Indiana University Press
Alastair S. Gunn - Environmental Ethics and Trophy Hunting - Ethics & the Enviornment 6:1 Ethics & the Enviornment 6.1 (2001) 68-95

Environmental Ethics and Trophy Hunting

Alastair S. Gunn

1. Introduction

The publication in 1980 of J. Baird Callicott's "Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair" introduced the conflict for environmental management and policy between animal liberation and environmental ethics. 1 Hunting provides a prime example of this still unresolved controversy.

I have found no published source that condemns hunting per se. There is a spectrum in the environmental literature. At one end is the view that hunting is justified only for self protection and for food, where no other reasonable alternative is available. Most writers also agree that hunting is sometimes justified in order to protect endangered species and threatened ecosystems where destructive species have been introduced or natural predators have been exterminated. Others accept hunting as part of cultural tradition or for the psychological well being of the hunter, sometimes extended to include recreational hunting when practiced according to "sporting" rules. Nowhere in the literature, so far as I am aware, is hunting for fun, for the enjoyment of killing, or for the acquisition of trophies defended. However, as I argue towards the end of this paper, trophy hunting is essential in parts of Africa for the survival of both people and wildlife. [End Page 68]

Throughout this paper, I assume that animals have interests, and that we have an obligation to take some account of those interests: roughly, that we are entitled to kill animals only in order to promote or protect some nontrivial human interest 2 and where no reasonable alternative strategy is available. This position is roughly that presented by Donald VanDeVeer (1979). Versions of it are widely defended in the literature, though there are different views about which human interests are sufficiently significant to justify killing. I restrict my discussion to cases where the interest in question cannot reasonably be achieved without killing animals. For instance, killing in self defense is justified only if no effective nonlethal means is available; killing to secure trophies would be justified (if at all) only if trophies are an important nonsubstitutable good, or if some other important substitute good cannot reasonably be achieved by any other means.

2. Wildlife Management: the Conventional Western View

Hunting has attracted controversy and opposition--often very vehement opposition--in most countries of the North. In the United Kingdom, confrontations between fox hunters and animal rights groups have often resulted in violent scenes between hunters and "hunt saboteurs." Organizations that oppose the hunting of marine mammals, notably Greenpeace, have attempted to physically prevent hunting, sometimes resulting in damage to hunting equipment and ships and injuries to protesters, destruction or confiscation of their vessels, and arrests. Many members of the public support these tactics, and many more support the goal of putting an end to all killing of marine mammals, particularly commercial hunting. For instance, a 1978 poll found that 93% of New Zealanders opposed all whale hunting, a remarkable consensus in a pluralistic society. 3 According to a 1995 Gallup poll, 80% of Britons disapprove of fox hunting. 4

Anti-hunting organizations present a number of arguments against both hunting in general and specifically the hunting of marine mammals, elephants, large carnivores, great apes, rhinos, and other large ungulates. In this paper, I concentrate particularly on elephants.

Some common arguments against hunting include the following, each of which is discussed in more detail later.

  • Hunting wrongfully deprives animals of something that is valuable to them--their lives (Regan 1983, Taylor 1996). Killing, and not [End Page 69] merely successful stalking, is recognized by both supporters and opponents as a central feature of hunting. As Roger King (1991) notes, for proponents of hunting such as José Ortega y Gasset (1972) and Paul Shepherd (1973), the central meaning of hunting is killing, and killing is essential to "Participation in the life cycle of nature" (King 1991, 80). Ann Causey says, "The one element that stands out as truly essential to the authentic hunting experience is the kill" (Causey 1989, 332). Some ecofeminists believe that hunting is a prime example of patriarchal oppression of nature: in Mary Daly's terms, of a "necrophiliac" culture (Daly 1978).

  • Hunting causes suffering, especially for marine mammals. There is no "humane" method of killing any but the smallest marine mammals, and a harpooned whale typically suffers an agonizing and miserable death, sometimes prolonged over several hours. A high proportion of land mammals and ducks are injured rather than being killed instantly; these "cripples" may suffer for days before either recovering or dying.

  • Great apes, elephants, whales, and dolphins are special animals. They are highly intelligent; many species have developed elaborate social systems; they exhibit altruistic behavior towards each other and apparently suffer grief at the death of group members; members of some species including the great apes, orca, and some dolphins are sociable towards humans and are even recorded as having saved human lives; some (humpbacked whales) compose and perform music. 5

  • Hunting is unworthy of civilized beings: "The hunter . . . as a "redneck," bloodthirsty villain storming the woods each fall with a massive arsenal . . . hunting [as] a disgusting sport that recalls and rehearses the worst in human behavior" (Vitali 1990 69).

  • Hunting is a threat to biodiversity. It threatens the existence of target species, many of which are already rare, threatened, or endangered. Sport hunting also degrades the gene pool of ungulate species because the most valued targets, dominant males, are the individuals "most fit to pass on the best genes" (Loftin 1984, 69).

  • Hunting is not necessary for the fulfilment of important human interests; these interests can be satisfied by other means that do not require killing. Hunting is not economically necessary nor even particularly useful. There are substitutes for all marine and most land [End Page 70] mammal products and because whaling, in particular, is probably not a sustainable industry, it cannot make a long-term contribution to the economy (Clark 1973).

3. Animal Deaths

Killing, as I noted earlier, is essential to hunting; proposals that hunters, having successfully stalked their quarry, photograph it or shoot it only with a harmless paint gun, are proposals not to change hunting methods but to replace hunting with another activity. Trophy hunting, obviously, requires a dead animal, though not necessarily acquired by skilled, or any stalking.

That hunting deprives animals of their lives is an argument against the activity, though not necessarily a conclusive one: as Richard de George (writing on business ethics) notes, "not every prima facie immoral practice must be avoided, since some such practices may be the least bad of the available alternatives" (De George 1978, 9).

