Is hunting moral?

Last week we ran a Guest Comment called, “Nevada’s killing fields” by Fred Voltz, an activist who lives in Carson City. In it, Voltz wrote about Nevada’s hunting seasons, and how many of us Nevadans, who as residents of this state and stewards of its lands, don’t really “get” the concept of why a tiny minority of people get to kill animals that technically belong to all of us.

That’s a forelock tugger, for sure. Some of us, even within this office, grew up hunting, so the fact that we’re willing to have an intellectual discussion on the topic doesn’t necessarily predict our conclusion or our level of hypocrisy. Still, the fact that our society doesn’t much talk about humans killing wild animals seems to suggest this is an area ripe for a conversation.

Let’s start with the Sage Grouse (a.k.a. Sage Hen). Wasn’t it just a year ago our governor was touting a plan to keep the bird off the endangered species list by preserving some 13 million acres of Sage Grouse habitat? If that bird goes on the endangered species list, it could cripple parts of our state’s economy—agriculture, mining and recreation—and it could abort this new green energy economy people keep talking about. And yet, it’s Sage Grouse hunting season in the great state of Nevada. Can anyone rationally tell us why this isn’t irresponsible? What is the pro-hunt-to-extinction argument when so much of this state’s future is at risk?

There are few who believe leg traps are humane. At most, the thinking appears to be that they’re effective, a necessary evil. Right now, the law states that a trapper only has to visit the traps every 96 hours. Four days to have a crushing steel trap on an animal’s leg, possibly grinding into broken bones, while it is helpless in the blazing sun or freezing cold, with no food or water, while predators are able to harass and kill the unfortunate creature. Four days is the longest period of time allowed in any state in the country, and the Legislature may choose to decrease that time. We’re not really sure what the opposing argument to this is. Maybe trappers are less inconvenienced if they check the traps less often, or maybe the trapped animals are less dangerous if they’re allowed to soften up before they’re killed?

It’s possible that there are some creatures, like beavers for example, that could potentially cause problems with the human-centric infrastructure that can’t be controlled by methods other than trapping. We can’t say for sure. We would certainly not suggest poison over traps. Do bullet holes make the pelts useless?

So we reach the root of the question. Aside from tradition, aside from target practice for people who might go into the military, aside from being extremely expensive food, is it moral for humans to hunt and kill animals when there are other methods of food procurement available? Again, here at this office, there are no vegetarians, nobody who doesn’t eat the delicious meat provided by animals often kept in horrible conditions.

Why do we have to kill wild things?