
Posted by Barbara Julian at 11:39 AM ~ Animal Literature, http://www.animalit.ca/2012/08/exposing-big-game-with-spectacular.html
- Book Review: Exposing the Big Game
Written by Becci on June 25th, 2012
It’s no surprise that I’m not a fan of hunting. But I have a particular distaste for those hunters who attempt to portray themselves as stewards of the earth when they are responsible for so much ecological destruction and when almost every environmentally-friendly undertaking on their part has been deceptive, counter-productive, and motivated entirely by self-interest and a desire to have more animals to kill. There are even hunters who speak of the remorse they experience when they are forced to slaughter an animal in the noble name of “wildlife management”, combined with the wonder and intimate connection they feel with all of nature as they blast away at it.
That’s why I was intrigued when I heard about Jim Robertson’s Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport. Written with appropriately acerbic humour, the book presents lots and lots of detailed information to counter the myth of the hunter as an environmentalist, touching on the numerous species of animals that are entirely extinct thanks to hunting (the passenger pigeon, great auk, and Steller’s sea cow, to name just a few) and discussing in detail the many threatened and endangered species which struggle to hang on while hunters lobby–often successfully–to have them removed from government protection lists.
The book also reveals that it’s not only the target animals like elk, deer, and bison who suffer and die as a result of hunting. Some are just collateral damage, like wolves, who despite being endangered in most of the United States continue to be killed in great numbers for the crime of “competing” with hunters for elk and deer. Countless other animals are directly and indirectly harmed when the balance of nature is thrown off by hunting. (For example: Robertson explains how the enthusiastic slaughter of prairie dogs continues despite the fact that nine different species of animals rely on the burrows of these once abundant rodents for denning. Thanks to the combined efforts of hunters and poison-happy cattle ranchers, prairie dogs now inhabit only 1% of their former territory, and it shows: black-footed ferrets and swift foxes are nearly extinct.)
I feel like I should point out that this book is not an entirely depressing read, since it might seem that way in this review. Clearly there is a great deal of useful information about hunting, and I would recommend it for that alone. But interspersed with facts about hunting and mass slaughter are wonderful anecdotes and facts about the secret lives of these animals: the author has spent a lot of his life observing nature and it shows. (He’s also vegan!)
Exposing the Big Game is also filled with Robertson’s own beautiful photographs of wildlife, a nice counter to the depressing and gruesome images that sometimes accompany books of this nature. I appreciated the photos even more when I got to the final chapter, “A Few Words on Ethical Wildlife Photography”. (As a birder, I am aware of how overzealous photographers can be almost as detrimental to the well-being of animals as a hunter.) All in all, it is an absolutely fantastic book and well worth a read. ~ Liberation BC, http://liberationbc.org/blog/2012/06/book-review-exposing-the-big-game/
- Book Review: Exposing the Big Game
By Steve Donoghue
Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport
by Jim Robertson
Earth Books, 2012
Exposing the Big Game, Jim Roberton’s fire-breathing jeremiad on the evils of hunting, opens with a passage that deserves quotation in full:
"During the nineteenth century, a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill terrorized the American West, shooting and dismembering his victims who numbered in the thousands. But no special agents from the FBI headquarters in Quantico were ever sent to stop Bill or the procession of copycat killers joining in the fun. The carnage was endorsed and encouraged; the targets, though gregarious, caring and benign, were nonhuman after all."
Robertson refers to the near-extinction of the American buffalo as “a holocaust to the tenth power,” with over 60 million bison massacred, sometimes by ‘hunters’ shooting from the windows of passing trains, often by shooters lost in blood-lust, and always, always, always by individuals who had no actual need to kill even one buffalo, much less almost all of them.
Language like this – explicit equating of human and nonhuman lives, explicit equating of the evil of ending human and nonhuman lives – is virtually guaranteed to be dismissed as extremist hyperbole, and Robertson must know that as well as anybody. But he’s a nature photographer living deep in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, and spending so much time in the company of animals tends to erode the sanctimonious sense of uniqueness humans feel about themselves. If you hike for even so little as a week in the northern Yukon, for instance, you will see many dozens of smart, fully engaged creatures going about their lives – concentrating on things they find important, waking groggily from impromptu naps, goofing around, playing with each other, and caring for their friends and their young … and none of those creatures will be human. Impossible to see all that and react indifferently to some human hiking in for a day and shooting those creatures for sport.