Later, I discuss a number of considerations that have been put forward to justify killing. Meanwhile, the question for sport hunting advocates to address, if it is admitted that the life of an animal is valuable to it and that animals have an interest in continued life, is whether this interest may justly be overridden. The most obviously persuasive argument is that sustainable hunting kills only animals that would die anyway--or more precisely, since we don't know which animals will die from "natural causes," a proportion of the population will die each year, usually much more slowly and painfully through predation, starvation, or disease. This is particularly the case in much of Africa where the available habitat for animals such as elephants and lions is limited by the human population, so that "surplus" animal populations will have to be culled anyway. For instance, Zimbabwe is home to 60- to 70, 000 elephants--about 10% of the species' total population. This is roughly double the number for which there is suitable habitat. In South Africa, where elephants are now found only in a few national parks and reserves, regular culling was until recently regarded as essential to prevent these populations from destroying their range. 6

4. Animal Suffering

It is inevitable that some animals that are hunted will suffer. In the case of whaling, because of the size of the species that are hunted and the inherent difficulties of controlling them, it is probably impossible to kill [End Page 71] without pain. Even skilled hunters of land animals, who make a high proportion of clean kills, inevitably sometimes only wound an animal, while the skills of many recreational hunters are variable. Supporters of sport hunting acknowledge that it causes avoidable suffering: Loftin regards it as "the most serious argument that can be advanced against sport hunting" (Loftin 1984, 246).

Where the target is animals whose numbers are widely agreed to be in need of control, supporters of hunting claim that it causes less suffering than alternative methods. Causey believes that "The genuine sport hunter, due to his earnest regard for his prey, is usually highly sensitive to the ani-mal's pain and suffering, and makes every effort to minimize both. Proper weaponry and hunter training can minimize both" (Causey 1989, 335). 7 Of course, but what proportion of sport hunters are in this sense "genuine"? No one knows, I imagine. Defenders of foxhunting claim that the fox usually dies quickly and painlessly, but opponents claim that "the quick, clean kill death of the fox . . . spread by the hunting fraternity (sic) is, in the majority of cases, a lie. . . . It is likely that it will suffer multiple agonising injuries before the final 'nip' is given" (Hunt Saboteurs Association n.d.).

Ironically, the widely despised "big game" trophy hunter is the most likely to achieve a quick and painless kill. In wildlife operations that cater to trophy hunters, the task is made as easy, convenient, and safe as possible. According to one South African professional hunter, "It's like shooting a cow. White rhinos can't see you coming. . . . They can't smell you either. One shot through the ear and it's over" (McGregor 1996).

There is certainly some inconsistency in our attitudes towards the suffering and death of wild animals. As the British Report of the Independent Committee of Inquiry into Cruelty to Wild Animals noted in 1949,

Sentimental concern about animals is directed mainly towards particular animals such as foxes, deer and rabbits, which are beautiful or attractive creatures and are viewed as such by those who are not concerned with the damage which they may cause. Few people seem to be in the least concerned about what happens to rats, which are generally regarded as vermin and arouse considerable feelings of revulsion. Yet the rat is an intelligent and highly sensitive creature. (British Field Sports Society n.d.)

Domestic animal raising, handling, transport, and slaughter also cause suffering to very many animals, even where protection legislation exists: accidents will happen, and the effectiveness of legislation depends on farmer [End Page 72] goodwill since enforcement on the farm is practically impossible. As Causey says,

In terms of overall humaneness, a life free of confinement and a quick death at the hands of a skilled sport hunter beat anything the livestock industry can offer and certainly beat most of the death scenes Mother Nature directs. (Causey 1989, 335)

If we oppose the causing of suffering (and death) to animals by hunting, we should certainly also oppose animal farming, at least in its current version in developed countries.

5. Special Status of Major Target Species

The mammals which western environmentalists especially wish to protect from hunting, and trophy hunters especially wish to bag, are often referred to as "charismatic megafauna." Large land and marine mammals certainly have an appeal to many people, because of their sheer size and presence and in some cases because of special qualities they are said to have. For a visitor unfamiliar with these animals--whether he or she is watching whales at Kaikoura, New Zealand or Cape Town, South Africa, or viewing lions, rhinos, buffalo, giraffe, or hippos in Kruger or Hwange National Parks--there is something special about this experience. Probably, this derives from the monumental quality of these animals that so dwarf us and make us appreciate our place in nature. In Southern Africa, there is also the novelty of seeing at close quarters animals that we were previously familiar with only from the Discovery Channel or the pages of National Geographic. However, these experiences are possible only because the animals and their environment are protected, and as I argue later, strict protection is likely to be less successful than conservation that includes limited sustainable use--including, sometimes, trophy hunting.

Claims of intelligence, social structure, altruism, and artistic ability that are comparable to humans, must, however, be met with some scepticism. Decades of research on humans have failed to obtain widespread agreement on the nature of human intelligence, or even on whether there is such a thing as "general intelligence," let alone on how to test it. Since whales, for instance, cannot talk, write, or use tools, it is even harder to decide what counts as intelligence in these mammals. It is also unlikely that all members of a species are equally intelligent, and even more unlikely that all cetacean species are equally intelligent (Scarff 1980). They [End Page 73] are also not unique in possessing the qualities that we so admire. Certainly, many charismatic megafauna appear to have quite complex social structures (though many are solitary, including tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and rhinos) but so do noncharismatic rabbits, bees, and ants. Dolphins and orcas are recorded as exhibiting a fondness for human company, but rats also make delightful and affectionate companions. Cheetahs and tigers are beautiful and elegant by our standards, but so are sunbirds, bee-eaters, and hummingbirds, while rhinos, to most people, are ugly and lumbering. Humpback whale songs are also beautiful, but are not obviously superior to the songs of North American woodthrushes, European blackbirds, or Australian magpies.

Perhaps a case could be made (though not consistently with animal liberation) for giving special protection to species that are particularly intelligent or social or altruistic or which meet a particular standard of aesthetics, but it would need to be a consistent one. Since many species of "lower" mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates meet one or more of these criteria, it follows that we should oppose killing them too.

