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Environmental Ethics

Volume 13, Issue 1, Spring 1991

Roger J. H. King
Pages 59-85

Environmental Ethics and the Case for Hunting

Hunting is a complex phenomenon. l examine it from four different perspectives-animal liberation, the land ethic, primitivism, and ecofeminism-and find no moral justification for sport hunting in any of them. At the same time, however, I argue that there are theoretical flaws in each of these approaches. Animal liberationists focus too much on the individual animal and ignore the difference between domestic and wild animals. Leopold’s land ethic fails to come to terms with the self-domestication of humans. I argue that the holism of the land ethic does not in itself justify hunting as a human act of predation appropriate to the demands of wild biotic communities. Primitivists, such as Paul Shepard and Ortega y Gasset, mistakenly argue that hunting is an essential part of human nature and hence part of a healthy return to a natural way of life. Their argument marginalizes women’s relations to nature. Finally, I take seriously the ecofeminist claim that sport hunting is a symptom ofpatriarchy’s fixation on death and violence, although I criticize the more radical claim that women are closer to nature than men. Hunting should be investigated within the broader context of patriarchal social relations between men and women. As an act of violence it constitutes one element of a cultural matrix which is destructive to hoth women and nature.

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