Hunting is Murder on Animals
Part VII -- Why the Starvation Argument Does Not Work
The Starvation Argument: 1. Does Not Work 2. Is Not the True Goal 3. Is Immoral

If any of you really hunt because you feel you are preventing starvation: Stop! You are not preventing starvation by hunting: you are causing it! Let me repeat that:

Hunting does not prevent starvation; it causes it!

Let me give you a few examples:
A deer, standing in the woods, looking over his shoulder

At least one out of every three deer shot by hunters is wounded and left to slowly die of its wounds. Often these crippled animals are no longer able to fend for themselves, and die of starvation as a result of their injuries.
Three deer standing outside the woods and looking in

Other deer are driven from their homes as they try to escape the mayhem of the hunting season. This usually means that they are forced onto less favorable habitat, which means less food and more chance of starvation.
'Flying the Unfriendly Skies:' A hunter aiming at a bird in flight

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that in one recent year hunters shot and killed ten million ducks. But shot and crippled two million more, who were left to slowly die of their wounds. At least twenty-five percent of all birds that are shot escape wounded and suffer a slow death.
A herd of animals

Hunting alters the make-up of family units. Animal societies are very well ordered. The loss of a dominant member or leader of a family unit is rare in nature and can result in lessened survival expectancies for the remaining members who depended upon the leader's superior strength and intellect for direction and social stability.

Natural predators remove the sick, feeble, and old members of a society. While hunters, more often than not, remove the leaders who make better trophies.
Steve in the studio

Of course, murdering the female of any species often results in the starvation of any offspring she may have had. And an invasion of hunters in the autumn causes deer to prematurely use critical fat reserves that would normally help them survive the winter.

From these few facts we can see that hunting adds to the starvation problems faced by wild animals. And so, totally fails in its stated objective of preventing or reducing starvation.

But hunting also utterly fails to meet its goal of reducing the population of the hunted species. How can this be? On the surface it would appear that murdering members of a species would reduce their population -- and in the short-term this is true. But it utterly fails in the long-term.
Steve in studio (close-up)

The hunters' argument relies on a very simplistic view of biology, which has the advantage of being easy to explain, but the disadvantage of being false. In real life ecology is a complex subject. Nature has its own checks and balances which, over time, makes it impossible for a wild species to increase beyond the capacity of its habitat to support it. All wild animals have evolved means of adjusting their population in relation to the food and habitat available to them. When large numbers of foxes were murdered in Europe, for example, larger litters resulted and a higher percentage of the offspring were females. Studies have shown that does will reabsorb embryos if they have mated during times of low food supply.

But reproductive patterns are drastically altered by hunting. Nature provides an optimal balance of one doe per buck But following a typical hunting season there are often five does for every buck. The surviving bucks will impregnate most of the ovulating does, and instead of reabsorbing the embryos, the does will likely give birth to twins because the food supply is now very abundant for the survivors of the hunting season. Normally does will give birth to a single fawn on their first attempt, and twins only on each succeeding attempt. Studies have also shown that an innate survival mechanism causes fawns to begin ovulating in their first year -- rather than their second or their third -- in response to hunting.
A doe and her fawn looking at you over their shoulders

So, after the hunters have finished their slaughter, the deer's genetic make-up takes over and we are soon left with as many or more deer than we started out with.

Of course, this situation is ideal for the hunters who can point to the starvation they caused and justify the whole cycle again next year!
Great Swamp National Refuge deer population/hunting bar-chart

Let's look at one specific example of the effects of hunting on a deer population. In 1974, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was opened to hunting (making it a very odd sort of "refuge"!) Officials justified their betrayal of the animals they were supposed to be protecting, by claiming there were too many deer.

As you can see, the deer population had, in reality, held steady at 650 for two years, and then had actually fallen in the years immediately preceding the decision to hunt the deer.

Once hunting began, the population did drop initially, since one of about every three or four deer were murdered each year. But even with such intensive hunting, the deer population climbed once they recovered from the initial shock. And after six years, in which 749 deer were murdered, there were once again 650 deer at the refuge. Prompting Sports Afield magazine to comment in that year: In few places is a harvestable surplus of deer more evident than in the Great Swamp National Refuge.

Seven-hundred and forty-nine animals had died for nothing. Nothing except the perpetuation of hunting. Following the first hunting season at the Refuge, the Manager of the Refuge made this astonishing statement:

None of the deer examined during the hunt were starving. They were generally in good condition. Certainly far from the point of starving.

If this was true, why was a hunting season opened at the Refuge in the first place? If it were known, following the first year of hunting, that the deer were not starving, why was a second season held, and a third and a fourth, continuing to this day?
Contents   Prev   Next: Part VIII -- How The Starvation Argument Misrepresents the True Goal of Hunting
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