A new utilitarianism: Killing a few to save the many?

In direct contrast to my last blog post condemning sport hunting practices (even if the intentions were good), I’d like to present a different view.  Although many researchers conclude that sport hunting has a negative impact on wildlife populations, there are still arguments that hunting is the best way to promote conservation.  And theoretically, this makes sense.  How else would we get the public involved in conservation efforts unless we make the issue real to them?  Telling the public we need to conserve Attwater’s prairie chicken because of _________, ____________ and _________ is not going to encourage as many people as we would hope.  But by getting people involved in wildlife welfare through hunting, we can achieve more awareness of conservation issues and prove the importance of protecting species and habitats.


Video above describes the viewpoint of pro-hunting organizations in support of conservation efforts, as well as general background and structure.

Hunting can be an effective conservation tool, proponents argue.  The United States serves as an example of the benefits of hunting on conservation.  The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation lists some legislation on its website to support this viewpoint.  A brief description of important conservation legislation from their website:

In 1878, Iowa instituted the first bag limit on birds.  Lawmakers passed the Lacey Act in 1900, prohibiting market hunting.  Ding Darling created artwork for the first Duck Stamp in 1934.  The Pittman-Robertson act was passed in 1937, through which hunters voluntarily imposed a tax on themselves, ensuring that a portion of the sale of all firearms and ammunition would be expressly dedicated to managing the wildlife entrusted to the public. 

According to RMEF, the Pittman-Robertson fund raises  $700 million annually to support wildlife conservation.  These funds are collected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who disburses the funds to each state for conservation use.  Because of the legislation, and because hunters are now aware of conservation issues, several species that are commonly hunted have actually seen population increases over the years.  It seems that some hunting for conservation efforts have been successful domestically (though one could argue that sport hunting in the United States is vastly different from sport hunting for big game in foreign countries in Africa). An argument against sport hunting is that corruption often prevents the funds raised from hunting to get to conservation efforts.  However, according to Conservation Magazine, this issue is important to hunters as well as conservationists. In 2006, Conservation Magazine surveyed 1,500 people who had been or would be going to Africa to hunt big game, and found:

A majority of hunters – eighty-six percent! – told the researchers they preferred hunting in an area where they knew that a portion of the proceeds went back into local communities. Nearly half of the hunters they interviewed also indicated that they’d be willing to pay an equivalent price for a poorer trophy if it was a problem animal that would have had to be killed anyway.

So it appears that sport hunting does raise conservation awareness (at least moderately) and could have practical applications for use in protecting species. Granted, the hunters could be providing the answers they believed questioner wanted to hear, but it is consoling, nonetheless.  The article also cites some studies that have shown that allowing a small amount of hunting has actually helped to drastically improve populations of white rhinos in South Africa as well as elephant populations in Zimbabwe.

So, as I stated last week, it seems that sport hunting could be an effective conservation tool, if used correctly.  Well-written and well-implemented legislation is important, as is public awareness and support.  Only time will tell how effective these programs actually are. This article from Conservation Magazine actually sums up the arguments about sport hunting as a conservation tool better than I ever could, so I would recommend reading it, it’s a great article.  I’ll post the link in case you missed the hyperlink above. Follow the link here.

2 comments on “A new utilitarianism: Killing a few to save the many?
  1. I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thanks , I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your website?

  2. You made some good points there. I looked on the internet for the topic and found most individuals will agree with your site.

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