WARNING: This article includes images that might be distressing for some readers.
The photo is of a young child with a deer. The child is smiling. The deer is a beautiful animal. But while many parents have taken adorable pictures of their children feeding a deer, or patting a deer, this one is very different.
The deer is dead, and the child is the one who killed it.
The photo is one of many similar ones on the Facebook page of Kendall Jones.
The Texan hunter became notorious three years ago, at the age of 19, for posting on social media about all the African animals she’d killed.
She shot her first African animal, a white rhinoceros, at the age of 13, and also killed a lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and hippo by the time she was 14.
She was briefly labelled “the most hated woman on the internet” and more than 40,000 people signed a petition to have her public Facebook page taken down.
Now she posts photos of other people’s children showing off their kills, with positive comments like, “You go girl!” and, “Congratulations!”
She’s even run a “cute little hunter” contest on her Facebook page, where she has a million followers.
Reading the comments on the photos is like getting a glimpse into another world.
“Parenting done right!” posts one person under a photo of a girl holding the horns of a deer she’s just killed.
A similar photo of a young boy attracts even more enthusiastic comments.
“Smiles – that’s what it’s all about,” writes one.
“Nothing more fulfilling to me as a hunter than seeing young kids having fun out in the outdoors,” adds another.
A dad has posted a photo of himself next to his daughter and the deer they’ve killed, explaining that he took her out of school so they could go shooting.
“The school said, ‘That’s not an excused absence so she won’t get perfect attendance.’ So? Wouldn’t trade that day for anything.”
A woman from Pennsylvania added, “Where I live they give the kids the day off for the first day of deer season because we have so many people here that are hunters.”
LISTEN: The dark video slipping through YouTube kids' filters. (Post continues after audio.)
Last month, Wisconsin eliminated the minimum age requirement to go hunting. That means toddlers could, theoretically, go hunting with their parents, so long as they were strong enough to hold a gun. Wisconsin became the 35th state to have no minimum hunting age.
Republican Rob Stafsholt, who was behind the new law, says parents know best when a child is ready to join the hunt.
“This leaves it to the family,’’ Stafsholt told the Star Tribune. “That’s how I learned.”
In Australia, age restrictions on children using guns differ from state to state, as do the restrictions on children going hunting.
In most states, children have to be 12 to get a junior firearm licence. However, in WA, there’s no age restriction on children using a gun, so long as they’re under the direct supervision and guidance of someone who’s licensed to use that gun.
There are times that hunting trips go terribly wrong. Just last month, Alyssa Scott, a 15-year-old high school student from Alabama, was accidentally shot dead when a friend handed her a rifle while the two were hunting deer.
Defenders of hunting insist that it’s not more dangerous than other outdoor activities. According to an article put out by the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota, 100 people die nationwide in hunting accidents each year, compared to 1500 who die in swimming-related incidents.
It needs to be remembered, though, that only about five per cent of Americans hunt – a tiny number compared to those who swim. It also needs to be remembered that this figure of 100 deaths doesn’t take into account the number of people who are killed by guns kept in the home for hunting purposes, including those people who die from accidents and suicides.
There are 33,000 gun deaths in the US each year, a tragically high number. Studies in the US have shown that just owning a gun significantly increases a person’s risk of dying by a gun.
Obviously, in some American families, there’s a long tradition of hunting, and there are parents who see it as a way to bond with their kids. As they point out, these kids are getting outside, instead of sitting in front of screens.
But there are so many other ways for kids to spend time outdoors with their parents, like camping and hiking. There are so many ways to bond that don’t involve taking the life of a beautiful wild animal.
When most children instinctively love animals, and when we’re trying, as parents, to encourage compassion and kindness in our children, it just seems wrong to encourage them to kill.
Sorry, Kendall Jones, but I can’t see these children as “cute little hunters”.
When I look at a picture of a child with a dead deer, I just can’t see anything cute at all.
What do you think of children being raised hunting? Tell us in the comments below.