Ethical Hunting

Hi friends, let's talk about animals. I think we can all agree they're pretty damn cool. And not just Dogs, Cats, Horses, the usual fare. There's tons of amazing animals out there! From Ducks, to Lions, to Elephants, to Deer, there's so much to love about them all. Which is why it's so shocking to me that so many people are eager to get out there and kill them. 
Maybe it's just my zoosexual bias talking here, but I think that in the year 2023 you'd have to be pretty fucked up to head out into the woods with a gun specifically looking for a young healthy animal to kill and desecrate and hang on your wall. In fact, a majority of people actually agree! Trophy hunting has very poor approval ratings. Polls indicate that about 30% of everyday people believe trophy hunting is an acceptable practice. Hunting for food is seen as more acceptable, in the region of 80% approval, although even that number is on the decline at the moment. Looking at the numbers, it's clear there is a belief that hunting just for the sake of hunting is viewed pretty negatively. And, unsurprisingly, hunting advocates have a response to that which capitalizes on this mindset. Ethical hunting. Ethical hunting is the idea that hunting can be done in such a way to minimize harm and provide good such that the benefits outweigh the costs. 
It's an interesting idea. This may be surprising to some of you, but I actually do agree that some evils are necessary. There are some bad things that lead to better things down the line. Is ethical hunting one of them? Let's take a look at a few of the claims from its proponents and figure out if ethical hunting really is ethical. 
There certainly seems to be a lot of rich child abusers out there. From the church to famous movie stars, there's certainly a market demand! There also happens to be a lot of underfunded classrooms in the world. So how about we make a swap? You can give permission to a rich child murderer, perhaps in the form of some sort of paper slip, to go into a classroom and just take one kid they really like. And in exchange, they provide the school with a bunch of extra funding. In fact, let a couple child murderers come in (regulated of course, so you still have a class to teach at the end) and you could really boost the learning efficiency of the kids that are left! Free lunches for everyone, field trips, maybe you can even fix up the gym and add some new bleachers! 
What... You don't like the idea? Yeah, me neither. And yet, it's one of the arguments that people make when it comes to hunting. Hunters need to pay to acquire "hunting licenses" to pursue their hobby. And this money turns into funding for the people managing the habitats of those animals. This is especially true in places like Africa where lion hunting funds a lot of conservation efforts. 
Isn't that kinda fucked up though? Sure, it's great to fund those things, but switch the example to humans and suddenly humans aren't so fond of the idea. This is, of course, because humans value human lives vastly over animal ones. Especially humans who like to kill animals for sport. And all of that is assuming that the system is working perfectly. If all those blood dollars are going back into the ecosystem that's one thing, but are we really saying that we trust the government to use that money effectively? How about the numerous scandals where hunting money has been pocketed or paid under the table? 
And even past that, what if there's a bad actor in the mix? Someone willing to report higher populations or sell extra liscences to make a profit. It's happened before. I don't think there's any ethical way to facilitate the exchange of money for innocent life. I understand that conservation and preservation require funding, but there's plenty of ways for the government to reallocate resources that don't require murder. Because that's what it is, right? If I went to the park, climbed into a tree with a gun, and shot someone who was walking down the sidewalk minding their own business, we would call that murder. So if anyone is claiming to love and respect nonhuman animals as our equals, I would hope that they can appreciate why hunting seems quite a lot like murdering someone.
Speaking of murder, another claim made by ethical hunters is that they're actually sparing the animal suffering. It probably sucks to get killed by a predator in the wild. Many animals even eat their prey alive. It's certainly not a great way to go. An experienced hunter can kill a target with one high powered shot. Surely it's sparing that animal suffering to be killed by a good guy with a gun rather than a bad wolf with sharp teeth.
This point is very persuasive, assuming you're in the fourth grade. Suffering being used to justify more suffering makes entirely no sense when looked at critically. First of all, this makes a huge assumption, which is that most hunters are competent. How accurate do you think hunters are at getting the kill shot first try? 99%? 98.9%? Well it turns out, when you ask hunters to self report how good of a shot they are, your mileage may vary. A lot. But anecdotally, it would seem that almost every person in the habit of deer hunting has at least once had the experience of wounding a deer and the deer getting away. How long does that animal's death take, how much suffering is that? How does it compare to the teeth of a predator? I don't think I would very much enjoy slowly bleeding out until I either die or get eaten anyway.
And frankly, again, that premise is ridiculous to begin with: I bet if someone seated next to you on the bus pulled out a gun and assured you they were going to end your suffering now quickly before a more prolonged fate befalls you, you're probably not going to sit there being relieved and grateful. It's not a reach of an argument whatsoever to say that hunting actually creates more suffering than it alleviates.