6. Hunting as Uncivilized

Defenders of hunting invariably contrast what they regard as "true" sport hunting with hunting for some other purpose, and especially with hunting just for the sake of killing something, "slob hunting." Vitali regards the hunter as exercising distinctive human skills, intelligence and virtues such as "emotional discipline and patience" (Vitali 1990, 77), in contrast with someone who simply wants to acquire a trophy. Causey describes the "sport hunter" as someone who values and enjoys the hunting process: "the drive in sport hunting is to be a link in the chain of nature, connected as predator to prey"; the hunter "regards his prey with admiration, reverence and respect." The "shooter," in contrast, kills in order to achieve some benefit, including trophies. Most "shooters," she thinks, "would, if possible, dispense with the hunt altogether and go directly to the kill, thus they tend to adopt any and all affordable shortcuts to the shooting gallery" (Causey 1989, 332-33).

"Shooters" who kill for an extrinsic goal are not necessarily blameworthy. They may, for instance, kill pests or overabundant animals in order to protect ecosystems or endangered species, or to feed their families, and this may be morally justifiable or even a duty. From the idealized hunting perspective, shooters do not exhibit the virtues promoted by Ortega y [End Page 74] Gasset (1972), Shepherd (1973), and Vitali (1990), but this does not make them vicious. Trophy hunters, however, who kill purely for the sake of acquiring prestigious evidence that they have killed an animal, surely act immorally, because they achieve a trivial benefit for themselves at the expense of the life of an animal. Unlike professional cullers, they may also be considered to exhibit serious character defects. They want to control, to have power, to reduce animals to easy targets, to kill, and to brag about it.

Trophy hunting is thus widely condemned in the environmental ethics literature, though Varner (1994) reluctantly accepts that it is acceptable behavior if the hunter also intends to pursue a "therapeutic goal." Trophy hunters, unlike sport hunters, cannot claim that they are pitting their wits against a cunning adversary, let alone running a personal risk. Loftin (1988) calls trophy hunting "plastic hunting." Causey refers with obvious contempt to "a big-game trophy hunter who openly runs down his panicked prey with a Land Rover, shoots it with a semi automatic weapon, then removes the head to decorate his office wall while letting the carcass rot," and she cites Leopold (1949), Caras 1970, Loftin (1988), and Ortega y Gasset (1972), who "all include in their works vehemently contemptuous blasts on game ranches and the hunters who make use of these 'wood-ed shooting galleries' and 'fish-in-the-barrel' operations" (Causey 1989, 340-341). 8 Angus Taylor also condemns trophy hunting as showing lack of respect, by means of an analogy: "There are circumstances in which the killing of a human being may be justified, but to mount this person's head on a wall is usually [!] not acceptable" (Taylor 1996, 263).

7. Biodiversity and Ecosystems

So far, I have discussed hunting solely in terms of the interests of individual animals. Once we move to a concern for species or biodiversity, we are no longer weighing individual interests. The interest that a blue whale has in survival is no greater than that of a member of a common species, but from a conservation perspective it is far worse to kill a blue whale than a minke or pilot whale. Of course, we do not need to kill either, but what if we were forced to choose--for instance, if Japan, Norway, or Russia threatened to hunt whales indiscriminately unless a limited hunt of sustainable species were approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC)? In this situation, the IWC nations might feel justified in giving in to this blackmail, in order to save the blue whale. 9

The few countries that have been engaged in hunting marine mammals [End Page 75] over the past two decades--Japan, Norway, Canada, the former U.S.S.R., and the Faroes--have been under great international pressure, which has had considerable success. Most of the countries that have substantial populations of large animals that are in demand for hunting are located in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and tropical America. Hunting of large mammals in developed countries is largely restricted to abundant species such as white-tailed deer in North America and kangaroo in Australia, and strictly regulated to ensure sustainability.

Some species of marine mammals are indeed threatened or endangered, for instance, blue, right, humpbacked, sei, and bowhead whales. Their precarious status is entirely due to over-hunting in the past, and this is a cause for considerable regret, but they are no longer hunted commercially. The main target species of commercial whalers today is the minke whale and, in the Faroes, the pilot whale, and neither of these species is threatened. Some land mammal hunting targets are under threat and some are not. Cheetahs were an endangered species quite recently (Myers 1976), but thanks largely to the success of a breeding program in South Africa, the species is no longer considered threatened. According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Asian wild elephants are seriously threatened (Kemf and Jackson 1995), but parts of Africa hold large populations of elephants which can be hunted, subject to controls, without threat to either the local population or the species. Rhinos, tigers, and some antelope are threatened or endangered but many other "trophy" species--kudu, impala, blue wildebeeste, eland, leopard, lion, giraffe, buffalo, Burchell's zebra, and others--are common to abundant in many areas (Allen 1970). Indeed, as I have already noted, they are sometimes overabundant in both protected and unprotected areas: there simply are not enough range and resources for them and, one way or another, their populations need to be controlled to protect their environment. Many game parks where hunting is permitted maintain populations of trophy animals because this is the business that they are in, and those animals are usually drawn from surplus national park populations or are purpose bred like Christmas trees.

It is certainly true that many hunters seek to kill trophy animals which are precisely the animals that the species can least afford to lose: the "genetically prime animals," as Vitali (1990) puts it. However, he believes that most hunters are "opportunistic . . . They take what they can get, and oftentimes this amounts to the young, the weak, and the disabled," as do stalking animal predators. He also points out that opportunistic predators [End Page 76] such as lions kill a large number of prime animals "precisely because of the opportunities the animals themselves provide"--for instance, prime male wildebeest are usually alone and, "during the rut . . . tend to be incautious and thus vulnerable to attack" (Vitali 1990, 70). 10 In any case, controlled trophy hunting that is part of an ecologically sound wildlife management program will not unduly affect the gene pool. This is in contrast to the uncontrolled hunting of the past, which in the case of elephants has led to an alarming increases in tusklessness in many parts of Africa.

A survey in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda in the 1930s showed that only 1 percent of adult elephants were without tusks, due to a rare mutation. However, in 1998, Eve Abe, of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, found that 30 percent of adult elephants in the same area were without tusks (Blair 1998).

Although tuskless elephants are not a target for poachers, they are handicapped in dry areas by not being able to dip for water, and tuskless males are less successful in the fights that occur over females.

