Thank goodness we live in a world of endless and unlimited resources. If it weren’t for that, I might be worried about the way we are treating the earth. Man, if I were to suddenly find out that the populations humans recklessly destroy were unable to immediately regenerate, I think that would be a very inconvenient truth.
Assuming for a horrid second that this hypothetical world is grossly similar our own, hunting and fishing in this world represent the sin of greed. Let me begin by clarifying that I am aware of the arguments for sustainable hunting, both for the survival of the hunter, and the population stability of the prey. I am ignoring these arguments for now. My brief response is that starvation is not a reality faced by most hunters I know, as they still supplement their diets with CAFO-produced meat, and the overpopulation of deer and black bears, at least here in New Jersey, could be easily solved by the reintroduction of natural predators (wolves) and stronger regulations against sprawling subdivisions (like the one I guiltily live in), respectively.
While some hunting advocates maintain that curtailing wild populations is an economic necessity, and while the fishing industry is feeding an overweight and culinary indulgent population, which is easily a form of greed, for now I want to focus on hunting and fishing that is pure sport. It is not difficult to identify the impetus behind hunting. There is a primal thrill in stalking and taking down another creature, a carry over rush of adrenaline that we as a species once needed to survive. There is, I suppose, satisfaction in successfully outwitting another creature who is doing everything he can to avoid death. But we have sports now, and other wonderful outdoor activities, all of which are designed to channel our primal aggression into less destructive outlets. To hunt simply for the sport of it falls into my sin analysis because it is wrong to value simple entertainment over the life of another creature.
Again, I am consciously ignoring the counter-arguments. One of the hypotheticals I and other vegans/vegetarians often hear is whether we would eat an animal that was hunted. If she is hunted, got to live her life freely, and was killed in a (somewhat more) humane manner, this is part of the circle of life, and would happen anyway. Other animal rights advocates respond that the terror of the hunt does not justify the aforementioned points. Without even going deeply into argument, it is simply unnecessary to hunt for sport, and it is a perversion of our values system to accept hunting as a leisure activity. Fishing is in the same boat, so to speak. Even if you catch-and-release, it is no better. That’s sort of like waterboarding for fish. There might be is one kind of humane fishing, but I’m skeptical.
One of the most symbolic sport hunts in the world became outlawed a few years ago when England announced that fox hunts would not longer be permitted. The lawmakers concluded that the pleasure of hearing dozens of baying hounds did not outweigh the terror of one frightened fox. How progressive. Considering that American animal law and property law begins with a fox hunt, I wonder if this move is a sign that Americans should take some strides to satisfy the safety of our own scared and silent wild creatures. It’s not as if cruel hunting practices are dissipating.
Although voices against fishing and hunting occasionally float to the surface of our pop culture conscience, I sincerely doubt there will be a movement that successfully eliminates sport hunting or fishing within my lifetime. Both are too engrained in our culture, and for too long both were necessary. That isn’t to say that tradition justifies continuing practice. I just see too many lessons in our history that have been ignored to honestly believe in massive change in this area. That said, I do not despair. There are small battles to be won. Whaling used to be a rather popular hunt, but now almost every country is out of the business (to some extent). The wolf hunt may still go through in a few states, but despite the wishes of my favorite geographer, there is a significant movement to stop the hunt, enough to compel citizens to demand its end. Black bear hunts are hotly debated from California to New Jersey. Every state has regulations on when and where people can hunt, though enforcing these laws is problematic.
So what’s the issue? I worry that in this area of animal rights, the idea of permissible hunting is already too established in the law. Yes, there are debates about bear and wolf hunts, and whether hunting a species to the brink of extinction might be a bad idea. Yet because these are the hot topics, there is little attention to be spared on considering whether hunting has a place at all in our society. Beyond that, if the proposition does gain momentum, the opposition to a total ban on recreational hunting would be fierce. For that reason any advocate who wants to create such laws has an even steeper uphill battle than usual. No one ever said that this is an arena for the passionless. It will take time and effort. Luckily we have time on our side. Only in that world of limited resources and dwindling populations would we have cause to worry, but if that was the case, we’d all wake up and do something, right?
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