Hunting is not usually the first thought that comes to mind when discussing animal conservation. The act of hunting is the antithesis of what conservation means. There is a lot of speculation on the supposed necessity of hunting, and in certain ecosystems it can be an issue. Regulation is the of the utmost importance in sustainable hunting. In a perfect world, hunting would not be an issue, but sadly that world does not exist. The U.S has a highly regulated system to ensure citizens hunt safely, as do many other parts of the world. On the other hand, there is no universal regulatory system or sure way to stop illegal hunting, so oftentimes hunting is harmful. When done legally with appropriate regulation, hunting can increase funding for conservation, create a more sustainable food source than commercial farming, and in certain circumstances help with population control.
Regulation is the utmost important part of hunting. When regulated correctly hunting can be beneficial to an environment, but the difficult aspect of this is determining the amount of management. Estimating the population of a species is difficult being that there is no way to count every specimen, and the accuracy of previous research should be questioned. Another difficulty is calculating what a healthy population should be, and how that population affects another population in the food chain. In New Hampshire, wolves used to be the primary predator, but in the late 19th century they were driven out for preying on livestock (Lesmerises). Today the granite state still doesn’t have wolves, so humans have become the major predator. Without the hunting of the state’s white tailed deer there would be starvation among the species, and all other species that feed on the same resources. A couple of years ago, there was a proposal to allow the hunting of bobcats to resume in the granite state. There was a lot of backlash because the animal is still considered endangered within the state. All surrounding states have been permitting bobcat hunting, it hasn’t been legal in New Hampshire since 1989 (Reed). The proposal was immediately shot down, the passion for conserving these animals exemplifies what a sustainable hunting community looks like. New Hampshire’s regulatory system manages its wildlife populations and funds state conservation programs; it is a prime example of what hunting can do for a community.
On the Big Island in Hawaii deer are overrunning the community. As a gift from Hong Kong in the 1860’s the axis deer has become an invasive species. Their population is growing by 20-30% per year, and it shows no signs of letting up naturally. In their native habitat these deer are naturally regulated because of the predation of big cats. In Hawaii they face no serious predators in the natural world. In the past two years they have caused more than $1 million in damage to farmlands. That is a huge loss for a rather small community. As a result they are heavily hunted by ranchers. There presence is not all unwelcomed because it is a huge source of meat for citizens, being that the only mammal living naturally on the islands are bats. The big Islands overpopulation issue exemplifies the downfalls of an unmaintained populations, but also the benefits hunting can have for a community (“Deer Growth Mystery in Hawaii Pits Hunters against Government.”).
The ethics behind hunting as a food source versus commercial farming come into play in talking about hunting sustainably. Many hunters solely eat the meat from the animals they kill, and they tend to use as much of the animal as possible since they put in the work to harvest it. In an interview with Tovar Cerulli, author of A Mindful Carnivore, he explains “When I take a package of venison out of the freezer that I’ve taken, there’s a very immediate sense of connection to that, and a sense of the price at which that food came, including the life of that animal. It’s not anonymous” (Morse). Killing animals as a food source is not the most ethical option, but hunting an animal in a wild state is largely more sustainable and humane than eating a steak sourced from commercial farming. The only issue with hunting as a means of an animal food source is that if too many people decide to do so, it becomes less and less sustainable. Hunting is not perfect, animals do sometimes suffer, humans are sometimes irresponsible, but on a large scale, compared to the plague of commercial farming, it is a much more ethical option.
American writer Michael Paterniti took a trip to the Kalahari Desert in Namibia to get an on hand experience in the infamous trophy hunting process. He interviewed trophy hunters, ones who specifically target controversial creatures, to get their perspective and purpose for doing so. What he found was that these people have a large passion for conservation as well as taxidermy. They believe the sacrifice of these animals is worth their contribution to their overall conservation. One hunter, who Paterniti had gone with on an elephant hunt, explained that “I feel quite shitty when an elephant dies, but those elephants pay for the conservation of the other 2,500 that move through here. Trophy hunting is the best economic model we have in Africa right now” (Paterniti). The intent for trophy hunting today is ubiquitously to fund conservation, and it can create enough revenue to save the majority.