Hunting in general is not a major threat to biodiversity. In the past, a number of species have become extinct due to hunting pressure--palaeolithic hunters contributed to the extermination of many species of megafauna (Uetz and Johnson 1974; Martin and Klein 1984), while in recent centuries species such as the great auk appear to have died out entirely due to hunting (Halliday 1980). 11 But the millions of species around the world that are currently at risk are threatened not by hunting but by habitat destruction and pollution, loss of food sources, and human disturbance. Opposition to hunting, on its own, will do little to protect biodiversity. The comparatively few species that are commercially hunted--mostly large mammals--can be sustainably managed. Nor is hunting necessarily a threat to ecosystems. In most of Europe and the United States, for instance, humans have exterminated large predators, but are able to control the populations of ungulates by culling and sustainable hunting. We should not allow opposition to hunting to deflect us from the much greater threat to biodiversity posed by habitat loss and degradation.

We value ecosystems for various reasons. Angus Taylor believes that "having a flourishing natural environment" is necessary for our "physical and psychological well-being" (Taylor 1996, 250), while many writers have stressed the need for the protection of large scale wilderness areas for the survival of future generations, for recreation, for aesthetic, spiritual, and [End Page 77] cultural reasons, or for their intrinsic value (see, for example, Godfrey-Smith 1979; Norton 1984). 12 Protecting existing wilderness may not require any killing, but the restoration of degraded environments is very different. Conservation agencies in New Zealand have killed literally millions of introduced pests, including rodents, goats, deer, possums, and predators in order to restore damaged environments on both the mainland and off-shore islands. A current controversy involves a population of feral horses in the Central North Island which is causing severe damage to tussock vegetation and threatening several localized plant species. Management options include extermination of the horses (possibly with relocation of a remnant herd on nonconservation land), favored by government and private conservation agencies, contraception to maintain the herd at a level which allegedly will not damage the tussock, favored by animal protection groups, and culling plus contraception, favored by others.

Some supporters of hunting, including Loftin (1984) share the animal liberationist assumption that it is prima facie wrong to kill animals, but take the view that hunting is justifiable because it provides ecological bene-fits such as protecting fragile habitat from destruction by deer that have over-populated due to the removal of predators by humans. 13 Neither author attempts to justify hunting for the thrill of the chase, the enjoyment of killing, the acquisition of a "brag" trophy, or just for fun.

Gary Varner (1994) has argued that what he calls therapeutic hunting ("hunting motivated by and designed to secure the aggregate welfare of the target species and/or the integrity of its ecosystem") is justified in the case of an obligatory management species ("one that has a fairly regular tendency to overshoot the carrying capacity of its range, to the detriment of future generations of it and other species"). Therapeutic hunting is not merely consistent with animal liberation: it is morally required under certain circumstances, where fewer animals would die "than if natural attrition is allowed to take place" (Varner 1994, 257-58). Animal liberationists, obviously, prefer non-lethal methods of control, but "Wildlife requires management, and hunting is at this time the most efficient means to do it" (Vitali 1990, 70).

Opponents of hunting (and trapping) as methods of pest control often advocate contraception. However, at the time of writing, no such methods exist except for a few species on a small scale. 14 Even if effective methods did exist, the costs would be phenomenal and for years to come the [End Page 78] contracepted animals would continue to destroy vegetation and to compete with and prey on other animals.

As I mentioned earlier (n6), there is great controversy about the need for culling in African national parks, especially in the case of elephants. This is largely due to the huge population swings that this species has undergone in the last 150 years. Published estimates of elephant populations in the 19th century vary enormously, no doubt because no reliable methods of counting them existed at the time: the highest estimate that I have seen is from the British organization Care for the Wild (n.d.) which claims that there were 10 million elephants in Africa at the turn of the century. In the 17th century elephants were found right up to the base of Table Mountain, Cape Town, and according to one estimate there were 200,000 in the country in the mid-19th century, but only 120 (an accurate count, presumably) survived by 1920. There is now a stable population of 11,000, mostly (7,500) in Kruger National Park (Van Niekerk 1995). Who knows what the "right" population is?

In many areas that were colonized by Europeans, native animals have suffered from predation, competition, and habitat destruction by feral introduced animals. The Australian brown snake has killed most of the native wildlife in Guam. Burros compete with bighorn sheep in the U. S. Rocky Mountains. Feral cats, dogs, and foxes kill marsupials, birds, and reptiles in Australia. Cats, dogs, ferrets, and stoats kill birds and lizards in New Zealand, where the introduced Australian brush tailed possum is also destroying native forests and therefore the livelihood of several bird and many invertebrate species. Introduced mallard ducks threaten to genetically swamp closely related species with which they interbreed in South Africa, Mexico, Hawaii, New Zealand, and other countries. In these and many other cases the conflict between animal liberation and environmental protection is quite inescapable. Foxes and lyrebirds, feral dogs and kiwis, mallards and their close relatives absolutely cannot coexist, so whatever we do, we will be responsible for some animals living and others dying. The "do-nothing" option is effectively a choice to allow the introduced animals to kill, directly or indirectly, the native animals, as well as upsetting ecological equilibrium.

Shooting, trapping, and poisoning introduced pest species causes suffering but so does the death of native animals at the hands of introduced species, including the starvation of young animals that have lost their parents. [End Page 79] As Varner (1998, pers. comm.) puts it, "If dogs and stoats and possums kill organisms with similar affective and cognitive capacities to themselves, then they deprive their prey of whatever the predators have themselves." In the longer term, if we could wipe out a whole introduced pest species, less total suffering would occur.

I conclude that it is legitimate to kill introduced animals that threaten the livelihood of native species, and that sport hunting, where it is an effective means of control (at no cost to society) is legitimate. More controversially, perhaps, I also believe that trophy hunting is also legitimate in these circumstances, even though I also share sports hunters' low opinion of trophy hunting.

8. Hunting and Human Needs

Writers who identify or sympathize with animal liberation (Varner 1994 and 1998 is an exception) usually accept killing only in situations where human survival is at stake. In this view, hunting is regrettable because it causes major harm to animals, or violates their rights, or fails to respect them for their intrinsic or inherent value or intrinsic worth, or de-prives them of something (life) that is valuable to them (e.g., Regan 1983; Singer 1975; Taylor 1986). But, as Paul Taylor notes, to insist that even subsistence hunting is wrong is to expect people to sacrifice "their lives for the sake of animals, and no requirement to do that is imposed by respect for nature" (Taylor 1986, 294).