Robertson’s book is an angry, detailed call for the elimination of hunting, but it’s canny in its proceedings. Horrible statistics fill the pages of this book – figures on the killing-campaigns mankind has waged against bears, coyotes, prairie dogs, geese, beavers, elk, wolves, and moose – but much more detailed statistics are available, and Robertson could have used them. Likewise the visuals: this book could have been filled with shots of the sickening carnage inflicted on the animals it describes (the photos available just for wolves are dread-inspiring) – instead, on every page, there are magnificent black-and-white photos taken by Robertson himself, photos that show these animals in the full range of their natural glory. You are meant to hate hunting, yes – but you’re just as strongly meant to love the hunted.
There’s a slim bravery in appealing to subjectivities like love in a book so likely to be burned by hard-bitten cattle-ranchers. Robertson refuses to be driven onto firmer ground; vigorously protecting wild animals makes overwhelming ecological sense, but that’s secondary in Robertson’s book to the fact that it’s the right thing to do:
"How many times have humane activists heard [hunters] say that laws regarding animals should be based on “science, not emotion”? Science is important for understanding behavior, the workings of nature and evolution or how heat-trapping carbon is changing the earth’s climate, but it’s not in and of itself a source of moral guidance. And whether hunters can take it to heart or not, how animals are treated is strictly a moral issue. There is no scientific argument against pedophilia, for example, or any other human on human crime a hedonistic perpetrator can dream up."
Our author is no fan of the more bloodthirsty members of his own species – he refers to them as “egomaniacal mutant carnivore apes” (and that’s in a restrained passage) – but who can blame him? He has patiently, carefully, and above all respectfully walked with wild animals in their own habitats, granting them their individuality and dignity and reaping the immense personal rewards of doing so. The casual cruelty of hunting will seem all the more repulsive to such a writer – it’s an outrage that’s been felt by a great many of those ‘caring few’ throughout America’s frenziedly homicidal past. Robertson quotes Rachel Carson at her most eloquent:
"Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is – whether its victim is human or animal – we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity."
Exposing the Big Game brims with righteous anger, but it’s remorselessly rational in its arguments. It’s far too caustic toward hunters (“Elmers” in Robertson’s disdainful terminology) to give them a moment’s pause, let alone enlist their sympathy. But its passion and conviction should be more than sufficient to convert a few fence-straddlers to the cause of active wildlife protection.
And like most jeremiads, it’s a powerful lot of fun to read. ~ Open Letters Monthly, http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/book-review-exposing-the-big-game/
- Book Review: Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport by Jim Robertson
Review by Katie Gillespie
Did you know that bison engage in communal care of their young, that they are vegetarian, and that they are absolutely essential to the health of the ecosystem around them? Did you know that prairie dogs greet one another by kissing, that they build complex, underground, interconnected dwellings, and that they learn and invent words to add to their already complex language? Or that coyotes partner for life, that they parent together, and that their modes of communication are rich, varied, and cross species barriers? Tragically, bison have been driven to near extinction by hunting. Prairie dog populations have been all but erased by hunters for target practice. Coyotes have been vilified, trapped, poisoned and shot in overwhelming excess. Jim Robertson, in Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport [Earth Books, 2012], weaves a beautiful and heartbreaking story of animals living in the wild by using his many years spent observing animals as a wildlife photographer and nature writer. He tells us who the animals are, how they live, how they partner and raise their young, and how they are killed in overwhelming numbers by humans hunting for sport.
Focusing on specific species—bison, coyotes, wolves, ravens, prairie dogs, bears, and elk—Robertson traces the historical trajectory of how some have been all but wiped out by hunting. But he also tells how other species, like the coyote and raven, have managed to adapt to the threat posed by humans and have expanded their habitat to survive. Despite the fact that hunting is less popular than it has ever been, there is still a thriving industry in the United States that poses a threat not only to individual animals and their families, but to whole species as well.
