Monday, July 22, 2013 |
First aired on Tooth and Claw (15/7/2013)
Is hunting ethical or atrocious? Hunting, or being hunted, is probably the most basic, primitive way the human-animal relationship plays out. While hunting was at an all-time low in the past few decades, it's seen a recent resurgence thanks to young urbanites -- a.k.a. "hipster hunters" -- who are interested in sustainable and local food sources. But in the 21st century, is hunting something we should evolve away from, or could it help save the world? Tooth and Claw decided to find out and spoke to three authors with three different perspectives on the subject.
Mark Rowlands is a writer and philosopher who spent a decade with a wolf companion named Brennan. His 2008 memoir about the experience, The Philosopher and the Wolf, became an international bestseller. Rowlands is against hunting. "I don't think we should kill them unless it's absolutely necessary," he told Tooth and Claw host Peter Brown. "Since eating meat is not necessary to survive then we shouldn't kill them."
Lily Raff McCaulou, author of The Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, disagrees. McCaulou grew up in a liberal suburb of Maryland and eventually moved to New York, where she saw hunting as a cruel sport and felt hunters were trying to satiate a lust for blood. But after moving to rural Oregon, she became immersed in hunting culture and realized it was much more than a mere bloodsport. Instead, it put her face to face with important moral and practical questions and made her a more self-sufficient human being. "It's changed how I think about every aspect of my life. It's a chance to really come face to face with and ask yourself all these hard questions about life and death on a regular basis." It's also given her a greater appreciation for the importance of wilderness conservation. "I think most of what I get out of [hunting] is a deeper appreciation of the natural world."
Jim Sterba, the author of Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds. thinks we need to move beyond the individual arguments for and against hunting and see it as a useful tool in conservation management. Populations of animals like white-tailed deer, beavers and geese are exploding in the suburbs, thanks to a combination of a lack of natural predators, an aversion to hunting, strict regulations about when and where hunting can actually take place and bans on selling wild game. Population management methods such as contraception are often discussed, but Sterba thinks the simplest solution is the best one: encouraging more people to hunt wild game and creating more opportunities for them to distribute it to people who don't necessarily want to hunt but are interested in nonindustrial, local, antibiotic-free locavore protein."Humans are a "ubiquitous" part of the natural ecosystem, Sterba said, and removing ourselves from it, which has been the trend in the past century, hasn't solved that many problems. Reinserting ourselves thoughtfully and respectfully might.
"We need to relearn the stewardship skills and responsibilities of old and learn to practice them in new and better ways for the good of the landscape as a whole, for the ecosystem as a whole, and for the plants, animals and even people who live and depend on those local ecosystems," he said.
Are you for or against hunting? You can listen to Tooth and Claw's entire episode on the subject in the audio player above.