Self-defense is established as a full justification for killing a human at-tacker, typically by appeal to rights. If even a mass murderer such as Ted Bundy is entitled to protect himself by any necessary means against even an axe-wielding Mother Teresa, it would require a perverse form of speciesism in reverse to condemn the killing of a charging lion or rabid dog. 15 Wild elephants killed 358 people in Kenya between 1990 and 1995 and 53 people in one area of Sri Lanka in 1995; the killing of 43 elephants by the local people in the same year is regrettable, and regretted by the villagers themselves, but hardly blameworthy (Sugg 1996). I take it that this case is uncontroversial.

The self-defense justification is very narrowly conceived where the attacker is human. In contrast, almost everyone would accept the killing of a less direct threat from an animal such as a plague-infected rat or a swarm of locusts, but not an equally infectious human plague sufferer or a crop devastating polluter, which suggests that we don't consider animals' interests [End Page 80] to be equal to the like interests of humans. Following Donald VanDeVeer (1979), we might accept that hunting animals (but not humans) to protect one's livelihood is also justified. Laura Westra (1989), who advocates an ethic of respect for animals, accepts that we may kill animals if it is necessary for our survival--it is by restricting our utilization to the meeting of needs that we show respect for both animals and ecosystems. Traditional subsistence hunters are commonly said to show respect for their prey, for instance by refraining from killing totem animals even when food is scarce, explaining to animals why the hunter needs to kill them, asking for their forgiveness, and even mourning their deaths, and are praised for their complete usage of every part of the animal (e.g., Mails 1972). 16

The animal liberation literature invariably understates the extent to which humans depend for survival on exploiting animals. According to Angus Taylor,

Killing animals for food is very seldom necessary for our survival . . . for most people in the world today there can be no such thing as respectful meat-eating . . . most of us have no real need to eat even free-ranging chicken or fish. (Taylor 1996, 255; emphasis in original)

"Us," I suppose, must refer to people like Taylor himself who are fortunate enough to have a choice about what to eat (or even whether to eat) including Americans who spend $5 billion a year on diet foods to lower their calorie intake, while their government refuses to pay its United Nations dues. "Most people in the world today" presumably does not include the 1.2 billion who live in absolute poverty (are unable to meet their basic biological needs including food), the 400 million who are so severely malnourished that "their minds and bodies are deteriorating," the large percentage of 2-5 year olds in Africa who have stunted growth--in 28 of the 29 figures for which figures are available the rate is over 20%, and in nine countries it is between 42 and 61% (all figures from Brown 1990)--and the unknown millions who die annually of starvation. One reason for malnutrition and starvation is that a large proportion of grain produced is eaten or contaminated by rodents and insects. Perhaps people in affluent countries can afford these losses, just as farmers in affluent Norway or Montana can afford to lose the odd sheep to wolves, coyotes, or bears, and in any case, if society values predators, it can afford to compensate farmers for their economic loss. But "most people in the world today," unlike western environmentalists, are poor and the loss of even a small [End Page 81] proportion of their crops or flocks may mean disaster. Therefore, unlike "us," they need to kill their animal competitors.

In the same article (actually, on the same page) Taylor takes a much broader view:

[W]e may significantly interfere with sentient beings only in self-defense, or where satisfaction of our vital needs requires such interference. (Taylor 1996, 250)

"Vital needs" includes "Those factors essential not just for survival but for physical and psychological well-being" which in turn includes "having a flourishing natural environment" (Taylor 1996, 250). Since loss of cultural traditions is widely viewed as a partial cause of the many ills afflicting indigenous peoples, the protection and revival of those traditions is necessary for their "physical and psychological well-being." This would seem to permit hunting in cultures where it was traditionally practiced, including perhaps whale hunting by Faroes Islanders and Japanese. 17 In some nations, indigenous peoples are allowed dispensation from animal or species protection legislation: for instance in New Zealand local Maaori people are permitted a limited harvest of certain bird species that are otherwise absolutely protected. But surely animal liberation is necessarily in conflict with the claims of indigenous peoples to continue traditional hunting and gathering of animals, regardless of whether they are central to their culture. Sometimes, in the case of rare species, conservationists and animal liberationists are equally opposed to such "cultural harvest," though of course for different reasons. 18

9. Conservation: Rich and Poor Nations

The remainder of this paper is concerned with broadly economic issues: I argue that economic considerations (at the extreme, the survival of thousands of people) justify commercial trophy hunting.

First, however, I wish to draw attention to the global economic context in which wildlife management must be discussed. Calls from the North to preserve rainforests, set up national parks, and save endangered species might be more effective if local communities within nations of the South were agreed to have property rights over their fauna and flora (Gunn 1994). Typically, however, genetic resources are appropriated by multinational companies and countries that can afford to research their potential to develop food and industrial and pharmaceutical products. Thus there is little [End Page 82] incentive for poor countries to forego the advantages of immediate exploitation (Tietenberg 1990). The noted wildlife expert Norman Myers argues,

To the extent that developing countries are currently trying to safeguard their species through parks and related measures, their efforts amount to a resource handout to developed countries. (Myers 1981, 151)

Conventional preservation measures will not help poor countries to deal with pressing problems such as malnutrition, poverty, disease, and overcrowding. Indeed, protecting large areas from human encroachment often exacerbates social and economic problems. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa:

Africa has paid a heavy price for overlooking the social realities determining the interaction between its people and wildlife. In the process we have turned our own people into dispossessed onlookers to wild resources and eventually trespassers and poachers. In response to this realization we are now beginning to see conservation evolving from a biological focus to a more comprehensive discipline incorporating a long-neglected socio-economic dimension . . . Few will argue that there is a simple solution. Those who do usually live far away from the realities facing both African people and development . . . [W]e must begin to address the link between people and wildlife. Both represent parts of one environment-there is no longer room for separating one from the other. (Makombe 1993, 1)

