The ethical issues regarding recreational hunting

2469 words (10 pages) Essay in Sociology

5/12/16 Sociology Reference this

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“For well over a century, recreational hunting has been an activity pursued by millions of Americans” (Eliason, 2008). Hunting is something that has occupied our young country since we got here. It is an outdoors sport that used to be the only way people acquired their food, and many depended on what hunting offered. In recent years, however, hunting has become a very controversial topic. This is in large part due to the overwhelming gun problem this country is facing. But it is also because many people, today, don’t understand why people hunt. They do not see how you could find joy out of it anymore. There are others that believe completely otherwise. Some believe that hunting is a part of our culture, and we should continue to utilize the wildlife like we have for so many years. Hunting has become a very controversial topic, and many are not educated on the topic enough to make a decision one way or the other.

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Hunting, regarded to humans, is essentially the tracking of a certain animals with intentions on killing the animal. For a person that does not know very much about hunting, they may think that this sounds very cruel. However the hunter, usually, has no intentions on torturing the animal. Hunting is considered a sport to many here in the United Sates. That being said, many also do not consider this a sport. Paul Rodriguez, a Mexican Comedian, had this to say about hunting; “Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they’re in the game.” Even though this is a funny spin off of hunting, it is very relevant. For people that disagree with hunting, this would make a lot of sense. The animal obviously has no idea that it is in the “game.” However pro hunting advocates think that hunting is more than just a sport. They feel that it is our culture, and that people need to hunt to contain the wildlife’s numbers. There are many different feelings on hunting, but the main two thoughts either disagree or agree with hunting.

There was a time when animals were not as domestically friendly as they are now. People often forget the importance animals played in the survival of humans. “Hunting was a crucial component of hunter-gatherer societies, and is a theme of stories and myths, as well as many proverbs, aphorisms, adages and metaphors even today” (History of Hunting). Many believe that a form of “Persistence Hunting” was the first type of hunting (History of Hunting). This type of hunting was used before people had any sort of weapons that could kill an animal from long distances. People would have had to stalk their prey for long periods of time, and get immaculately close to the animal in order to take down their prey. Throughout the ages man became more advanced and engineered guns, spears, and bows. These weapons were made in large part to assist in hunting animals, allowing people to gather food much easier. Times have progressed, and so has the view of hunting. It is important for both sides of the hunting debate to remember that hunting is as old as the human kind.

In today’s world the hunting community has begun to decrease substantially, due to regulations and animal rights groups advocating for a change against hunters. However these groups often do not look at the consequences if there were no hunters. One of the greatest positives hunters can provide is this idea of Wildlife Management. This is simply keeping the numbers of animals down. “Wildlife management would be severely weakened, in terms of economic and social support, with- out hunting” (Peterson, 2004). Another important area of Wildlife Management is the safety of humans. A specific animal that is hunted here in the U.S. is the Whitetail deer. Whitetails are one of the most overpopulated animals in America. It is also important to know that this is among one of the most common animals hunted in the United States. Deer can cause a lot of harm to humans. Overpopulation of deer affects their food intake, and when it is low they venture out into areas they should not, one of these being roads and in turn come into contact with cars. Another negative aspect of numerous Whitetail Deer is that they tend to carry Lyme disease. “The blacklegged tick has 3 active life stages (larva, nymph and adult)… most adults feed on white-tailed deer” (USDA). If there are too many deer, then there is a greater chance for more widespread amounts of Lyme disease. Hunting is more than just Wildlife Management. For many it is a way of life. People that hunt; feel a certain connectedness to the Wildlife that people who have never hunted could never understand. These are mainly Utilitarianism points of view. They focus on the outcomes, and look at the consequences of the actions.

When considering the debate about hunting it is important to understand the ethical dilemmas surrounding the situation. For this specific topic, hunting, there are three concrete ethical categories that can be associated with hunting. These categories that will be examined are; Anthropocentrism, Animal Rights, and Utilitarianism. All three of these ethical categories can be directly related to the hunting issue. All three have their strengths and weaknesses for the argument either against or for hunting. It is important when considering the ethical dilemmas, stemmed by hunting, to look at different ethical categories, because it can provide insight into why people either oppose or support different ethical problems.

The first category that will be examined is Anthropocentrism. “Anthropocentrism is the view that the only things valuable in themselves are: human beings; their desires, needs, and purposes; and the satisfaction of those” (Donahue, 2010). An Anthropocentric perspective would believe that the only thing in this world that really matters, are humans. In this case, by hunting, we would keep the deer population down and prevent any risks that the deer pose to humans. This principle would suggest that hunting would benefit humans instead of benefiting the natural flow of an ecosystem. In contrast to Animal Rights activist’s views, an Anthropocentric would say that people hunting animal’s matters more than the wellbeing of the animals. They would say that if there are an abundance of animals, then they could intrude into the wellbeing of humans. They could harm us with disease, and injury. State Farm Auto Insurance does an annual report on how much damage is done between cars and deer collisions. The report says that there is an estimated 2.3 million collisions between deer and vehicles that occurred in the U.S. between July 2008 and June 2010, according to State Farm this was 21 percent more than the five years before. (State Farm) The report states that there is an average property damage amount of about $3 thousand per incident. (State Farm) If you do the math it is roughly $7 billion in property damage over the past two year, which is roughly $3.5 billion a year. The point is, if you did not control deer populations through hunting, deer-auto collisions would skyrocket even more, causing more property damage and more injuries and deaths. Anthropocentrism views would see this report and the statistics of it, as extremely harmful to humans.

