I have two questions about hunting and fishing: First, is it is ethical to use powerful machinery and high-technology to find and harvest fish and game? Second, is "professional" fishing ethical? It is unlikely that the human race would have survived without the dietary protein derived from hunting and fishing. At some point, hunters and fishers became "sportsmen" as well as providers, but still universally accepted the ethical principle that one must kill or catch only what would be used as food for the family. For my 70 years thus far on this earth, I have sought and caught fish to cook, and eat; and I have hunted and killed game birds and animals to cook and eat. Any excess has always been given to others for consumption or preserved for future meals. I regard this practice as ethical and in a proud human tradition dating from as far back as ancestry can be imagined. My hunting has always been on foot or horseback, sometime accompanied by a dog, and my fishing from the bank or in a small boat propelled by a paddle or a small outboard engine. As between my prey and myself, I have usually been the underdog, or, on a very productive day, we have been evenly matched. I do not pretend that my equipment has been primitive, but the contest has largely been a balanced one--matching my wits and ability and basic tackle and firearms with the instincts and wariness of the fish or game and the challenge of the elements. However, it disturbs me to see this balance upset by overpowering machinery, such as hunting winter animals from helicopters, trolling for big-game fish using hundreds of gallons of fuel to pull a lure through the water, or using high-technology such as pinpointing the location and depth of schools of fish using sonar. Although it is a fine line, I know, I regard giving the hunter or fisher this overpowering technical superiority as unethical. Do you have any thoughts or references on this issue? The second question raises an even more disturbing ethical issue for me.. How can it be ethical to have "professional" fishermen who catch as many fish as they possibly can, using all of the gadgets and gismos on the market to give them an advantage, not for the traditional goals of fishing, but for payments from sponsors and prize money, all in the name of entertainment? It is not unusual for hundreds of boats to enter "tournaments" where huge financial rewards are to be had by the professional fishermen who catch the most or the biggest of the targeted species of gamefish. Meanwhile, all of our game fisheries, fresh and salt, are being depleted by over-fishing, pollution, and other stresses. I regard so-called "professional fishing" as unethical. Do you have any thoughts or reverences on this issue. A related practice that I regard as unethical is "trophy" hunting and fishing, but in order not to make this question too long, I will save that one for another day unless you find that the answer is the same. Thank you.

I think you would really enjoy a new anthology from Wiley-Blackwell--Hunting. It is written largely by and for hunters, and looks at the sort of ethical questions you raise in a way you will find hospitable.

I think hunting is extremely difficult to justify. Though once necessary to obtain necessary nutrients, clothing, etc., killing animals to obtain these things is no longer necessary. It doesn't really help justify hunting/fishing to eat what you kill, if you could have eaten something else.

Even assuming it was necessary to eat meat, it would still be problematic to engage in killing as a recreational leisure activity--which is what hunting/fishing are for most people. If the main goal of sport hunting/fishing are having fun, and food is just a byproduct, something odd is going on (as I argue here). But now getting to you question...

Hunters who are concerned about fairness at least see animals as "subjects" instead of merely as "objects." That's all to the good. Fair hunters will probably kill far fewer animals. But should they really think in terms of fairness? Hunting an animal is not a sport involving two competitors, since the animal doesn't participate voluntarily and has no idea what's going on. In a competition between two humans, fairness is mutually beneficial, but that's not necessarily so in the case of hunting and fishing. The "unfair" hunter at a hunting ranch will lure a tame animal to a hunting station, and then shoot him at close range with a powerful rifle. The "fair" hunter might chase a terrified deer for miles, and then shoot him from a distance with a bow and arrow, so the animal dies a slower death. The extra "fairness" in the second case doesn't benefit the deer, and in fact harms him!

I agree with you that all hunting is not equal, and if one is going to hunt, one should do it "the right way." But the right way, it seems to me, is just less wanton and more humane, not necessarily the way that involves concepts of fairness imported from human sport.

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