Enough of this championing one type of hunter over the other already! It just helps perpetuate the myth of the “ethical hunter.” You’re more likely to see a UFO land in the middle of a crop circle than to meet a hunter who is truly ethical to the animals he kills. How can tracking down an inoffensive creature and blasting it out of existence ever really be ethical anyway? No matter how a hunter may rationalize, or claim to give thanks to the animal’s spirit, the dying will never see their killer’s acts as the least bit honorable.
I’m sure Ted Nugent considers himself an ethical hunter. Hell, Ted Bundy likely thought himself an ethical serial killer. But to their victims they’re just murderous slobs. Likewise, Teddy Roosevelt—who, in his two-volume African Game Trails, lovingly muses over shooting elephants, hippos, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, giraffes, zebras, hartebeest, impalas, pigs, the not-so-formidable 30-pound steenbok and even a mother ostrich on her nest—considered himself an exceedingly ethical hunter.
All hunters, whether they call it an act of sport or subsistence, eat what they kill (or at least give the meat away to others). Would Jeffrey Dahmer be considered ethical just because he ate those he murdered? Though some get more pleasure out of the dirty deed of killing than others, no hunter would even be out there doing it if they didn’t get some joy out of the act of stalking and “bagging” their prey. But there are less destructive ways to get your kicks and healthier, less costly sources of nourishment than cholesterol-laden, carcinogenic rotting flesh.
Though they may not take trophies or photographs of themselves with their kill, nearly everyone who hunts gets some kind of a thrill when boasting about their conquest or sharing the spoils at the neighborhood barbeque.
In the book, Exposing the Big Game, I quote Farley Mowat, the sagacious naturalist and author of the 1963 trendsetter, Never Cry Wolf, whose firsthand insight into the hunter mindset should lay to rest the myth of the “ethical hunter:”
“Almost all young children have a natural affinity for other animals…When I was a boy growing up on the Saskatchewan prairies, that feeling of affinity persisted—but it became perverted. Under my father’s tutelage I was taught to be a hunter; taught that ‘communion with nature’ could be achieved over the barrel of a gun; taught that killing wild animals for sport establishes a mystic bond, ‘an ancient pact’ between them and us.
“I learned first how to handle a BB gun, then a .22 rifle and finally a shotgun. With these I killed ‘vermin’—sparrows, gophers, crows and hawks. Having served that bloody apprenticeship, I began killing ‘game’—prairie chicken, ruffed grouse, and ducks. By the time I was fourteen, I had been fully indoctrinated with the sportsman’s view of wildlife as objects to be exploited for pleasure.
Farley Mowat, is his eloquent and sometimes verbose way, goes on to tell of wounding a goose who yearns to join her fast disappearing flock. You can read the entire piece in my book or in his foreword to Captain Paul Watson’s Ocean Warrior, but to make a long, sad story short, he ends with:
“Driving home to Saskatoon that night I felt a sick repugnance for what we had done…I never hunted again.”
Now that’s what I call an ethical hunter.