Can hunting ever be ethical? How can it work?

There are many sports Hunters around the world. A significant portion of them live in the States and western Europe-it is generally a rich man’s (and woman) game.

I have never understood why having a dead animal on your wall is a good thing, however if done right, it can protect many live ones – but is most hunting done right?

There are certainly parts of the world for which hunting is a sensible use of the land. However this is not true across the vast majority.

The majority of lion hunts with in South Africa are canned lion hunts- meaning that the animal is raised in captivity, often used as a photographic prop, or allowing tourists to pet them when young. The females are bread as soon as they are capable, with their young being taken away and bottle fed. The males are then released into a small enclosure, often only a few square kilometres in size, and then shot within a few days or a week or two. 

I personally do not understand this form of hunting, you cannot claim bravery, you have at least one guide with you ready to shoot the lion if you get it wrong, and that assumes you even take the shot from somewhere where you could even be attacked by the lion.

There are places in Africa where are lion hunting is a conservation tool, however these are few and far between. One of the most clear places is the Selous game Reserve in Tanzania. Supporting a population of 5000 lions, leaving the area wild, and allowing the majority of its lions to be born and die naturally there, at the moment this population can sustain a handful of lions killed a week, and the money from the hunt support the local communities.

There are parts of the world where are animal populations get out of control and potentially then culling must be undertaken. In this situation, once again, I would support hunting. In many species, oftheir habitat is too small and therefore there isn’t enough space or young to disperse far away from their parents, dominant males can often end up killing the younger generation.

There are also parts of the world where are animals such as bears or wolves need to be culled because they have started to eat livestock. This should never be a first resort, however often once a predators has started eating livestock, they will not stop, apart from threatening a person’s income they are also more likely to attack humans. Like elsewhere culling should be a last resort, for instance in France as farmers learn to live with wolves once again after close to a century of their absence, they are losing sheep and calling for the wolves to be exterminated. Yet with simple adaptions, the losses can be minimal with any problem animals killed. I have no problem with the killing of the problem animal being done by a a hunter for money- so long as the kill is necessary and it is done in an efficient way.

Another example is Spain. Bear trophy levels are set based on the population, but if we go back to the 1950s there were 1000 bears, so as the population is well below that, trophy take must be low enough to allow the population to grow. Indeed over the last 15 years,it is thought that the bear population of Spain has more than doubled in size. It’s still lies that around 30% of what was there only 70 years ago, so it must still be allowed to grow, however it shows that trophy hunting can go hand-in-hand with conservation when done properly.

What am I trying to say? 

  1. Hunting should be of benefit to conservation of the ecosystem and the species in question. One negative example is polar bear hunting: under extreme pressure because of global warming the the species is already been threatened by extinction,therefore any hunting can be severely detrimental to the ecosystem as a whole.
  2. It seems stupid to have to mention this, but hunting trophy should not have been raised in captivity
  3. Hunting should benefit the area, not merely foreigners who have bought the rights. This mean some of the proceeds should go to local people and projects, as well as any meat that is produced.
  4. Hunting quotas should always be worked out with scientists, and have rigorous science backing them up. If they have simply been decided by the hunting outfit, you should be highly suspicious
  5. Tiny hunting areas that simply take down a fence between them and a protected national park should be avoided. Frankly the hunting reserve is really stealing the trophy from the national park. A hunting reserves trophy numbers can only be considered sustainable if they have a large enough population to replenish on their own land.
  6. If a particular animal has become well-known as a tourist attraction in itself, it should not be shot as it is worth far more to the local area alive than dead. A reputable guide will make sure that this is not the case. One of the most well-known occasions where this was not obeyed was Cecil the lion, shot by a dentist in Zimbabwe when it wondered a cross and invisible line into a small hunting reserve on the edge of a national park.
  7. One of the few places that I would encourage trophy hunting, is in areas that form reservoirs of illnesses. If it is unsafe for people to live in the area, and few tourists will visit, in an area like the Selous, it can mean the area has financial value and therefore the ecosystem survives.

By obeying these simple rules, you can make sure that you’re hunting trip does not push the animal in question towards extinction.

For many of us, the idea of hunting wild animal is abhorrent. However if you follow all the rules above, it can be acceptable. In most cases though, a photographic Safari is vastly preferable. I have spoken in the past about some incredibly exciting moments I had in the wild-I have certainly been close enough to both lion and bear to shoot them, while standing with nothing between me and them. To have had that incredible moment,and to have shared it with that lioness and that bear, will stay with me forever, the memory of the eye contact is worth far more than having a carcass on the wall.

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