"Sport" hunting is a violent form of recreation that has left countless animals maimed, and orphaned animals vulnerable to starvation, exposure, and predation. This activity disrupts natural animal population dynamics and has contributed to the extinction of animal species all over the world, including the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk.(1,2)
Although less than 5 percent of the U.S. population hunts, hunting is permitted in many wildlife refuges, national forests, and state parks and on other public lands3 where almost half of all hunters slaughter and maim millions of animals every year (by some estimates, poachers kill just as many animals illegally).(4,5) The vast majority of hunters do not kill for subsistence.(6)
Municipalities and other entities often resort to hunting in an attempt to reduce urban animal populations, but lethal methods never work in the long run and often backfire. When animals are killed or removed, a spike in the food supply results.(7) This causes survivors and newcomers to breed at an accelerated rate—and populations actually increase.(8) The result is a pointless, never-ending, and expensive killing cycle.
Pain and Suffering
Many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when they are injured by hunters. Bowhunters often spend hours tracking the blood trails of animals before finding them. Many are never found by hunters.(9) Our office routinely receives reports from upset residents who spot animals wandering around with gunshot wounds or protruding arrows. In cases in which euthanasia is not feasible, weeks can elapse before victims succumb to their injuries. It is also not uncommon for us to hear of wounded animals running wildly onto highways, posing grave risks to commuters.
An estimated 20 percent of foxes who have been wounded by hunters must be shot again to be killed. Ten percent manage to escape, but "starvation is a likely fate" for them, according to one veterinarian.(10) A South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks biologist estimates that more than 3 million wounded ducks go "unretrieved" every year.(11) A British study of deer hunting found that 11 percent of deer who'd been killed by hunters died only after being shot two or more times and that some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes before dying.(12) A member of the Maine Bowhunters Alliance estimates that 50 percent of animals who are shot with crossbows are wounded but not killed.(13) A study of 80 radio-collared white-tailed deer found that of the 22 deer who had been shot with "traditional archery equipment," 11 were wounded but not recovered by hunters.(14)
Hunting disrupts migration and hibernation patterns and destroys families. For animals such as wolves, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire communities. The stress from which hunted animals suffer can severely compromise their normal eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need in order to survive the winter. Stress can also cause animals to bound onto roadways, abandon their young, or become weak and succumb to parasites and disease.
Blood-Thirsty and Profit-Driven
To attract more hunters (and their money), federal and state agencies implement programs—often called "wildlife management" or "conservation" programs—that are designed to boost the numbers of "game" species (since killing individuals will prompt surviving animals to breed at an accelerated rate, resulting in more animals in the long run). These programs help to ensure that there are plenty of animals for hunters to kill and, consequently, plenty of revenue from the sale of hunting licenses.
Duck hunters in Louisiana persuaded the state wildlife agency to direct $100,000 a year toward "reduced predator impact," which involved trapping foxes and raccoons so that more duck eggs would hatch, giving hunters more birds to kill.(15) The Ohio Division of Wildlife teamed up with a hunter-organized society to push for clear-cutting (i.e., decimating large tracts of trees) in Wayne National Forest in order to "produce habitat needed by ruffed grouse."(16)
In Alaska, the Department of Fish and Game is trying to increase the number of moose for hunters by "controlling" the wolf and bear populations. Grizzlies and black bears have been moved hundreds of miles away from their homes. Two were shot by hunters within two weeks of their relocation, and others have simply returned to their homes.(17) Wolves have been slaughtered in order to "let the moose population rebound and provide a higher harvest for local hunters."(18) In the early 1990s, a program designed to reduce the wolf population backfired when snares failed to kill victims quickly, and photos of suffering wolves were viewed by an outraged public.(19)
Nature Takes Care of Its Own
The delicate balance of ecosystems ensures their own survival—if they are left unaltered. Natural predators help maintain this balance by killing the sickest and weakest individuals. Hunters, however, kill any animal whose head they would like to hang over the fireplace—including large, healthy animals who are needed to keep the population strong. Elephant poaching is believed to have increased the number of tuskless animals in Africa, and in Canada, hunting has caused bighorn sheep's horn size to fall by 25 percent in the last 40 years—Nature magazine reports that "the effect on the populations' genetics is probably deeper."(20)
Even when unusual natural occurrences cause overpopulation, natural processes work to stabilize the group. Starvation and disease can be tragic, but they are nature's ways of ensuring that healthy, strong animals survive and maintain the strength level of the rest of their herd or group. Shooting an animal because he or she might starve or become sick is arbitrary and destructive.
