In reading some of the comments posted in response to stories run on The Wildlife News this week, I was interested to see a few very heated exchanges concerning humans’ role in determining how animals die.  These comments reminded me of a presentation I saw this past November at the annual meeting of the Wildlife Society in which Dr. Robert Schmidt challenged wildlife managers to consider their role in “managing how animals die”.  He argued that little attention is paid to the topic of animal death among wildlife managers, which can exacerbate the conflicts that sometimes arise around the lethal management—especially of charismatic animals.  Support for Schmidt’s claim is readily available in a number of studies that have shown wide variation in support for various means of killing or “controlling” nuisance species.  In general, such studies suggest that many people are concerned that lethal management be as “humane” as possible.  Ballot initiatives banning the use of foothold traps and other management methods people deem to be “cruel” provide some additional support for this notion.

Yet, it is important to understand that opposition to such activities arises for a variety of reasons.   Some people are legitimately concerned for the animals that are killed as a result of such management activities, while others may object to the notion that people are allowed to inflict injury and death upon animals for recreational purposes.  In the former case, empathy for wildlife is a primary motivation; presumably the goal is to reduce animal pain and suffering.  In the latter case, opposition arises not (just) from empathy for the animal killed, but from idea that such behavior (on the part of humans) is morally abhorrent.  Support for the notion that some people object to wildlife management activities on moral grounds is found in studies that show differences in support for hunting based upon the purpose of or motivation for the hunt.  Thus, hunting for food/subsistence is strongly supported (>80%) in American society, while hunting for trophies or sport garner less support (28% and 58%, respectively).  Of course, most hunters hunt for a variety of reasons—meaning you can’t neatly separate trophy and meat hunters.

Further complicating matters, support for hunting various considerably based upon the types of animals being hunted.  Support is strongest for the most commonly hunted animals such as deer (78%), turkey (75%) and animals classified as small game (71%), while hunting carnivores such as black bear (47%) and mountain lion (42%) is not well supported in American society.  Unfortunately, it is not clear why such variation exists.  Some possible explanations include the species’ charisma, relative abundance, the extent to which these animals pose risks for people, sentience of the animal, and the methods commonly used to hunt these animals.

Finally, a number of recent studies indicate that support for lethal control of nuisance species depends both on the severity of the impact and the method by which the animal is killed/controlled.  These studies, in particular, bolster the notion that people want wildlife management agencies to be thoughtful about how animals die, and their support largely depends upon context.

What does all of this mean for wildlife management?  Can managers really be more responsive to societal concerns about how animals die? The answer is more complicated than many want to believe.  Setting up policies to be more responsive to societal concerns would require the involvement and approval of state wildlife commissions/boards who are generally appointed, not elected, and may be unsympathetic to the desires of people who are not viewed as part of their normal constituency.  Changing long-held policies may also run afoul of some legislators and governors (not to mention interested stakeholders), especially in western states.  Setting politics aside, managers require some degree of flexibility in dealing with wildlife—meaning societal desires may not always be feasible to implement—and could also prove cost prohibitive.  Moving nuisance bears, for example, while popular, may be ineffective at eliminating undesirable behaviors and is both more expensive and time consuming than simply killing the offending bear.  Moreover, a known nuisance animal that is moved and then causes trouble for someone else may open the door to lawsuits from individuals visited by the animal after it has been moved.  Prohibitions on certain hunting practices or in managing nuisance species can also create problems for managers when unforeseen or unconsidered situations arise.  Policies need to be adaptable so that managers can take advantage of the most effective methods for use in research and monitoring, while including exceptions for instances in which public health or safety are threatened. Finally, one needs to consider if and how bans can be enforced, which is becoming more problematic as agencies see their budgets cut.

Ultimately, limitations on individual freedoms are only defensible insomuch as they promote the public good.  Restricting the activities of a minority simply because a majority finds them distasteful is bad public policy—no matter the issue.  Regardless, it is becoming increasingly clear that the public wants its elected and appointed officials to provide some limitations on how and under what circumstances wildlife are killed—to consider the question: how should wildlife die?  I believe this question is worthy of reasoned discussion and debate here on The Wildlife News.  But that debate should focus on how such limitations promote the interests and well-being of the public, and avoid the logical fallacies (i.e., appeal to tradition, personal attack, appeals to emotion) that have so often characterized these debates in the past.



