Hunting Themes

Hunting - Ethical & Moral Considerations

Hunting Considerations... Hunting Themes... A Hunter's Farewell... Symbolic Gifts... Ont. Hunting Tips... Reciprocity In The Wilderness
Animal Rights Movement. A Threat to Culture? Hunting as a Separate Reality... Wilderness & Hunting Links

Also published By

"Greenhaven Press, Inc. - Current Controversies" Series 'The Rights of Animals' 1999 - ISBN 0-7377-0068-8

Copyright Lark Ritchie and Brian Douglas Ritchie 1995. 1996.

As a Hunter, a hunting guide and a status Native American (read Cree Indian, Born, Chapleau, Ontario, Canada), I have been repeatedly challenged by the moral and ethical questions concerning hunting. Over some 40 years, I continue to arrive at a conclusion that hunting (and providing hunts for others) is a morally and ethically acceptable practice. Although a personal view, it is one I ask you to consider.

A clear argument for or against any issue requires definition of terms and hunting, as defined in the dictionary, means to pursue game with the intent of capturing or killing. I add a further refinement; that of killing as an act of predation; as a means to food.

This refined definition makes it clear that we are concerned with hunting to kill; an act of predation, in which the game is consumed. While hunting to capture an animal may be another question for the moralists, it is distinctly set apart from the pursuit of game ending in death. Thus I reformulate the question: "Is it morally acceptable to hunt and kill an animal as an act of predation?". I see three major perspectives; the issue of rights, the social, and the vegetarian arguments.

The animal rights activist and anti-hunter offer us at least these three challenges as hunters. Each are briefly considered .

One argument touted is that when hunters kill an animal, they violate its right to life. This statement is logically and legally faulty.

The concept of rights is a legal principle, and in that legal sense, is not presently recognized for all creatures. Moreover, rights are an amorphous human concept developed within a culture and differ considerably, depending on the culture and society, and only defined and upheld within the laws and social conventions of a particular society.

When we leave this legal view, we enter an arena governed by personal, emotional and philosophical complications where no commonly accepted conventions dictate how we act or what is right. To use the concept of rights when speaking of animals means we must have laws in place under which we can make judgements. Without those laws we must face our own moral structures, and those of others.

These legal, moral and philosophical details are complex, and a small example demonstrates the underlying reasoning.

When a wolf stalks and kills a rabbit, it is senseless to say that the wolf has violated the rabbit's right to life and freedom. In the wilderness there are no immoral acts or violation of rights since all events are by definition "natural". We can accept that in this event, there is no question of rights, other than a personal view. The event may be considered acceptable in that death is a part of natural wilderness life. Therefore the death of an animal caused by a hunter can only be examined in the human social or personal context.

My conclusion? In the present day, and in this country, legal rights are not granted to animals, and hence there is no legal argument for, or against taking the life of an animal, other than those laws and regulations governing hunting and humane practices. This may not be agreeable to some, but our system of laws are how we define our exact ways and behaviours. Without a law, we have to act within our own personal moral scope. And in hunting, we must bring ourselves to that moral mirror. Another challenge to the hunter is "An entire international industry is designed to raise domestic animals for consumption. You don't need to hunt."

This statement skirts the moral issue of killing and animal death and is in effect, illogical when discussing predatory hunting. It actually accepts the death of animals, and makes a distinction only between domestic animals and wilderness animals.

Furthermore, it embeds a general and socially accepted assumption within; we are omnivores and by nature, part of our natural diet is the meat from animals, and eating meat is acceptable, and therefore killing of an animal is acceptable.

My conclusion? If the killing of a domestic chicken is considered acceptable, then we must also accept the killing of a bear , moose, grouse or trout as acceptable. With that acceptance, we are left to the present laws and to our personal choices and morals.What truely matters in the moral and ethical sense, is motive and attitude.

A third challenge we hear today is the argument that we should not eat meat. To personally oppose the killing any animal for consumption, one must profess himself a vegetarian, and when one is, then, and only then, is one remotely justified to reject animal death by himself or others. However, the ratio of vegetarian (or herbivore) human beings to non-vegetarians in our population is quite low, and although a minority has the right to an opinion and way of life, reciprocally, we have the right to hold our own opinions and ways of life. The debate in this area will no doubt continue, until resolved by an act of legislation.

