Hunting and Fishing
63. Humans are natural hunter/gatherers;
aren't you trying to repress natural human behavior?
64. The world is made up of predators and prey; aren't we
just another predator?
65. Doesn't hunting control wildlife populations that would
otherwise get out of hand?
66. Aren't hunting fees the major source of revenue for wildlife
management and habitat restoration?
67. Isn't hunting OK as long as we eat what we kill?
68. Fish are dumb like insects; what's wrong with fishing?
Additional topics: Hunting Morals
#63 Humans are natural
hunter/gatherers; aren't you trying to repress natural human behavior?
Yes. Failing to repress certain "natural behaviors" would
create an uncivilized society. Consider this: It would be an expression
of natural behavior to hunt anything that moves (e.g., my neighbor's dogs
or horses) and to gather anything I desire (e.g., my employer's money
or furniture). It would even be natural behavior to indulge in unrestrained
sexual appetites or to injure a person in a fit of rage or jealousy.
In a civilized society, we restrain our natural impulses by two codes:
the written law of the land, and the unwritten law of morality. And this
also applies to hunting. It is unlawful in many places and at many times,
and the majority of Americans regard sport hunting as immoral. --DVH
Many would question the supposition that humans are natural hunters.
In many societies, the people live quite happily without hunting. In our
own society, the majority do not hunt, not because they are repressing
their nature--they simply have no desire to do so. Those that do hunt
often show internal conflicts about it, as evidenced by the myths and
rituals that serve to legitimize hunting, cleanse the hunter, etc. This
suggests that hunting is not natural, but actually goes against a deeper
part of our nature, a desire not to do harm. --BL
"The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest." --Henry
David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
SEE ALSO: #37,
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#64 The world is made
up of predators and prey; aren't we just another predator?
No. Our behavior is far worse than that of "just another predator".
We kill others not just for nourishment but also for sport (recreation!),
for the satisfaction of our curiosity, for fashion, for entertainment,
for comfort, and for convenience. We also kill each other by the millions
for territory, wealth, and power. We often torture and torment others
before killing them. We conduct wholesale slaughter of vast proportions,
on land and in the oceans. No other species behaves in a comparable manner,
and only humans are destroying the balance of nature.
At the same time, our killing of nonhuman animals is unnecessary, whereas
nonhuman predators kill and consume only what is necessary for their survival.
They have no choice: kill or starve.
The one thing that really separates us from the other animals is our
moral capacity, and that has the potential to elevate us above the status
of "just another predator". Nonhumans lack this capacity, so
we shouldn't look to them for moral inspiration and guidance. --DVH
SEE ALSO: #37,
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#65 Doesn't hunting
control wildlife populations that would otherwise get out of hand?
Starvation and disease are unfortunate, but they are nature's way of
ensuring that the strong survive. Natural predators help keep prey species
strong by killing only the sick and weak. Hunters, however, kill any animal
they come across or any animal they think would look good mounted above
the fireplace--often the large, healthy animals needed to keep the population
strong. In fact, hunting creates the ideal conditions for accelerated
reproduction. The abrupt drop in population leads to less competition
among survivors, resulting in a higher birth rate. If we were really concerned
about keeping animals from starving, we would not hunt, but, rather, take
steps to reduce the animals' fertility. We would also preserve wolves,
mountain lions, coyotes, and other natural predators. In actuality, many
predator species are killed in order to produce more and more "game";
animals for hunters to kill.
Hunters often assert that their practices benefit their victims. A variation
on the theme is their common assertion that their actions keep populations
in check so that animals do not die of starvation ("a clean bullet
in the brain is preferable to a slow death by starvation"). Following
are some facts and questions about hunting and "wildlife management"
that reveal what is really happening.
Game animals, such as deer, are physiologically adapted to cope with
seasonal food shortages. It is the young that bear the brunt of starvation.
Among adults, elderly and sick animals also starve. But the hunters do
not seek out and kill only these animals at risk of starvation; rather,
they seek the strongest and most beautiful animals (for maximum meat or
trophy potential). The hunters thus recruit the forces of natural selection
against the species that they claim to be defending.
The hunters restrict their activities to only those species that are
attractive for their meat or trophy potential. If the hunters were truly
concerned with protecting species from starvation, why do they not perform
their "service" for the skunk, or the field mouse? And why is
hunting not limited to times when starvation occurs, if hunting has as
a goal the prevention of starvation? (The reason that deer aren't hunted
in early spring or late winter--when starvation occurs--is that the carcasses
would contain less fat, and hence, be far less desirable to meat consumers.
Also, hunting then would be unpopular to hunters due to the snow, mud,
So-called "game management" policies are actually programs
designed to eliminate predators of the game species and to artificially
provide additional habitat and resources for the game species. Why are
these predator species eliminated when they would provide a natural and
ecologically sound mechanism for controlling the population of game species?