The social and economic costs of preservation are often allocated quite unfairly. For instance, India's "Project Tiger" has possibly--just possibly--saved the species, but according to one report (Chippindale 1984), on average about one person per week is killed by tigers in India. The Amboseli National Park, in Southern Kenya, illustrates the injustice (and also the ineffectiveness) of viewing national parks as "biological islands" which must be preserved from all human use except scientific study and limited tourism. The nomadic Maasai who had traditionally used this region were excluded from it for the benefit of others:

The reasons for conserving wildlife were thought by the colonial governments of the day [late 1930s] to be justifiable-the preservation of "our" natural heritage, aesthetic appeal, scientific and educational values, the preservation of a diverse array of earth's creatures, and the economic potential of the parks--but the effect was to deprive nomads of the lands they had been guaranteed under earlier agreements. [End Page 83] Instead, the land was devoted to wildlife under alien control. . . . [T]hose who bore the costs of supporting Amboseli's wildlife--the traditional Maasai occupants--were not included in its profits. (Western 1984; 94, 96)

Over the next few decades, wildlife numbers in the "protected" park actually declined, mainly due to illegal hunting. However, a change in land use philosophy in Amboseli NP in the mid 1970s improved both the numbers of wildlife and the economic position of the Maasai. Revenue sharing was introduced, the central government absorbed developmental and recurrent costs of the park, local Maasai were granted title to land outside the Park, to be owned cooperatively as group ranches, and cash compensation was paid for loss of grazing, to cover livestock losses from wildlife migrating outside the Park borders. The Maasai became less dependent on cattle because of these measures and, more importantly, because of the revenue they received from tourist campsites and employment in the park, with which they were able to build community facilities. Reduction in livestock numbers means less competition with wildlife, and because the Maasai were now part of the enterprise, illegal hunting greatly declined. As a result, within ten years wildlife numbers had greatly increased (Western 1984).

10. the Economics of Hunting

Commercial and sport hunting are economically significant activities in many developed countries. For instance, according to the BFSS (n.d.) 33,000 jobs in the United Kingdom depend on hunting. Sealing and whaling used to provide jobs for Norwegian and Canadian mariners and hunters, who suffered economic loss when these activities were banned. In New Zealand, recreational hunting and trout and big game fishing generate several thousand full and part-time jobs, and possum hunting and trapping used to be economically significant in some areas before the successful campaign against fur in Europe and North America. 19 However, the economies of rich countries do not depend significantly on hunting and if it was banned, recreational hunters would simply switch their discretionary spending, thus creating jobs in other sectors of the economy.

The situation is quite different in poorer countries, where wildlife has always been used as a resource and "Use or non-use is not the issue; sustainable use is"(Makombe 1993, 17). The colonial powers, after reducing many species to rarity or extinction, generally adopted policies of strict preservation of wildlife. This was done without regard to the needs of [End Page 84] local people who were regarded as poachers even when they engaged in traditional subsistence hunting:

Hunters, trappers and wood-cutters are often regarded as the villains of conservation, referred to as "poachers." Less attention is given to the fact that they have few, if any, alternative options to using the available wild resources. The forced abandonment of homes and fields because crops are destroyed by wildlife adds further strain to the relationship between people and wildlife. (Makombe 1993, 18).

Poor countries gain considerable revenue from trophy hunting. The impoverished Mongolian government charges $10,000 for a permit to shoot a snow leopard and a 16-day hunt with one snow leopard costs $25,000 per person; any wolves shot along the way are thrown in for $600. Bulgarian dealers sell falcons in the West for $10,000. Orangutan were sold in Taiwan in the 1980s at $30,000 each, though the local traders in Indonesia received less than $200 each for them--still a very considerable sum by local standards (information from Ghazi 1994, Anon. 1993 and 1994). None of these cases is part of a sustainable management program, but other countries which manage their wildlife effectively have achieved substantial revenues from trophy hunting while maintaining or increasing their wildlife populations.

11. Zimbabwe: a Case Study

Wild resources are vital to the survival of millions of Africans. One study estimated that wild resources contributed over $120 million to the Tanzanian economy in 1988 (Kiss 1990); hunting licenses alone yielded $4.5 million in 1990. Sports hunters who wish to hunt lion in Tanzania are required to stay for 21 days and on average spend $35,000. Before Kenya imposed a ban on hunting, the total revenue from sport hunting contributed about 6.5% to the total foreign exchange from tourism (Makombe 1993, 28). At Phinda Izilwane Park in Kwa-Zulu, South Africa, hunters pay $30,000 to shoot a white rhino. Permits are issued only for old males that are past breeding age; most are in poor condition with a very limited life expectancy (McGregor 1996). In some countries, a large proportion of household income is derived from wildlife based enterprises--in Malawi, for instance, rural communities derive 2.5 times more cash from wildlife than the market value of their subsistence agricultural products (Makombe 1993, 22). In Zimbabwe, local people are allowed to hunt sustainably both for their own families and to take to market, and a limited [End Page 85] number of trophy hunting permits are sold. Zimbabwe--12.7% of whose area is devoted to national parks and reserves--also has some of the toughest anti-poaching (in the sense of illegal hunting) units in Africa and spends 0.60% of its budget on wildlife (whereas the United States spends only 0.15%). This is a substantial commitment in a country which cannot afford to provide adequate health care and education for much of its population and in which 50% of the population is unemployed. In this situation,

Conservation cannot be viewed in isolation from other larger economic and social factors . . . the economic constraints facing many rural and urban areas in Africa leave people with few options for improving their livelihoods on a sustainable basis. (Makombe 1993, 7)

Rich countries such as the United States, Australia, and New Zealand which oppose hunting of large animals (including whales), and especially trophy hunting, have a very bad reputation in Zimbabwean conservation circles such as Africa Resources Trust (ART) and Zimbabwe Trust (ZIMTRUST). 20 These private organizations strongly support the government CAMPFIRE Association (an acronym for Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) which was set up by the Zimbabwean Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management in 1986, with the support of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Office of USAID, Harare, and the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) at the University of Zimbabwe. The objectives of CAMPFIRE, "based on the rationale that communities will invest in environmental conservation if they can use their resources on a sustainable basis," are:

  • to initiate a programme for the long-term development, management and sustainable utilisation of the natural resources in the communal areas;

  • to achieve management of resources by placing their custody and responsibility with the resident communities;

  • to allow communities to benefit directly from the exploitation of natural resources within the communal areas; and

  • to establish the administrative and institutional structures necessary to make the programme work. (ZIMTRUST 1993)

The communal areas are the marginal and submarginal lands which were created early in the 20th century when the British colonists "took over the most fertile lands and forced much of the indigenous population [End Page 86] into arid and semi-arid areas" which are unsuitable for agriculture because they have insufficient or unreliable rainfall. However, they make excellent wildlife habitat" (Anon 1996a). The 1975 Parks and Wildlife Act gave ownership of wildlife (including hunting rights) to all property owners, and in 1982 this was extended to the communal areas through their Rural District Councils (Murphree 1991, 8). Over five million people--almost half the population--live in communal areas, which make up 42% of the country. Communities may decide to participate in CAMPFIRE, which around half had done in August 1996.

