Dear EarthTalk: Hunting seems to be a real controversy among environmental advocates. Can you set the record straight: Is hunting good or bad for the environment?
—Bill Davis, New York, NY
Like so many hot button issues, the answer to this question depends upon who you ask. On the one hand, some say, nothing could be more natural than hunting, and indeed just about every animal species—including humans—has been either predator or prey at some point in its evolution. And, ironic as it sounds, since humans have wiped out many animal predators, some see hunting as a natural way to cull the herds of prey animals that, as a result, now reproduce beyond the environment’s carrying capacity.
On the other hand, many environmental and animal advocates see hunting as barbaric, arguing that it is morally wrong to kill animals, regardless of practical considerations. According to Glenn Kirk of the California-based The Animals Voice, hunting “causes immense suffering to individual wild animals…” and is “gratuitously cruel because unlike natural predation hunters kill for pleasure…” He adds that, despite hunters’ claims that hunting keeps wildlife populations in balance, hunters’ license fees are used to “manipulate a few game [target] species into overpopulation at the expense of a much larger number of non-game species, resulting in the loss of biological diversity, genetic integrity and ecological balance.”
Beyond moral issues, others contend that hunting is not practical. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the vast majority of hunted species—such as waterfowl, upland birds, mourning doves, squirrels and raccoons—“provide minimal sustenance and do not require population control.”
Author Gary E. Varner suggests in his book, In Nature’s Interests, that some types of hunting may be morally justifiable while others may not be. Hunting “designed to secure the aggregate welfare of the target species, the integrity of its ecosystem, or both”—what Varner terms ‘therapeutic hunting’—is defensible, while subsistence and sport hunting—both of which only benefit human beings—is not.
Regardless of one’s individual stance, fewer Americans hunt today than in recent history. Data gathered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its most recent (2006) National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, show that only five percent of Americans—some 12.5 million individuals—consider themselves hunters today, down from nine percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1996.
Public support for hunting, however, is on the rise. A 2007 survey by Responsive Management Inc., a social research firm specializing in natural resource issues, found that 78 percent of Americans support hunting today versus 73 percent in 1995. Eighty percent of respondents agreed that “hunting has a legitimate place in modern society,” and the percent of Americans indicating disapproval of hunting declined from 22 percent in 1995 to 16 percent in 2007.
Perhaps matching the trend among the public, green leaders are increasingly advocating for cooperation between hunters and environmental groups: After all, both lament urban sprawl and habitat destruction.
CONTACTS: The Animals Voice, www.animalsvoice.com; HSUS, www.hsus.org; National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/fishing.html; Responsive Management Inc., www.responsivemanagement.com.
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This is a short essay for children on the topic of hunting and why I believe it is bad. Anybody can use it as they wish under a Creative Commons licence. It is deliberately written in plain English and the discussion is simplified.
Girl hunter – makes me sick.
Kids should know the difference between right and wrong and between good and bad. When people behave in a bad way, their behaviour is immoral. What is morality? It is about the standards of behaviour that people expect of other people and themselves which make life acceptable.
When a person successfully hunts an animal he is causing the animal pain, discomfort and ultimately death. The hunter has created something negative and unpleasant. He has also created something pleasant for himself. He enjoys the hunt. He does it because it is enjoyable.
On the one hand we have a person who is enjoying himself and on the other hand we have an animal who is suffering pain and death. Is it fair that a human being should take enjoyment from the suffering of another sentient being1? If not then sport hunting is immoral and bad.
If a hunter had to hunt and kill an animal for a good reason other than his enjoyment then you could say that it is okay to hunt an animal. You could say that it is moral to hunt an animal.
Many thousands of years ago and even as recently as hundreds of years ago, the hunting of animals was done in order to eat them to survive. There was a real purpose to hunting. This purpose made it justifiable to most people but not vegetarians2.
Nowadays, some hunters also hunt animals to eat them. The say they hunt animals in order to provide themselves with a meal. But there is no need to hunt animals for a meal. These people could go down to the local supermarket to buy their meal there. If they did this they would not need to cause pain and suffering to an animal.
Therefore even if a hunter says that he kills animals for food it is unacceptable. It cannot be a good thing to hunt for food when there are alternatives which don’t cause pain and suffering. People who hunt for food are really hunting for fun.
When hunters say they kill animals for food sometimes they are saying it in order to stop people criticising them. They’re trying to turn behavior which is immoral into something which is moral. I would be quite certain that most of the hunters who say they hunt for food do not actually do it. Also hunting animals for the skin on their back (their fur) is immoral because the purpose, which is to make people look attractive in fur clothes, cannot justify the death of a sentient being.
Hunting animals for food is something people did in the past when it was allright to do it because it had real purpose. Nowadays it is mainly done for fun and this is not a purpose which can be justified. Many of the animals which are killed are beautiful. They grace our planet. They make the planet more beautiful. To kill them makes the planet less beautiful.
Sometimes hunting can be justified even though the animal is not going to be eaten by humans. These are the times when there are too many of a certain type of animal which may become a nuisance to humans. Then humans say they have the right to kill them. That is called “culling”. Even when people say that they have to cull animals they need to look at their behaviour as well. This is because there are too many people and not too many animals. Also people are often the cause of the problem.
Hunters do not see the immorality in causing pain to animals for their pleasure. This is a weakness in them. It is their failure. Hunting is a thing of the past. It needs to stop.
- Animals are sentient beings because they feel pain and emotions.
- Vegetarians are people who believe that humans don’t need to eat animals and should not eat them.
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