He opens by responding to another blogger, who takes a civil libertarian tack in his reasoning on the issue: ("...hunting has, for many people, a psychological value that is important to their well-being. Also, the protection of the right to hunt, more specifically the choice about whether to participate in hunting or not to participate, is often equally important to the non-hunter as a guarantee of the recognition of fundamental rights which therefore provides them with a sense of well-being.") I take this to mean, "Don't tread on me; I won't tread on you."
While in agreement, Mike suggests that we employ a more utilitarian approach that leans on economic considerations and benefits to wildlife populations and land conservation afforded by hunting as a legal activity.
Economic arguments have been a powerful political tool for sportsman. One of the most compelling examples I can think of was the CCA (then the GCCA) campaign to stop the commercial fishing of redfish in Texas. The heart of their argument were economic analyses showing that while a fish caught commercially by net or trot-line resulted in only a few dollars brought to the state and local economies, that same fish was worth several times that if caught by a sport fisherman. With a limited and public resource, the highest, best, use of that resource was the one that brought the most dollars, argued the conservationists. The argument, while far from applicable to every situation, worked and similar arguments can make our case for us many times.
And...later, after bringing in a good Leopold quote on the positive aspects of the profit motive in land restoration:
"Pretty" and "healthy ecosystem" aren't always the same thing. However, hunting can be a valuable means of developing that practical and aesthetic ideal for land of which Leopold wrote. Hunters require good prey populations and enough room to pursue that prey. In other words, decent and plentiful habitat. Much as I appreciate the contributions of time, money and voice by "non-consumptive" users of land and wildlife, I fear that for many of them any little remnant is adequate. They can be content to travel to Matagorda Island to see the whooping cranes, or to see a bit of preserved native prairie and the birds it hosts. If there some parks, a suburban hiking trail or three that will accommodate mountain bikes and hikers that offers a pleasant view, and nothing charismatic is going extinct they're pretty happy, it seems to me. However, to hunt we require more. More space. Healthy populations of game- which themselves require diverse and healthy ecosystems to exist for any length of time.In comments I took my familiar, touchy-feely position that there is something magical about hunting.
Hunting, now that I do it, is like hearing or seeing: it's a sense of my environment that is impossible to experience without the necessary organ. It is the difference between viewing a photo of a house and living inside one. Or the difference between a piece of sheet music and a night at the opera.While utilitarian arguments are good and probably necessary, there will always be a chasm of understanding between the hunter and non-hunter; essentially, if you don't hunt, you don't get it. Continuing my comments:
The discussion reminds me of the exchange between some of us (Mike and myself included) and the writer Julie Zickefoose, which for those who can get it, became an article ("Love and Death Among the Cranes") in the latest issue of Birder Watcher's Digest. In her piece, Julie makes the case that while she regrets the fact of crane hunting, she concedes that bird watchers have little ethical ground to defend without putting up comparable dollars for conservation as are given by hunting permit fees.
I think your approach is probably smarter in the real world. Absent any shared frame of reference, we've got to make arguments that have a chance of being understood. Economics, land conservation and wildlife management all find real-world benefits from hunting.
Yet I see utilitarian arguments in support of hunting as similar to utilitarian arguments in support of religious belief. They can be right, as far as they go. But considering the distances involved, they don't go very far.
If we take an empirical approach to the value of hunting, we necessarily reduce it. And by doing so we leave it vulnerable to counter-arguments that provide the same or comparable benefits (to local economies, wildlife, land protection, etc) that do NOT rely on hunting.
But for the hunter, there is no substitute for hunting.
We must at some point be willing to claim its value is intangible, even unknowable to those who don't share it. In this, hunters are like other communities of faith, having to rely on protections afforded us by political principles and constitutional rights.
Or, if it comes to it, by taking significant personal risks to continue the pursuits we've come to value and believe in, even if they offend the general sensibility.
I don't think it will come to that. But I think keeping it at bay will require we keep ALL our arguments (utilitarian and values-based) well practiced and ready.
That's the crux. With an argument in support of hunting reduced to dollar amounts, we risk being out competed by groups far larger than ourselves, the members of which, should they throw in a few pennies each, would quickly sweep our legs from under us.
Somehow, the defense of hunting must include the experience of hunting.