Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Importance of Hunting and Fishing

I've needed to write this for a while, because even among other conservatives and libertarians, I'm having discussions with "animal lovers" who think hunting is cruel and that we shouldn't do it.

A quick caveat before I begin:  I do not hunt.  I'm not opposed, I'm simply too lazy to track, kill and dress my own food.  I do understand why hunting and fishing are important, though and if you think it's cruel you should probably understand a few things, too.

Let's address cruel with a quick science lesson.  Environments have a carrying capacity.  That is, the available resources can only indefinitely sustain a certain number of animals.  Sometimes there are boom years, in which more food is available and more animals are born.  Other years are leaner and if the carrying capacity of the environment has been exceeded, animals will die.  The question becomes how they will die.  Do we permit a mass starvation event, in which animals die a slow, painful death due to lack of food, or do we hunt them?  Natural predators do some of the work and always have.  Humans are also part of that process, as we've been hunting since we figured out how to throw a rock or sharpen a stick.  Even though our gear has gotten fancier, we haven't stopped being a part of the environment and one of the many predators limiting unsustainable population growth of prey species.

Still, some people will say it's less cruel to let an animal starve slowly (starvation is an excruciating process, by the way) and rot "naturally" (during mass starvation events, predators can not consume all the meat) than for a human to kill it quickly and take the meat home for consumption.  I'm going to disagree with them.  I think humane hunting is a far better option.  Wildlife managers agree, relying on hunters to cull populations and prevent mass starvation.

The second very important service hunters provide is that they fund conservation efforts.  Since 1937, anybody who buys hunting supplies pays a 10% tax on them that funds wildlife preservation.  Here's a column with more details.  Note that as a target-shooter, I help pay for conservation through this tax, too.  While my contribution isn't voluntary, the contributions of hunters are since they do have the choice to hunt or not hunt.  There is nothing more fair and libertarian than a specific group paying for the resources they use. 

You can find a tremendous wealth of information on these two main points just by running your own searches on them.  Hunting isn't what Bambi portrays it to be.  It's an important part of our direct obligation as sentient beings to be good stewards of our resources, and it's a critical part of preventing unnecessary suffering of the life we share those resources with.

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