Is Alberta Being Hypocritical about Canned Hunts?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the decision by the Alberta government not to allow canned hunts at private game farms (see Alberta Premier Outlines the Horrors of Canned Hunts). Alberta premier Ralph Klein said that shooting animals in confined, penned-in areas was “abhorrent.” Game farmers in Alberta now want to know why, if canned hunts are really so horrible, the government itself is engaged in the practice.

Serge Buy of the Canadian Cervid Council, which represents elk and deer ranchers, told the Edmonton Journal that Alberta currently sells hunting licenses so that people can shoot elk on fenced-in land own by the province.

The government responded that the difference is a matter of size — elk hunted at the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation area, for example, have 97 square kilometers to roam compared to game farms which are as small as just 100 hectares (roughly .6 square kilometers).


Elk ranchers renew debate over hunt farms: Province accused of contradictory policy. Dennis Hryciuk, The Edmonton Journal, September 7, 2002.

Alberta Premier Outlines the Horrors of Canned Hunts

After a meeting of a government caucus to consider the issue, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein announced that deer and elk game farms in Alberta would not be allowed to offer hunters the opportunity to shoot the game. Deer and elk game farms are struggling financially, and had hoped opening up their facilities to hunters might make them profitable.

Like all arguments against canned hunts, Klein fell back on some vague metaphysical view of hunting that requires some poorly defined amount of fairness in order to be legitimate. According to Klein,

To go to a hunt farm and shoot a penned-up animal, an animal that doesn’t have a chance, I think it’s abhorrent. . . . I think it’s abhorrent to take wild animals and have them penned up and available to hunters who don’t want to take the time to go out into the wild.

Good for Klein. If he allows canned hunts, what’s next? Someone will come along with the audacity to suggest outright domestication of animals and all of a sudden Alberta would be burdened by the horrors of settled animal agriculture. Chickens, cows and other animals would be held by farmers and just marched off to slaughterhouses without even a chance at escape. How sporting would that be?

If Klein is a vegan and plans next to dismantle all animal agriculture in Alberta, then he is wrongheaded but at least principled. More likely, however, Klein is here engaging in a common hypocrisy that places the hunting of deer and elk in enclosed environments on a different moral plane than raising cattle destined for the slaughterhouse. There is no justification at all for this sort of silly distinction.


Alberta rejects hunting deer and elk on game farms. Canoe.Ca, August 8, 2002.

Game farms ‘abhorrent.’ Michelle Mark, Calgary Sun, August 8, 2002.

Fund for Animals Can't Shoot Straight on Worst Canned Hunts

The Fund for Animals today sent out a press release listing the “Top Ten States with the Cruelest Canned Hunts.” According to The Fund,

The states making The Fund’s “top ten” list are: Texas, Michigan,
Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico,
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Although advertised under a variety
of names—most frequently “hunting preserves,” “game ranches,” or
“shooting preserves”—canned hunts violate the hunting community’s
standard of “fair chase” by confining animals to cages or fenced
enclosures. The types of animals killed can range from native species
such as elk and deer to exotic animals such as zebras, Corsican rams,
blackbuck antelope, and water buffalo.

Apparently compiling that list of ten states stretched The Fund for Animals’ limited research capabilities. A few hours after releasing it, Fund media coordinator Tracey McIntire was forced to send out a correction that read,

The list of the states with the worst canned hunts should NOT include
New Mexico and Kentucky.

Oops. No word on which states would take New Mexico and Kentucky’s places. The odds are good, however, that The Fund for Animals would be well at home on a list of top 10 animal rights groups that can never seem to get their act together.


The Fund For Animals Announces The Top Ten States With The Cruelest Canned Hunts. The Fund for Animals, Press Release, August 12, 2002.

Correction on press release. Tracey McIntire, The Fund for Animals, August 12, 2002.

Could Hunting Be Banned in the United States?

After Great Britain voted to ban fox Hunting with dogs because it is allegedly cruel, could the sort of anti-hunting sentiment prevalent in the UK make its way over to the United States?