Why are such activities as burning, clear-cutting, chemical defoliation,
flooding, and bulldozing employed to increase the populations of game
animals, if hunting has as its goal the reduction of populations to prevent
starvation? The truth is that the management agencies actually try to
attain a maximum sustainable yield, or harvest, of game animals.
The wildlife managers and hunters preferentially kill male animals,
a policy designed to keep populations high. If overpopulation were really
a concern, they would preferentially kill females.
Another common practice that belies the claim that wildlife management
has as a goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation is the
practice of game stocking. For example, in the state of New York the Department
of Environmental Conservation obtains pheasants raised in captivity and
then releases them in areas frequented by hunters.
For every animal killed by a hunter, two are seriously injured and left
to die a slow death. Given these statistics, it is clear that hunting
fails even in its proclaimed goal--the reduction of suffering.
The species targeted by hunters, both the game animals and their predators,
have survived in balance for millions of years, yet now wildlife managers
and hunters insist they need to be "managed". The legitimate
task of wildlife management should be to preserve viable, natural wildlife
populations and ecosystems.
In addition to the animal toll, hunters kill hundreds of human beings
Finally, there is an ethical argument to consider. Thousands of human
beings die from starvation each and every day. Should we assume that the
reader will one day be one of them, and dispatch him straight away? Definitely
not. AR ethics asserts that this same consideration should be accorded
to the deer. --DG
Unless hunting is part of a controlled culling process, it is unlikely
to be of benefit in any population maintenance. The number and distribution
of animals slaughtered is unrelated to any perceived maldistribution of
species, but is more closely related to the predilections of the hunters.
Indeed, hunting, whether for "pleasure" or profit, has a history
more closely associated with bringing animals close to, or into, extinction,
rather than protecting from overpopulation. Examples include the buffalo
and the passenger pigeon. With the advent of modern "wildlife management",
we see a transition to systems designed to artificially increase the populations
of certain species to sustain a yield or harvest for hunters.
The need for population control of animals generally arises either from
the introduction of species that have become pests or from indigenous
animals that are competing for resources (such as the kangaroo, which
competes with sheep and cattle). These imbalances usually have a human
base. It is more appropriate to examine our resource uses and requirements,
and to act more responsibly in our relationship with the environment,
than to seek a "solution" to self-created problems through the
morally dubious practice of hunting. --JK
"...the American public is footing the bill for predator-control
programs that cause the systematic slaughter of refuge animals. Raccoons
and red fox, squirrel and skunks are but a few of the many egg-eating
predators trapped and destroyed in the name of "wildlife management
programs". Sea gulls are shot, fox pups poisoned, and coyotes killed
by aerial gunners in low-flying aircraft. This wholesale destruction is
taking place on the only Federal lands set aside to protect America's
wildlife!" --Humane Society of the United States
"The creed of maximum sustainable yield unmasks the rhetoric about
"humane service" to animals. It must be a perverse distortion
of the ideal of humane service to accept or engage in practices the explicit
goal of which is to insure that there will be a larger, rather than a
smaller, number of animals to kill! With "humane friends" like
that, wild animals certainly do not need any enemies." --Tom Regan
(philosopher and AR activist)
"The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand
that our job is to salvage Mother Nature...We are facing a formidable
enemy in this field. It is the hunters...and to convince them to leave
their guns on the wall is going to be very difficult." --Jacques
Back to Questions
#66 Aren't hunting fees the major source of revenue for
wildlife management and habitat restoration?
We have seen in question #65 that practices described as "wildlife
management" are actually designed to increase the populations of
game species desirable to hunters. Viewed in this light, the connection
between hunting fees and the wildlife agencies looks more like an incestuous
relationship than a constructive one designed to protect the general public's
interests. Following are some more facts of interest in this regard.
Only 7 percent of the population hunt, yet all pay via taxation for
hunting programs and services. Licenses account for only a fraction of
the cost of hunting programs at the national level. For example, the US
Fish and Wildlife Service programs get up to 90 percent of their revenues
from general tax revenues. At the state level, hunting fees make up the
largest part, and a significant part is obtained from Federal funds obtained
from excise taxes on guns and ammunition. These funds are distributed
to the states based on the number of hunters in the state! It is easy
to see, then, how the programs are designed to appease and satisfy hunters.
It is important to remember that state game officials are appointed,
not elected, and their salaries are paid through the purchase of hunting
fees. This ensures that these officials regard the hunters as their constituents.
David Favre, Professor of Wildlife Law at the Detroit College of Law,
describes the situation as follows:
The primary question asked by many within these special [state] agencies
would be something like, "How do we provide the best hunting experience
for the hunters of our state?" The literature is replete with surveys
of hunter desires and preferences in an attempt to serve these constituents.