In 1995, CAMPFIRE generated $2.5 million, a substantial sum given that game wardens are paid as little as $80 per month (CAMPFIRE News 1996). This revenue is gained from hunting safaris, tourism such as photographic safaris, sales of products such as animal products and crocodile eggs (for sale to crocodile farmers), and rafting licenses (ZIMTrust 1993; CAMPFIRE News 1996). Around 90% of the revenue is generated from the sale of big game hunting licenses, and 64% of this is derived from elephant trophy hunting licenses which in March 1996 cost $9,000 (CAMPFIRE News 1996). 21 Over the period 1989-93, 22% of revenue was reinvested in wildlife management and 54% devolved to the participating communities on the communal lands. Communities spent their shares on infrastructure development such as water supply, clinic and school development, farm fencing (to keep out crop-destroying elephants, hippos, buffalo, and kudu) and roading, income generating projects, and cash distributions to families for their own use. In some areas, this income amounts to 50% of a household's annual income and enables families to pay for items such as school fees (CAMPFIRE News 1996). Masoka Ward, a formerly impoverished area, earned $100,000 in 1994 from a safari hunting concession organized through CAMPFIRE. The ward used the money to build a health clinic, pay game guards, and fund a football team, and each of the 140 households also received more than four times their annual income for drought relief, either in cash or maize (CAMPFIRE News 1996). This revenue, of course, would not be available without the sale of hunting licences. It would be even greater were it not for the ban on international trade in elephant products under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Their Products (CITES) since 1990. 22

Zimbabwe's policies are a conservation success. Whereas the total population of African elephants fell by half between 1975 and 1990 (from 160,000 to 16,000 in Kenya), Zimbabwe's elephants have increased steadily [End Page 87] --32,000 in 1960, 52,000 in 1989, and over 70, 000 in 1993 (Ricciutti 1993). The national trophy off-take is restricted to no more than 0.7% per year, which is clearly sustainable. For instance, the elephant population density of the Omay Communal Land, a CAMPFIRE participant, is the same as that in the adjacent Matusadona NP, where hunting is strictly pro-hibited, and the Omay population grew at 3-4% per year from 1982 to 1992, even though, counting "problem" elephants shot by villagers, the average annual off-take was 1.03% (Taylor n.d.).

Because they have a stake in sustaining populations of economically valuable game animals, Zimbabweans have a commitment to conservation. As a result, species such as elephants which are rare or extinct in many other countries are thriving in Zimbabwe, along with populations of other animals which benefit from protection of big game habitat. It is sadly ironic that governments of the same European nations that reduced Zimbabwe's elephants to around 4,000 in 1900 (Thomas n.d.) are now highly critical of Zimbabwe's effective and socially equitable sustainable management policies.

It may be claimed that economic benefits could be obtained without the deaths of big game animals, by encouraging wilderness tourism and big game viewing. Norman Myers, who has played an important role in protecting East African wildlife, has argued that animals such as lions are actually much more valuable, economically, than dead ones. He notes (Myers 1981) that a trophy hunter will pay $8,500 to shoot a lion in Kenya, whereas the same animal will generate $7 3/4 million over its lifetime from people such as myself who wish to view and photograph wildlife, not to kill it. But this is unsound economics, for several reasons. First, each lion is substitutable by another lion. Wildlife tourists want to see lions, not any particular lion. So long as there is a reasonably good chance of seeing lions, people will continue to visit parks. Second, the viability of lions as a species, or of a given population, is not threatened by the carefully controlled issue of permits to trophy hunters. Lions reproduce rapidly and the revenue that would have been generated by Myers's hypothetical lion over its lifetime will continue to be generated by other lions. Third, and most importantly, the number of lions--which the tourists want to view and the trophy hunters want to kill--is limited by the carrying capacity of the environment. The available environment is restricted to National Parks and other protected wildlife areas, such as private game lands. When the human population of Africa (and other areas where lions used to live) was [End Page 88] small, lions and humans coexisted, if not necessarily happily on the part of either. With rising human populations, and different expectations, it is utterly impossible that lions will ever again exist in any numbers outside protected areas. Therefore, lion numbers will have to be regulated, and if this can be done for the economic benefit of impoverished local people by the issuing of game licenses, why not?

12. Conclusion

As Africa's population continues to grow, and habitat shrinks, pressure on wildlife will increase. Africans, like Western environmentalists, are entitled to a materially adequate standard of life. They cannot and should not be expected to protect wildlife if it is against their interests to do so. The only feasible strategy to protect the interests of both wildlife and people is one that integrates conservation and development, as in Zimbabwe. Whatever we may think of trophy hunting--and I share the distaste of ser-ious sports hunters for it--at present it is a necessary part of wildlife conservation in Southern Africa.

Alastair S. Gunn is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, where he teaches and researches in most areas of applied ethics, specializing in environmental and engineering ethics. He is the author of Environmental Ethics for Engineers (with P. Aarne Vesilind, 1986) and Engineering, Ethics, and the Environment (with P. Aarne Vesilind, 1998). He is currently working on two books on hunting, conservation, and ethics. He has taught at several universities in the United States and Australia and moonlights as an ethics consultant under the name Qualia Consultants. E-mail:


1. Cf. "Environmentalists cannot be animal liberationists. Animal liberationists cannot be environmentalists" (Sagoff 1984, 307). Callicott (1987) has since modified his views.

