Ted Nugent Gives Stellar Rendition of the National Anthem, Encourages Hunters to ‘Kill Lots of S _ _ _’
At a Trump rally in Muskegon, Mich., last month, Ted Nugent gave an impressive musical performance, what was described as a “face-melting cover” of the National Anthem. He wrapped up his rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner with a message of making America, and Michigan, great again, and a call for Michigan to have a great hunting season and “kill lots of s _ _ _.”
The 71-year-old native Michigander is a loud advocate for hunting.
A much younger Nugent also was irreverent. Nugent stopped in at a record store in Norman, Okla., where I worked during college and offered to urinate in the window display area. This was after the store manager asked Mr. Nugent, who was scheduled to perform at a local venue, to pose for a photo with the window display homage to him as backdrop.
With one of the largest chapters of hunting lobby Safari Club International (SCI), Michigan has 647,000 hunters, and one of them is Walter Palmer. The Michigan dentist became infamous in 2015 for killing Cecil the Lion, a much-loved lion who lived in a protected national park in Zimbabwe. After being lured out of the park, Cecil was shot with an arrow, but not killed. Cecil then suffered for 40 hours before he was killed by a rifle shot, all so an American with more money (some of these killing trips cost up to $100,000) than humanity could have a “trophy.” Palmer was widely excoriated, but Nugent came to Palmer’s defense in what was described as a “rambling social media defense.”
Those three things might be enough to write Mr. Nugent off as a hooligan, in his younger days, and a jackass now. But maybe that’s too simplistic of a take on the rocker, who is proud of being “clean and sober” for 71 years. In a recent interview with Mr. Nugent and his wife, they talked about being committed to “the spirt of the wild” and the “connection with Mother Nature.” Mr. Nugent says, “Our hunting-outdoor-conservation lifestyle really is the epitome of the physics of spirituality … facing your food on the hoof and harvesting it for the healthiest, most nutritious and delicious diet in the world.
“It’s a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and living off the land … killing your own food,” says Mr. Nugent, adding, “As a guy raised in the woods of Michigan … I’ve always been a hunter, a fisherman and a trapper, so I understand about renewability and self-sufficiency … being a resource steward, making sure that the wildlife habitat is in optimum productivity. Wildlife health is a direct indicator of the health of our environment,” he says.
Mr. Nugent goes on to talk about how his family plants trees every spring — it’s “putting back more than you take,” he says. He also founded the Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids to teach youth about “the healing powers of nature,” as well as “the natural highs and stimuli of an outdoor lifestyle.” One of Mr. Nugent’s campers said learning to respect nature, the outdoors and animals was his biggest takeaway from camp.
So perhaps Mr. Nugent is more than a wanton animal killer ready to urinate in inappropriate locations.
If we all had to kill chickens, cows, elk, deer and other animals ourselves to eat — if we actually had to work that hard for our food and see death first-hand — likely there’d be more vegetarians among us. Not many could be as committed to the hunt and venison-based diet as is Mr. Nugent, nor would our continuing reduced natural habitat support it. Clearly, our ease at obtaining protein by visiting the drive-through window at a McDonald’s or purchasing a cleanly packaged pound of hamburger at the supermarket has disconnected us from what horrors lie behind today’s meat industry and what it would take if we had to get meat ourselves from the wild.
But, hunting to put food on the table is one thing; killing to hang a head on a wall, or to feel one is somehow special by killing the “Big Five,” as per the exploits of Mr. Palmer, killer of Cecil, is something else that veers way off from the buzzwords of “conservation” and “respect” that Mr. Nugent bandies about.
“Trophy hunting is not a conservation or animal management tool,” according to Dr. Mark Jones, head of Policy for Born Free, a leading wildlife organization. Neither does trophy hunting provide significant funds to local communities and conservation programs, which is often the claim by those who engage in this. “It is a cruel relic from colonial times that should be consigned to history where it belongs,” says Jones, noting that key individuals are taken, causing major disruption to families and populations, and producing “immense animal suffering.”
This vanity-based hunting is occurring even as species are dropping precipitously in numbers, and it has a twin evil, poaching. One gives a veneer of respectability through groups such as SGI and high-profile advocates such as Mr. Nugent and President Trump’s sons, while the other is illegitimate, but together they both promulgate a lack of respect for other species.
We have created a culture of death that makes killing wildlife acceptable and that is far removed from the idea of putting food on the table. Across the country, there continue to be coyote killing contests and hunting of animals that beg the question: Why?
Besides the wanton killing of coyotes, among the hunts that may raise eyebrows are those to kill swans. Idaho opened its “first-come, first-serve” first-ever swan hunting season last month. We continuously are told now to “let the science” be our guide. Science, often pseudo-science, is subject to manipulation, as is seemingly most every area of endeavor now.
The justification to kill swans may sound “scientific” — “to attempt to hold swan populations within the carrying capacity of their habitat to ensure the continued viability of this species.” Yet another scientist will say there is no justification for killing swans; naturalist William J.L. Sladen wrote a defense, “Swans Should Not Be Hunted.” In the paper, Sladen references Phillips, 1988: “Some birds — storks, pelicans, flamingos — should be left alone. Swans are such birds.”
Maybe sometimes we don’t even need science. It’s perhaps as simple as just letting nature be.
Hunters, such as Mr. Nugent, and wildlife services often make the point that they are conservationists and conservation organizations. But for those who don’t hunt, it’s often difficult to buy into the argument that conservation equals killing. If one does accept this, with it comes the fact that our government wildlife organizations are among the most prolific killers. In 2019, U.S. Wildlife Services killed 1.2 million wild animals to make way for agriculture. That makes a rather large dent into the conservation argument.
Chris Smith from WildEarth Guardians, which is suing the government for these killings, says, “To carry out such a horrific onslaught on native wildlife in the midst of a mass extinction event and a climate crisis, without any real knowledge of the impact, is utterly outrageous.”
Even when a species is on the verge of a comeback, our government wildlife services often are all too eager to launch into killing mode. One example comes from Pennsylvania where the fur-bearing Fisher had gone extinct in the state. Fishers were barely back on the scene before the Pennsylvania Game Commission allowed them to be hunted.
The relationship between Man and all other species has always been fraught. While hunters often talk about how hunting is important to “balance,” let’s be honest. Looking at our planet overall, we are wholly out of balance when we have lost more than 50 percent of the world’s wildlife in the last 40 years. Adding to Chris Smith’s thinking, with so little real knowledge of the overall impact we’re having on every aspect of all life on Earth, how can we justify so much animal death, particularly given we are in the Sixth Extinction, the greatest mass extinction of biodiversity since the dinosaurs, set off by Man?
While Mr. Nugent talks a lot about respect and hunting, a call to go forth and kill a lot of animals in no manner aligns with respect. Animals do deserve respect. Doesn’t every sentient being deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of species? Or are those rights only for Homo sapiens, as decreed by Homo sapiens?