Three factors support the status quo within the agency. First, as with
most bureaucracies, individuals are hesitant to question their own on-going
programs...Second, besides the normal bureaucratics, most state game agencies
have a substantial group of individuals who are strong advocates for the
hunters of the state. They are not neutral but very supportive of the
hunting ethic and would not be expected to raise broader questions. Finally,
and in many ways most importantly, is the funding mechanism...Since a
large proportion of the funds which run the department and pay the salaries
are from hunters and fishermen, there is a strong tendency for the agency
to consider itself not as representing and working for the general public
but that they need only serve their financial sponsors, the hunters and
fishermen of the state. If your financial support is dependent on the
activity of hunting, obviously very few are going to question the ecological
or ethical problems therewith.
Many would argue that these funding arrangements constitute a prostitution
of the public lands for the benefit of the few. We can envision possible
alternatives to these arrangements. Other users of parks and natural resources,
such as hikers, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts, eco-tourists, etc.,
can provide access to funds necessary for real habitat restoration and
wildlife management, not the perverted brand that caters to the desires
of hunters. As far as acquisition and protection of land is concerned,
organizations such as the Nature Conservancy play an important role. They
can do much more with even a fraction of the funding currently earmarked
to subsidize hunting ($500 million per year). --DG/JK
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#67 Isn't hunting OK
as long as we eat what we kill?
Did the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims justify his crimes?
What is done with a corpse after its murder doesn't lessen the victim's
suffering. Furthermore, hunters are harming animals other than the ones
they kill and take home. It is estimated that for every animal a hunter
kills and recovers, at least two wounded but unrecovered animals die slowly
and painfully of blood loss, infection, or starvation. Those who don't
die outright often suffer disabling injuries. The stress that hunting
inflicts on animals--the noise, the fear, and the constant chase--severely
restricts their ability to eat adequately and store the fat and energy
they need to survive the winter. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation.
For animals like wolves who mate for life and have close-knit family units,
hunting can severely harm entire communities.
Some vegetarians accept that where farmers or small landholders breed,
maintain, and then kill their own livestock there is an argument for their
eating that meat. There would need, at all stages, to be a humane life
and death involved. Hunting seems not to fit within this argument because
the kill is often not "clean", and the hunter has not had any
involvement in the birth and growth of the animal.
As the arguments in the FAQ demonstrate, however, there is a wider context
in which these actions have to be considered. Animals are sentient creatures
who share many of our characteristics. The question is not only whether
it is acceptable to eat an animal (which we perhaps hunted and killed),
but if it is an appropriate action to take--stalking and murdering another
animal, or eating the product of someone else's killing. Is it a proper
action for a supposedly rational and ethical man or woman? --JK
This question reminds one of question #12, where it is suggested that
killing and eating an animal is justified because the animal is raised
for that purpose. The process leading up to the eating is used to justify
the eating. In this question, the eating is used to justify the process
leading up to it. Both attempts are totally illogical. Imagine telling
the police not to worry that you have just stalked and killed a person
because you ate the person! --DG
SEE ALSO: #12,
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#68 Fish are dumb like
insects; what's wrong with fishing?
Fish are not "dumb" except in the sense that they are unable
to speak. They have a complex nervous system based around a brain and
spinal cord similar to other vertebrates. They are not as intelligent
as humans in terms of functioning in our social and physical environment,
but they are very successful and effective in their own environment. Behavioral
studies indicate that they exhibit complex forms of learning, such as
operant conditioning, serial reversal learning, probability learning,
and avoidance learning. Many authorities doubt that there is a significant
qualitative difference between learning in fishes and that in rats.
Many people who fish talk about the challenge of fishing, and the contest
between themselves and the fish (on a one-to-one basis, not in relation
to trawling or other net fishing). This implies an awareness and intelligence
in the hunted of a level at least sufficient to challenge the hunter.
The death inflicted by fishing--a slow asphyxiation either in a net
or after an extended period fighting against a barbed hook wedged somewhere
in their head--is painful and distressing to a sentient animal. Those
that doubt that fish feel pain must explain why it is that their brains
contain endogenous opiates and receptors for them; these are accepted
as mechanisms for the attenuation of pain in other vertebrates. --JK
Some people believe that it is OK to catch fish as long as they are
returned to the water. But, when you think about it, it's as if one is
playing with the fish. Also, handling the fish wipes off an important
disease-fighting coating on their scales. The hook can be swallowed, leading
to serious complications, and even if it isn't, pulling it out of their
mouth leaves a lesion that is open to infection. --JSD
SEE ALSO: #22,
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