Bruskotter, J. T., J. J. Vaske, & Schmidt, R. H. (2009). Social and cognitive correlates of Utah residents’ acceptance of the lethal control of wolves. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 14:119-132.

Decker, D. J., Jacobson, C. A., & Brown, T. L. (2006). Situation-specific “impact dependency” As a determinant of management acceptability: Insights from wolf and grizzly bear management in Alaska. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34(2): 426–432.

Duda, M. D. & Jones, M.  (2009). Public Opinion on and Attitudes toward Hunting. In Transactions of the 73rd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Rahm, J., editor. Pages:180-198.

About The Author

Jeremy Bruskotter

Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter is an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University where his research interests are centered around the human dimensions” of wildlife conservation and management. Jeremy is passionate about wildlife–at one time or another, he has called himself hunter, angler, and wildlife photographer. Most of all, Jeremy is concerned with bringing the tools and techniques of the social sciences to bear on pressing issues in wildlife management.

186 Responses to How should animals die? A topic worthy of reasoned debate

  1. Savebears says:

    Nicely stated Jeremy.

  2. CaptainSakonna says:

    “But that debate should focus on how such limitations promote the interests and well-being of the public”

    Does “the public” incorporate the animals themselves? If it doesn’t, you’ve just excluded everyone who stands up for animals on a purely altruistic and moral basis from the debate. Even if you believe that we should base our laws on utilitarian ethics (which is not a belief everyone would share), you can’t do that properly without considering the utility to all parties, animals included. Before anyone jumps on me, I’m not trying to say that animals should be equal to people, just that they should receive some consideration as living beings. I would argue that humans are higher up the sentience scale and therefore deserve primary concern, but that doesn’t mean that anything a human wants is worth the life of an animal.

    I do enjoy watching wildlife and I prefer seeing them alive, rather than dead, but that’s not the primary reason for my concerns about hunting. I would push for an end to the hunting of all non-food animals even if a hunting ban did not promote my interests and well-being in any way. I don’t want to see animals sacrificed for trivial pleasures that represent human wants, rather than human needs; it’s *their* interests and well-being that I am concerned about.

    If one uses his freedom to oppress another, that freedom should be taken away. This is not a public opinion issue (unless you’re one of those people who believe that morality has no basis other than public opinion). Those who oppose hunting or certain methods of hunting typically find them not simply distasteful, but wrong, and therefore worthy of restriction and condemnation no matter how many people like or don’t like them. And unlike some things that people consider moral aberrations, hunting has victims. Generally, when considering cases of violence and oppression, we think first about the good of the victim, not the good of the collective public. Why should that go out the window when the victim is an animal?

    • JB says:

      “Does “the public” incorporate the animals themselves? If it doesn’t, you’ve just excluded everyone who stands up for animals on a purely altruistic and moral basis from the debate.”

      CS: Our current political system does not recognize any right on the part of animals (wild or domestic). They are either property, in the case of domestic animals, or res communes (belonging to no one) in the case of wildlife. Thus, my comment was meant to exclude wildlife, but I would point out that people who act “altruistically” on behalf of wildlife are NOT excluded from the conversation, but they do need to recognize that the realities of our political system precludes moral consideration of animals as a basis for their protection.

      Personally, I believe the utilitarian philosophy is much maligned and is far more inclusive than most people believe. Thus when you say, “I don’t want to see animals sacrificed for trivial pleasures…” I see psychological utility in the protection of animals. The key to utilitarianism is being able to relate one’s goals to human needs and desires.

      • Jamie says:

        If Wildlife belongs to no one, then how can hunting be legally regulated? The government frequently appears to take the position that many things “belong” to the State.

