Wednesday, June 19, 2024

About Hunting


"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts... The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land." [p.239]

"A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these 'resources', but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such." [p.240]

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." [p.262]


Aldo Leopold. 1949. "A Sand County Almanac". Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-345-34505-3


Hunters vs criminals
In Erich Fromm's benchmark book "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness", he states that "the behavioural patterns and neurological processes in predatory aggression are not analogous to the other types of animal aggression." He finds they are in fact closer to the biochemistry of pleasure and joy.

In Fromm's studies of aggression he concludes that the motives of hunters are psychologically very different from those of criminals and finds that hunters tend to be peaceful people.

Erich Fromm. 1973. "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness". Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.



The argument that subsistence hunting is morally acceptable but sport hunting, or hunting for pleasure, is bad has been around for almost one hundred years. The argument is analogous to the Roman Catholic dictum that having sex for pleasure is bad but having sex for reproduction is morally acceptable. Even the most prudish must admit that on occasion having sex for reproduction can and often does involve some pleasure. Similarly with subsistence hunting, being successful and killing an animal can and often does involve some pleasure.

What both of these arguments have in common is an examination of the *motivations* of the participants involved and using these motivations to define whether the subsequent actions caused by these motivations are morally acceptable or not.


Dr. Ann Causey states:
"What the anti-hunters ultimately find objectionable, and what most sport hunters are understandably reluctant to admit, is that the motive for sport hunting boils down to the enjoyment of the activities undertaken as part of the quest for and ultimately the achievement of the kill."

"Antihunters believe... that it is morally wrong to kill for pleasure. Period."

"Can the desire to kill for sport be explained, and more importantly for the sport hunter, can it be defended? I believe the answer to both of these questions is yes."

"...the desire to hunt is the modern vestige of an evolutionary trait of utmost adaptive significance to early man. Hunting is, they remind us, man's dominant occupation, having supported and literally shaped us for over ninety-nine percent of our existence, only very recently have been supplanted by agriculture."

"Though the urge to kill has in the past been reinforced by instinct, it is tempered in modern man by reason. This gives rise to the big conflict characteristic of sport hunting: the mixture of elation and remorse, of thrill and regret. It is instinct versus intellect.... Caras makes a wonderful analogy to illustrate the relationship in hunting between need and desire: 'If scientists come up with test-tube babies tomorrow morning there will be just as much fornicating tomorrow night as there has always been.' The need may well be gone, but the desire, in many of us, remains strong."

"We have now reached the heart of the issue of the morality of hunting."

"Is it morally wrong to wish to hunt for sport and to take pleasure in the occasional kill?"

"The answer, it seems to me, is no. It is not morally wrong to take pleasure in killing game; nor is it morally right. It is simply not a moral issue at all, because the urge itself is an instinct, and instincts do not qualify for moral valuation, positive or negative. Thus, the urge to kill for sport is *amoral*, lying as it does outside the jurisdiction of morality."

Ann Causey "On the Morality of Hunting". Environmental Ethics Vol.11 Winter 1989. pp.327-343.


Hunting As Religion
Eric K. Fritzell, Professor and Department Head, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University

"... When I hunt I am immersed mentally, physically and even spiritually in an age-old predatory relationship among animals. I am participating in a common ecological process -- just as a fox seeks her prey. I do not need to kill to eat -- although I enjoy and appreciate eating game immensely. I kill in order to have hunted. To me, hunting is a very intense personal relationship between myself, the prey, and the environment in which the chase occurs. When I take my annual pilgrimage to the North Dakota pothole country, I take great pleasure in and spend the vast majority of my time seeking just the right place to attempt to kill some ducks. In a sense, I am hunting for an ecosystem in which to participate. This participation, to me, is a form of ecological worship.

