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Although it was a crucial part of humans’ survival 100,000 years ago, hunting is now nothing more than a violent form of recreation that has left millions of animals maimed and orphaned animals vulnerable to starvation, exposure, and predators. Hunting also disrupts natural animal-population dynamics and has contributed to the extinction of animal species all over the world, including the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk.(1,2)
Pain and Suffering
Many animals die painfully and slowly when they are injured by hunters. Bowhunters often spend hours tracking the blood trails of animals before finding them. Many are never found by hunters.(3) Our office routinely receives reports from upset residents who spot animals wandering around with gunshot wounds or protruding arrows. In cases in which euthanasia is not feasible, weeks can elapse before victims succumb to their injuries. It’s also not uncommon for us to hear of wounded animals running wildly onto highways, posing grave risks to commuters.
Blood-Thirsty and Profit-Driven
To attract more hunters (and their money), federal and state agencies implement programs—often called “wildlife management” or “conservation” programs—that are designed to boost the number of “game” species. These programs help ensure that there are plenty of animals for hunters to kill and, consequently, plenty of revenue from the sale of hunting licenses.
Duck hunters in Louisiana persuaded the state wildlife agency to direct $100,000 a year toward “reduced predator impact,” which involved trapping foxes and raccoons so that more duck eggs would hatch, giving hunters more birds to kill,(4) and in Alaska, the Department of Fish and Game is trying to increase the number of moose for hunters by “controlling” the wolf and bear populations by moving grizzlies and black bears hundreds of miles away from their homes. Two were shot by hunters within two weeks of their relocation.(5)
Nature Takes Care of Its Own
The delicate balance of ecosystems ensures their own survival—if they are left unaltered. Natural predators help maintain this balance by killing 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. Starvation and disease can be tragic, but they are nature’s ways of ensuring that healthy, strong animals survive and maintain the strength level of the rest of their herd or group. Shooting an animal because he or she might starve or become sick is arbitrary and destructive.
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. They are hunted and killed for the sole purpose of providing hunters with a “trophy.”
Many states, including Arizona, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, have limited or banned canned hunts, but there are no federal laws regulating the practice at this time.(6,7)
Hunting “accidents” destroy property and injure or kill horses, cows, dogs, cats, hikers, and other hunters. 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, while others are turned loose at the end of hunting season to fend for themselves and possibly die of starvation or get struck by a vehicle.
What You Can Do
Before you support a “wildlife” or “conservation” group, ask about its position on hunting. Groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League, The Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund are pro–sport hunting, or at the very least, they do not oppose it.
To combat hunting in your area, post “no hunting” signs on your land, join or form an anti-hunting organization, protest organized hunts, and spread deer repellent or human hair (from barber shops) near hunting areas. Call 1-800-628-7275 to report poachers in national parks to the National Parks Conservation Association. Educate others about the cruelty associated with hunting. Encourage your legislators to enact or enforce wildlife-protection laws, and insist that nonhunters be equally represented on the staffs of wildlife agencies. Urge agencies to seek revenues through kind, environmentally sound activities, such as wildlife photography, bird watching, hiking, kayaking, camping, and canoeing.
1) Grant Holloway, “Cloning to Revive Extinct Species,” CNN.com, 28 May 2002.
2) Canadian Museum of Nature, “Great Auk,” 2008.
3) M. Andy Pedersen, Seth M. Berry, and Jeffery C. Bossart. “Wounding Rates of White-Tailed Deer With Modern Archery Equipment,” Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 62 (2002): 31–4.
4) Bob Marshall, “Is Predator Program Enough?” Times-Picayune 2 Mar. 2003.
5) The Associated Press, “Hunters Shoot Two Relocated Bears,” 9 June 2003.
6) National Conference of State Legislatures, “Environment, Energy, and Transportation Program: Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife,” Apr. 2008.
7) Clint Talbott, “Hunting in a Cage, There Ought to Be a Law,” Boulder Daily Camera 25 Jan. 2008.