HUNTING IN THE UNITED STATES

Hunting is bad for animals and bad for America.

By Kelly Overton

It’s autumn, the time of year when millions of Americans renew their love affair with guns and head for the woods in a pre-emptive strike in their war against wildlife. Hunters justify this slaughter by claiming to reduce incidents of human/animal conflict. They tell us they must kill to protect Americans from automobile/deer collisions and save animals from certain starvation. They would have us believe that hunting is not only good for people, but also good for the animals they kill. Yet in reality, hunting is neither useful nor necessary. It is an environmentally and socially destructive practice historically grounded in racial injustice.

There is no truth to the myth that hunting reduces human/animal conflict. In fact, automobile/deer collisions actually increase during hunting season, as deer are flushed from forests and onto roadways. The presence of wildlife in our yards, cities, and highways is due not to an increase in the number of animals, but to a staggering decrease in wilderness. We live in a culture that has accepted hunting for so many generations that we can no longer see the forest through the disappearing trees. The animals are not invading our territory: we have increasingly invaded theirs. It is our society’s constant destruction of wilderness that causes human/animal conflict. In an age of water shortages and global warming, our natural resources merit a sophisticated ecosystem protection policy: a policy in which humane wildlife management is one important aspect.

The tragic histories of the passenger pigeon and the American buffalo show us that hunters are sometimes the last to realize the delicate nature of animal populations. Hunting is not an effective method of wildlife management; the need to hunt on an annual basis is proof itself of hunting’s ineffectiveness. Hunters’ claims of conservationism are necessary because admitting that you enjoy killing is a less than flattering attribute. Hunters make the cruel choice to shoot animals instead of skeet or targets. And cruel it is. There is nothing as heartbreaking as the sight of a bird shot from flight or witnessing a gunned down deer’s last moments – the blood, the panicked breathing, the struggle, the recognition of what is happening, and the animal’s visible desire to survive.