I particularly appreciated Robertson’s explanation of the politics relating to hunting. At the level of state and federal government, hunting for sport is protected by Democrats and Republicans alike. Animals, like wolves, protected under the Endangered Species Act, are kept from harm only until their populations recuperate enough to be removed from the list, at which point they are hunted to near extinction again. This legal mechanism that safeguards animals in the wild just enough to prevent extinction is a glaring indication of the U.S. federal government’s stance on nonhuman animals—that they are, first and foremost, property and resources to be used for the benefit of humans.
This government stance on hunting is probably not particularly surprising. What is more shocking, however, is Robertson’s description of how the Sierra Club regularly comes out in support of hunting, arguing that hunting brings one closer to nature. In a move that would have the Sierra Club’s founder, John Muir, turning in his grave, the organization held a contest that asked participants to explain “Why I Hunt.” The prize for winning the contest was an all-expense-paid trip to Alaska for a ‘big game hunt.’ Reporting these kinds of truths, Robertson candidly reveals the contradictions of wildlife policy in the United States and the difficulty in making change when those in leadership roles are concerned with protecting their own interest in hunting.
I am sincerely grateful to have read this book and would highly recommend it to those who want an introduction to the ethics and politics of hunting. First and foremost, it is an accessible and compelling indictment of hunting for sport in the U.S. It will outrage you and move you to action. If the aim is to reach folks who are already opposed to hunting and just need to have a fire lit under their behinds to do something about it, then this is a great read. ~ Our Hen House, http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2012/06/book-review-exposing-the-big-game-living-targets-of-a-dying-sport-by-jim-robertson/
- Robertson’s new book could be titled The Big and Dirty Game, because that’s what it is about — the dirty, bloody business of killing other animals for sport and fun.
Fun? Sure, that’s what the Sportsmen say . . but read about it for yourself . . .
~ Farley Mowat, Author of Never Cry Wolf and A Whale for the Killing
- With humor and poignant satire, Jim Robertson reveals the ugly underbelly of the "consumptive use" minority that has so dominated, exploited, and desecrated Americas native wildlife since colonialism. From coyotes to bison to ravens and prairie dogs, Jim shows how each of these animals has been unfairly maligned, misunderstood and often slaughtered in unfathomable numbers in the name of "wildlife management." At once a no-holds-barred revelation of North Americas ongoing war against wildlife, Exposing the Big Game is also a celebration of these animals, their rich and complex lives, their individuality and their important ecological role. With gorgeous images Jim captures the beauty and majesty of each of his chosen subjects, balancing sometimes painfully honest prose about Americas relentless persecution of species-- hunted as trophies, trapped for profit or fun or killed because they are simply deemed undesirable-- with the gentle and fierce beauty of the non-human animal kingdom. ~ Camilla H. Fox, Executive Director, Project Coyote and co-author of Coyotes in Our Midst and Cull of the Wild
- Exposing the Big Game is a must read for anyone interested in the "sport" of hunting. There’s nothing sporting or fair about going out to kill innocent wild animals for the fun of it. Doing this means adopting a perverse set of values. If killing a dog bothers you, as it should, then so should killing other animals. Far too many sentient beings find themselves in the crosshairs of people who claim they love the animals they kill. I’m glad they don’t love me. ~ Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, Boulder; author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and The Animal Manifesto
- Jim Robertson is best known for his breathtaking wildlife photography as well as his clear and thought-provoking articles about wildlife and the cruel, repulsive and altogether perverse nature of hunting. Now Jim has put it all together: his spectacular photography, the indisputable facts and clear reasoning in “Exposing the Big Game.” Jim does not mince words in describing the senselessness and depravity of hunting and the psychopaths who kill for pleasure. ~ Peter Muller, President and co-founder of the League of Humane Voters
- For years, Jim Robertson has inspired reverence for wildlife through his photography. Now he has created a book that ought to be mandatory reading for those who still think there’s reverence in hunting. ~ Ethan Smith, Author of Building and Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering
- Veg News,
A September 24, 2012 article in USA Today proclaimed “Hunting, Fishing Rebound in US.” Not so fast. Nature writer and wildlife photographer Jim Robertson would beg to differ, and does, in Exposing the Big Game.
