The Cambridge Dictionary defines “hunting” as “chasing and killing an animal or bird for food, sport, or profit.” Now when it comes to debating the morality of hunting, there’s an endless pit of conflicting arguments that could be covered. However, if we zoom in on hunting “for sport” in particular, the ethical waters become significantly less murky and a clear answer always emerges: sport hunting is simply unnecessary and highly problematic.
I want to make it clear that we aren’t debating hunting out of necessity, food, environmental conservation/population control, or the plethora of other topics that are used as a basis to criticize hunting. This is simply criticizing the act of killing an animal purely for the thrill of it. The sense of enjoyment that people derive from shooting an animal, proudly taking a picture with it, or hanging it up as wall décor strikes me as deeply cruel.
Hunting for sport is killing animals recreationally. When conversations come up with those who are pro-hunting, one of the claims I hear most often is that — “They were going to die anyway, either through the meat industry or other natural predators, so what’s the big deal?” Again, it’s the principle of the matter in connection with each individual hunter. Regardless of what happens to the animal after it is killed, the act of going out to kill an animal purely as a game and for personal pleasure is difficult to rationalize.
The problem lies in considering taking the life of an animal is an “achievement” to begin with. Trophy hunting regards wildlife as a commodity and renders animals as some sort of play-toy to be conquered and thrown around by humans. It’s a highly anthropocentric view of the world — the belief that the purpose of everything in our universe is for the benefit of humans and doesn’t exist autonomously.
The main issue I have with sport hunting is that it’s so blatantly unnecessary. For most people, humans have evolved past the time when hunting was crucial to survival. Now, hunting for sport is nothing but a pastime for those who can’t seem to find a different hobby that doesn’t involve merciless killing. Trophy hunting fanatics are not as niche as they are painted out to be, and one of the most outlandish explanations I’ve heard is that regulated hunting for sport is justified because the quarry was given a fair chance to escape and earn its freedom with its abilities. If the hunter was skilled enough to shoot game down, then why shouldn’t they be proud of their achievement?
This is not a new sentiment by any means: The social aspect and “codes” of hunting for sport has always underwritten the game itself. According to Britannica’s historical record for sport hunting and its origins, “the pioneer tradition of ‘every man a hunter’ persisted until after the frontier closed near the end of the 19th century.” Essentially, hunting for amusement wasn’t essential anymore and the tradition was only practiced by kings and nobles who had the most leisure time and the wealth to shoot game for reasons other than putting food on the table. Hunting being a lifestyle choice was purported “Under the reign of Francis I during the Renaissance in France and according to Alimentarium, “Post-hunt banquets were an opportunity to demonstrate social relationships in court.” Clearly, the symbolic status of social and economic class throughout history has been inherently attached to trophy hunting.
So, what does all this have to do with hunting for sport today? Primarily, the extensive history around the world and throughout time illustrates the archaic nature of hunting for sport and the outdated traditions trophy hunters continue to uphold. Despite our advancements as a species, some humans seem to want to rewind to a time when society was so heavily divided into classes, primarily defined through what one had to do versus what one could do. And the question that ultimately arises is that just because we can treat hunting animals as a sport, should we? Well, when it comes to trophy hunting, the aspect of cruelty is undeniable, and it reflects on the character of those who decide to take an unnecessary action to kill animals for entertainment. Hunting for “sport” deserves no exception from criticism, and according to me, those who chose to participate in this culture are irredeemable for the basic cruel nature of shooting an animal and seeing its corpse as a trophy to be hung above their fireplace.