Hunting Is Conservation [Opinion]

Hunting is one of the most controversial hot potatoes to be flung around in contemporary discourse. On the one hand we have those calling for a total ban on hunting, whereas on the other hand we have those claiming hunting to be in indispensable method of nature conservation. Contrary to popular belief, the latter claim is the correct view. If some sort of virtue-signalling rage just started to boil deep within you, please bear with me for the next couple of minutes.

First off, some very basic economic principles should be explained. One of the basic tenets of economics which most people are familiar with is supply and demand. In order to ensure a continuous supply of something to cater to the demand thereof, the product or service in question must be conserved and not depleted. This neatly brings me to the next basic concept: incentives. Where there is an economic incentive to conserve something, rest assured it will in all probability be done. When something is commodified, it logically follows that an incentive is created to conserve that specific thing so as to attain a certain level of supply security.

Now, there are some uncomfortable facts we need to deal with, the first of which is the destruction of habitats and ecosystems. It is no myth that homo sapiens’ continuous strive for domination has obliterated the habitats of numerous other species. What we are left with is a limited number of habitats of limited size that simply cannot sustain an innumerable amount of animals. The second uncomfortable fact is that of culling: the killing of a portion of a species so as to prevent overpopulation and the inevitable starvation that animals will have to endure if it is not done. The third uncomfortable fact is that some people enjoy to hunt. Whilst it may disgust you that people enjoy killing animals for sport, it does not justify the prohibition thereof by any stretch of logic whatsoever. Here’s why:

Culling, as just explained, is necessary to prevent overpopulation and subsequent extinction. This obviously costs money, as there can never be any sort of output whatsoever without some sort of input (there’s no such thing as a free meal). Now, a lot of nature reserves and game farms attract enough tourists so that they are in the financial position of being able to fund these culling efforts themselves. However, a lot of reserves and farms aren’t so lucky. They simply cannot sustain conservation efforts by sheer tourist revenue. The solution to their dilemma: profiting off of culling. Instead of culling animals themselves, they ‘outsource’ it to recreational hunters. The crucial difference between this type of outsourcing and that of normal outsourcing practices is that the hunters pay the reserves to do the culling and not the other way around. In doing so, the owners of game farms and the like generate much needed revenue to fund conservation efforts. Sterilization has been proposed as an alternative to culling, but who’s going to pay for the sterilization of animals on private reserves? A lot of reserves are dependent on hunting to even exist. Remember, without the reserve, no conservation whatsoever. Animals need to be culled, and seeing as hunters will pay you to cull your animals on your property, much needed monies for conservation efforts are generated. Now, at this point you may be wondering how killing animals conserves the majority of them. In order to understand how this is done, we need to revisit the economic concepts explained earlier.

In order to have a continuous supply of a product, it must be ensured that the product is in stock at all times. The incentive to conserve the product is thus fostered by commodifying it. This applies to animals as well. In order to generate enough revenue to fund conservation efforts, owners of nature reserves have to ensure that there will always be a continuous supply of animals for the hunters to kill. If they don’t do this, their business model will go bust which will inevitably lead to conservation efforts being underfunded and simply not possible to carry out. In essence, to allow people to hunt the game on your property, you need to control it so as to ensure that it is a sustainable practice.

A collection of hunting trophies along with a shotgun and a spear point, two items used for hunting game

Hunting trophies and weapons [Image by Stsvirkun/Shutterstock]

Controlled hunting is not the same thing as poaching. Poaching ignores the limits set by the limited supply of animals at any given time and simply slaughters them until the supply runs out. This is antithetical to controlled hunting. Controlled hunting strikes a balance between the supply of animals available to hunt and the demand for them. When hunting is controlled, it prevents overpopulation and extinction, it generates revenue to be pumped back into conservation efforts, and it provides a controlled opportunity for people who like killing animals to do so without slaughtering them to the point of extinction. The exact same logic applies to trophy hunting. It creates an incentive to conserve game for future use. No sane owner of game would allow his or her most prized animals to be shot and killed without ensuring that their genes live on in their descendants. Another common practice is to collect and store the sperm of males deemed genetically superior in order to use it for fertilization purposes in future.

In the end, we have to ask ourselves whether we would tolerate people killing animals in a controlled manner and in the process saving them from extinction, or whether we’d ban hunting and let the animals to starve to death because of overpopulation. Virtue signalling helps nobody, least of which the animals. However, if you or anyone you know has a better proposal on how to prevent species from going extinct, please notify the conservation experts who have dedicated their entire lives to finding the best possible way to conserve natural life. I am sure that in their years of education and experience, they must’ve missed the golden solution you’ve come up with in your 280 character emotion-induced Twitter rant.

We literally don’t have any other choice but to allow controlled hunting practices to flourish. We are backed into a corner by greedy men and women who have destroyed natural habitats with sole regard to their own proprietary interests. Is it sad that we’re caught in this dilemma of having to kill some animals in order to save the majority of them? Absolutely. Is there any other way of avoiding controlled hunting as a method of conservation? Absolutely not.

[Featured Image by Alberto Masnovo/Shutterstock]

Source: John Pickrell for National Geographic News