Moises Sandoval

As we look around us today, it is clear that, perhaps more than at any other time, all life is at risk.

A nuclear war would kill millions in the blink of an eye. Terrorism daily takes the lives of hundreds the world over, guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Guns kill 33,000 people each year in the United States alone, with no place safe from mass killings, even the churches. The opioid epidemic ravaging our country takes many lives that need not have been risked and lost.

In Africa, the elephant population has decreased from 10 million to 400,000, according to The Atlantic, victims of habitat loss and of trophy hunters who kill them for their ivory. In some areas, the bee population, so indispensable to pollinate the plants we use for food, is going down precipitously, victims of pesticides and unknown causes. Then, of course, we have the disastrous effects of global warming. We may be seeing the planet dying before our eyes.

Closer to home, in the northern New Mexico foothills where I was born and reared and where my immediate and extended family still own some of the land, we learned recently that hunting parties from outside the area have been killing elk and leaving them to rot in the forest.

A cousin, Robert Sandoval, found two carcasses on his land. Only the head of one and the antlers of another had been taken. A neighbor found several more. In Otero County, in the southern part of the state, the state’s game and fish department put out a news release saying: “Multiple deer and elk killed and left to waste in Otero County.”

There was no open hunting season there at the time, and the unlawful killing and waste of game is a fourth degree felony, but that did not stop the poachers. In our area, the hunters killed on private lands without getting the required permissions from the landowners.

From time immemorial, wildlife has been mankind’s last refuge against hunger. For my family, that moment came during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Then, my parents, five siblings and I lived on a 200-acre dry land farm in northern New Mexico, growing wheat, corn, oats and an extensive garden. We had a few pigs, goats, chickens and a few cows. But one bitter winter we ran out of meat.

My father decided he had to hunt, although he had no rifle or knew how to shoot. Reluctantly, a brother-in-law lent him one, providing only three bullets.

But Dad’s faith in himself paid off; with his first and only shot he downed a large deer with a huge set of antlers and returned the other two shells. The venison enabled us to get through a very difficult time. Therefore we are grateful that God put wildlife in our midst to ensure our survival.

The hunters who leave their kills rotting in the forest have no need for their meat. They — locals or outsiders — are only after the thrill of the hunt, organized by outfitters charging as much as $8,900 per man, who pick them up at Albuquerque International Airport, transport them 150 miles north to the elk range, provide them with food and lodging, and presumably a hunting license, and permissions to hunt on private lands. Some say it is a $500,000 business.

Lord, help us to respect life — all of it!