On the other end of the spectrum there are the people that disagree with hunting. In 1991 an animal rights activist, Wayne Pacelle, said “”Our goal is to get sport hunting in the same category as cock fighting and dog fighting.” This is the category of Animal Rights. In the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of pressure from animal rights activists to stop hunting. Many feel that it is a form of animal cruelty. “Hunting is increasingly viewed as an antisocial act in contemporary society” (Eliason, 2008). Many animal activists work to reduce the amounts of hunting in the country; they also strive to explain to the people whose main concern is not hunting why they should oppose it as well. “Animal movement activists seek to stigmatize and mark as deviant what many people perceive as normal, legitimate, mainstream activities such as…hunting wild animals for pleasure or profit.”(Munro, 1999) Some major animal rights groups include: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), ASPCA, People for Animal Liberation, and many others. Animal Rights activists feel that killing any animal for food or recreation is wrong. It shouldn’t matter if the animal is a deer, cow, or chicken. Animal Rights activists considered hunting to be unethical because the human and deer conflict is not the fault of the deer. However it is the fault of humans for taking the habitat away from deer. Animal Rights activists have also advocated for non-lethal methods in animal control. Most notable is “Birth Control” for deer. Animal Rights advocates believe that it is possible to somehow inject deer with birth control, and in turn they are not as easily able to reproduce.

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The last ethical category to observe is Utilitarianism. A Utilitarian would believe that hunting offers three benefits. One benefit would be that killing deer for their meat would benefit those who eat venison. Venison is also thought, by many, to be leaner and better for you than beef. It is also important to note that many living in rural areas of the United States need hunting in order to survive. In this tough economy many have expressed that they have lost their jobs, and they have to hunt deer and other wildlife in order to provide for their families. Throughout history hunting deer and other animals is what humans have had to do in order to survive. Another benefit would be that by limiting the population of deer the environment benefits. Overpopulation of deer can create overgrazing, crop reduction, and generally barren land. Utilitarianism would support hunting if it was used for, “preserving stability and integrity of biotic communities” (Peterson, 2004). Overpopulation of animals, especially deer, can be very damaging to the ecosystem. With large numbers of deer and other animals, the environment could possibly be damaged by overgrazing. Lastly, a Utilitarian would see a benefit in the fact that deer harbor many diseases. By limiting the amounts of deer, would decrease the amounts of diseases that could possibly be spread to humans.

Examining the background of hunting, the pros and cons of it, and the ethical dilemmas surrounding the topic; I believe that hunting should not only be allowed but be encouraged. Hunting does not only benefit the environment, but it also benefits humans. Not all hunting is just for “bagging a big buck” it is also about the relationship a hunter can acquire with nature. In the hunting world there is also a lot of camaraderie that comes with hunting in the outdoors. It can change the lives of people through spiritual, physiological, and physical means. My father is considered a “pro-hunter,” so I have some bias for the sport. I have seen how the sport has not only benefited him, but it has grown to be a part of our family. One of the most important things to note about hunting is the fact that these animals were put on Earth for a reason. It is even possible to look at this ethical dilemma in terms of Religious Ethics. As the Bible says in Genesis 9: 2, “The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.” (Genesis 9:2). Being a Christian, this is a pretty hard statement to ignore when looking at the hunting dilemma. We have to realize that these animals were put here for a reason, and if we continue to advocate against hunting then we are not using the resources that God has provided us with.

Even if you agree with hunting and participate in the hunting of animals, you are still able to understand why some disagree with hunting and what it entails. However many of these disagreements come from people being uneducated with the forms of responsible hunting. Somebody who goes out and hunts for deer and participates in other legal forms of hunting would agree with animal rights views that are against poaching and illegal forms of killing animals. But the fact remains that responsible hunting has more pros than cons. Nobody can deny that the deer population in America is able to grow at an unbelievable rate. The main reason for this is because Deer can adapt to any environment, this is why we see them in our neighborhoods, and in towns. It is also undeniable that overpopulation such as this can be a problem for the environment, and be a potential danger to humans. Responsible hunters can help solve many of these issues. Another thing to note is that in most cases hunting does not inflict any sort of torture on the animal. Animal rights activists have every right to try and defend animals; however they need to make the clear distinction between responsible and irresponsible forms of hunting. Many people are under the impression that hunting is only for red necks out to hurt animals. This could not be further from the truth. Hunting creates a form of camaraderie that some will never be able to understand.

When looking at the ethical dilemmas, regarding hunting, it is easy to see why this has turned into such a controversial issue. With the heightened amount of Animal Rights groups, and hunters or supporters of hunters feeling the pressure from these groups there is an inevitable debate. Looking at Anthropocentrism, Animal Rights and Utilitarianism, each category brings something different to the debate. The idea of hunting will never go away. As long as there are people who disagree and agree with this issue, debates will continue to happen regarding hunting. It will also be hard for this debate to go away, because both sides of the spectrum feel very strongly about this particular issue. I will be a firm supporter of hunting until I die, because I have a firsthand take on how positively it can affect the people that participate in hunting. The debate on hunting has many sub sections such as, poaching and gun control. However if you just merely look at hunting and what it can offer humans and the environment, it is easy to see how useful hunting can be. As my dad says, “I will do all I can to sustain and grow our blood sport until I walk the deer woods no longer.” (Mikehanback.com)

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