        • JB says:


          We inherited our notions of wildlife ownership from British common law, and the idea that wildlife were a public trust resource. Essentially, wildlife is owned by no one and managed as a trust asset by the state on behalf of its citizens (beneficiaries). Some states take this a step further and claim “ownership”; however, this is a dubious claim, and when states have tried to enforce it against the federal government they have lost.

      • CaptainSakonna says:

        Why must the debate be constrained by the current state of our political system? Is there not room to advocate changes in said system? There was a time when our political systems did not fully recognize the needs/rights of blacks, women, etc., and this situation was successfully changed. I don’t think abolitionists spent a lot of time arguing that we should get rid of slavery because it made the majority of white people sad, nor did suffrage advocates state that we should let women vote because their inability to do so made the majority of men upset. Rather, their causes were based on an emerging recognition of the inherent worth of the oppressed or disenfranchised group. It seems to me that the best way to ensure a secure future for animals of every sort, is to address the fundamental philosophical and political structures that enable their needless exploitation.

        • JB says:

          There’s nothing preventing you from arguing that animals should have rights. If you feel strongly about it, and can make a good argument, by all means have at it. However, the intent of this post was to discuss how CURRENT POLICY might better consider “how animals should die”. And at the end of the day, I sincerely doubt that this will change any time soon. So I am writing as a pragmatist seeking solutions, not as an idealist advocating for a particular outcome.

          • CaptainSakonna says:

            In brief, animals are conscious beings that experience pleasure and pain. They are capable of enjoying their lives, and expressing fear when they expect pain or anticipate that their lives may end. Any claim that we have a duty to avoid causing unnecessary suffering therefore applies to them; and we should value their lives for the same reasons we value our own, since, by all appearances, their desire to live is much the same as ours. As a Christian, I also believe that animals deserve respect as creatures designed and valued by God. I would avoid destroying an animal for the same reason I would avoid defacing a work of art made by a friend. In that sense, one could say that animals are “endowed by their Creator” with various rights, much as humans are, though I am sure that the respective lists of rights are not the same. I could spend a great deal of time expanding and backing up those statements, but that’s the stuff books are made of, so I will stop there. I mainly wanted you to acknowledge that utility to humans is not the only possible valid determinant for policy.

            By the way, rarely have I seen someone attempt to justify existing animal cruelty laws by saying that cruelty must be banned so that it won’t disturb sensitive individuals. The justifications I have seen are typically based on one of two things: 1) a basic moral principle which claims that animal abuse is wrong, be it based on rights or duty, or 2) a claim that animal abusers frequently “graduate” to human victims. And there is usually as much or more of the former argument as the latter.

            Speaking of that, I think it would be worth investigating whether there is any relationship between the various types of hunting and abuse, assault, murder, etc. I don’t have any data on that subject at the moment, but trophy hunting does seem disturbingly similar to serial killing in some ways. (See Gareth Patterson’s article, “The Killing Fields.”) Is there a tendency for hunters to “graduate” to people? One could also make a case for restricting hunting on the basis of its issues with public safety and “property” damage … despite hunter education classes and various other precautions, people, pets, and livestock are accidentally shot every year.

      • CaptainSakonna says:

        Also, I don’t think we have to choose between a rights-based ethic, and a utilitarian ethic that focuses on humans alone. People who talk about animal welfare (as distinct from animal rights) often seem to frame the issue in terms of a duty ethic, i.e. humans have an obligation to treat animals kindly. This is not necessarily inconsistent with the idea of animals being property.

  3. somsai says:

    I think this is actually a very relevant topic but I wouldn’t only limit it to how humans kill animals but also on how humans view other animals killing animals.

    In response to a comment I made a person related how for them one of their most memorable wildlife experiences was seeing a large carnivore with a young elk or fawn (I forget which) in it’s mouth. I’m personally troubled by the seeming enjoyment people seem to get watching animals eat each other. I call it the Michael Vic factor.

    A couple years ago some coyotes got a deer down the hill from a friend’s house. My friend’s wife awoke in the middle of the night to horrible sounds. He went to take a look and the two coyotes were eating the poor deer from the back end still and it was alive. His wife pleaded for him to put the animal out of it’s misery. He couldn’t, it would be a crime. Took 30 hours for that deer to die.

