The History of Hunting and Conservation: Ethical Dilemmas & Concerns

The relationship between hunting and conservation has a long, complex history and poses numerous ethical dilemmas. On one side of the argument is the claim that hunting fees help fund conservation; on the other side is the claim that these benefits are exaggerated and that killing game animals is wrong. In between are countless other arguments and questions about the moral, environmental, and other ethical implications of treating (non-human) animals as commodities.

From Charles Darwin and John James Audubon to Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, the most enlightened hunters have long viewed themselves as naturalists and conservationists, committed to sustainability among animal populations and the preservation of wild places where they stalk game. The linkage has become inextricable. Revenues of hundreds of millions in federal excise taxes levied on hunters go directly to wildlife management and related activities each year in the U.S. alone. And anyone who keeps a freezer full of venison is likely to tell you that the act of killing your own dinner in the wild is more humane than buying the plastic-wrapped meat of industrially raised livestock. — Michael Paterniti

In this National Geographic article, Michael Paterniti, discusses some of the ethical dilemmas and concerns raised by hunting and its inextricable relationship with conservation and wildlife management. At the article’s core lies the question… 

Can the killing of wild animals be justified on the basis of conservation?  If so, why & how?  If not, why not and…now what?

While this article focuses largely on big game trophy hunting in Africa, the relevance and importance of the questions raised in general are as omni-applicable as they are omni-pressing. To read this article in its entirety, click here!

Additional Resources to Explore

Some Articles & Books


Watch & listen to audio/video and view photos from each walk in our 3-Part Fall Philosophy Walk Series on environmental ethics, conservation, preservation, hunting & hunting ethics, wildlife management, governance/policy & community.

The Documentary:  Trophy

The dcoumentary Trophy explores the industries of big-game hunting, breeding and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa and the numerous consequences of treating non-human animals as commodities.

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