Most of the controversy involving the ethics of trophy hunting really lies within the corruption of the system; this can be seen in the trophy hunting in southern African countries. Many wealthy people pay large sums of money to hunt iconic animals such as: lions, giraffes, elephants, leopards, cape buffalo, etc. In Namibia alone, sixteen thousands trophy hunts occurred in a single year (Goldman). The systems are corrupted. Where most of the funds are supposed to go to conservation programs, the money tends to go into the pockets of the people running the trophy hunt. In a recent report by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee, they found that “trophy hunters do not always play by the rules, and the trophy hunting industry needs to be regulated and held accountable for there to be any hope of a consistent conservation benefit” (Smith). Inadequate accountability and corruption are the major players against the possible sustainability of trophy hunting, and with their presence it is an impossibility that this type of hunting could work beneficially.
Hunting outside the boundaries of the law is a big issue that is present throughout the globe. There are millions of acres of conservation land, where endangered species are meant to recuperate their population numbers free from habitat destruction and human predation. Poaching and illegal hunting are prevalent in these protected areas. Although the hunt was technically legal, when Dentist Walter Palmer killed the much loved Cecil the lion outcry arose. Cecil was the center of a large scale research study of the lions in Zimbabwe, and Palmer paid $54,000 to hunt on a farm outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park (Actman). It was legal, and that is the issue. This lion was meant to be a beacon of information to further study the progress of the species, and he was killed for only $54,000. There are too many legal loopholes, and too many missed opportunities to hold people responsible. The slaying of Cecil, is just one situation of many, where the lax systems of southern African countries fail to regulate hunting sustainably.
Trophy hunting can work to fund conservation, but it is a difficult balance to master and carry out. This can be seen in the elephant population of Zimbabwe. According to Nigel Leader-Williams, an author of the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, explained that, “Implementing trophy hunting has doubled the area of the country under wildlife management relative to the 13% in state protected areas,the area of suitable land available to elephants and other wildlife has increased, reversing the problem of habitat loss and helping to maintain a sustained population increase in Zimbabwe’s already large elephant population (Goldman).” In some cases the legalization of hunting certain animals can create a demand for more of the animals, which creates a motive to conserve them. This can be beneficial if everything goes right, and all participants do their part. The issue with hunting, and trophy hunting specifically, is that the system has to be run perfectly for it to be sustainable.
Aside from the systemic effects of hunting, there are more consequences, both good and bad, that affect these animals in their habitat. The increased hunting of large carnivores can have enormous effects on the food web. As discussed previously, the decimation of wolves in New Hampshire caused a large shift in the population of its previous prey: the white tailed deer. A study on the hunting of wolves in western states showed that the regulation and research behind it was inadequate in sustaining the species. Science Magazine reports that “For wolves (and most other large carnivores), adult mortality rates are low in the absence of human offtake , which leaves little scope for hunting to substitute for other causes of death (compensatory mortality). Hence, adult mortality rates increase in an additive, nearly one-to-one manner as human offtake increases. Increased adult mortality was correlated with a decrease in wolf pack size since the onset of legal hunting in Montana and Idaho, where pack size declined by 29 to 33% between 2008 and 2013 . Beyond reducing group size, harvesting mortality can also disrupt social organization, and both effects can reduce juvenile survival and recruitment (addition to the population, which depends on litter size and juvenile survival). Pup survival in 10 Idaho packs decreased from 60% in years without hunting to 38%” (Creed). This disruption of the wolve’s natural state is detrimental to the future of the species. Hunting large predators causes a butterfly affect on all other species in its food web, and the decreasing numbers of these animals is not sustainable.
