Love it or hate it, hunting is a valuable commodity

One difference between hunting throughout most of recorded history and hunting in the 21st century is that today, some people think it is their business whether you are able to hunt a deer for your own table at all.

Another is that a defense of hunting in 2021 may revolve around dollars and cents as much as common sense.

Outdoor recreation is big business, from hunting and fishing to hiking and wildlife photography, a matter surveyed every several years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and at other times by private consultants and universities.

Hunting licenses and equipment, according to the last Fish and Wildlife Service study, accounted for $25.6 billion in spending.

Humans hunted to survive from the beginning of time. As civilization evolved to give the world grocery stores, hunting became more rooted in pastime than necessity, but a certain percentage of people prefer obtaining wild game meat instead of stocking their refrigerator with store-bought foods.

Only in recent years, debate has simmered over whether hunting is a good or bad thing rather than simply a way of life. Public discussion includes the worry of overhunting a species to the brink of extinction, hunters as conservationists and assertions humans have no right to kill any creature. Hunting has been politicized.

Those on extreme ends of the spectrum are strident.

One of the loudest voices among anti-hunting factions is PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA’s website declares, “Animals are not ours. (To) experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way.”

Categorized as “cruel sports” are fishing, bull fighting, dogsled racing, rodeo and greyhound racing, among others. On hunting, the group states, “Quick kills are rare and many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them. Hunting is often called a sport as a way to pass off a cruel, needless killing spree as a socially acceptable, wholesome activity. Contrary to what hunters often say in defense of their cruel pastime, hunting has nothing to do with ‘conservation’ or ‘population control.’”

PETA made famous the phrase “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” and for the organization’s leader willing her body to the group for publicity, including using the meat of her remains to be used for a “human barbecue.”

The Humane Society of the United States is another well-known anti-hunting group, stating “the very foundation of the HSUS’ work is to protect animals from suffering and cruelty caused by human actions.”

Among other organizations opposed to hunting are the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Animals and more.

On the flip side, emphasizing that hunters are very much conservationists and that hunter dollars contribute millions of dollars each year to conservation are such groups as the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. Most of those organizations invest millions of dollars in habitat and wildlife protection programs.

The nation’s first conservation president was Theodore Roosevelt. He hunted and was a vocal proponent of the outdoor lifestyle, preserving lands for future generations, including founding the National Wildlife Refuge system in 1903. He also was a co-founder of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Roosevelt once said, “In a civilized country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife are ignorant of the fact that in reality, the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”

In January 2020, Simon Roosevelt, the president’s great-great-grandson, gave a speech to the Wild Sheep Foundation.

“Many,” this Roosevelt said, “don’t know that we hunters founded the conservation movement and that we are still driving much of it today. The larger public doesn’t know what hunting has to offer to these problems.”

Simon said conservation’s underpinnings revolves around “fair chase” hunting and phrases in the lexicon such as sport hunting and trophy hunting and “canned shoots masquerading as hunting” represent language of “ignorance and nonsense.”

What this Roosevelt endorsed is the same philosophical statement his ancestor did: I am a hunter, therefore I am a conservationist.

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