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Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 4, Winter 1989

Ann S. Causey
Pages 327-343

On the Morality of Hunting

The controversy between hunting apologists and their anti-hunting antagonists continues to escalate. Numerous attempts to settle the issue have failed in part because the participants have often not distinguished and treated separately the various activities labeled “hunting.” Those who participate in hunting fall into one of two categories: shooters or sport hunters. Shooters are those whose ultimate goals do not depend on hunting but can be met in other ways; sport hunters are those who take immense pleasure in the hunt itself and who kill in order to have had an authentic hunting experience. Discussion of the morality of hunting (as opposed to its prudence) is properly restricted to the moral evaluation of the desire of sport hunters to kill for pleasure. This desire can be explained by biological/evolutionary concepts and defended as morally neutral. Neither the animal protectionists nor the utilitarian apologists recognize that violent death is part of nature and that man’s desire to participate in it can be both natural and culturally valuable. Though well-intentioned, utilitarianism is an impotent ethical defense of hunting because it can judge only the prudence, not the morality, of hunting.