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.