    I personally would rather no animal suffer, it’s distasteful, even repulsive to me, yet I’ve seen plenty of animals suffering, and humans too. I understand and accept that leg hold traps or bear snares or gassing pups, can be necessary, but I don’t like it.

    Of course a well planned management program wouldn’t have that many excess animals either. Another reason I think it’s crazy to bring lawsuits against government agencies. Imagine if the wolf culls had begun ten years ago? Instead of hundreds of individual animals the numbers would be scores at most. I lay the blame for the high number of animals that need culling squarely in the laps of those who delayed it for so long. Instead of a few nuisance tags and some trophy hunters, agencies use trapping, arial shooting (which can be a lot worse without getting into the gory details) I’ve no doubt eventually there will be a bounty if they can’t reach desired population targets using other methods.

    • Alan says:

      “I’m personally troubled by the seeming enjoyment people seem to get watching animals eat each other.”
      Ever sit across the table from someone choking down a steak? Ever hear folks talk about what a great steak it is? How they like theirs bloody rare? How they sit there laughing and joking without giving a second thought to the sacrifice the animal made to make that meal possible?
      It’s almost laughable how hunters and ranchers, who deal in death and blood and guts, get so blood-phobic when a predator makes a kill. I am not criticizing their hunting or ranching activities here, merely the hypocrisy.
      Meat eating animals (carnivores) will die without meat (you and I, BTW, will not). They use the tools that they were given, by God or Mother Nature or by whatever you believe in, to obtain that meat; just as early man likely used his teeth and nails, and rocks and sticks, whatever he could, to obtain his meat. Today man has far more efficient ways to kill; and he does, killing animals (and each other) by the ten of millions each and every year. We kill animals for food, we kill animals for fun, we kill animals for revenge, we kill animals because we don’t like them, we kill animals just for the heck of it. Sometimes, out of choice, not necessity as is the case with other predators, we deliberately kill in a cruel manner just for kicks.
      The difference between us and wolves or mountain lions or bears, is that we have been given the power to reason; and with that power comes knowledge. A wolf doesn’t understand the pain that it is inflicting while making a kill, any more than a bluebird understands the suffering that a bug might be experiencing as it is ripped apart alive and fed to the bird’s young. They are eating in the only way they know how, the only way they can. They are doing exactly what you or I or any animal would do, if that were our only way to survive; if it were all we knew.
      We, on the other hand, understand pain and suffering; and what is even more important, we have the knowledge and the ability to avoid inflicting it. Is it necessary to kill animals? Absolutely, we too must survive. Is it sometimes necessary to kill so-called “pest” animals? Yes. But it is our duty as civilized human beings to do so with a minimum of pain and suffering.
      One can argue all day about how morals or ethics might vary depending on one’s upbringing, background etc., but I would argue that avoiding the unnecessary pain and suffering of others (human or not) is a basic and universal ethic that goes back as far as time. Those humans who inflict needless pain and suffering are known as sadists, and I would argue that there is no place for them in our modern, civilized society.

      • skyrim says:

        Well put Alan. Thank you for that important perspective.

      • Paul says:

        The sad thing is that those who would be viewed in normal society as sadists are often viewed as “conservationists” in the eyes of many fish and game departments. Their activities are not only legal, but also vigorously promoted. Look at the mindset of many trappers. No thought is given to the suffering that they inflict. Look at bear hounding. Have you ever seen the YouTube videos of the hounders “whooping it up” after they shoot the bear out of the tree and let their dogs rip it apart while still alive? And the pro-hunting community wonders why people like myself are so disgusted by many in their ranks? I know that many in the hunting community try to be as humane as possible. I can respect that. But for those who gain sheer joy by inflicting pain on another living being something is very wrong. What is even worse is that there is a whole industry devoted to glamorizing these sadistic acts. Anyone ever step into a Gander Mountain or Cabelas? Among all of the testosterone, firepower, and stuffed dead animals do you ever see anything about being humane or making a quick clean kill? I don’t. All that I see is bravado about “the thrill of the kill.” Of course I generally avoid those places, so I may have missed something, but I doubt it.

