Hunting – the murderous business
Hunting may have played an important role, next to plant gathering and scavenging, for human survival in prehistoric times, but the vast majority of modern hunters in developed countries stalk and kill animals for recreation. Hunting is a violent and cowardly form of outdoor entertainment that kills hundreds of millions of animals every year, many of whom are wounded and die a slow and painful death.
Hunters cause injuries, pain and suffering to animals who are not adapted to defend themselves from bullets, traps and other cruel killing devices. Hunting destroys animal families and habitats, and leaves terrified and dependent baby animals behind to starve to death.
Because state wildlife agencies use hunting, trapping and fishing licenses as a source of income, today’s wildlife management actively promotes the killing of wild animals, and joined by a powerful hunting lobby even sells wildlife trophy hunts to those who enjoy killing them. For instance, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife received $45,000 from the sale of a killing tag for California Desert Bighorn Sheep, sold at the 41st Safari Club International Convention in Reno, Nevada. Getting the trophy carcass is an unwritten guarantee.
Hunting Causes Pain and Suffering
A mere four percent of the human U.S. population hunts, compared to 22 percent - over 70 million people - who enjoy watching wildlife alive. Wild animal watchers spend over $20 billion more than hunters on their activities that respect, rather than harm animals.
Despite increasing public opposition, hunting is permitted on 60 percent of U.S. public lands, including in over 50% of wildlife refuges, many national forests and state parks; on federal land alone (more than half a billion acres), more than 200 million animals are killed every year (McCarthy).
Quick kills are rare, and many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them. Bow hunting exacerbates the problem, evidenced by dozens of scientific studies that have shown that bow hunting yields more than a 50 percent wounding and crippling rate. Some hunting groups promote shooting animals in the face or in the gut, which is a horrifically painful way to die.
Several states allow a spring bear hunt during the months when bears emerge from hibernation. These bears are not only still lethargic, which makes them easy targets for hunters, but many of the females are either pregnant or lactating. Mother bears are often shot while out and about foraging, while hiding their cubs in trees or leaving them in their dens. When mother bears are killed, their nursing cubs have little to no chance of survival as they will either starve or be killed by predators.
The stress that hunting inflicts on animals — the noise, the fear, and the constant chase — severely restricts their ability to eat adequately and store the fat and energy they need to survive the winter. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation, and the campfires, recreational vehicles and trash adversely affect both wildlife and the environment. For animals like wolves, who mate for life and have close-knit family units, hunting can destroy entire communities.
Hunting is Not Sport
Hunting is often called a “sport,” to disguise a cruel, needless killing spree as a socially acceptable activity. However, the concept of sport involves competition between two consenting parties, adherence to rules and fairness ensured by an intervening referee, and achieving highest scores but not death as the goal of the sporting events. In hunting, the animal is forced to “participate” in a live-or-die situation that always leads to the death of the animal, whereas the hunter leaves, their life never remotely at stake.
Hunting is Not Fair Chase
Despite hunters’ common claim of adhering to a “fair chase” code, there is no such thing. With an arsenal of rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, bows and arrows, hunters kill more than 200 million animals yearly – and likely crippling, orphaning, and harassing millions more. The annual death toll in the U.S. includes 42 million mourning doves, 30 million squirrels, 28 million quail, 25 million rabbits, 20 million pheasants, 14 million ducks, 6 million deer, and thousands of geese, bears, moose, elk, antelope, swans, cougars, turkeys, wolves, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, boars, and other woodland inhabitants. Hunters also frequently use food and electronic callers to lure unsuspecting animals in front of their weapons. The truth is, the animal, no matter how well-adapted to escaping natural predators she or he may be, has virtually no way to escape death once he or she is in the cross hairs of a scope mounted on a rifle or a crossbow.
Hunting is Not Conservation
Wildlife management, population control and wildlife conservation are euphemisms for killing – hunting, trapping and fishing for fun. A percentage of the wild animal population is specifically mandated to be killed. Hunters want us to believe that killing animals equals population control equals conservation, when in fact hunting causes overpopulation of deer, the hunters’ preferred victim species, destroys animal families, and leads to ecological disruption as well as skewed population dynamics.
Because state wildlife agencies are partly funded by hunters and other wildlife killers, programs are in place to manipulate habitat and artificially bolster “game” populations while ignoring “non-game” species. These programs lead to overpopulation and unbalanced ecosystems by favoring buck only hunts, pen-raising pheasants and other birds as living targets for hunters, transporting wild turkeys, raccoons and other species across state lines to boost populations for hunters and trappers to kill, and by exterminating predators such as wolves and mountain lions, in order to increase prey animals like elk and deer to then justify hunting as needed for “population control.”
Hunting Contributes to Species Extinction
Hunting has contributed to the historical extinction of animal species all over the world, including the Southern Appalachian birds, the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet (the only member of the parrot family native to the eastern United States), the eastern elk, the eastern cougar, the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk.
Wild Animals are Not Crops
Wildlife managers and hunters treat wild animals like a crop, of which a percentage can be “harvested” annually – to them, wild animals are no different than a field of wheat. This selective mis-management, with its exclusive focus on numbers to be killed, ignores the science that shows that nonhumans, just like humans, have similar capabilities to experience emotions, and have families and other social associations built on multi-leveled relationships.
Natural Carnivores are the Real Ecosystem Managers
While hunters and so-called wildlife professionals pretend to have control over ecosystems and the animals they kill, natural predators such as wolves, mountain lions and bears are the real ecosystem managers, if allowed to survive naturally. For instance, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park caused ripple effects throughout the ecosystem, with an increase in biodiversity, including a higher occurrence of beavers, several bird and plant species, and natural habitat and stream recovery.
What You Can Do
Join In Defense of Animals and support our efforts to end recreational hunting.
Before you support a wildlife or conservation group, ask about its position on hunting and trapping. Some groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, the Izaak Walton League, the Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund support recreational hunting, or they do not oppose it.
If you are a student of environmental studies, conservation and natural resource management or wildlife biology, challenge the concept of hunting as the foundation for wildlife conservation and management. Become familiar with non-lethal human/wildlife conflict solutions, and educate your classmates, your professors and your community.
Attend public meetings of your state’s wildlife agency, voice your opinion against hunting in their public commenting process. Speak up, write letters and comments, and encourage others to do the same.
Join or form an anti-hunting organization and help spread the word about the injustice done against wild animals by hunters and state wildlife agencies.
Contact your state’s Governor and wildlife agency, and request equal consideration of non-hunters in employment opportunities, and equal representation of non-hunters in any decision-making process about wildlife.