Robertson—along with Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson, who penned Big Game’s foreword—puts forth a scathing critique of hunters, whose numbers are now the same as anti-hunting activists, about 5% of the population.
Big Game is a thin though powerful volume, a quick study into all that’s wrong with hunting and hunters. Robertson’s stunning black and white photos grace nearly every page and one would hope that he expand both text and (color) photography into a larger, more robust work. The material is here.
~ Veg News, http://vegnews.com/
- Hard hitting, on target, forthright and forceful. The author shows that it takes nothing more than the movement of one finger for a bully to deliver the easy thrill of robbing an unarmed animal of a life, but it requires discipline and self-mastery to be a defender of wildlife. ~ Ingrid Newkirk, President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Author of You Can Save the Animals, Making Kind Choices and Free the Animals
- I read this book with wonderment at what our species has done to other species, and with admiration for how staunchly Jim Robertson comes to the defense of those other species, with intelligence, humor, understanding, but above all, compassion. Warning to all hunters: this book could be life-changing, both for you and the animals so senselessly killed. Jim ends his book with these ringing words, both true and eloquent: The passenger pigeon, the great auk and the Steller‘s sea cow each held a worthy place in nature. The same cannot be said of sport hunting. Sooner or later, the obdurate hunter crouching in the darkness of ages past must cave in and make peace with the animals or rightfully, if figuratively, die off and be replaced with a more compassionate, more evolved earthling—one who appreciates nonhumans as unique individuals, fellow travelers through life with their own unassailable rights to share the planet. ~ Jeffrey Masson, Author of When Elephants Weep, and Dogs Make Us Human
- Exposing the Big Game, a passionate and informed indictment of America’s hunting culture, exposes the savagery, cruelty, environmental recklessness and yes, the pathology of this most murderous of sports. Jim Robertson is that rarest of breeds, a talented writer with a gift for telling a story who is also a lifelong outdoorsman with a profound knowledge of the natural world as well as a compassionate human being with a deep love for all living creatures. Exposing the Big Game is quite simply a masterpiece, a treasure not to be missed by anyone who cares about wildlife, the environment and living gently on planet Earth. ~ Norm Phelps, Author of The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA
- I find Exposing the Big Game to be a very inspiring book. Jim Robertson has a gifted eye for wildlife photography and his writing incorporates humor, insight and factual observations. ~ Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- Not since Cleveland Amory's Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife, has a book been more explosive in exposing the politics, hypocrisies, and brutality of big game hunting in North America than Jim Robertson's Exposing the Big Game. Robertson has keenly studied hunters and their lobbies for as long as he's professionally studied wildlife behind the lens of his camera — and he knows them all well. In Exposing the Big Game, Robertson strips away the veil behind the claims of government agencies and hunters themselves to show us the stark reality behind the suffering, decimation, and endangerment of America's wild animals that are targeted by sportsmen ~ Laura Moretti, Founder of The Animals Voice
- Jim Robertson is not only an enormously talented wildlife photographer; he provides a much needed voice for the animals whom he captures so beautifully with his camera lens. Chapter by chapter, the reader is introduced to each species and learns detailed facts about their natural behaviour, their daily lives, and the important place that each holds in the ecosystem. We also read of the seemingly endless ways in which humans have historically exploited, terrorized, and brutally extirpated these animals. This brutality (which continues today), juxtaposed against the stunningly beautiful photographs, sends a powerful message. It is a message of empathy and understanding, and also one of much needed change in our nation’s wildlife management “practices”. Kudos to Jim Robertson for possessing the deep knowledge, the talent, and the courage to convey this message in a way that is at once both spectacular and powerful. ~ Linda Case, Author of Canine and Feline Behavior and Training