Moral Philosophy and Deer Hunting

Set aside the ethics of hunting itself, and you find that within the act of hunting, there’s a whole world of right and wrong.

Tonight I sat in a tower stand for hours without seeing any activity from the deer population. Then, right as darkness fell, three deer came out. All of a sudden I had some decisions to make.

Whatever your opinion of the moral agency of animals, you’d probably agree if you were there with me that the decision I had to make was a moral one. I had life and death power (in the form of a rifle) in my hands – and that lends a gravity I don’t normally have in my decisions.

Should I shoot even if I don’t have a clear visual of the target? On one hand, I could see pretty clearly that I was dealing with deer. On the other hand, I couldn’t tell how large or how old they were. This is a question of responsibility and due diligence. Is it appropriate to act before I know the full details?

Should I shoot if it’s a doe? On one hand, does are great for meat provision. On the other, this doe was taking care of two yearlings. My answer was no.

There are more questions that extend beyond a single hunt:

Should you pay your local government for permission to hunt? On one hand, you don’t want to have to lie. On the other, your local bureaucrats don’t own you, your land, or the animals that live on it.

To what extent should you feed and attract animals to your land and to certain spots on it? On one hand, this removes only some of the randomness from hunting and supports local wildlife. On the other hand, this may unfairly reduce the hunter’s workload relative to the animal’s riskload.

It’s interesting that so many non-vegans take such care to these questions. The hunting community operates from a code of honor – which applies very much in how we relate to animals. Many of us feel a certain sense of obligation to the creatures we’re hunting.

How those obligations emerge and where they start and stop is a topic for a much longer post, but it’s interesting to see just how complicated the decision to hunt (and to shoot) can be. And it’s powerful to have the live test of making these life and death decisions of ethics.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, intellectual explorer, and perpetual apprentice. He opted out of college to join the Praxis startup apprenticeship program and currently manages marketing and communications at bitcoin payment technology company BitPay. He writes daily at jameswalpole.com.

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Freespirit
Freespirit
1 year ago

Killing animals , when one “goes hunting”, is called SPORT,but Sport requires the willing participation of all involved. I am certain if the Deer or any other animal being “hunted” for “sport”, realized what was to happen ,it would NOT participate, thus hunting is what it is -KILLING, NOT sport

The only “Legitimate” reason for killing another animal is for ones SURVIVAL, and we have “farmed” animals for that, so let’s call “Hunting” what it is – “Killing for Fun”, something which Psychopaths do.

No pleasure should be gained in the act of deliberately killing anything.

H Rearden
H Rearden
1 year ago
Reply to  Freespirit

There are animals that are hunted that are not farmed. Deer is not a farm animal. Thus if you want to eat venison given the fact that in the USA there are few abattoirs that process deer and most of the venison goes to restaurants, you have to hunt deer. sure there is venison sold retail but most venison sold in the USA comes from outside the USA such as New Zealand. I have not heard of anyone hunting deer for fun only. People who hunt deer don’t just leave the deer they kill lying around in the forest the… Read more »

Freespirit
Freespirit
1 year ago
Reply to  H Rearden

Rebuttal noted and does not surprise me in the least. It tells me all I need to know about you.

H Rearden
H Rearden
1 year ago
Reply to  Freespirit

I don’t know what you would need to know about me. One can not know the totality of who I am or the totality of my views simply from reading that one response I made to your post. I eat meat. I like a good steak.

Freespirit
Freespirit
1 year ago
Reply to  H Rearden

I comment on many sites, NOT to argue, as you seem wont to do, simply to inform or teach, so learn from me or don’t.
My comment was general. and not specifically to you but you chose to comment specifically to me, as if you had conscience pangs.
Thus If your problem is English comprehension, in not understanding my WORDS, then I suggest a Remedial Course. My comments are quite clear
Your choice.
We are done.

H Rearden
H Rearden
1 year ago

Having to obtain a permit to hunt is as absurd as having to obtain a permit to shop at a supermarket.