Friday, October 2, 2015

Why the Science of Hunting Doesn't Check Out

Humans are really great at creating balance in nature. Right? Ha, no. Very wrong. Let's cite some examples. Humans have greatly amplified earth's natural warming cycle. We're using natural resources at unsustainable levels. We've driven many animals to extinction. Some that are now extinct because of hunting and loss of habitat include the West African black rhinoceros, Pyrenean ibex, passenger pigeon, quagga, Caribbean monk seal, sea mink, Tasmanian tiger, tecopa pupfish, Javan tiger, great auk, and bubal hartebeest. Bottom line: we humans really suck at "wildlife management!"

Here's the thing: we've created the term "wildlife management" to make ourselves feel better about killing animals. Nature, by its very nature (ha), always balances out. Animal populations naturally fluctuate very subtly. They gradually increase and gradually decrease over periods of time, which is called a population cycle. 

Hunters very commonly argue that hunting is necessary to keep animal populations down. This is based on very faulty logic. Hunting actually causes animal populations to rise artificially. Let me explain why. When animals are killed during hunts each year, the population does decrease temporarily. This means that less individuals within that animal population share resources. In other words, resources become more plentiful for each animal because not as many animals are competing for food, water, and shelter. This results in greater fertility, which leads to increased reproduction and a population explosion. And guess what? This causes hunters to argue that the population is too large and that hunting is needed to balance out nature. It's a very destructive cycle. Animal populations would be so much better off if we left them alone. Let's look at how animal population cycles look without hunting vs. with hunting:

Which do you think is more natural?

Many hunters also think that it's okay to hunt because they are performing a function similar to what natural predators do. That's also totally false. Remember that smart guy named Charles Darwin? His most famous theory is called natural selection. For those that don't remember what they were taught in grade school, natural selection basically means that the weakest animals in an animal population are the ones that do not survive to reproduce. Thus, over time, the traits that lead to survival are the ones that get passed down over time. This is called survival of the fittest. When natural predators hunt, they eliminate the weakest or sickest members of animal populations. The strongest animals survive to reproduction, creating more robust animal populations over time. Natural predation actually helps not only the predator because he/she needs food, but it also helps the prey's population over time! Wow! Nature!

Hunting, by contrast, performs a function that is the exact opposite of natural predators. Hunters don't kill the weakest or sickest members of the population; they choose the ones that will look best on their wall. They're looking for a trophy. Killing the healthiest individuals in an animal population leaves the weaker animals to reproduce, which harms animal populations over time. 

I've heard many hunters justify hunting by saying that they are providing for their family. Ha! Stop! That is so silly! It's a complete rationalization. That would mean that you and your family would die if you didn't eat that elk or deer or whatever else you think you need to shoot. If you have access to a grocery store, you don't get to use the excuse that you need wildlife meat to feed your family. The money that you would spend on a hunt could actually buy way more food that your children would like a heck of a lot more than elk meat or venison. 

So there you go. Science once again proves the fallacy of human thought. And please please PLEASE understand that scientific fact is FACT. Just because you don't agree with its implications does not mean that you get to ignore fact. 

Let's stop hunting today. It's time! 

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