        From my perspective the manner in which an animal is killed plays a huge role in whether or not hunting is accepted by society at large. The guy that goes out and shoots and elk, deer, etc. so that he can fill his freezer is looked at far different than the person who traps an animal, lets it sit in the trap for days, and then finally shows up to poke and prod it before killing it. At least that is what happens in the videos that I have seen, or from the bragging I have heard from some local slobs and their ilk.

        Alan makes a great point about the hypocrisy of those who use the manner in which a wolf kills it’s prey as a talking point. Those same people probably think it is okay to hound bears, cougars, etc., but suddenly they think it is horrible when a wolf behaves like a wild predator is supposed to? Of course all of the “gut shooting” talk also show what compassionate types these people are. I know not all are like this, but there sure are enough to make me question the ethics of many in the “sportsmen” community.

      • Immer Treue says:


        Eloquent and thoughtfully written.

      • Jamie says:

        Alan, I think it’s more simple than animals don’t understand the pain they inflict. I think it’s highly more likely that animals Do Not Care about the pain that they inflict. That what sets humans (as fellow animals) apart, is that some (but not all) do care. It’s a more logical correlation.

        • Alan says:

          Agreed, Jamie. They aren’t wired to care. This is how they eat. This is the only way they can eat. This is the only way they can survive. They do not have a conscience based on thousands of years of evolution, moral, ethical, religious and legal teaching; and yes, an understanding of pain and suffering. To an animal life is what it is, whether in their prime, life is good, food plentiful, weather mild, strong and vigorous; or slowly freezing to death in a blizzard at thirty below, afflicted with the mange.
          It is what it is. They cannot change how they hunt and eat any more than they can change how they themselves will eventually suffer and die. Broken leg? There’s no one to set it. Illness? Broken rib from trying to bring down the wrong elk? Horrible gash from trying to defend your family? There are no doctors, no pills to pop, no CT scans, MRI’s, chemo, bandages, antiseptics. It is what it is. They either get better or they don’t. They live or they die.
          Sometimes on a cold winer night I will look out in the yard and see a group of four or five deer huddled against the house trying to stay out of the wind. I’ll look at the thermometer…twenty, maybe thirty below! No matter how tough anyone thinks they are, strip down naked and spend a night in that!
          I have friends who hunt, or have hunted, and each one I know tells me that one of the most important things to them is to make sure that they are as close to 100% sure as possible that their first shot will result in as quick a death as possible. I do not hunt. I think hunting is barbaric. I eat very little meat, and no red meat at all. But I can respect that.
          Wild animals suffer enough all of their lives. Anyone who would deliberately inflict upon them additional, and unnecessary, pain and suffering, no matter how “legal” their activity, is sick, sadistic; possibly even sociopathic.
          JB implies that he would like to frame the discussion in such a way that leaves morals and ethics out; but that is not possible. “How should animals die?” is a discussion of morals and ethics; because without morals and ethics, what makes us men? What makes us human?

      • somsai says:

        I’d certainly agree with you about those who like to needlessly inflict pain, I’d also include those who enjoy watching an animal in pain, wether they are bear chasers with hounds or carnivore watchers with spotting scopes in Yellowstone, same exact type of mentality in my book.

        I’d disagree about having a the choice of eating meat. I tried reducing from a low meat, to only fish and then to no fish, dairy, or eggs. I quickly became prissy and listless, my wife started fetching the fire wood and made me wash dishes while wearing an apron. No can do.

        • CaptainSakonna says:

          Well, I hope you don’t think that all predator advocates enjoy that sort of thing. Personally, I don’t like seeing any animal suffer or die. I have made myself watch it a few times, just to ensure that I’m not blind to what it’s really like, but it isn’t the sort of thing I would put on the TV when I’m in the mood for a feel-good viewing experience. (Nature shows often seem designed for this sort of sensibility; they will show the predators on the chase, but cut away before the prey is actually pulled down and killed.) However, I won’t shoot a wolf for killing a deer any more than I’ll shoot a fellow human for chomping a steak, especially since I think wolves lack the sapience to go against their instincts and seek alternative diets or more humane methods of killing (unlike humans).

