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Friday, August 20, 2010

Man -- the Essential Predator

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, August 21, 2010.)

Any common sense discussion of hunting
must recognize that man
historically has been a predator.
It’s normal for a wolf. A way of life for an owl. No fox or hawk or coyote or mountain lion ever questioned whether it was moral to kill any songbird or rodent or turkey or deer.

I got to thinking about the morality of hunting when I recently re-read an article in Sports Illustrated (Nov. 24, 2008) about the decline of hunting. It ended with this sentence: “Wolves do not make moral decisions.... They just hunt.”

Hunting isn’t a moral issue for wolves or any other predator – and there are many of them. Is it for man? I think the answer is yes. For man, hunting is a moral decision. To think about whether hunting is a right moral activity, let’s begin by looking at the past.

We don’t have to go as far back as man’s so-called “hunter-gatherer” stage. Only a few hundred years ago, newly minted Americans began settling in the wilderness of the New World. No one considered hunting to be wrong. It’s what people had always done.

In fact, man has been a very creative predator, inventing countless ways to capture and kill animals for food. Historically he has been nature’s most efficient predator. Animals of all sizes were his prey, from fluffy bunnies to the shaggy bison of the American plains.

Today most of us don’t hunt. That’s a good thing. If all 12 million people in Pennsylvania took up hunting, dramatic changes would be needed in wildlife management policies, or we’d quickly run out of wildlife. But the fact that most people are non-hunters has no bearing on whether hunting is moral or not.

People who argue that hunting is immoral will say all the meat we need is available in hermetically sealed transparent packaging. That’s irrelevant. Meat packers and refrigeration can’t make immoral what has been moral since the beginning of time.

They’ll say hunting is only legal because governments allow it. That’s untrue. Hunting seasons and bag limits exist because hunters saw the need and pushed governments to act. More than a hundred years ago hunters knew that a bourgeoning population of humans would rapidly marginalize wildlife, and that market hunting would surely exterminate it from all but the most remote places. And since that time, wildlife has thrived. All wildlife – not just game animals.

Not a single species has ever been threatened by regulated hunting. Not even the beloved polar bear, poster child of the global warming movement. The fact is polar bear populations are now at an all-time high. Hunting hasn’t hurt them a bit. In fact, it has helped them.

Hunters have done more for wildlife than any government anywhere at any level. Most of the dollars spent on behalf of game animals – on research benefiting all wildlife and on the creation and preservation of habitat – come from hunters.

And not just from the sale of hunting licenses. The money also comes from an 11% Federal excise tax on sporting gear which the Federal government distributes directly to the states for programs that support wildlife and habitat. That wasn’t a tax forced on hunters. It’s a tax hunters insisted on, and a tax wildlife depends on.

The money also flows through an alphabet soup of conservation organizations where hunters love working together for the benefit of wildlife. Hunters have done more for wildlife than any body of legislators, humane society, or anti-hunting organization. Anti-hunters think they're doing wildlife a favor. They’re actually working against the best friends wildlife has ever had.

Any common sense discussion of hunting must recognize that man historically has been a predator. Has been from the beginning. Still is. He’s the essential predator. He’s the predator who knows that he holds the keys to the future of wildlife. He’s the only predator who is thoughtful about the health of his prey species, the needs of his prey species, the future of his prey species, and his impact on species that aren’t his prey.

So, is hunting moral? If doing good is a measure of morality, then hunting is moral. Hunting is normal for a wolf. Hunting is normal, and moral, for man.


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