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Hunting fair game?

Hunting has far reaching origins in the history of humanity but the hunting of today is a very different activity than the subsistence hunting of primordial man. Modern day hunting perhaps with the exclusion of current ‘subsistence’ hunting, is considered a “sport” and as such comes complete with specific rules, attire and accouterments. Whilst primordial hunting was a risky business, contemporary hunting with its long-range guns and crossbows is seldom dangerous for the hunter yet the slaughtered animal is frequently preserved and presented as a trophy – an indication of mans hunting prowess.

Hunters will argue that the rules of hunting support its categorization as a “sport”. Hunting does indeed have rules but a game requires all players to be consensual. In fact hunting and its very categorization as “sport” is clear evidence of humanities purely anthropocentric and speciesist perspective. The hunter considers himself to be in a game with rules and constructs – apparently justification that this game as ‘sport’. The opponent, in this case the animal, is not party to any aspect of this game. It is oblivious to any rules or constructs. It may understand only that it is being stalked; that someone is trying to kill it and that it must run for its life.  In stopping to consider the animal’s perspective, it becomes immediately clear that the animal has no desire to participate in a game that culminates in its own death.

“The morality of a sport in which there is only one participant… is highly problematic. The animal’s experience is obliterated, subsumed under the rules of a game that requires the animal’s death.”[1]

Hunting has been compared it to the predatorial behaviour of other animals. but there are vast differences between human predation and the predation of other animals. Natural predators will usually prey on the old, the sick or weak whereas human hunters usually select the biggest and healthiest animals to kill. This anti-evolutionary killing weakens the genetic lineage of a species lessening its chances of survival in an increasingly hostile human-dominated environment.

Hunting focuses on the deliberate violent act of stalking and ultimately killing a wild animal. It is not considered hunting if you walk up to an animal and shoot it or if you stumble across a wild animal and happen to have your gun handy. In choosing to pursue a wild animal a sense of contest is created for a challenge has been established. This is presented as further evidence that hunting constitutes a  “sport” yet the pursuits of hunting and fishing hardly constitute “fair game” or “good sportsmanship”. These expressions are frequently used to acknowledge a consensual participation and mutual respect for the rules and conduct of a particular sporting activity. The animal is oblivious to any such organization, rules or structure and does not consent to be hunted or to be the hunter’s “game”.

The “sport” of hunting is in fact a contrived anthropocentric notion used to justify the pursuit and bloody murder of another living creature.

Claude Jones, Fair Game,  mixed media on canvas,128.5 x 138.5cm, 2011


[1] Kheel, M, The killing game: An ecofeminist critique of hunting, Journal of the philosophy of sport, 1996, XXIII, P.32

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