Killing Animals for Sport
There are still a great many people around the world who enjoy killing animals for sport and for the collection of trophies such as animal heads, which are mounted for wall display. Big game hunting is the term for hunting large animals and some people travel the world in order to kill exotic species. It is possible to book hunting holidays, especially for people hoping to hunt and kill ‘The Big Five’ (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros) in Africa.
In the UK, there are now three times as many foxes as there were forty years ago. The Hunting Act of 2004 states, "A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog, unless hunting is exempt.", effectively banning hunting foxes with dogs. This decline in fox hunting may have resulted in the rapid increase of the fox population. Some people say that there is a need to control the number of foxes in Britain and reduce their numbers and many people think that the typical fox hunt, where hunters ride on horses together with packs of hounds, is an effective means of control. Others say that foxes are not a pest and that if a fox does become troublesome there are alternative and more humane methods of killing it. The alternatives to hunting are shooting, gassing and poisoning - none of which can be guaranteed to succeed in killing the fox without prolonged suffering. After their 2015 election victory, the Conservative Party considered offering a free vote to again legalise traditional fox hunting with dogs, though this was later overturned as it was unpopular with voters. In 2020, foxes are still being hunted as trail and drag hunting is still permitted. Whilst the hounds used for drag hunting are trained specifically not to attack or kill their quarry (often a human runner dragging a cloth soaked in artificial scent behind them to create a scent trail), trail hunting, where a trail of animal scent is laid in an area where wild animals are likely to be present, is more controversial and often ends with a fox being killed by hounds.
Other types of hunting include shooting game animals such as pheasants and deer for their meat. Whilst many game birds are raised especially to be released for hunting, deer are sometimes hunted to prevent them becoming too numerous and destroying vegetation. It is argued by some people that a certain amount of hunting has to happen to help conserve other species.
Poaching is the term used for any hunting of animals that is done illegally. This includes hunting by anyone who doesn’t have a licence, or people who are hunting protected and endangered species. In the UK, poaching is defined as killing or taking a bird, mammal or fish without legal right or consent from the landowner, a law dating back to the 1800s in England and Wales. Elsewhere in the world, the poaching of endangered animals is leading some species, such as the snow leopard and pangolin towards extinction. The demand for traditional ‘medicines’ and lucky charms as well as rare pelts (animal furs) and unusual pets often drives this market, rather than the desire for meat to eat (although the Madagascan lemur has been packed for food in times of recent political upheaval).
Some animal rights activists would argue that different types of hunting are worse than others, such as when they threaten the extinction of a whole species, or when the hunt is for sport rather than for food. Others would argue against any hunting at all is unacceptable and that it is not up to people to decide which animals should be hunted and which humans are allowed to hunt them.
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