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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A More Ethical Type Of Hunting?

My nephew TJ with his first whitetail buck
I read an interesting article today entitled "Hunting with less of an ethical debate - hunting invasive species".  It was authored by Ralph Maughan and published in the online newspaper The Wildlife News.  Essentially, the article suggested that hunting of invasive species might be somehow more ethical than the hunting of native species.

While the author did a good job pointing out that invasive species create imbalances that increase the odds of spreading non-human animal diseases to humans, such as HIV and Lyme Disease, I think there is one fatal flaw in the whole argument.

In my opinion, to say that hunting of invasive species is possibly more ethical than native species has to suggest that hunting native species is in itself unethical.  I am not saying that this is Mr. Maughan's position, but I do feel that it will be inferred by many, correctly or incorrectly, from the article.

Assuming that all applicable laws are followed, the animals are not confined and that the most quick, humane hunting techniques are used, I don't find hunting of any species unethical.  In fact, I believe that it is society's collective responsibility to manage wild game populations, just like we should manage all of our natural resources.

For all of documented history, humans have played the role of predator somewhere within the food web, often as the apex predator.  To think that because we have become industrialized, and therefore more "civilized," we no longer have to fulfill our role as predator is ridiculous.  While I respect the right of each individual to make their own personal decision regarding hunting, that decision doesn't exempt us collectively from our place in the natural order of things.

Thanks to hunters, fishers and trappers, along with Federal and state wildlife agencies, the diversity and population levels of wild animals in the United States is better than it has been in centuries.  Each year, sportsmen and sportswomen across our country fund more conservation efforts than any animal-rights organization, and the difference between the two isn't even close.  There has been no better champion of conservation, reintroduction and sustainable population management practices than the people who hunt, fish and trap.  Yes, there are some bad apples that try to call themselves sportsmen, but the true sportsman dislike these poachers as much or more than the non-hunters do.  In fact, I have never met a sportsman that didn't feel that judicial penalties for poaching are too light and need to be significantly increased.

I often wonder how we have quickly changed from a society that embraced hunting, and honored the successful hunter, to one that finds the thought of legal hunting of game animals as immoral and uncivilized.  The only conclusion I can come to is that we have developed what I call a "Walt Disney" mindset, where all of the wild animals coexist peacefully and dance around the campfire together at the end of each day.  That even though hunters are doing nothing more than playing their natural born role of predator and provider for the family, somehow it has been accepted as truth that we only hunt for the kill.  That we only enjoy the taking of a life instead of the daunting challenge of the pursuit.  I don't remember ever meeting a hunter that spoke about enjoying the kill, but instead they often talked about the joy of creating lifelong memories with family and friends, and the satisfaction of supplying the family with nutritious meat for the dinner table.

Getting back to the original article, I like the fact that Mr. Maughan specifically states that he is tired of the endless and fruitless debates about the ethics of hunting, as well as pointing out specific situations on both sides of the fence that he personally finds unethical.  I feel that my beliefs are probably very close to his, in fact he might even be a hunter like I am.  But while I don't want to put words in Mr. Maughan's mouth, it appeared to me that he was being apologetic to society for hunters and hunting in general, and was trying to find a "loophole" to make it more acceptable.  The implied need to apologize for hunting or justify it to make it okay is misguided and just plain wrong from a science or human nature standpoint.

As I was drafting this post, a thought hit me.  Several times each year, I hear of hunters who are confronted by anti-hunters, either in the form of violent physical attacks or vandalism of the hunter's property.  In fact, many states have laws specifically prohibiting anti-hunters from harassing hunters, yet I don't know of a single law specifically targeting the hunter from going after the anti-hunter.  Kind of ironic, don't you think?  Makes me wonder why the anti-hunters think the hunters are the ones that are uncivilized.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article! I do find people on both sides of the fence. Some people need to realize that without hunting, over population of the species can and will cause starvation and disease for these animals. I, personally, could not shoot a deer. My husband hunts, which I am all for. I love to have deer meat in the freezer. He only takes as many deer as we will eat, which is usually two a year. We despise poachers and hunters that hunt only for sport only. Hunting is a part of man's nature and there is nothing wrong with it, if it is done legally and for the right reason.

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