My conclusion? Realistically, one would have to accept that man is, either divinely, naturally or biologically designed to eat meat, as well as plants. Again we enter morals and ethics.

Summarizing; legally, animals are viewed differently when we speak of rights; objectively, there is no difference between a death of a domestic or wild death; and socially, the majority of us accept the consumption of animals as food is acceptable. It renders to moral and ethical issues.

The argument defending hunting and more generally, animal death, can be stated in one sentence. "People are naturally omnivorous and therefore it is natural for people to kill animals for consumption." Further, the act of predation (hunting) is no more than a variation on the more efficient practice of animal husbandry and subsequent killing for human consumption.

While this argument is simply stated, the moral implications are far reaching. The fact that man is no longer considers himself apart from nature seriously complicates the matter.

While it is not immoral for a wolf to kill the rabbit, even if it is the last one of the species, I consider it immoral for a hunter to knowingly threaten the sustainability of, or decimate a species.

Because we are rational beings, we can make a free and informed choice to kill or not kill the rabbit, where the wolf simply acts on instinct.

This ability to rationalize places a personal restriction and responsibility on the hunter to not knowingly deplete a species beyond a natural sustainable level. He or she must be an active part of a responsible resource management system. This implies that we adhere to high personal principles as well as legislated fish and game laws which, in terms of limits, are designed to maintain natural population levels.

A second restriction in the pro-hunting argument is that we may only kill animals as an act of predation (for food). While this argument does not seemingly condone sport or trophy hunting, it does not necessarily mean that one can't kill without eating the meat personally. In nature, animal mothers (and in the case of wolves, fathers) often kill to provide food for their young. The concept of killing to provide food for another is a natural occurence. A suitable conclusion is that we are justified morally hunt to provide food for others. However, to take more than that due a family would lead me to question the motives of the particuar person.

A third restriction to the argument deals with motive. It is important that the motive of the hunt or the kill be an internal one. I maintain that there are two types of people who kill wilderness animals. I class them as internally motivated hunters and externally motivated killers. (I have been using these concepts since 1983: others have termed the same as 'intrinsically and extrinsically motivated' - see notes below...)

The basis of the hunting experience for the internally motivated responsible hunter is the realization that he has met the challenges of the wilderness experience; hunting, killing and providing food for himself and others. He may also honour his animal by investing in the costs for a taxidermist to provide a momento of the experience. This in itself is not wrong.

The externally motivated killer, on the other hand, assumes that he is recognized more highly by others because of what he has done, interpreting the act of killing as symbolic of status and prowess. And although very subjective on my part, I do not respect or condone the actions of this type of individual.

There is another sub-class within the externally motivated killers, the most dangerous of all, and these definitely should not be identified as hunters. I classify him or her as unthinking and opportunistic. He or she is the person who has no awareness of, or respect for the animal pursued. This is the person who considers the case of two-four as part of essential hunting equipment, the person who risks the 200 yard shot, or the person who utters such terrible unfeeling words such as "that sucker" when recounting the experience. I personally do not respect such a person. The animal deserves to be honoured. As with the family dog who is humanely put down, or as with the chicken destined for the table, this should be done quickly, with respect, and with a minimum of pain. To achieve this objective, there is no moral argument for why an efficient tool should not be used to dispatch the animal. In fact, it is a legal requirement and strictly defined in our fish and game act.

None of these ideas imply that we should not hunt for pleasure, as in the group experience. Hunting arose from natural predation and for many responsible people, is carried on as a tradition. In earlier times, when a hunter killed an animal, there was rejoice because he provided food for his family or tribe. There is, undeniably, a sense of pleasure and personal achievement and fulfilling tradition in such activity.

Therefore, there is a part of hunting which has developed into a social celebration in which one spends time with friends, talking, listening and learning. This is what I feel is the driving force for most true and honest hunters, what serious hunters desire to pass to their children, and is definitely the reason that I still hunt and provide hunting experiences.

There is an experience gained, even without a kill, that is almost beyond description. One realizes it at dusk, sitting around a late night fire, talking with new friends or maybe much later when one returns to regular and routine life. At many points a responsible hunter grows from the experience.

