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Friday, October 02, 2009

If hunting were banned: some ethical questions

Third in a series of three columns on the economic and environmental impact of banning hunting, and the ethical issues of a ban.
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 3, 2009.)

Banning hunting would not be ethical;
it would be unethical.
Hunting has been legal and ethical since, well, at least since Cain and Abel roamed the Garden of Eden. And before that, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21.) I don’t suppose he used banana skins.

Today we have some political activists who think hunting is unethical. The recently confirmed Cass Sunstein (head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, thinks animals should be able to sue people in a court of law. Maybe he’d sue God himself for providing Adam and Eve with animal skin loincloths. Apparently Sunstein and his ilk don’t think the legal system is jammed up enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying animals are never mistreated. But hunting is not mistreatment of animals. All throughout history hunting has been part and parcel of man’s survival.

Exactly when did it become wrong to kill an animal and use his meat for food, or his skin for clothing? I have to say it bugs me that people think we ought to somehow flip a switch and make an activity that has been ethical for eons suddenly immoral.

Show me any group of people who want to legislate against hunting, and I’ll show you political activists with little understanding of what it takes for wildlife to survive and thrive. I’ll show you people who think their feelings are worth more than the hard science behind wildlife management.

Here are some questions for them to think about:

• Is it ethical to replace wildlife management with management by activist political pressure? Should sentimentalists be permitted to trump wildlife scientists?

• Ban hunting, and more meat will have to be produced through modern farming methods – methods that are criticized by many in that same crowd. Is that ethical?

• Ban hunting, and venison donation programs in communities across the nation will end, robbing from people who need nourishing food. Is that ethical?

• Ban hunting, and more people will die in car collisions with deer and in attacks by predators. Who wants to tell the parent of a child killed by a mountain lion that it’s unethical to keep mountain lion populations in check through hunting? Isn’t it unethical not to?

• Usually, whenever regulated hunting is banned, poaching crimes increase. Is it ethical to pursue a policy that will increase poaching crimes?

• Deer favor certain foods, but when stressed, they’ll eat just about anything. Ban hunting, and huge herds of malnourished deer would denude the forests and clog our highways and our farms – even our yards would be overrun. Conflicts with people would increase. Public perception of this beautiful creature would turn from positive to negative. Is that ethical?

• Nature’s anti-extinction strategy for most wildlife species is abundant reproduction – a principle that enables survival despite high mortality rates. Is it ethical to adopt a policy that artificially reduces mortality and increases prey populations beyond the carrying capacity of the land?

• Species thrive when predators remove the surplus. Man has always been a predator. In a civilized world many animals need him to play his natural role of intelligent, self-limiting predator. Is it ethical to remove that natural limit to animal populations?

• Do away with hunting for “politically correct” reasons, and watch animals and their habitat suffer. Where are the ethics in that?

• What about political strategy? Is it ethical to lie to force an activist agenda? It’s not true, for example, that polar bears are in decline. In most of their habitat, polar bear populations are higher than ever. Polar bear hunting has been banned because of a lie.

No one cares more about animals than hunters who work on their behalf. It may seem paradoxical, but hunters are more benefit to wildlife than non-hunters. Ban hunting, and we lose an army of wildlife beneficiaries. Banning hunting would not be ethical; it would be unethical.

Hunting works. Hunting has history on its side. It has ethics on its side. It has the law on its side. Let’s keep it that way.


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