As animals, we humans can't escape our participation in the ecological functioning of the world. But modern living has removed us spiritually from the relevant ecological processes -- eating a steak is a rather passive activity, procuring venison is not.I can think of a few other ecological functions in which the human animal could participate more intimately -- gathering wild asparagus or defecating in the woods, for example -- but none have the intensity of predation." ...


"Hunting is often justified by claims of necessity, of wildlife population management, of tradition, and of other things, and all the claims can be valid. The simple truth is that hunting needs no justification. The United States of America, while no longer a true republic, is a pluralistic democracy in which the rights of minorities are strictly guarded. The activities of hunters do not harm non-hunters, and thus hunting is, and should be, accommodated by the non-hunting majority. Should the time come when hunting is outlawed merely because it is disliked by the majority, whoever indulges in the next-most unpopular activities had best beware.

In recent years, a vocal group of "animal rightists" have claimed that animals, too, have rights and thus should not be hunted. Buffalo chips! Humans most certainly have ethical responsibilities toward animals; among them is the ethical responsibility for a clean kill when hunting. With all rights come responsibilities, to one's self if to no one else. Americans have the right to free expression with the concomitant responsibility not to perjure themselves. Americans have the right to bear arms with the attendant responsibility to use them wisely. Americans have the right to assemble and the simultaneous responsibility to keep their assembly peaceful. The inseparable joining of rights and responsibilities is obvious in all cases. Animals do not have any understanding of responsibilities, therefore they cannot have rights. The fact that "animal rightists" exist and their arguments even occasionally heeded is a reflection of the current lack of realization in the United States and western Europe that rights carry with them certain responsibilities."

from: Dr. Warrren Eastland. [undated]. "Hunting: What is it?" (paper for Boone and Crockett Club). Ecology Dept. University of Northern British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada.


According to the 1991 figures from the U.S. National Safety Council, here are the annual rates of outdoor recreation-related injuries requiring hospital emergency room treatment in the US:

Recreation # of injuries per 100,000 participants


  • Football 2,171.1

  • Baseball 2,089.6

  • Soccer 910.2

  • Bicycle riding 904.6

  • Skateboarding 869.2

  • Horseback riding 464.6

  • Ice skating 334.9

  • Fishing 141.2

  • Tennis 119.7

  • Golf 104.4

  • Swimming 93.3

  • Hunting 8.0

From the same source (1991 figures of National Safety Council), here is the table of accidental deaths in the US: Accident cause Mortality rate per 100,000 people


  • Automobiles 18.6

  • Home accidents 8.6

  • Falls 5.0

  • Poisoning 2.6

  • Fires 1.7

  • Suffocation 1.3

  • Hunting (among participants) 0.85

  • Lightning 0.04

  • Insect stings 0.02

  • Hunting (among non-participants) 0.001


"Many hunters have participated in hunter safety courses. Hunter education is now mandatory in 39 states for at least part of the hunting population. These educational efforts are an important part of hunting today. Despite anti-hunter's claims to the contrary, hunting has become an extremely safe sport relative to many other common activities. The probability of being killed or injured in a hunting accident is lower than when you are attending a sporting event or major concert, playing billiards, or taking a bath.

[Report of International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Hunter Education Study Team. "Hunter Education in the United States and Canada with Recommendations for Improvement." (Fred. G. Evenden, Team Leader). Bethesda, Maryland. 1990 112p.]


"..the [U.S.] National Safety Council reports for 1988 there were 161 hunting fatalities, 49 of which were self-inflicted. Thanks in part to hunter safety education classes, hunting fatalities have declined by more than 50 percent over the last two decades.

In general, three-quarters of the hunters who have accidents have not taken hunter safety education courses. Participating in hunting today is safer than swimming, bicycling, playing baseball, golf, tennis, touch football, basketball, fishing, horseback riding, and driving to the place where you are going to hunt, if you look at the numbers of injuries per 100,000 people participating in various sports compiled by the National Safety Council. In 1988, ten states reported no hunting fatalities, and Connecticut had no hunting accidents at all. Statistics show that you are more likely to be killed by lightening when outdoors than to be killed in a hunting accident. In a normal season, more hunters die from heart attacks than hunting accidents. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, there is a 0.0015-0.00425 percent chance of being killed or wounded while hunting deer in California. In 1992, despite the presence of nearly half a million deer hunters in the field, no one was killed and only one person was wounded in California.

