Justifying Killing: Is Hunting Ethically Justified?

Hunting has been a tradition for many people, and some argue that it is a ritual or a bonding experience. But is killing animals for sport really justified? Advocates of hunting argue that killing a deer for food cannot be worse than killing a cow or a chicken. However, the cruel and unnecessary killing that hunting involves has no justification. It causes injury, pain and suffering to animals that are not adapted to defend themselves against bullets, traps, and other cruel killing devices.

It also destroys animal families and habitats, leaving behind terrified and dependent baby animals dying of hunger. Therapeutic hunting can be justified both for ethical and environmental reasons. People can present all kinds of moral justification for hunting, but the most compelling reason seems to be simply that killing animals makes them happy. Estimates of the number of animals recovered by hunters with bows have concluded that between 28% and 50% of injured animals are never found. Against this, it should be noted that non-human predators cannot reflect on their actions, while human hunters can do so. Because state wildlife agencies are funded in part by hunters and other wildlife killers, programs exist to manipulate habitat and artificially reinforce “game populations” while ignoring “non-game species”.

But keep in mind that if there were an equally effective alternative that didn't involve killing (perhaps a form of animal contraception), it would invalidate this particular justification for hunting and would require us to use that alternative method instead. The only possible case in which hunting a wild animal can be morally justified is if you have no other option to survive. Hunters often accidentally injure and kill animals other than those being hunted, including horses, cows, dogs and cats. Hunters are aware of this and claim that killings should be carried out on a regular and permanent basis, such as “mowing the grass”. The fact that animals are already being harmed in certain ways is neither a reason nor a justification for causing further harm. Wildlife managers and hunters treat wild animals as a crop, of which a percentage can be “harvested annually”; for them, wild animals are no different from a wheat field.

Not only are these bears still lethargic, making them easy targets for hunters, but many of the females are pregnant or nursing. If hunters really killed wild animals as an ethical protest against agriculture, demonstrating Cahoone's so-called “meliorist concern for animal rights or welfare”, they would surely be vegetarians, apart from the meat they kill themselves. Some hunters justify that their sport is necessary for the preservation of ecosystems or species, a means of “wildlife management”. In hunting, the animal is forced to “participate in a life-or-death situation that always leads to the death of the animal, while the hunter leaves, his life is never remotely at stake. Under the label of “wildlife management programs”, different environmental agencies promote the breeding of certain animals, so that they can benefit from hunters who will pay to kill them. Hunters want us to believe that killing animals equals population control equals conservation, when in fact hunting causes overpopulation of deer, the favorite victim species of hunters, destroys animal families and leads to ecological disruption, as well as biased population dynamics. At the end of the day, it's clear that hunting is not ethically justified.

It causes injury and suffering to animals who cannot defend themselves against bullets or traps. It also destroys animal families and habitats while promoting biased population dynamics. The only possible case in which hunting a wild animal can be morally justified is if you have no other option to survive.

Dorothy Magni
Dorothy Magni

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