Is hunting morally acceptable?

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Unarmed but dangerous critics close in on hunting.

Editor's note: The people she most wants to talk to are the men and women who stalk animals and shoot to kill - the people who make moral choices in a split second. She is Ann Causey, a botanist and zoologist who teaches philosophy at Auburn University in Alabama. In a 1989 essay in the journal Environmental Ethics, and in a later article in Bugle, the magazine of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, she asked a question that continues to reverberate: Is hunting moral?

She's still looking for answers:

Is hunting morally acceptable? Those who support hunting usually respond by citing data: acres of habitat protected by hunting-generated funds, how many game species have experienced population increases due to modern game management, how much the economy is stimulated by hunting-generated revenues, and so on. Hunters also assure the public that hunters, more than most citizens, care deeply about ecosystem integrity.

These statements may be true but they are almost totally irrelevant to the question. Anti-hunters are not asking whether hunting is an effective management tool or whether hunters appreciate nature. They are asking: "Is it moral to kill animals for sport? Are any forms of hunting morally right?"

The hunter answers what he or she perceives is a question about utility and prudence, but his opponent has intended to ask a question about morality. It is as if one asked what day it is and the other responded by giving the time.

Our obsession with "sound, objective science" in addressing our opponents has led many hunting proponents not only to avoid the crucial issues, but also to actually fuel the fires of the anti-hunting movement. Outsiders to hunting are primarily concerned about the pain and suffering and loss of life inflicted on hunted animals and about the motives and attitudes of those who hunt.

They are offended by references to game animals as "resources." They are angered by the sterile language, and by implication, the emotionally sterile attitudes of those who speak of "culling," "controlling," and "managing" animals.

Anti-hunters insist that non-trivial reasons be given for intentional human-inflicted injuries or deaths, or that these injuries and deaths be stopped.

This is, in my view, an eminently reasonable request.

To be ethical, we must do two things: We must act ethically, and we must think ethically. What's needed for truly moral hunting to flourish is not just a change of appearance or vocabulary but a change of mindset, a deepening of values.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIV
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
    Provide stewardship and protection for the Great Burn wildlands along the Montana-Idaho stateline. This position is based in Missoula, MT, where a river runs through...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • SAN JUAN BASIN ENERGY CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is seeking a full-time San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer located in Farmington, New Mexico. The San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer focuses...
  • WILDLIFE PROGRAM MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) is looking for a passionate, experienced, and motivated Wildlife Program Manager to lead campaigns to protect and enhance wildlife and...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "This thriving citizens organization exemplifies the ideal of public involvement in public processes."- Billings Gazette Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, &...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR
    Western Colorado Alliance is hiring for 4 positions, 2 Full Time Community Organizers, 1 Part Time Community Organizer and a Part Time Membership Coordinator. For...
  • BUSINESS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    Thorne Nature Experience is looking for a Business Operations Director who will work in partnership with the Executive Director and Thorne's Directors and Managers to...