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Ordinarily, those who are concerned about animal ethics or animal welfare would instead ask, “Does culling justify hunting?”—In other words, “Does the need to curtail overpopulation in a species justify killing them (even from helicopters!) in large numbers to ensure their own survival and that of their prey?” This is a fair question, and one that requires careful consideration by conservation biologists.

However, if the political propaganda of hunting lobbyists (and of course gun manufacturers) is any indication of their motives, then the question should be reversed: Does Hunting justify Culling? (Hence, my title). That is to say, for “trophy” hunters, preserving the tradition (or “sport”) of “The Hunt” takes precedence over methods of population control that are designed to maximize the well-being of the animals in question. Two “adventure” hosting organizations that appeared on the Outdoor Channel exemplify this reversal in priorities.

 

Hunting Big Game: A western way of life?

BigGameForever.org is a website hosted by a group that wants to delist the gray wolf from endangered species status. Its claims reveal its motives:

“Wolf overpopulation is dramatically damaging and even eliminating entire populations of Moose, Rocky Mountain Elk and other large ungulate populations. Wolf predation is erasing decades of effort and hundreds of millions invested in rebuilding healthy big game populations.”

In other words, BGF decries the fact that wolf reintroduction and protection might threaten the future of larger “game” animals they want their children to be able to hunt. “This war on the west threatens big game herds, proactive state wildlife management, use of renewable wildlife resources and the western way of life.” BGF hopes that delisting—and culling—wolves will ensure that “delicate wildlife populations are restored to healthy levels.”

But a relevant ethical question is never asked: What makes these “big game harvesters” think that their alleged “western way of life” ought to be perpetuated? For BGF, state wildlife management (free of federal constraints) to restore “renewable wildlife resources” (read: huntable animals) to “healthy levels” (read: enough for us to kill) is not a concern for ecological “balance” or the welfare of either wolves or their prey, but a concern for preserving the hunting tradition. They want to make sure that there are enough moose, elk, and caribou available for future hunters to shoot. This agenda is obvious from the motto they use as a subtitle on their website: “Protecting Big Game Abundance for Future Generations.”

 

Adventure killing: A ‘gift’ for those who suffer?

The Outdoor Adventure Foundation, headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota with chapters in 7 other states, hosts “last wish” trophy hunts for patients and returning disabled veterans. According to their own mission statement:

“The Outdoor Adventure Foundation, Inc. provides hunting and fishing adventures for children under the age of 18 and young adults under the age of 25 with cancer or other life threatening illness. We also provide hunting and fishing adventures for disabled veterans under the age of 40 that are wheelchair bound caused by injury during active service or who have lost a limb during active service.”

The OAF helped one wheelchair-bound paraplegic soldier, who had been maimed in Irag, to fulfill his 25-year-old dream of “harvesting” an American bison on an Outdoor Adventures reserve in Montana. After downing the bison, the soldier’s host praised him for having “harvested” such a “beautiful” animal and, as expected, took photos of them kneeling proudly above their “trophy” with gleeful smiles. 

How ironic and sad it seems that a youth with life-threatening cancer should take pleasure in ending the life of a healthy mammal, or that an American soldier maimed by war in Iraq should be favored by the “gift” of being able to shoot an innocent bison grazing in the meadow. 

 

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