Hunting might have been necessary for human survival in prehistoric times, but today, most hunters stalk and kill animals merely for the thrill of it, not out of necessity. This unnecessary, violent form of “entertainment” tears animal families apart and leaves countless animals orphaned or badly injured when hunters miss their targets.
Many animals die slowly and painfully when they are injured but not killed by hunters. Hunters often shoot animals (either with arrows or with bullets) without actually killing them, meaning that many animals are left to bleed out slowly or succumb to their injuries over a prolonged period of suffering.
Hunting disrupts migration and hibernation patterns and destroys families. For animals such as wolves, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire packs. The stress that hunted animals endure—caused by fear and the inescapable loud noises and other commotion that hunters create—also severely compromises their normal eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need in order to survive the winter.
Nature Doesn’t Need Your ‘Help’
People often justify hunting by falsely claiming, “I’m helping to control animal populations—without me, these animals would overpopulate.” Animal populations will keep themselves in check through natural processes such as natural selection. Species have always been self-regulating, and modern-day hunting can cause unnatural spikes in populations.
The delicate balance of ecosystems ensures their survival—if they are left unaltered. Natural predators help maintain this balance by killing only the sickest and weakest individuals. Hunters, however, kill any animal whose head they would like to hang over the fireplace—including large, healthy animals who are needed to keep the population strong.
Even when unusual natural occurrences cause overpopulation, natural processes work to stabilize the group. Natural courses of starvation and disease can be tragic, but they are nature’s ways of ensuring that healthy, strong animals survive and maintain the strength of the rest of their herd or group. Shooting an animal because he or she might starve or get sick is arbitrary and destructive.
Another problem with hunting involves the introduction of exotic “game” animals who, if they’re able to escape and thrive, pose a threat to native wildlife and established ecosystems.
‘Canned Hunts’: The Ultimate Form of Cowardice
Most hunting occurs on private land, where laws that protect wildlife are often inapplicable or difficult to enforce. On private lands that are set up as for-profit hunting reserves or game ranches, hunters can pay to kill native and exotic species in “canned hunts.” These animals may be native to the area, raised elsewhere and brought in, or purchased from individuals who are trafficking in unwanted or surplus animals from zoos and circuses. The animals are hunted and killed for the sole purpose of providing hunters with a “trophy.”
Animals on canned-hunting ranches are often accustomed to humans and are usually unable to escape from the enclosures that they are confined to, which range in size from just a few yards to thousands of acres. Most of these ranches operate on a “no-kill, no-pay” policy, so it is in owners’ best interests to ensure that clients get what they came for. Owners do this by offering guides who are familiar with animals’ locations and habits, permitting the use of dogs, and supplying “feeding stations” that lure unsuspecting animals to food while hunters lie in wait.
The True Toll of Hunting
The bears, cougars, deer, foxes, and other animals who are chased, trapped, and even killed by dogs during (sometimes illegal) hunts aren’t the only ones to suffer from this variant of the “sport.” Dogs used for hunting are often kept chained or penned and are denied routine veterinary care such as vaccines and heartworm medication. Some are lost during hunts and never found, whereas others are turned loose at the end of hunting season to fend for themselves and die of starvation or get struck by vehicles.
Hunting accidents destroy property and injure or kill horses, cows, dogs, cats, hikers, and other hunters. Hunters put both themselves and other bystanders in danger, both in terms of accidental shooting as well as animal attacks.
3 Things You Didn’t Know About Hunting
- A study of 80 radio-collared white-tailed deer found that of the 22 deer who had been shot with “traditional archery equipment,” 11 were wounded but not recovered by hunters.1 Up to 20 percent of foxes who have been wounded by hunters are shot again. Just 10 percent manage to escape, but “starvation is a likely fate” for them, according to one veterinarian.2 A South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks biologist estimates that more than 3 million wounded ducks go “unretrieved” every year.3
- In 2006, then–Vice President Dick Cheney famously shot a friend while hunting quail on a canned-hunting preserve.4 According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, thousands of injuries are attributed to hunting in the U.S. every year—and that number only includes incidents involving humans.5
- Hunting (in particular canned hunting) is an extremely profit-driven form of “entertainment.” There are an estimated 1,000 game preserves in the U.S., with some 5,000 so-called “exotic ranches” in North America.6,7
What You Can Do to Help
To combat hunting in your area, post “No Hunting” signs on your land, join or form an anti-hunting organization, or protest organized hunts.
1Stephen S. Ditchkoff et al., “Wounding Rates of White-Tailed Deer With Traditional Archery Equipment,” Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (1998).
2D.J. Renny, “Merits and Demerits of Different Methods of Culling British Wild Mammals: A Veterinary Surgeon’s Perspective,” Proceedings of a Symposium on the Welfare of British Wild Mammals (London: 2002).
3Spencer Vaa, “Reducing Wounding Losses,” South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, accessed 25 July 2013.
4Dana Bash, “Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter,” CNN.com, 12 Feb. 2006.
5National Shooting Sports Foundation, “Firearms-Related Injury Statistics,” Industry Intelligence Reports 2012.
6Morgan Loew, “Arizona Organization Protects ‘Canned’ Hunting,” CBS-5 9 Nov. 2012.
7CBS News, “Can Hunting Endangered Animals Save the Species?” 60 Minutes 29 Jan. 2012.