          I also think that there’s a distinction to be made between necessary death and needless death. There is a certain nobility in the death of one animal to feed another (or feed a human, if that human truly needs to eat meat); it’s a tragedy, but good comes out of it. This is especially true when, as often happens, the animal taken by the predator is sick, weak, or old, and basically dies so that other members of his species might live better. (You should read Barry Lopez’s description of the “conversation of death” in his book Of Wolves and Men — it’s in Google books.) When an animal is hit by a car, or forced to fight another animal in gladiatorial combat, or torn apart by hounds to amuse some hunter, that’s just a tragedy — a death without meaning. Basically, I’m saying that certain people might appreciate predation because it has a redeeming value that trophy hunting lacks.

          • somsai says:

            Certain people also no doubt appreciate predation for similar reasons as someone would enjoy watching hounds tear apart an animal.

            Certainly predation accounts for a certain number of the sick or lame, far more are the young or helpless. When calf survival in moose or elk doesn’t match deaths from old age or other means of predation, you have a declining herd. Pregnant or the newly born provide huge supplies of meat for bear emerging from hibernation and wolves at the end of the winter when the snow is deep.

            Your comment about wolves and deer, compared to humans and steak is troubling. I’d hope on reflection you could see the difference between the two.

      • Theo says:

        To your list of why we kill animals I would add that we probably kill more animals by accident, with our vehicles, than any other way. Many die lingering deaths at the side of the road. We could avoid doing so by giving up driving but we’re not about to do so.

        • Salle says:

          But Theo,

          You have immediately cast an unreasonable and extreme remedy to a situation that would require altering one’s behavior, even slightly – like simply avoiding hitting wildlife – rather than not driving at all. If one were to drive cautiously, the chances of hitting and injuring an animal are greatly reduced.

          I would offer that it is this sort of drastic equivocation that is rampant in our collective thinking, in this culture, and serves to exacerbate concerns of this sort. Most of this is due to the marketing indoctrination which tells us that our personal desires are above and beyond any concerns for responsibility toward or respect for others rather than empirical evidence or plain reason which dispute such notions.

          If one were to take responsibility for their actions, like driving attentively, which in turn would eliminate the problem of killing animals with their vehicle(s).

          • william huard says:

            According to some on this blog, asking someone to slow down would be an infringement on their “liberty”. If I was walking one of my dogs on the street and a car came close to hitting my dog- does the person driving the car have a responsibility to do what they need to do to avoid hitting the dog….. just as I have a responsibility to protect my dog..It’s the decent thing to do. It’s no different to say that trappers and hound hunters have a responsibility to do the decent thing and not cause unnecessary harm to an animal and knowingly trap and ship an animal to a hunting club so bubba can get his jollies watching his prize hounds rip a defenseless animal apart for kicks- do we really need to debate whether these actions are wrong? The only people that object to laws banning these practices are people that would profit from the exploitation. And the politicians that allow these laws are no better than the perpetrators

        • Captain_Sakonna says:

          If you’re suggesting that hunting should be legal as long as driving is legal, by the same logic, murder should be legal as long as driving is legal. After all, pedestrians sometimes die in auto accidents, and we could certainly avoid that by giving up driving. I will reiterate that I don’t believe animals and humans are equal, but the analogy still holds. There’s a big difference between an accident and an act that is premeditated. Regardless, I do support things like wildlife underpasses and other measures to reduce the toll that driving takes on animals.

          Based on the data that I’ve seen, your supposition that roadkill accounts for more deaths than other human causes is false. In fact, according to this study, legal hunting accounts for more deaths among large and medium North American mammals than all other human causes combined.

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      It was me who was happy to see my first wild wolf, though it was standing there with an elk fetus in its mouth. I don’t think there was anything to complain of. I think they probably taste good to wolves and suffer less dying than an adult elk. Anyway, the wolf was hungry, and so was I after a few more miles of walking.

