Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Killing Wolves for Fun is Unethical

The New York Times just came out with this great piece about the ethics of hunting wolves for sport.
A case might be made for the right to hunt for food and to manage wildlife populations, but surely some of the more than 14,000 people who bought wolf-hunting licenses are interested in neither wolf sandwiches nor animal husbandry: they simply enjoy hunting.
And hate wolves.
Some note that hunting is a challenging activity. No doubt. As is juggling flaming axes while blindfolded. And drunk. But not everything difficult is desirable. Or ethical. Pickpocketing, too, is tough....

Inflicting death is not an acceptable leisure activity.
Unless you are a psychopath.
Beyond what it inflicts on the wolf — pain, death — hunting damages us. It coarsens us. It inures us to suffering. One measure of a society is how it treats the week and vulnerable, including animals, including those deemed “wild” or outside the bounds of society.
The argument is not that we shouldn't kill animals, but that we shouldn't kill them wantonly, and not for kicks.

(We can hear the wolf-haters railing against the liberal elite east-coasters already.)


Anonymous said...

"wanton" ~ hmmm ... Seems like a pretty wishy washy standard, highly subjective.

If you think about, there's no such thing as a hunt on wildlife that does not fit the "wanton" characterization. There is absolutely no need to hunt at all ~ with all of our cultivated protein and all ... But we do hunt ~ I hunt ... I certainly eat and make use of the animal, but there is no need for me to kill - scratch that - inflict unnecessary pain/suffering upon a sentient being at all, hunt or no hunt. Who's not guilty of that ? And that's really what we're talking about, isn't it ? Sentience ? If no, then perhaps it's a teleological question ~ but the standard there is even more wishy washy, as an ethic founded in teleology has even less of a bright line with regard to moral or ethical agency. The bright line, rational potential for determinism out of this 'teleological' quandry is better expressed/applied to systems, to ecology - and when applied as such, with reason, one cannot describe a moral qualm with hunting, with the taking of life, of individual animals so long as there exists a sustainable population with which a system is allowed the potential to express itself and function in relation to its environment. The problem here, the bright line, is when a member of a community is eradicated, or significantly inhibited from expressing its influence within the greater system at large.

A hunt, independent of other anthropogenic influence, does not threaten that for wolves.. Another human activity independently does, and has been shown to in the past decade and beyond.

What really gets me about the anti-hunt hysteria, and particularly this article's line of reason - is that it eclipses and excludes that real threat from moral/ethical implication by setting the standard of ethical/moral conduct at utility - and pretty arbitrarily so. It is an infinitely regressive double standard, one to which none of us has a hope of fulfilling. And it sets the standard at whether you or I have a "use" (as characterized, a pretty arbitrarily determined use limited to sustainance) rather than at whether wolves, as a species, will be able to function with regard to their ecological niche.

The anti-hunt hysteria is not about wanton killing, we do it every day - with domestic animals & other wildlife alike. It's not about wanton pain, we do that even more. It's about the fact that some of us love dogs (and rightfully so), we relate to them more than other wildlife/animals, we can imagine how it would feel to us if someone shot Fido - and we're willing to project that social standard onto hunters, who may or may not be on the hunt for malicious reasons.

And so, the charismatic critters have that anthropocentric moral agency, and the others ~ well, not so much --- that's where the hair splits - and in my view ~ that's a disgraceful place to make a trivial point - a point that's not just different, but that obscures - if what we ultimately hope to achieve is reverence for living systems ~ for ecology.

~ be

Demarcated Landscapes said...

Excellent points, Be.
- DL

Anonymous said...

an ethic needs reason ~ of course ~ compassion is not best described with reason ~ and it seems to me we should all have more of it ... unfortunately, compassion's not a great projectile - people sort of have to have it, or experience it, or choose it - it can't be an imposition.

i think the rednecks willing to kill a wolf for fun are fewer than the Idaho government thinks & is making its decision on behalf of. they're just really obnoxious. and so, i guess i might just be wishing on a star - but i don't think the hunt will be "successful" at depressing the wolf population, or impacting its genetic viability, with much efficiency.

that job's left to we the tax-payer, via WS

~ be

xanadu said...

The Cry of the Wolf
by Cole

The cry of the wolf
echoes through pages of earthly history
a cry of seeking ever seeking
a lament falling on deathly ear.

The cry wind sweeps twisting
in rock girded canyon
hidden in branches of twisted oak
a cry of a forgotten tear.

The cry that sharply bounds
down splashing rushing torrents
surging to towering pines
telling all of enshrouded fear.

Out past the fallen woodland giant
out where now smoke of surging cities
swells over lands of forgotten sage
his call is a call desolate and sear.