Exploring the Ethics of Hunting

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Monte Burke, a writer and blogger over at Forbes.com, has posted up an entry about his first big game hunt and the ethics that he wrestled with after killing his first elk. He has titled the entry I Killed An Elk. Am I A Murderer? a provocative title for any hunter, but none the less it's a worthwhile read. Specifically he takes us through his hunting story and comes to grips with the taking of life as a necessary component of hunting, something that any self respecting hunter has come to terms with in the course of their hunting journeys.

What's interesting about the post though is his willingness to try to rationalize the killing of game with the modern animal rights movement. By reviewing his relationship with the outdoors, the animal rights movement, and the need for conservation he comes up with his own perspective on the morality of hunting.

There is a paradox here that is hard to wrap your head around, but is nonetheless true (for me, anyway): those most apt to hunt and fish for game are those most apt to work to save said fish and game. And without the folks trying to catch and kill game, there would be no game to catch and kill. Regan and Katz both agree that fishing and hunting groups do some good in this manner, but both expressed that in an ideal world people wouldn’t need to hunt or fish to fight for the well-being of an animal.


hawkeye270's picture

This is a very well written

This is a very well written article. I had no idea that Forbes would take on a project such as this but I am very glad they did. I hope that a lot of non-hunting people read that article with an open mind. If they did, it just might have helpped convert some of them. It would not probably turn them into hunters but it might keep them from having a negative oppinion of our tradition. I like the inclusion of the Omnivore's Delimma in his piece and the fact that he called out the author of that piece for not including the fact that hunters contribute so much to conservation efforts. It sounds like he was actually able to have discussion with Singer and the other animals rights advocate which is surprising. Most of them start steaming out the ears when they come within 6 feet of a hunter. I think the best way to give non-hunters a look into our tradition without offending them is to be honest about the emotions that take place after an animal is killed. And the author did a great job of doing this in his article.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

I don't know, I think we

I don't know, I think we still have the numbers on our side, not the anti-hunters.  That was a good article. 

I think it's simply a matter of getting more people into our sport, showing them that we're not "back woods hicks", and that it's an accepted thing to do.

I think that, with all the states that are passing the right to hunt laws, it puts our spot in the public eye.  I think if the people are not afraid to talk about it, they will see the "ethical" side more clearly.

CVC's picture

A very well-written article. 

A very well-written article.  I enjoyed reading it.  The problem is that those that oppose hunting have the numbers and emotion on their side.  Hunters vs non-hunters are in the minority and many people just cannot understand the need for hunting.

Hunters must, as Jim points out, be more proactive and less reactive.  We need to take control of the dialogue and address issues head on.  Also, the old saying that an enemy of my enemy is my friend is apropos.  We need to join forces with farmers, ranchers, pet breeders, etc.  These groups are all under attack by the same forces that wish to abolish hunting.  Unity is the key to protecting our right to hunt.

jim boyd's picture

I think that most hunters are

I think that most hunters are not going to wrestle with this demon.

I do also think that the line of thought that most hunters are the ones that are going to work hard to save fish and game is one we can improve on - a lot.

I posted last night that I thought hunters could possibly get out in front of some animal rights groups on the copper bullet issue - head them off at the pass, so to speak.

It is, I think, one of the best ways we can perpetuate our sport - be being proactive and ahead of the curve on some of these issues - sso that we are doing something about it rather than waiting to have it shoved down our throats.

With the idiots that get elected these days, God knows what they are going to legistlate - let's beat them to the punch on some of these issues.

We know that well intentioned law makers can be made to beleive almmost anything a special interest group wants them to beleive - but if we are out in front of the pack - showing that we are doing something about an issue - we can avert some of the having it "shoved down our throats" so to speak - which is what I think is going to happen in the end with copper/lead bullets vs all copper bullets.

I live in the south - and hunt here obviously, as well - we do not have great support locally, at least from a groundswell viewpoint - about progressive proccesses to help defray some of the negative connotations that go along with hunting.

The dilemma of taking a life is not one to be dismissed lightly, and one we should reinforce as heavily as we can when we introduce someone to hunting, regardless of their age.

The reverence - and importance - is all powerful and anything we can do to support and reinforce that early on will only create better hunters in the long run.

The age old argument that someone that eats a steak contributed to the death of a cow has been made ad nauseum - I think that in spite of shrinking numbers of hunters, we hold in our hands the keys to minimizing the anti hunters and animal rights groups - by being proactive and aggressive on the front end and not waiting for the fight to come to us.

My .02!