One of the most direct human influences on the natural world is the manipulation of animal populations through sport hunting. Hunting is disruptive to the natural environment – it entails the alteration of the natural environment by humans for the purposes. Lodges are built to house hunters, roads are cut through forest to grant access to hunting lodges and the actual hunting area is altered to allow more efficient hunting. Hunting is also a form of animal population control: hunting is used to curtail population growth and to regulate the size of certain animal populations; additionally the practice of hunting has fostered manipulation of animal populations to ensure its continuation. An example is Ducks Unlimited in which ducks are bred to increase numbers and allow hunting.

Hunting entails manipulation and human influences, yet does this necessarily make hunting immoral? I attempted to analyze this question through several different moral frameworks: anthropocentic utilitarianism, Biocentrism, Future Generations Theory, and Care Ethics.


Summarily, the greatest good for the greatest number is the most moral course of action. The good can mean several things under such a definition and does not necessarily entail humans as the dominate being whose for whom the good is to be maximized. Under anthropocentric utilitarianism, however, this is exactly the case. Human pleasure is the good to be maximized. Following this idea and adding that there is generally no excessive pain or torture to the animal sports hunting, which is practiced for entertainment, would be a moral course of action.

However, I reject this means of viewing the issue as it is obviously too anthropocentric and does not allow for variation or the consideration of others besides humans. Additionally, focusing only on immediate pleasure and currently living generations, it is too sighted.


The theory has four main points:

  1. humans are members of the natural community as is any other animal
  2. Earth’s ecosystems are interconnected
  3. individuals are teleological centers of life – this means that each organism has a purpose for which it was “designed” and for which it is best suited
  4. “the claim that humans by their very nature are superior to other species is a groundless claim…” (Taylor, 76).

Under this theory sports hunting would be immoral because hunting places humans above other animals in a role they are not meant for. It would additionally be immoral because hunting disrupts natural envionrments and humans are not able to account for the effects this might have on the interconnected ecosystems.

However, Taylor specifically qualifies that his theory only deals with wild animals and ecosystems not those which coexist with humans (Taylor, 75). Sport hunting as it is currently practiced with human manipulated landscapes and/or human breed animals does not exactly constitute mans interaction with “wild” nature and so, while this theory raises interesting ideas it is not applicable.

Future Generations Theory:

It states that humans should preserve nature for future generations (Nelson 431). It places humans outside of nature and grants them the role of protector over nature and the natural world. This is extrapolating ideas a bit as the original theory does not deal with animals but wilderness.

Hunting is very unclear under this theory; depending on the method of hunting it could either be moral or immoral.
If hunting granted animals significance to humans they would not otherwise have and humans therefore preserve their species (for the purpose of hunting or otherwise) and/or as long as hunting does not deplete animal populations than it would be considered, if not moral, permissible.

However, hunting could also be considered immoral because of the threat of over-hunting and depletion of species.
However, this argument several fatal flaws: 1.) we do not know that “preserved” nature is what future generations want; 2.) there is no guarantee that future generations will continue to preserve nature for their future generations. Another flaw is in the very nature of humans as protector of the natural world… who says humans know what is best for nature or animals or how best to care for it if they do try.

Care Ethics:

Care Ethics tries to base moral judgment by seeing the world through another’s eyes and by doing so “the organism comes to mean something to one as a unique, irreplaceable individual" (Donavan 191). This is much like biocentrism only more applicable in the case of sport hunting; because hunting creates the direct link of interaction on which the theory is based. The main objection that Care Ethics is too subjective and dependent upon personal connection is what give it strength in this instance as the act of killing and watching an animal die creates (or should create) an emotional and personal link with the animal for hunters. Hunters, should therefore, easily be able to visualize the effects of their actions on animals and also to cortically imagine themselves in the animals shoes. This critical imagining is essential and dispels the criticism that care ethics is a purely emotional theory with no rational basis.

I proposed offered a solution to the short-sightedness of utilitarianism, to the anthropocentrism. However, it too can be objected to on practical grounds as the adoption this ideology would require humans to alter their values, way of thinking and way of valuing.

Donavan, Josephine. “Attention to Suffering: Sympathy as a Basis for Ethical Treatment of Animals.” // Beyond Animal Rights//. New York: Coninuum, 1996.

Fellenz, Marc R. "Utilitarian Arguments: The Value of Animal Experience." The Moral Menagerie: Philosophy and Animal Rights. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

Nelson, Michael P. "An Amalgamation of Wilderness Preservation Arguments." Environmental Ethics Ed. Andrew Light and Homes Rolston III. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Taylor, Paul W. "The Ethics of Respect for Nature." Environmental Ethics Ed. Andrew Light and Homes Rolston III. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

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