In response to [president of Fund for Animals] Cleveland Amory's charge that hunters are harming "many innocent bystanders", the actual data show that "Hunting accidents involving non hunters are extremely rare. On the average, only one nonhunter is injured by a hunter for every 12 million recreation days of hunting. A nonhunter is 20 times more likely to die from stinging insects than wounding by a hunter. Media tend to sensationalize accidental hunting deaths and injuries, but in comparison with many urban areas where violence has reached epidemic proportions, the woods and marshes during hunting season are extremely safe, especially when you consider that everyone hunting is armed with lethal weapons. In 1992 in California there were no nonhunter injuries or deaths associated with hunting." [p. 161]


James A. Swan. 1995. "In Defense of Hunting". HarperCollins Publishers, New York. ISBN 0-06-251237-4


"A man may not care for golf and still be human, but the man who does not like to see, hunt, photograph, or otherwise outwit birds or animals is hardly normal. He is supercivilized, and I for one do not know how to deal with him. Babes do not tremble when they are shown a golf ball, but I should not like to own the boy whose hair does not lift his hat when he sees his first deer. We are dealing, therefore, with something that lies very deep." [p.227]

"...there are cultural values in the sports, customs, and experiences that renew contacts with wild things. I venture the opinion that these values are of three kinds.

First there is value in any experience that reminds us of our distinctive national origins and evolution..." [p.211]

"Second, there is value in any experience that reminds us of our dependency on the soil-plant-animal-man food chain, and of the fundamental organization of the biota." [p.212]

"Third, there is value in any experience that exercises those ethical restraints collectively called 'sportsmanship'."

"A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter obviously has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of this conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscious, rather than a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.

Voluntary adherence to an ethical code elevates the self-respect of the sportsman, but it should not be forgotten that voluntary disregard of the code degenerates and depraves him. For example, a common denominator of all sporting codes is not to waste good meat." [p.213]

"We seek contacts with nature because we derive pleasure from them... The duck-hunter in his blind and the operatic singer on the stage, despite the disparity of their accoutrements, are doing the same thing. Each is reviving, in play, a drama formerly inherent in daily life. Both are, in the last analysis, esthetic exercies." [p.283]

"Scientists have an epigram: ontogeny repeats phylogeny. What they mean is that the development of each individual repeats the evolutionary history of the race. This is true of mental as well as physical things. The trophy-hunter is the caveman reborn. Trophy-hunting is the prerogative of youth, racial or individual, and nothing to apologize for." [p.293-294]


Aldo Leopold. 1949. "A Sand County Almanac". Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-345-34505-3

CAMERA HUNTING "Camera hunting" is not hunting, it is nature photography. Real hunting (not that sham called "camera hunting") requires the death of the animal, or at least the possibility of the death of the animal, because it authenticates the entire procedure and grounds it in reality.

As Jose Ortega y Gasset states in "Meditations on Hunting":

"...killing is not the exclusive purpose of hunting." [p.45]

"To the sportsman the death of the game is not what interests him; that is not his purpose. What interests him is everything that he had to do to achieve that death - that is, the hunt. Therefore what was before only a means to an end is now an end in itself. Death is essential because without it there is no authentic hunting: the killing of the animal is the natural end of the hunt and that goal of hunting itself, not of the hunter. The hunter seeks this death because it is no less than the sign of reality for the whole hunting process. To sum up, one does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted." [p.96-97]

Jose Ortega y Gasset. 1985. "Meditations on Hunting". Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. ISBN 0-684-18630-