Hunting in an ideal world can be sustainable and fund conservation efforts. Sadly, this is not the reality. This is a difficult issue that is impossible to answer on a general scale because there are so many participants that can create so many different outcomes. People are far from perfect, systems and laws are far from perfect, and that is the biggest problem. Legal, regulated, taxed hunting can be sustainable and there is evidence that supports that. But the consequences of illegal hunts, poor regulation, and corrupt funding outway the benefits on a global scale. Unless humanity can unify to create this utopia, there is little hope for a sustainable future for hunting.
Actman, Janie. “Cecil the Lion Died amid Controversy- Here’s What Happened Since.” National Geographic, 15 Oct. 2018, news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/cecil-african-lion-anniversary-death-trophy-hunting-zimbabwe/. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Creel, Scott, et al. “Questionable Policy for Large Carnivore Hunting.” Science, 18 Dec. 2015, science.sciencemag.org.libproxy.plymouth.edu/content/350/6267/1473. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019.
Creel is discussing the role carnivores play in their ecosystem and what hunting too many of them can cause. It is from Science magazine, and the amount of numerical data seems very credible. I’d be able to use the numbers from this article to show what hunting with bad regulation can cause.
“Deer Growth Mystery in Hawaii Pits Hunters against Government.” Fox News, FOX News Network, www.foxnews.com/us/deer-growth-mystery-in-hawaii-pits-hunters-against-government.
Goldman, Jason G. “Can Trophy Hunting Actually Help Conservation?” Conservation Magazine, U of Washington, 15 Jan. 2014, www.conservationmagazine.org/2014/01/can-trophy-hunting-reconciled-conservation/.
Lesmerises, Haley. “Hunting in NH: A Conservation Tool.” NH State Parks, 30 Aug. 2018, blog.nhstateparks.org/hunting-in-nh-a-conservation-tool/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019.
This article discusses the role hunting plays here in New Hampshire. The information is found on the NH state parks page, and the author is a credible conservationist. I’ve always known that hunting in NH has a purpose, and this is a nice source of the actual information on what I’ve heard.
Lewis, Kate. “Can Hunting Wildlife Contribute to Biodiversity Conservation?” International Institute for Environment and Development, 19 Nov. 2010, www.iied.org/can-hunting-wildlife-contribute-biodiversity-conservation. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019.
This article discusses the pros and cons of hunting in relationship to creating biodiversity; I’d use some of this information for a counterargument. It was found on a credible organization’s website, the IIED, and I think it would serve nicely to show all aspects of what I’m trying to say.
Morse, Corey. “Food Fight: Is it more Ethical to Eat Meat if you Kill the Animal Yourself?” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 16 Sept. 2014, www.cbc.ca/radio/the180/canada-china-fipa-sorta-separatists-incentive-pay-for-teachers-ethics-of-hunting-1.2868714/food-fight-is-it-more-ethical-to-eat-meat-if-you-kill-the-animal-yourself-1.2868708. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Paterniti, Michael. “Trophy Hunting: Should we Kill Animals to Save Them.” National Geographic, Oct. 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/10/trophy-hunting-killing-saving-animals/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019.
National Geographic, Oct. 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/10/trophy-hunting-killing-saving-animals/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019.
This article discusses the use of trophy hunting in southern Africa as a way to fund conservation efforts. I’m using this article to explain the various ways conservation funding can be produced, and even how such controversial hunting can do some good. Although I’m not a huge fan of killing such iconic creatures, who are also endangered I do see the value of the funding because it does create a lot.
Reed, Elodie. “NH Kills Plan for a Bobcat Hunting Season.” Concord Monitor, 13 Apr. 2016, www.concordmonitor.com/News/State/bobcat-hunting-season-withdrawn-1510950. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Smith, Jada F. “Trophy Hunting Fees Do Little to Help Threatened Species- Report Says.” The New York Times, 13 June 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/politics/trophy-hunting-fees-do-little-to-help-threatened-species-report-says.html. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.