Hunters come under several different headings. There are those who hunt for 'sport', hunters and trappers who make a living from the animals they kill, but who generally kill animals that are plentiful. There are poachers, killing for profit, who supply a market made possible by the demands of tourists. There are fox-hunters who dress up in their scarlet coats and make a social occasion out of a kill ("the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable" as they were once described) - and there are those who simply take pleasure in killing.
Shooting for sport
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 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.
Shooting 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.
In America, the hunter buying ammunition for the shooting of prey species actually pays a 'conservation tax' on each cartridge which goes to help the State wildlife conservation bodies.
Generally speaking hunters tend to shoot species that are plentiful, and it is in the interests of these hunters to ensure the survival of the species that they want to hunt. For this reason the majority of prey species cannot be hunted during their breeding seasons.
There are those who shoot animals in order to eat them. A typical pheasant shoot produces birds intended for the table, so there is a purpose behind the shoots. The shooting of pheasants and similar game birds is probably no worse than killing animals in a slaughterhouse or battery farm.
It does not necessarily make the shooting of game birds 'alright' but there is at least a purpose in killing pheasants if people eat them. The same can be said for the wildfowlers who shoot geese and ducks.
Deer hunters, whatever we may feel about them, help to control the number of deer. The sheer discomfort of deer stalking has been responsible for the comparatively small number of hunters. In many areas there are far too many deer, so the hunter is one instrument for the reduction in deer numbers. At the same time, the deer meat (venison) gives the kill an additional purpose.
It was the hunters of otters who drew attention to the decline of that species in Britain. The otter hunts ceased hunting before the otter was given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. However, it was not the hunts which reduced the number of otters, but rather the reduction of their natural habitat and the pollution of rivers.
If we can find some excuse for certain types of hunter, there are others which appear to have no valid purpose. Hare coursing involves observing one or two greyhounds chasing a hare that has been given a head start of 80m or so. The greyhounds are given marks by a judge for how skilfully they chase the hare. There is nothing in this sport to test the skills of the hunters and there is no reason for reducing the numbers of hares in this country - they are not a pest.
Poachers are by far the worst hunting threat to wildlife. Few of the hunters previously mentioned are a threat to rare species. The poachers form one of the most serious threats to wildlife conservation. In fact, after the destruction of habitat, poachers are the greatest menace.
However, even here we must stop and think for a moment to ask ourselves why a poacher kills. It is not for sport and only rarely for food, (such as in Zaire where gorillas are now being hunted for their meat by people who are killing to feed their families). In fact the poachers generally kill because there is a market for horns, ivory, skins, etc. taken from the animals they kill.
The next question we must ask ourselves is; "who makes this market possible?" The answer, sadly, is that it is people like us, the ordinary tourists who make it profitable for so many poachers to massacre the world's wildlife.
There has always been a market for ivory, and animals skins have been prized by the makers and buyers of fur coats or crocodile skin shoes etc.
Remember that we become tourists when we go off on our holidays. We may go no further than our own seaside towns - but we are still tourists. To remain respectful and caring to our environment we must never buy or pick up inhabited shells, pieces of coral or wildlife taken from their natural habitats. Paying for goods like these encourage poachers to take more to sell.
Poachers will only be put out of business when the tourists refuse to buy their products, when people refuse to wear the skins of animals as an adornment and when people no longer buy ivory products.
So, while the poacher is a menace who needs to be put out of business - we have to admit that other people make their horrible slaughter possible.
Seal culling or 'sealing' is a commercial practice in many countries including Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Finland and Russia. Harp seals are among the most targeted species with hundreds of thousands killed across the world every year. Seals are considered a valuable 'natural resource' by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Seals are killed for oils in their fat or blubber, their meat and for their fur - to be worn as clothing. Seal oil is considered a beneficial health supplement, a rich source of Omega 3 oils. They are killed sustainably and traditionally for their meat in rural Inuit communities, but the mass killings or cullings that occur on many coasts account for the death of hundreds of thousands of seals every year. This could be up to 900,000 a year according to the EU.
In September 2009 the EU called for a ban on the trade of all seal products in the European Union. This embargo was challenged by Canada as damaging to their economy and discriminatory. The annual hunt for harp seals in Canada, with a quota of 400,000 individuals, has long been the largest marine mammal slaughter on earth. The US, Mexico, Russia and Taiwan also ban imported seal products. On 22 May 2014 the World Trade Organisation upheld the EU's ban on the importation and marketing of seal products.
In an article in The Guardian in 2013, Terry Audla, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami spoke of the discrimination of this traditional and subsistence practice:
While seal populations are not considered to be under threat due to these practices the moral dilemma exists as to why should we be allowed to kill these wild animals human consumption or adornment. Unlike some of the other categories on this page sealing is a business and provides thousands of jobs to people and an income for families.
"They're basing it on public morals and, when you do that, you're in danger of all the other industries being banned in the same way. I mean, who's to say what's more cruel? Industrialised agriculture? The poultry, pork and beef industry? Who draws the line?"Read More: The Circus