A cruel leisure activity for the wealthy—or not so different from eating meat? Our contributors battle it outby Michael Petrou, Alice Crary / January 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Yes, says Michael Petrou
It’s the naked hypocrisy of it all that is the most tiresome. Anti-hunting activists—a great many of them, anyway—don’t truly care about animal welfare. They have little to say, for example, about the intensive farming of pigs—far smarter than the dogs we pamper like children—which are raised in cruel and overcrowded conditions, dying in fear and, too often, pain. Activists’ concern and moral outrage is reserved for animals with arbitrary physical characteristics that humans find pleasing—white fur, immense size, shaggy manes, big eyes—or those that are targeted for sport by rich American dentists.
It can’t really be animal welfare that motivates them, because hunted wild animals typically have better lives and deaths than animals bred and slaughtered for food. They live free, and with luck and skill on the hunter’s part, don’t realise that death is imminent until it is seconds away.
Those opposed to trophy hunting also claim to be motivated by the welfare of entire species and that their anti-hunting position is a stand in favour of conservation. I have sympathy for this argument. Hunting snow leopards is not a pastime that I would ever endorse.
But well-regulated hunting, even trophy-hunting, can be a force for good in conservation. In Canada, where I usually live, thousands of deer and moose are harvested every autumn, but populations remain healthy, and fluctuate naturally depending on factors that include the severity of winter weather and wolf predation. In addition to filling freezers with meat and maybe reducing slightly the number of livestock in factory farms, this practice gives people a stake in environmental protection. Hunters are natural conservationists because the health of wild habitats impacts on them more than it does those of us who rarely leave towns and cities. And if a hunter who shoots a moose to feed his or her family also makes a trophy of that animal by sticking its antlers above her fireplace, where’s the added harm?
No, says Alice Crary
Trophy hunting is a distinct and deeply troubling kind of hunting. It is a pastime generally reserved for elites who have enough money to hunt animals who are expensive to kill because they are rare (not for the most part deer or moose), where their scarcity is typically down to prior human threats to their survival. The “trophy”—the head or some other part of the dead animal that may be hung on the wall—is a sign of the hunter’s social position. There should be no pretence that this type of hunting is a means of survival: trophy hunting is a means of dominance.