Another simple argument in favor of hunting is that animals kill each other anyways, so why shouldn't we be allowed to as well? Yes, it's true that animals kill each other. But it's exactly as easy to make the counter argument: Just because animals do it, why does that mean it's okay for us to do it too? Mother nature is an awful place, and we do not have to adopt her worst attributes. Once again, just think about that logic applied anywhere else. Humans murder each other so murder is fine actually? Or is that different because human life is just more valuable again. Either way, the existence of cruelty in the world should never be someone's excuse for creating more cruelty. If a hunter goes out and kills an animal, that's an animal that wouldn't be dead at that time, and that's a fact. Maybe they would have gotten eaten later that day, maybe they would have had a long and healthy life for years and years to come. It doesn't matter because now they've been shot and are bleeding out from a danger they never could have seen coming, inflicted on them by a coward with a gun
One slightly plausible argument is that hunting is okay so long as it's for consumption. The argument goes like this. Yes I'm killing an animal, but I'm going to make sure that this animal is used in the same way that they'd be used in nature. The argument goes that at that point, it's the same if not better than just going to the grocery store and picking up some steaks. And you know what, yes. That's true. But. Here's the thing. We kind of don't care much for buying meat at the grocery store either. It's true that from an ethical standpoint, you're more or less doing the same as going to buy meat. So... it's true that an animal is still dying. Unless you're an actual hermit living in the woods with no connection to technology, there's absolutely no reason why you'd need to go shoot an animal for sustinance. And if that is you, there's no way you're reading this article. If you really want to go and murder your own meals, get that nice viceral sensation, that's on you. Don't hide it under the guise of being "ethical." Just admit that you like to murder your own food. Honestly, given everything else in this article, it's hard to say whether that steak at the grocery store really is worse. But what's definitely true is that at the end of the day, you didn't have to do either. You could have fried up some peppers and rice, boiled some potatoes, mixed up some oatmeal. Instead, someone had to die because you never learned to eat your veggies as a kid. 
And while we're on a roll, let's talk about population control. This is one of the biggest talking points that ethical hunters use. If we don't kill deer, they're going to overpopulate and that'll be bad for a lot of other species! But, why do you think that is? Why are deer suddenly biologically overadvantaged compared to their natural predators? Is it possible that we had something to do with it? 
Shockingly, this is trying to solve for a problem that hunting created. There used to be a lot of wolves. Significantly more than there are currently. But, wolves are dangerous, territorial creatures, and we really like destroying their ecosystems to expand our own. We hunted wolves to near extinction in a lot of places, both by directly killing them as well as reducing the places they can live more and more. 
Regardless of the way the problem was created though, it doesn't change the fact that the problem exists. So what do we do about it? There's two ways to go about it. 
Option one is the ecological approach. Help grow the wolf population, make sure to give them the space they need to flourish in order to reset the natural balance. If the scales still need tipping we could even prevent deer from breeding through less final methods like rendering them infertile.
Option two is to let a bunch of people into the forest with guns to just kill them. 
While both options technically solve the problem, one way tries to foster and rebuild the environment and the other just tears down the parts we don't like. I'd much rather treat the disease than the symptoms. If hunters really cared about restoring the population levels without harm, they'd be out there with tranquilizer darts and serums that inhibit breeding, but I guess that's less satisfying than just ending lives. 
The funniest part about all of this is that I actually do support ethical hunting! But I support real ethical hunting: cases where the hunting actually is ethical, not just called ethical as a hollow distraction. Usually the cases of ethical hunting that I support are cases where it's not even called ethical hunting, because, shockingly, the term "ethical hunting" mainly seems to be thrown around by people who doth protest too much.
In New Zealand they've created an initiative to try and get rid of all of the rats in the country. New Zealand is an island, and rats were only introduced by boats sailing there. Now, rats are doing a ton of damage to the ecosystem. It means killing a whole lot of rats, but it's saving the natural diversity that exists. It's an awful thing to have to do, but in my eyes it's necessary. And this is true for a number of invasive species. In those cases, I support ethical hunting. 
I also think it's okay in terms of pest control. Bedbugs, mosquitoes, things of that nature. There's lots of bugs out there that I think we can safely apply population control to that I think makes sense. We wrote a whole article on what constitutes "personhood" as far as animals go, it's a very complicated topic, so if you want to learn more about that feel free to go check that out, but basically I think that insects like that have different standards we need to apply to them. 
But, these kinds of examples aren't the kind of Ethical Hunting that these people are advocating for. What they want is to kill animals under the guise of ethics, so that people don't understand what they really are. Murderers. Killers. There's nothing ethical about ethical hunting.
Article written by Tarro (August 2023) 
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