Of course in some sense there are already a good deal of hunting restrictions in the United States, though the most onerous have been passed largely at the state level. Various states have banned everything from hunting bear, moose, lions and other species, along with numerous species-specific bans on trapping. Federally, there are a number of hunting bans on species which were originally put in place to protect an endangered species, but which have remained in effect even after the species was no longer endangered and, in fact, became a potential nuisance. Sea lions are protected from hunting by federal law, for example, even though currently they are a major cause of the decline in endangered fish species as sea lion populations have exploded.

Recently, there has also been a backlash against such laws of a type not seen in the United Kingdom. In a number of states, hunters, fisherman and others have successfully amended the state constitution to guarantee a right to hunt and fish, with allowances usually made for laws protecting endangered species.

Although anti-hunting measures are typically perceived as urban vs. rural interests, some hunting bans have backfired in ways that have impacted suburbs as well. The deer population in the United States is at record levels, for example, and has a direct impact on urban and suburban residents in the form of millions of dollars in property damage, mostly through automobile collisions. In fact almost 100 people die every year in car/deer collisions, and anyone who has ever been involved in such an accident (as I have) knows that the Humane Society of the United States is full of it when they say that simply driving more cautiously can take care of the problem.

And yet there is still quite strong opposition to hunting and killing deer even in areas where they have become a major nuisance. One thing that is clear from some of the measures taken by some states and cities is that this is more a reaction of disgust at hunting itself rather than any rational objection about the value of an animal’s life. How else to explain this account from USA Today,

Non-migratory Canada geese have become pests in many areas, yet there’s reluctance to control them with hunting. Minnesota authorizes roundups in a summer period when the birds are flightless. They’re sent to meat packing plants for charity donation.

This reminds me of the visceral rage I’ve seen some people have toward so-called Canned Hunts, where an animal is hunted in a rather small, fenced-in area where the hunter is almost guaranteed killing an animal. Many people seem to find this practice disgusting, and yet at the same time see no problem at all with raising cattle on enclosed farms and then shipping them off to meat packing facilities, which is hardly any more sporting or fair than a canned hunt.

This sort of aesthetic opposition to hunting will be extremely difficult to overcome over the long haul and will require hunting and fishing advocates to do a better job of reaching out and educating the urban and suburban public.


Deer population exploding across the USA; Suburbs offer ideal habitat; proliferation has hunters gaining wider acceptance. Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today, December 22, 2000.

Hunters’ clout is waning; Animal-protection groups showcase political savvy. John Ritter, USA Today, December 22, 2000.

Canned Hunts?

Recently animal rights
activists seem to be making some inroads into restricting and, in some
cases, banning so-called “canned hunts.” In a canned hunt, animals are
let loose in fenced-in area and hunters pay a fee to shoot the animals.

In April, Oregon’s Fish and
Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to ban canned hunts. The Louisiana
legislature was considering a bill to prohibit canned hunts and similar
bans and regulations are being considered elsewhere.

There seem to be two main arguments
animal rights activists are using against canned hunts.

The first is that the animals,
which are often exotic, nonnative species, could escape and threaten the
local wildlife. Are these the same activists who regularly condone the
release of nonnative species “liberated” from labs and fur farms, and dismiss
fears of threat to local wildlife as anti-animal propaganda? Regardless
of the hypocrisy involved, this fear certainly might call for reasonable
regulation. Requiring those who operate such as requiring establishments
to meet certain minimum requirements might make sense. This
concern alone, however, certainly does not warrant an outright ban.

The argument that really seems
to win people over, however, is that canned hunts are somehow unfair.
As Oregon legislator Ryan Deckart told The Oregonian, “It’s not
[a] fair chase.” If that is to be the standard for killing animals —
that the animal must first be given the opportunity to escape — then
Deckart should introduce legislation immediately banning slaughter houses
which, the last time I checked, rarely allow the animals they kill or
process any semblance of a “fair chase.”

This is a clear instance of
the “muddled middle” at work — it makes no sense to say that a person
can’t fence in land, populate it with animals and pay others to kill said
animals if the animals are exotic and the killers are hunters, but that
the same setup is perfectly okay if the animals are cows or chickens or
pigs and the killers are from a nearby slaughterhouse. Either both situations
are moral or they are equally immoral.

This whole issue seems to
me like a case of legislation by intuition — hunting repulses many who
wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a hamburger at McDonald’s — rather
than by rationally looking at the issue.