According to Wikipedia,“A euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.”. As a writer, I often go to great effort to discover the word that most precisely represents the idea that I am trying to convey. Here I’ve used the word precisely, which means exact and accurate. Euphemisms are the opposite, they are words used dishonestly to manipulate the reader into buying into an alternate reality.
That said, the reason I’m so fired up this morning is because of the use of two particular words that has been disturbing me for some time and they surfaced again yesterday when I was reading the rebuttal from the woman who killed the giraffe and then posed smiling beside it’s dead body. I have no need of mentioning her name or continuing the discussion about her and her actions, others are fully engaged in that war of words. What I am interested in is the repeated use of a couple of words by trophy hunters in general to make what they do sound more palatable in an effort to limit controversy so they can continue depriving the rest of us of the beauty and diversity of life in the wilderness.
I have picked this particular case to write about because the woman in question deftly used two commonly used words in her rebuttal to manipulate readers. First of all she claims to have “harvested” the animal for the villagers, which is ridiculous on it’s face. Who would spend thousands of dollars to go kill an animal to provide food for starving villagers when it would be much more economical to just send some money to have canned food shipped to them which would have lasted much longer than the meat from one animal. Secondly and more disturbing to me anyway, is the use of the word “harvest”. That particular word is used to convey the idea that the animals were placed there for the sole purpose of being used by human beings for their possible products. Like a field of wheat just sitting there waiting for a combine to come by and collect it for the food it can produce. According to Merriam’s Free Dictionary, the first three definitions of the word harvest refer to the gathering of a crop that has been planted. The word was not meant to be used to describe the killing of animals.
Animals are not wheat. A wheat field has no emotions, it feels no pain and has no place in the natural order. It would not be there unless man had deliberately put it there for no other reason than to be harvested by humans for food. The environment would not know the difference and would not be adversely affected by it’s absence. In contrast, animals have families that will be disrupted by their destruction. If they have young, it is likely that their offspring will suffer the prolonged agony of starvation and thirst. Some animals, such as wolves are members of a complex social structure that will be severely disrupted by the destruction of one of their pack. In the case of the destruction of predators, the entire environment can be thrown out of balance by the unchecked proliferation of another species.
The precise word for the killing of animals for food or products is “slaughter”. This is exactly what the trophy hunters are doing, they are slaughtering the animal for it’s fur, horns, antlers or often just it’s head so it can be placed on their wall as a testament to their great courage and skill. In the case of shooting a giraffe, it seems to me that sort of hunting requires about as much bravery and skill as going into a field and shooting a cow or a horse. In any case, crops are harvested, animals are slaughtered.
The second word twisted 180 degrees by this person in her rebuttal is the word “conservation”. She states that she has a “passion for conservation”. The word conservation comes from the root word conserve, which means to provide safekeeping, protection or preservation. Everyone knows that the magnificent wildlife of Africa is disappearing at an alarming rate, due to poaching, hunting, and habitat loss. It is difficult to understand how someone could actually believe they are safeguarding an animal by destroying it and it’s offspring. The idea that she is somehow preserving the environment from this one giraffe is ridiculous. This is once again the deliberate misuse of a word to plant an idea in the reader’s mind that isn’t true. The word conservation has been hijacked by hunters as a nice way of describing the destruction of wildlife.
If what the trophy hunters are doing is so righteous, why do they need to resort to linguistic acrobatics to make it palatable to the public? They are fully aware that what they are doing is upsetting to everyone else so they employ the dishonest use of words to manipulate readers. So next time you see the words harvested and conservation used in reference to killing an animal, just keep in mind that you are being manipulated. Animals are not harvested, they are slaughtered and usually for large sums of money paid by the killer for their own selfish use, usually to the detriment of everyone else including the animals and the environment. Trophy hunting is rarely conservation, and when it is it is the result of previous hunting and poaching of the predators that were keeping the environment in balance. Don’t be fooled by euphemisms.