27 January 2004

Lisa Mighetto on the Tension Between Hunting and Conservation

Theodore Roosevelt was the best-known proponent of wildlife conservation in his day. He was also the nation's most famous hunter. Today, many animal lovers would find that a strange and unappealing combination. Indeed, among environmentalists, it is becoming increasingly fashionable to be against hunting. Although sportsmen are included in such organizations as the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Earth First!, they are continually criticized by other members. One of the most aggressive groups to oppose hunting is The Fund for Animals. Its members actually meet sportsmen in the wild, in the hopes of convincing them to refrain from killing animals. This tension is not new; in the United States, organized protests against blood sports emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hunting, however, is not antithetical to conservation. A hundred years ago, much of the groundwork for the protection of wildlife was laid by sportsmen. Their call for conservation was conveyed through a variety of hunting journals, including American Sportsman, Forest and Stream, Field and Stream, and American Angler—all of which were founded in the 1870s and 1880s. Some hunter-conservationists were particularly concerned about birds; the Audubon Society was founded by a sportsman.

(Lisa Mighetto, Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics [Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1991], 27)