Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Euphemism



This was a year of an extremely bountiful apple crop and we harvested enough for many loaves of apple bread and lots of containers of apple sauce as well as apples for lunch and snacks. The apple growers in the area and beyond also had plentiful harvests.

As autumn advanced farmers harvested their soybean and corn crops; squirrels and chipmunks harvested acorns and hickory nuts to store for the winter – blue jays and black-capped chickadees also store the harvest they glean. Harvest seems a totally appropriate term for gathering the fruits and seeds that so many plants produce.

With fall comes the time for butchering the steers and hogs that folks who rear their own have been raising all summer in anticipation of steaks, roasts, ground beef and sausage. With fall also come various hunting seasons – squirrel, rabbit, grouse, turkey, bear and deer.

I’ve never heard anyone say that they were “harvesting” the steer in the pasture or the hog in the pen. But for some reason in the last few years the hunting fraternity has increasingly adopted the term “harvest” to describe the killing of wild animals and birds as if the only reason for those species being on earth is to provide meat or trophies for hunters nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone reading hunting-oriented magazines sees “harvest” used many, many times in relation to hunters killing their quarry. Earlier this year an issue of one magazine used “harvest” nine times in a short two-page article. 
And so, I’ve come to think of “harvest” as a slick euphemism; euphemism is defined as: a mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive.

“Harvest” has become the euphemism for the killing of wildlife during hunting season. Why? Is it to make the act of killing more acceptable to non-hunters or anti-hunters? Is it to make it less wrenching to hunters themselves? Calling it by another name doesn’t change the fact that a living creature that feels pain, typically cares for its offspring and, in many cases, appears capable of conscious thought, has been slain.

Having watched the life drain from an animal I’ve killed (for whatever reason) has never been without a twinge of … regret, sadness, remorse – I can’t put a name on it, but I’ve always felt it. Killing a deer or grouse isn’t the same as picking a blueberry or plucking an apple from a branch. No matter what the hunting magazines or wildlife agencies may call it, it’s not a “harvest”.  

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