Conversation with a Florida bear killer
I just got off the phone with a bear killer in Florida. I’m shaking. I need a Xanax and a shower to calm down and get the stink of violent Florida redneck hate off of me. The man’s name is McDaniels and he was proud to tell me he went on a killing spree with his wife and children today. I tried to get through the interview, my stomach in knots, as he, his wife and children taunted me and laughed about what fun it was for them to murder bears.
Florida’s bear hunt, the first in 21 years, ended with 295 bears killed across the state. The hunt was ended by state wildlife officials at 9 p.m. Sunday. Hunters came in just shy of the statewide quota of 320 set by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners.
There was a killer for every bear who has the misfortune of living in the backward state — Florida wildlife officials estimates there are only 3000 bears in the state and more than 2,869 hunters bought permits.
Mr. McDaniels, contractor by profession and bear killer by “tradition,” thinks of himself as a conservationist. He’s teaching his children how to become “conservationists” by training them to hunt just like his daddy taught him. The children of bear hunters like McDaniels don’t have much of a chance to learn about actual conservation if you consider the state of Florida’s dismal record on education, coming in 28th on the national state education ranking system. Things won’t get any better if Floridians keep electing politicians who place concerns about the environment even below their lack of concern about education.
The majority of Floridians are so clueless, they reelected Governor Rick Scott, a notorious climate change denier. He’s not just an ignoramus; he’s also a crook who resigned as Chief Executive of Columbia/HCA in 1997 amid a controversy over the company’s business and Medicare billing practices; ultimately admitting to fourteen felonies and agreeing to pay the federal government over $600 million, which was the largest fraud settlement in US history.
26 percent of Florida’s children are living below the poverty line and Florida is the 8th most dangerous state for violent crime in the country. Florida has been a stupid, murderous place for a long time. Floridians lynched more black people per capita than any other state.
Because I wanted to keep my emotions in check, my interview with the McDaniels felt vaguely anthropological, like I was conducting a study of rare and remote panhandle swamp hominids. I couldn’t see them but I try to imagine the family as wax figures in a still-life display behind glass in a future museum of natural history. There they are, the tribal American-bible-thumping-Tea-Party patriots, a typical, white carnist family before the world was forced to go vegan because of catastrophic disasters associated with global warming. In this imaginary museum display, they languish in stained easy chairs, the men dressed in hunting camouflage, the women busting the seams of dirty pink sweatpants, slurping sodas, waving fly swatters. There are plastic coated dead fish, decapitated deer and bear heads hanging on the walls instead of diplomas — their fake, glass eyes staring blankly at their murderers inside this Florida Panhandle trailer home.
Sadly, this is not a future natural history museum display –- this family is real and there are millions of families just like them, running around terrorizing and killing animals with guns, traps and bows and arrows.
The babies are delicious! Wanna try some?
“We killed 16 bears,” bragged Mr. McDaniels, in a thick southern drawl. “I enjoyed it. We had a real good time.” I could hear the whole family laughing in the background and I knew he had put me on speakerphone. They were giggling and squealing with delight at my questions. I disclosed right away that I am an animal rights journalist. I told him upfront that I was appalled by the violence against animals he was teaching his children. He chuckled confidently.
“You’re the first one we’ve talked to,” he said, as if he was talking to an extraterrestrial. “We haven’t bought meat from a grocery store in over two years. I got 10 acres and these bears come on my property and go in my trash. 10 bears come in my yard! We hunt deer too! We freeze it. Better than a hog in a pen that is raised to kill and eat.” “That’s the smartest thing I’ve heard you say,” I told him, hoping I had found some meager bit of empathy for factory-farmed animals — some common ground. “But what about the orphans of the bears you killed,” I asked him. His wife chimed in. “We love to hunt and kill animals!” she said, giddily. “The babies are delicious! We love to kill the babies! Wanna try some? Did you ever eat bear? It’s good for your body! How do you even know what you’re talking about until you try it?” She laughed a big belly laugh and I could hear her children laughing with her. “Mmmmmm! Yummy! Bear meat is good!” blustered one of the children.
They couldn’t contain their joy.
“How do you feel about indoctrinating your children into a sociopathic life of violence against animals,” I asked him. “We enjoy hunting,” he answered. I asked him what political party he belonged to. “I didn’t vote for no Obama!” he said, “I’m going to vote for Donald Trump!”
State regulations for the bear hunt stipulated that no bears under 100 pounds or adult bears with cubs were to be killed. Florida killers broke the rules, killing babies and lactating mothers in a gory, festive hillbilly party.
Congratulations Florida, it didn’t seem possible but you sunk to a new low. You murdered Winnie the Pooh. The Florida Goldilocks is a bloody, hot mess. Quick — get her a reality show.