Not only does hunting jeopardize nature's balance, it also exacerbates other problems. For example, the transfer of captive-bred deer and elk between states for the purpose of hunting is believed to have contributed to the epidemic spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has given state wildlife agencies millions of dollars to "manage" deer and elk populations.(21) The fatal neurological illness that affects these animals has been likened to mad cow disease, but the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that CWD has no relationship to any similar diseases that affect humans or farmed animals, so the slaughter of deer and elk continues.(22,23)
Another problem with hunting involves the introduction of exotic "game" animals into the wild. Animals who are released or escape from game ranches often form populations in the wild and are subjected to cruel eradication efforts when they are considered "invasive." For instance, the game ranching (also known as "canned hunting") of boars has caused feral swine colonies to become so pervasive that some states across the U.S. are allowing them to be cruelly gunned down from helicopters.
Most hunting occurs on private land, where laws that protect wildlife are often inapplicable or difficult to enforce. On private lands that are set up as for-profit hunting reserves or game ranches, hunters can pay to kill native and exotic species in "canned hunts." These animals may be native to the area, raised elsewhere and brought in, or purchased from individuals who are trafficking in unwanted or surplus animals from zoos and circuses. They are hunted and killed for the sole purpose of providing hunters with a "trophy."
Canned hunts are becoming big business—there are an estimated 1,000 game preserves in the U.S.(24) Ted Turner, the country's largest private landowner, allows hunters to pay thousands of dollars to kill bison, deer, African antelopes, and turkeys on his 2 million acres.(25)
Most game ranches operate on a "no kill, no pay" policy, so it is in owners' best interests to ensure that clients get what they came for. Owners do this by offering guides who are familiar with animals' locations and habits, permitting the use of dogs, and supplying "feeding stations" that lure unsuspecting animals to food while hunters lie in wait.
Animals on canned-hunting ranches are often accustomed to humans and are usually unable to escape from the enclosures that they are confined to, which range in size from just a few yards to thousands of acres. Many states, including Arizona, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, have limited or banned canned hunts, but there are no federal laws regulating the practice at this time.(26,27)
Hunting accidents destroy property and injure or kill horses, cows, dogs, cats, hikers, and other hunters. In 2006, then–Vice President Dick Cheney infamously shot a friend while hunting quail on a canned-hunting preserve.28 According to the International Hunter Education Association, dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries are attributed to hunting in the U.S. every year—and that number includes incidents involving only humans.29 It is an ongoing problem, and one warden explained that "hunters seem unfamiliar with their firearms and do not have enough respect for the damage they can do."(30)
The bears, cougars, deer, foxes, and other animals who are chased, trapped, and even killed by dogs during (sometimes illegal) hunts aren't the only ones to suffer from this variant of the "sport." Dogs used for hunting are often kept chained or penned and are denied routine veterinary care such as vaccines and heartworm medication. Some are lost during hunts and never found, while others are turned loose at the end of hunting season to fend for themselves and possibly die of starvation or get struck by a vehicle.
Wildlife Control in Urban Areas
Municipalities seeking to reduce wildlife population numbers can do so effectively and humanely by implementing an integrated, adaptive approach. Effective wildlife-control plans focus on containing food sources in residential areas and modifying habitat in riparian (wetlands adjacent to a natural waterway) and wildlife corridors.
A key to keeping wildlife populations in balance in urban areas is to ensure that free-roaming, healthy wildlife are never artificially fed. Animals who are artificially fed lose their fear of humans and begin to approach residents (who mistake them for being rabid or aggressive) as well as hunters! Feeding also causes animals to breed at an accelerated rate, resulting in more animals. The more animals you have in a small area, the more likely they will be perceived as overpopulated or as a nuisance, especially when they start to eat flowers, damage gardens, or defecate on sidewalks. Many people and municipalities will quickly resort to killing unwanted animals (using poisons, trappers, and other inhumane methods) in a misguided attempt to get rid of them.
Information for municipalities and other entities about how to control deer humanely in urban areas can be found here, information regarding goose control can be found here, and pigeon-control information can be found here. For our guide to living in harmony with wildlife at your home or business, please visit this page or e-mail PETA at CIDinfo@peta.org.
