I’ve long considered fall to be my favorite season, but I’m not so sure anymore. While September and October are filled with gorgeous colors and mild temps, late fall seems marred with violence. Colder weather brings with it the start of the hunting season, the Thanksgiving holiday, and the remembrance of a traumatic experience.

One morning a few years ago, as I was completing my morning run I saw a flock of geese winging their way towards me. As they circled to land in a field, their honking filling the crisp air, I heard shots. There were a group of hunters on the other side of the road shooting in my direction from approximately a block away. As some birds would drop from the sky and go missing from the group, the others would circle around as if looking for them, bringing them back to the onslaught. I stopped and cried out, pleaded silently that they’d wise up and turn away, but it made no difference. One by one they all fell; the hunters had shot down the entire flock of more than twenty birds. Tears streaming down my face, I ran home and called the police. These men were a danger, shooting towards traffic and homes. The police said they’d check into it, but by the time the sent someone to our edge of town the hunters were gone.

I have no respect for the practice of sport hunting and don’t understand why so many around here partake. Nationwide less than 6% of people hunt, but in our area of the country the stats double. During this time of year we are constantly reminded of this violent form of recreation. I see stickers on bumpers in traffic, men dressed in neon orange wandering through ditches, and celebratory pictures of people’s latest kills masquerading as desktop wallpaper at work. Last year my grandma received a Christmas card from a family member with a group of relatives in camouflage showing off the racks of several dead deer. People talk about it at the office, coworkers and executives alike, oblivious to the fact someone might object.

I hear it called a sport. It can’t be a sport when the other side doesn’t know they’re playing. True gun sports do exist, like target or trap shooting, and I know there are bow sports, but most of the hunters I know would fail as athletes.

I hear people say that they do it because they love the outdoors. I don’t buy it. There are dozens of things to do outdoors that don’t involve traipsing around with a gun in your hands looking to end the life of an animal. What about hiking, boating or snowmobiling?

I hear talk that the meat is good, cheap. That’s not a justification in my book. Of course as a vegetarian I’m biased, but even for those that do eat animals, what percentage of animals hunted are eaten? Many, many animals are shot but not killed. More yet are killed, but remain unretrieved. And to claim cost savings is a stretch. By the time you add in the costs of the weapon, ammunition, gas for driving around in pursuit, special clothes, hunting licenses, etc. you could have had at least a week’s worth of shopping.

I hear talk of conservation initiatives, how the licensing fees are used to promote environmental causes like preserving animal habitats. But what good is encouraging the perpetuation of a species just so that you can kill the offspring a few years down the road?

I think the biggest thing that bothers me about hunting is the obvious lack of compassion and empathy for animals. It’s the total and utter disrespect for other living beings to the point of killing them. It’s the selfishness that I see every day driving the interstate, extended to a life or death situation. It’s cruelness for pleasure.

If kindness to animals is a sign of human advancement, we have a long way to go.