Serious hunters must be able profess these thoughts clearly to make a distiction between themselves, the externally motivated hunter, and the unthinking opportunist who cares little for the game she or he encounters.

New Counter Set on Jul. 9, 1999

Notes - Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

By NANCY H. LEONARD, Assistant Professor,College of Business Administration, University of Evansville; LAURA LYNN BEAUVAIS, Associate Professor, Department of Management, University of Rhode Island; and RICHARD W. SCHOLL, Professor of Management, Director of Graduate Programs, Department of Management, University of Rhode Island, in a Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in August, 1995

There are a number of theories that attempt to capture types or sources of motivation affecting organizational members. For instance, in discussing internal and external causes of behavior, deCharms (1968) suggested the dichotomy of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation to characterize the different loci of causality. Intrinsically motivated behaviors (i.e., those behaviors that occur in the absence of external controls) are said to represent internal causality, whereas behaviors that are induced by external forces are said to represent external causality.

Deci (1975) explored the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation and in doing so, tried to shed some light on the meaning of intrinsic motivation. He suggested that intrinsically motivated behaviors fall into two categories. The first category includes behaviors that individuals engage in to seek out challenging situations. These challenges represent incongruities between stimuli and comparison standards. The second category includes behaviors aimed at reducing these incongruities (i.e., overcoming challenges). Thus, intrinsically motivated behavior, according to Deci, is conceptualized as a continual process of seeking and overcoming challenges.

From Cross-Task Generalization of Intrinsic Motivation Effects
MICHAEL E. ENZLE, University of Alberta
EDWARD F. WRIGHT, St. Francis Xavier
ISABEL M. REDONDO, Dalhousie University
Deci and Ryan (1987) proposed that intrinsic motivation stems from drive-like human needs to be self-determining and competent, i.e., to be autonomous rather than externally-controlled. In concrete terms, an intrinsically motivated behaviour is that which appears to be spontaneously initiated by the person in pursuit of no other goal than the activity itself.

According to Deci and Ryan, events that foster self-determination or competence will enhance or maintain intrinsic motivation, whereas events that weaken self-determination or competence will decrease intrinsic motivation.(1) Supporting research evidence shows that events that enhance self-perceived autonomous functioning produce increased intrinsic motivation for the target activity. The ability to make choices about how to pursue an activity, for example, has been shown to enhance or maintain intrinsic motivation (Enzle, Roggeveen, & Look, 1991; Zuckerman, Porac, Lathin, Smith, & Deci, 1978), as has positive performance feedback (e.g., Enzle & Ross, 1978; Vallerand & Reid, 1988). Externally-controlling events that are antagonistic to self-perceived autonomy, on the other hand, result in decreased intrinsic motivation and perceptions of external causality. Thus, task-contingent rewards (e.g., Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973), negative performance feedback (e.g., Enzle & Ross, 1978), and controlling forms of surveillance (e.g., Enzle & Anderson, 1993) have been shown to undermine intrinsic motivation.

From Different types of Aspects for all Ages Through Extrinsic Motivation
From: Patricia Martinez
Course: CD 170, Contextual Influences on Cognition Development
College: San Jose State University
Instructor: Eugene Matusov, Ph.D.

Extrinsic motivation is a way people do things in order to get a reward or praise from parents and teachers. There were studies that measured intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation in education and sports.

Basically, extrinsic motivation undermines the interest in doing a task. These are results found in the studies done by Harter, and many others. Extrinsic motivation can start bad habits if the person does not have set goals in life. Extrinsic on the other hand can be good in certain types of settings in order to get a person to do the task. This will possibly make them try something and maybe even like it. Extrinsic motivation has good things and bad things to it, but it varies on the type of people. It seems to control ther persons task on what they are trying to accomplish. The results from some of these studies seem to favor intrinsic motivation than extrinsic motivation. This paper will examine the pros and cons of extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is when a person is able and willing to make themselves do a specific task without someone or something having to push them to do it. A person who is intrinsically motivated will want the challenge to engage in a competitive thing.

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1996 Lark Ritchie. Contact me at this address..