Dear EarthTalk: Hunting seems to be a real controversy among environmental advocates. Can you set the record straight: Is hunting good or bad for the environment?
—Bill Davis, New York, NY
Like so many hot button issues, the answer to this question depends upon who you ask. On the one hand, some say, nothing could be more natural than hunting, and indeed just about every animal species—including humans—has been either predator or prey at some point in its evolution. And, ironic as it sounds, since humans have wiped out many animal predators, some see hunting as a natural way to cull the herds of prey animals that, as a result, now reproduce beyond the environment’s carrying capacity.
On the other hand, many environmental and animal advocates see hunting as barbaric, arguing that it is morally wrong to kill animals, regardless of practical considerations. According to Glenn Kirk of the California-based The Animals Voice, hunting “causes immense suffering to individual wild animals…” and is “gratuitously cruel because unlike natural predation hunters kill for pleasure…” He adds that, despite hunters’ claims that hunting keeps wildlife populations in balance, hunters’ license fees are used to “manipulate a few game [target] species into overpopulation at the expense of a much larger number of non-game species, resulting in the loss of biological diversity, genetic integrity and ecological balance.”
Beyond moral issues, others contend that hunting is not practical. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the vast majority of hunted species—such as waterfowl, upland birds, mourning doves, squirrels and raccoons—“provide minimal sustenance and do not require population control.”
Author Gary E. Varner suggests in his book, In Nature’s Interests, that some types of hunting may be morally justifiable while others may not be. Hunting “designed to secure the aggregate welfare of the target species, the integrity of its ecosystem, or both”—what Varner terms ‘therapeutic hunting’—is defensible, while subsistence and sport hunting—both of which only benefit human beings—is not.
Regardless of one’s individual stance, fewer Americans hunt today than in recent history. Data gathered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for its most recent (2006) National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, show that only five percent of Americans—some 12.5 million individuals—consider themselves hunters today, down from nine percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1996.
Public support for hunting, however, is on the rise. A 2007 survey by Responsive Management Inc., a social research firm specializing in natural resource issues, found that 78 percent of Americans support hunting today versus 73 percent in 1995. Eighty percent of respondents agreed that “hunting has a legitimate place in modern society,” and the percent of Americans indicating disapproval of hunting declined from 22 percent in 1995 to 16 percent in 2007.
Perhaps matching the trend among the public, green leaders are increasingly advocating for cooperation between hunters and environmental groups: After all, both lament urban sprawl and habitat destruction.
CONTACTS: The Animals Voice, www.animalsvoice.com; HSUS, www.hsus.org; National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/fishing.html; Responsive Management Inc., www.responsivemanagement.com.
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Gemini English 101
November 15, 2010
People enjoy hunting for many different reasons. They might enjoy it for the thrill of the chase or the adrenaline rush from bagging an animal. They might enjoy the silence, sitting alone in the woods with nobody around them. Or maybe, they enjoy taking the time to perfect their skills enough to make themselves a competitive hunter. There are numerous reasons why people enjoy hunting, and no matter what their reason for enjoying it, the majority of the population that does not hunt should not be able to attempt to interfere with those that do hunt.
Hunting is a great way for the state to control the populations of numerous different animals. Hunters get a specific number of tags for big game seasons, and for a smaller game there is a bag limit put in place every year to limit the number of animals that a hunter can bag in one day. For example, the season for hunting cottontail rabbits in New York State runs from October first through February 28th 1this year (in the majority of the state). Throughout the whole state, the daily bag limit for cottontail rabbits is six rabbits per day. Any hunter has the right to bag and harvest up to six rabbits, but no hunter may exceed this number in one day (Cottontail Rabbit Hunting). In Wayne County, New York, the fall turkey season runs from October twenty-third through November 5th. During the entire season a hunter is only allowed to bag one turkey of either sex (Fall Turkey Season). This is most likely due to a drop in the population. The Department of Environmental Conservation decides how many tags a hunter can have to fill per season based on the increases and decreases of the population every year.
Learning to hunt helps people to learn better survival skills. If someone who hunts was stranded in the woods, alone, with no way of communication, it is more likely that they would be able to fend for themselves longer than somebody who does not hunt would be able to. These survival skills would give a hunter a huge advantage over a non-hunter if, for some reason, a person were stranded in the woods. Somebody that who is big into hunting is going to know where to take cover in the rain or snow, how to start a fire for warmth, what materials could possibly be used to keep them warmer, and maybe even what to look for in the woods to build a suitable shelter.
Hunting is great for the environment - when it is done right. In order to hunt “right”, the hunter must make good choices by using good morals. In order to hunt “right”, a hunter must exhibit knowledge and skilled techniques with the weapon that they choose to carry through the woods. In order to hunt “right”, a hunter must care about his or her own life as well as the lives of all the hunters around him or her. Hunting does not have to be looked at as a horrible sport. The people that look at it as a horrible sport are looking at the small percentage thta who 2 do not hunt using good morals and making the proper choices. Those are the people that give hunting a bad name. Give the people that do use good techniques to hunt a chance to prove that the sport takes more skill than many people believe it takes.
"Cottontail Rabbit Hunting." New York Hunting and Trapping Oct. 2010: 40. Web.
"Fall Turkey Season." New York Hunting and Trapping Oct. 2010: 44. Web.
1. Use numerals for dates. I fixed the first, you fix the rest. :)
2. People are always "who" not "that"