Hunting is the favorite pastime of so many of us that love the great outdoors and enjoy recreational activities that are both challenging and relaxing. But in our modern world, there’s rarely a need for people to hunt for subsistence, and so those who don’t hunt and may not understand hunting tend to call into question the morality of hunting and the practice of shooting and killing seemingly defenseless wildlife. But just how valid are these concerns? Is hunting, indeed, morally wrong? Are stores that earn copious amounts of money off the practice (like cabelas and bass pro shops) morally wrong?
Obviously, there is no clear answer to this much-debated topic, but the argument against hunting being morally justified does have merit. Generations ago when hunting was one of the few ways that a man could feed himself and those around him, it was an absolute necessity, but times have changed. Meat is certainly an important part of most diets, but large sections of the population abstain from eating eat and live perfectly healthy lives; in fact, some may argue that they live healthier lives. In this sense, meat is more of a luxury than a necessity, and one could argue that it’s not worth killing another living being over a luxury. Moreover, most hunters these days don’t even shoot animals for the purposes of food; they do so more for sport, which could be looked at as even more of a luxury than killing animals for food. If there’s gray area with regard to killing animals for food, then doing so for pure pleasure certainly straddles the line of what is moral. If you are looking at starting to hunt, is it more ethical to use a bow and arrow or a rifle? Should you use a tool like a rangefinder or scope when you go? How much is technology amounts to it being unfair to the animal?
There is also deep concern about the pain and suffering hunted animals go through when they are shot and ultimately killed. Since humans and animals don’t speak the same language, we often lose sight of their pain and their loss of life. When this is factored into the equation, especially in the sense that this is done mostly for recreational purposes, it’s easy to see why there are concerns about the morality of hunting. After all, hunting is far from a fair fight; one party has the tools, knowledge, and awareness to kill the other. Meanwhile, for the hunted animal, they are already trying to do whatever they have to in order to survive, only to have their habitat intruded upon and a more advanced civilization with advanced weapons hunt them without cause. Can anything this unfair be considered moral?
The response to these concerns from hunters is that they are actually more environmentally aware and concerned with conservation than the average person, as they have incentive to keep animal populations as high as possible and animal habitats as vast as possible. Moreover, the fees for hunting licenses go to fund habitat creation and wildlife management projects, which in turn help populations, therefore helping species and local ecosystems. That’s all true, but just because a system that is set up is sensible, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s moral. Couldn’t these projects be funded in some other way? More to the point, why do some members of a species have to perish in a violent way in order for the species to survive and flourish? On the surface, that sounds as morally ambiguous as warfare, with the caveat that hunted animals …