What You Can Do
Before you support a "wildlife" or "conservation" group, ask about its position on hunting. Groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League, The Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund are pro–sport hunting, or at the very least, they do not oppose it.
To combat hunting in your area, post "no hunting" signs on your land, join or form an anti-hunting organization, protest organized hunts, and spread deer repellent or human hair (from barber shops) near hunting areas. Call 1-800-628-7275 to report poachers in national parks to the National Parks Conservation Association. Educate others about the cruelty associated with hunting. Encourage your legislators to enact or enforce wildlife-protection laws, and insist that nonhunters be equally represented on the staffs of wildlife agencies. Urge agencies to seek revenues through kind, environmentally sound activities, such as wildlife photography, bird watching, hiking, kayaking, camping, and canoeing.
References1) Grant Holloway, "Cloning to Revive Extinct Species," CNN.com, 28 May 2002.2) Canadian Museum of Nature, "Great Auk," 2008.3) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation" (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2007) 4.4) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 81.5) Illinois Department of Natural Resources, "How the Program Works," 10 Oct. 2008.6) National Research Council, "Science and the Endangered Species Act" (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995) 21.7) Eric G. Bolen and William L. Robinson, Wildlife Ecology and Management, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Benjamin Cummins, 2002).8) Andreas R. Richter and Ronald F. Labisky. "Reproductive Dynamics Among Disjunct White-Tailed Deer Herds in Florida," The Journal of Wildlife Management 49.4 (1985): 964-71.9) M. Andy Pedersen, Seth M. Berry, and Jeffery C. Bossart. "Wounding Rates of White-Tailed Deer With Modern Archery Equipment," Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 62 (2002): 31–4.10) Spencer Vaa, "Reducing Wounding Losses," South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, 2004.11) E.L. Bradshaw and P. Bateson, "Welfare Implications of Culling Red Deer (Cervus Elaphus)," Animal Welfare 9 (2000): 3-24.12) John Swinconeck, "Controlled Hunt May Be Solution to the Excess of 'Deer at Our Doorstep,'" York County Coast Star 27 June 2002.13) Stephen S. Ditchkoff et al., "Wounding Rates of White-Tailed Deer With Traditional Archery Equipment," Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (1998).14) D.J. Renny, "Merits and Demerits of Different Methods of Culling British Wild Mammals: A Veterinary Surgeon's Perspective," Proceedings of the Symposium: The Welfare of British Wild Mammals (London: 2002).15) Bob Marshall, "Is Predator Program Enough?" Times-Picayune 2 Mar. 2003.16) Dave Golowenski, "Grouse Numbers Go Up if Trees Come Down," The Columbus Dispatch 20 Feb. 2003.17) Associated Press, "Hunters Shoot Two Relocated Bears," 9 June 2003.18) Joel Gay, "McGrath Wolf Kills Fall Short," Anchorage Daily News 25 Apr. 2003.19) Joel Gay, "Governor Takes Heat From Hunters Expecting Aerial Wolf Control," Anchorage Daily News 8 Apr. 2003.20) John Whitfield, "Sheep Horns Downsized by Hunters' Taste for Trophies," Nature 426 (2003): 595.21) U.S. Department of Agriculture, "USDA Makes $4 Million Available to State Wildlife Agencies for Strengthening Chronic Wasting Disease Management," news release, 15 Apr. 2003.22) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, "Chronic Wasting Disease," 4 Jan. 2007.23) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Media Relations, "Fatal Degenerative Neurologic Illnesses in Men Who Participated in Wild Game Feasts—Wisconsin, 2002," news release, Feb. 2003.24) Sam Farr, "Reps. Farr, Shays Introduce Bill to Can Canned Hunts," U.S. Fed News 7 Oct. 2004.25) Robert M. Poole, "Hunters: For Love of the Land," National Geographic Magazine Nov. 2007.26) National Conference of State Legislatures, "Environment, Energy, and Transportation Program: Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife," Apr. 2008.27) Clint Talbott, "Hunting in a Cage, There Ought to Be a Law," Boulder Daily Camera 25 Jan. 2008.28) Dana Bash, "Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter," CNN.com, 12 Feb. 2006.29) International Hunter Education Association, "Hunter Incident Clearinghouse," 30 Mar. 2008.30) Tom Harelson, "1998 Deer Gun Season Report," Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 8 Dec. 1998.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.