Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Killing wolves for fun

from yesterday's NYTimes Magazine: http://ethicist.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/killing-wolves-for-fun/

Here's an excerpt:

The Issue

The Interior Department has ruled that wolves have sufficiently increased in numbers in the Western continental United States to allow some wolf hunting there. The Idaho hunt began on September 1; Montana’s starts on the 15th. 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. Is it morally acceptable to kill a wolf for the fun of it?

The Argument

Unsurprisingly, I believe it is wrong to inflict pain and death unnecessarily on a creature capable of suffering. (Peter Singer more broadly examines the moral standing of animals here.) While this belief might not compel us to be vegetarians, it does demand significant changes in the way we raise animals for food, and it forbids wolf hunting as a form of entertainment. To be clear, I concede all putatively practical justifications for hunting and repudiate only the idea that hunting is a legitimate recreation. It is the person who claims as much who bears the burden of proof — a wolf need not make a case for its not being shot in Montana. I’m not persuaded that hunters have made their case.

Some declare that hunting is a cherished tradition in their region or for their family. But having done something in the past is insufficient to justify its repetition. It was traditional in my family to be roughed up each spring during pogrom season, a time-honored custom in our part of Russia, and one we gladly abandoned when my grandparents emigrated to America.

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.

There are people who find it fulfilling to cultivate shooting skills, learn to track, take a walk in the woods, maybe bring the kids and make it a bonding experience or bring a couple of buddies and make it a beer-drinking experience or just an opportunity to avoid spending time with the spouse. All of these might be amiable ways to beguile the time, but none need culminate with a killing. Inflicting death is not an acceptable leisure activity.

2 comments:

  1. Jim,
    Thanks for posting this article. As painful as it is I urge folks to read thru the full article. Cohen lays out the animal rightest argument against hunting pretty clearly. Interestingly he accepts the view that hunting for food is OK, but not for sport or pleasure.
    This is where the history of sport and it's value to people is critical. Then mixing in the place of hunting as a sport makes a compelling argument.

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