USA – opinion/news: The Times reports that hunting is in long-term decline across the United States. My initial response is happiness. It appears that there has been a shift in recreation habits together with societal attitudes to killing animals. The Times journalist reports that this is hurting conservation. I argue that if wildlife conservation is so closely linked to the killing of wildlife for entertainment then conservation is doomed. There is no need to link sport hunting to conservation. Conservation can be entirely dependent upon donations and taxes. Let’s make that point loud and clear.
Decline in numbers
This really is good news and we can forget about the stupid argument about conservation being hurt by declining hunting. The report states that sales of hunting licenses in America fell from a peak of about 17 million in the early 1980s to 15 million in 2019 according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They also report that 50 years ago twice as many Americans in the age bracket 16 or older hunted for entertainment. Today only 5% of Americans do it.
It is projected that the decline in sport hunting will continue over the next decade as older hunters stop and die while the younger generation do not replace them but prefer indoor activities such as video games. They might choose alternatives such as non-violent outdoor pursuits like bird watching, hiking and photography.
Young more concerned
John Heidler, a fourth-generation waterfowler (a person who shoots Canada geese for entertainment) says in an interview with The Washington Post that although his children enjoy hunting very few of his friends do. He thinks the reason is because his friends do not have time between school and after-school activities. I would say that the reason is because young people are more alert to the destruction of the environment by people. The spin-off from, for example, the climate change debate as led by Greta Thunberg is that young people are more aware of all the issues concerning nature and the planet’s well-being. There must also be some truth in the fact that a lot of young people spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones, on social media which is pulling them away from outdoor activities. The decline in eating red meat, the growth in veganism is also part of this movement. It is wonderful to report a concern for animal welfare and a belief that humans share the planet with animals on an equal footing.
US conservation crisis
There appears to be growing conservation crisis in America where it is estimated about one third of America’s wildlife species are vulnerable and one in five is “imperilled and at risk of extinction”. This is according to a report by the National Wildlife Federation in 2018. It appears that The Times journalist, Ben Hoyle in Los Angeles, is saying that the imperillment of these at-risk species is due to a decline in sport hunting. I would argue that it is more likely that the species are at risk because of sport hunting and more importantly human population growth in America which is rapid causing destruction of habitat for the species. The destruction of habitat is by far the greatest threat to wild species.
The authorities in Colorado want to encourage hunting. They have rolled out humorous television and social media campaigns to try and boost awareness of the connection between bloodsports and conservation funding. Once again, I would judge this to be misguided. There are much better ways to fund conservation and it is unethical to link the two. Promoting the idea that sport hunting improves conservation is in fact all about promoting sport hunting.
In a bit of good news, it appears that environmentalists and hunters have agreed that $1.4 billion is to be raised from federal government’s annual royalties from oil and gas development to try and restore essential habitat and to protect vulnerable species and thereby avoid a late reaction to the protection of near extinct species which is so typical of human behaviour.
SOME MORE ON SPORT HUNTING: