I grew up in southern Louisiana, exposed to generations-long traditions of trapping, shrimping, hunting, and fishing. These traditions are deeply intertwined in the area’s cultural and economic identities. As a child, I pondered the ethics and necessity of hunting, but not in those terms––Was it really fair to the animals? Didn’t they have a right to live, just like people? I named house-spiders and objected to killing them; I pampered my dog Elvira; and I named squirrels, snakes, birds, and even wasps. I believed, and still do, that animals are living, feeling creatures that deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I am also a hunter. Although irrefutably a “blood sport,” hunting is ethical and necessary even in modern times because it provides proper management and conservation of wildlife, is more humane than industrial farming, and harms fewer animals than a widely adopted vegan diet would.
It is a common notion that hunting isn’t fair to animals, that they have right to be free from human intervention. However, hunters lead conservation efforts in the United States. They do more to help preserve wildlife habitats, which is essential to wildlife welfare, than any other group. Indeed, habitat destruction poses a greater risk to wildlife today than hunting and conservation helps promote animal welfare. On the surface, these claims may seem counterintuitive. Hunters in the United States, however, fund wildlife conservation more than any other sources combined. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “Hunters contribute over $1.6 billion annually to conservation. Hunters are without peer when it comes to funding the perpetuation and conservation of wildlife natural habitats” (“Hunting” 6). Without these funds, wildlife research and management, and acquisition and maintenance of land preserves would be relatively neglected. In a capitalistic society, without adequate funding, some currently protected lands could likely be portioned off for development. Without the financial support of hunters, many natural habitats would surely be destroyed, endangering wildlife populations. Because of hunters, the opposite is the case.
Pretend for a moment that habitat destruction wasn’t an issue. Would allowing animals to live and develop freely increase their welfare? Would it be good for people? The answer to both question is no: Unmanaged wildlife would create risks for humans as well as the animals themselves. Each year, hundreds of fatal vehicle collisions are attributed to animals on roadways.
Without population management, many wildlife species may suffer due to competition for food and resources, disease would likely compromise the health of individual animal populations, and animal-related property damage would likely increase. In Texas, it is estimated that feral hogs alone are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars per year in property damage. It is not uncommon for farmers to pay hunters to eliminate hogs from...