2. Including the protection of species or ecosystems--which, of course, may be seen as intrinsically valuable beyond any human interests that they might serve.

3. Poll conducted by the Heylen organization, who inform me that no poll on any topic in New Zealand has ever achieved such a degree of consensus on a single proposition.

4. According to Roth (n.d.), "British support for the hunt is on the decline." The British Field Sports Society (n.d.), however, states that "hunting is as popular as ever, with 250,000 people regularly taking part in fox hunting," and that "despite amalgamations and losses of hunting country to urbanisation, there are more packs of hounds in Britain than in 1900."

5. According to whale expert James E. Scarff, "before 1970 there was relatively little international concern over the morality of killing cetaceans," because these discoveries had not yet been made (Scarff 1979, 258). Callicott (1997) believes that whales' huge brains cannot possibly be utilized purely for physical functions, and speculates that they may engage in intellectual activities such as philosophical speculation. For a moving account of elephant social behavior, see Chadwick (1991). Unfortunately, the article exhibits little understanding of the problems faced by the rural African poor.

6. There is considerable controversy in Southern Africa over the need for culling. Understandably, groups such as the Fund for Animal Liberation and Conservation of Nature (FALCON) oppose it. The British Group, Care for the Wild (see its website), successfully relocated on to private reserves 500 Zimbabwean elephants that were due for culling, and it also supported a campaign by FALCON to relocate 300 elephants due to be culled in Kruger NP in 1995. A new management plan for Kruger announced in later 1998 described previous population policy as "too rigid" but will continue to allow culling in some areas of the Park (Hammond 1998). The debate on culling is documented in the Weekly Mail and Guardian, conveniently available on the newspaper's website.

7. The same cannot be said for anglers, according to A. Dionys de Leeuw (1996), who argues convincingly that angling purposefully inflicts unnecessary suffering in various ways, including the deliberate use of light tackle to provide better sport, the inherent inefficiency of rod and line fishing, and the "catch and release" practice which is designed to maintain the fishery but results in a proportion of released fish dying prolonged deaths.

8. For an extensive discussion of the distinction, see Ortega y Gasset (1972), from whom Causey (1989) quotes extensively. Organized shooting, where animals are herded into a position where they can be conveniently killed en masse, goes back to ancient times, including the Roman games where thousands of animals were slaughtered in the arena. For examples beginning with the Assyrians and Alexander the Great, see King (1991). British aristocrats have traditionally enjoyed killing large numbers of grouse that are herded together and driven from cover over the shotguns of shooting parties, beginning on the "Glorious Twelfth" (of August: the start of the season); more recently, this privilege has been extended to nonlandowners who pay extravagant sums for shooting rights on privately owned land. Commercial Internet sites for trophy hunting videos approach self parody, for instance one site advertizes one of its products as follows:

"Summary: four elephants are harvested on-camera. Peter Capstick shoots a bull over 12' at the shoulder and with an estimated weight of 14,000 pounds with two tusks averaging 70 pounds each" (Capstick n.d.).

9. According to Scarff (1972, 247), "Such a deal may have occurred at the 1979 [IWC] meeting where Chile and Peru both joined and were granted quotas on sperm and Bryde's whale stocks which had previously been protected." Scarff was himself an observer at that meeting.

10. The problem he mentions does not apply to nontrophy species: according to the British Field Sports Society (n.d.), "Foxhunting is the most natural method of management: by its nature, it takes out the old, sick and injured foxes."

11. The last pair was clubbed to death in 1844. "Its decline, which was gradual at first. began as soon as Stone Age men [sic] began to live neaer the sea and to gather their food there" (Halliday 1980, 69).

12. "Intrinsic values of ecosystems" are given specific legal recognition in the New Zealand Resource Management Act 1991, section 7.

13. Varner (1997, pers.comm.), who expresses some sympathy for animal rights, argues that "animal rights are not inconsistent with environmentally sound hunting." He takes a biocentric, individualist stance (all living things have moral standing. For a detailed exposition, see Varner (1998).

14. A trial involving 35 female elephants in Kruger NP (funded by the Human Society of the United States) was carried out in 1996 (Koch 1996).

15. However, as Varner (1998, pers. comm.) notes, when dealing with humans who pose a threat there are often practicable, nonlethal means available--we could restrain or lock up the plague carrier or the polluter. This is not practicable in the case of plague rats and locusts. Thus, our different treatment of human and nonhuman threats is not necessarily speciesist.

16. However, we should beware what is sometimes referred to as the myth of "primitive man the conservationist"--or any romantic myths about Golden Age pre-European societies such as Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa (Mead 1961).

17. The annual pilot whale hunt in the Faroes has been practiced for hundreds of years. The islanders, who have one of the world's highest per capita incomes, certainly do not need whale meat for food, but the hunt is defended as a communal ceremony. The traditional status of whale meat consumption in Japanese tradition is controversial; see Day (1987).

18. Cultural arguments are usually produced only in support of tribal societies, but in England, fox hunting has been practiced for 500 years, according to the BFSS (n.d.), which sounds long enough to count as a tradition.

19. There are about 80 million of these destructive introduced pests in New Zealand. Fur prices peaked at about $20 per animal in 1980. Control costs are now $8-20 per hectare, whereas in many areas hunters and trappers used to provide this service at no cost.

20. I base this observation on interviews I carried out in 1996 with several safari camp owners and personnel from IUCN and conservation organizations, including Jon Hutton, project manager of ART. Hutton is strongly critical of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as it is applied to elephant and minke whales which, as he points out, are not even threatened, let alone endangered. Like many other conservationists in Africa (and several governments), he supports a limited and strictly controlled international ivory trade. For more information on ART, see its website. For an account of the controversy about ivory sales, see Lindsay 1986. In June 1997 the CITES meeting in Harare voted to allow a limited sale of ivory to Japan from the large stockpiles held by Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia.

21. The fee for a leopard, according to the same source, was $2,750.

22. The ban resulted in the income of some 60,000 CAMPFIRE participants being only half what it would have been in 1992, a year of great hardship caused by a very severe drought (Child 1993; Ricciuti 1993).


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