“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.” – James A. Froude (1818-1894)

I have yet to hear any acceptable justifications for hunting, although many have tried to come up with convincing arguments in favor of this very unsportsmanlike sport.  So, after talking with hunters and conducting some research, I offer the following. . .

Hunters claim that hunting helps to control the wildlife population. It seems that we cannot trust nature anymore, so we need to intervene and assume Mother Nature’s job of taking care of her own. Actually, the balance of ecosystems ensures their own survival, as long as they are left unaltered. Natural predators will help to maintain this balance by killing only the sickest and weakest among them. Additionally, when faced with a diminished food supply, animals such as does may stop ovulating, while bucks reduce their sperm count. Hunters, on the other hand, kill any animal who they covet, including the strong and healthy ones who are integral to keeping the population going. When they talk about targeting overpopulated animals, they’re usually referring to white-tailed deer, which represent about 3% of all the animals who fall victim to this ruthless sport. Even so, I wonder how many hunters search for starving animals versus shooting at random or going for the ones who will bring home the most impressive trophy.

Should any unusual natural occurrences result in an over-population, natural processes will help stabilize the group. Although tragic, disease and starvation are nature’s ways of making sure that healthy and strong animals survive to maintain the rest of their group. The argument that shooting an animal because he/she might become sick or starve is a destructive, self-serving and arbitrary one. Hunting for sport jeopardizes the balance of nature and causes other problems.

Aside from the extreme suffering that hunters impose upon their victims, there is significant collateral damage to non-targeted animals (both of the domestic and endangered species variety). Much of this can be viewed at www.bornfreeusa.org in their investigative footage and graphics. Hunters have severely wounded countless animals who have been left behind to suffer prolonged deaths. For every animal that a hunter kills and recovers, approximately two are wounded but not recovered, resulting in infection, starvation, predator attacks, dehydration, or slow painful deaths from blood loss. Many who survive end up with disabling injuries. Hunters have also rendered extinct many species, including eastern elk, the Florida black bear, and the dodo. Last, but not least, a search of hunting casualties will bring up countless reports of injuries and deaths to companion animals and humans.

During canned hunting, where hunting occurs mostly on private land and laws that protect wildlife are often inapplicable or difficult to enforce, hunters pay to kill native and exotic animals. These animals might be either from the area or brought in from elsewhere; many are purchased from traffickers who obtain unwanted or surplus animals from circuses and zoos. The sole purpose for these animals is to provide a trophy for the hunters. I am incredulous that this can even be called a hunt or a sport. The animals on these canned-hunt game preserves and ranches are often accustomed to humans and might not feel in any danger. Also, they are usually unable to escape from their enclosures, which might range in size from a few yards to several thousand acres. The helpful owners who want to ensure their clients a successful “hunt” offer guides who are familiar with the animals’ locations and habits. They additionally supply “feeding stations” to lure unsuspecting victims to food while the hunters await. If this is not enough, the use of dogs is also permitted. While many states have limited or banned canned hunts, I am not aware of any federal laws regulating this practice presently.

I’d be remiss to exclude fishing, as this is another form of hunting; it just happens to not take place on land. We can’t be selective, after all, if we are talking about animals who are targeted by humans in their search for the biggest, best, and most impressive catch. Many people might not think much about whether fish can feel, but they do. Imagine swallowing a barbed hook and being dragged, then suffocating; or worse, being sliced open and gutted. Fish are not the only water creatures who suffer, as millions of turtles, seals, birds, otters and other animals suffer injuries or starve to death after becoming entangled in filament line or swallowing fish hooks. When I lived in Florida, pelican sanctuaries were constantly treating birds for injuries sustained from hooks or monofilament lines.

There is the argument that one must feed their family. According to Karen Dawn, in her book, Thanking the Monkey, she estimates that about .00001 percent of the population hunts because they have no other way to feed their families. I’m inclined to agree with her, because I had a difficult time locating populated regions that were so remote that the only way to survive was to hunt for dinner.

Since hunting has been an American tradition for so long, it’s expected that few who engage in this sport would stop to question their actions. However, I wonder how fair a sport it is when a hunter, armed with handguns, bows and arrows, rifles, shotguns, and other high-powered weapons, chases after an unarmed victim with no defense. How ethical and fair is this? More than 200 million animals are killed annually, with millions more being maimed, crippled, orphaned, and stressed. And while hunters and wildlife agencies promote the idea that hunting is integral to the management of wildlife, agencies intentionally breed some species to ensure that there are enough animals available to be hunted. The bigger picture has nothing to do with decreasing the number of overpopulated animals or protecting certain species, but increasing the number of potential hunting licenses sold since this is a major source of income for wildlife agencies.

Who are these people who think it’s okay to chase after defenseless animals, terrorize them and wound or murder them? Well, I have learned that the hunting community is composed of mostly men, though there are some women. They enjoy killing small and large animals because it’s “fun, exciting and challenging” (though I fail to see how challenging it is when the odds are stacked in the hunter’s favor – perhaps I’m missing something, here). Apparently these people need to feel powerful; and inflicting cruelty upon animals, away from public view, is one way to accomplish this. Although participating in outright brutality, many hunters will use denial and self-delusion in order to avoid taking responsibility for being the cause of horrible suffering. There are supporters of the theory that some hunters are trying to compensate for other problems in their lives. Clinical psychologists have offered their thoughts that perhaps there is some sexual inadequacy, erotic sadistic motivation, or a need for reassurance of masculinity among hunters. According to Karen Dawn, in her aforementioned book, she writes that clinicians report that incidents of wife-beating are at peak the day before hunting season opens. During my research, I read of numerous people who have been wounded, harassed and killed by hunters.

Ironically, taxpayers help subsidize the public lands used by hunters, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs (which hunters benefit from) get the majority of their funds from general tax revenues – not the money from licenses and stamps that hunters buy, claiming they are helping pay for conservation.

What can you do? The obvious is to refrain from hunting! Encourage your legislators to enact or enforce wildlife protection laws. Insist that non-hunters be equally represented on wildlife agency staffs. Post “No Hunting” signs on your land or form an anti-hunting organization. Before supporting a “wildlife” or “conservation” group, ask about its position on hunting. Protest organized hunts. Spread deer repellent or human hair from barber shops near hunting areas. Call 1-800-628-7275 to report poachers in national parks to the National Parks and Conservation Association. Educate others about hunting.

Contact PETA, the Humane Society, Born Free USA or In Defense of Animals to offer support of their campaigns and get more information.

By Annoula Wylderich