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Ethical Standards in Hunting

January 2013

By James McWilliams

As I’ve written before, and am probably the last to observe, hunting is religion in Texas, where I live. On the occasions when I find myself in East or South Texas—places where the hunting habit becomes evangelical—I find it best for my own mental health to don my anthropology cap rather than my ethical one. To wear the ethical one in these places is to find yourself suffering turmoil in the midst of an armageddon of gunfire. So I just back up a bit and remember the words of my anthropologist friend: “Culture is everything.” Boom.

ethical ethics hunting hunter

This observational distance from the violence and deeper reality of killing animals in the name of sport was, however, recently challenged by my realization that citizen tax dollars are being used to support not just hunting, but the teaching of hunting to children. Turns out Texas Parks and Wildlife sponsors the Texas Youth Hunting Program, whose mission is to:

increase the number of youths participating in wildlife and hunting activities and to promote the hunting heritage in Texas. The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) have joined forces to offer youth hunts that are safe, educational and very affordable. We sponsor introductory, instructive youth hunts for deer, turkey, hogs, javelina, exotics, dove, small game, waterfowl, varmints and other species. Normally, we provide mentors, lodging and meals.

Its list of intended goals is to “promote the highest ethical standards in hunting.” This phrase, much like the program that spawned it, reminds me how desperate humans are to hide the reality of what we do in the garb of euphemism and illogic. What can possibly be “educational” about killing animals with high powered weaponry and, really, by what twisted sense of reality does such an act of terror possibly come with “ethical standards’?

In the state of Texas they are closing schools, letting parks fall into disrepair, and failing to maintain state run nursing homes for the elderly and infirm. But, boy-oh-boy, you wanna grab your rifle and kill an animal, the state is here to make sure it remains both “ethical” and “very affordable.” Hunting might be sacred in the conservative state Texas, but so is the effort to cut government spending. Programs like this one are, in this sense, ripe targets for vegans to protest. With calls for “cutting spending” at high pitch, now may be the time to fire away in the name of animal rights.

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