      My strong preference is to have places where we still can experience nature in the raw — where things can and do get killed the old fashioned way, including maybe oneself . . . places where humans can learn how it was for hundreds of thousands of years and how it will be again unless they perfect better social institutions that those that are failing us now.

  4. Rancher Bob says:

    What I like is when people use the term “charismatic animal”, tells me what they really know about animals. Spend some time with any species of animal and you will find it’s charismatic. Anyone who thinks one species is that much more or less charismatic than another species needs to take a step back and look at their thought process.

    • Salle says:


      In this case I think the term “charismatic” refers to the animal’s favorable popularity with the public and the value the public affords it for whatever reason and then offering much attention. At least that’s the way I interpret the term in this context, not that this animal has more personality than others.

      • Rancher Bob says:

        That’s the problem any time one animal or group of animals is favored or has more value to the public things become unbalanced. One cannot cry for the need for more predators unless one knows the value of prey.
        It’s like saying humans should not be involved in the death or suffering of wildlife, will that stop death and suffering of wildlife, no. When a coyote is trapped by man the coyote suffers and dies but what of the prey or competing predators who will not suffer and die at the hands of that coyote. There is a need for balance and man is a part of that balance. In death and suffering there is also life and renewal. It’s more complex than I can explain.

        • Salle says:

          Well Bob,

          I have to disagree with that. I don’t think humans play a role in anything remotely resembling or even inspiring the notion of balance other than the fact that we are adamantly self-absorbed disruptors of it.

          When predators kill and eat their prey, they use the methods that they have available given their physical advantages that are a result of a natural process of selection over time. It is the same as their prey, they use what they have to survive. They all contribute to the health of the natural surroundings and all other living things nearby and afar which support their existence and well being. They all keep each other in check with regard to population size, genetic integrity and carrying capacity ~ they’re all inter-connected and such that the loss of one may eventually disrupt the existence of many others.

          Humans no longer participate in this process in the natural world, we seek only to control/exploit it for our gain and not much else. We make little to no contribution to the health of the natural systems that support our species.

          Humans have stepped out of the cycle and with the abilities afforded us through industrialization, for the most part, we have stuffed a big stick in the spokes of the cycle and threaten to inhibit it’s function – which ultimately supports our own existence. Once the cycle is drastically disrupted, can it be restored before humans and all things that would support them survive the event(s)? Would we be able to adapt after a punctuated event or series of events that wipe out all the other living things we rely on for survival but take for granted?

    • Nancy says:

      “Anyone who thinks one species is that much more or less charismatic than another species needs to take a step back and look at their thought process”

      Big Amen there Bob…. IF you’re also including yourself, as one of those other species.

      • Rancher Bob says:

        I would count humans as one of the least important species myself included. I enjoy life and I’m in no hurry but I look forward to the day I increase the soil nutrient level.

        • skyrim says:

          “The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.” Thoreau

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Rancher Bob,

      I don’t like emphasis on one animal either, regardless of whether it be an elk, wolf, or deer mouse (the latter not likely). I supported the return of the wolf mostly to help heal the backcountry and generally rural outdoors.

  5. Salle says:

    JB, Thanks for posing the question. It should be interesting to see what the comments reveal.

    Personally, I have a problem with humans killing animals whether it is by encroachment on habitat, shooting them or using some other device with the intent of killing an animal (or even by hand), or running them over with a vehicle.

    My biggest concern is the lack of respect for the animals being killed by the killers and those who support such actions. Why is killing the most common method of resolve in our society? Is it because it often takes less effort to kill something than to come to some peaceful agreement with one’s self by accepting that which isn’t a component of one’s personal life trajectory and thus, not seen as an obstruction to be eliminated by whatever means? There’s too much violence in this world and anything that promotes violence and/or guns as anything other than the killing machanisms that they are ~ regardless of the validity and utility of subsistence hunting ~ only serves to desensitize the killers from understanding the importance of respect for that which they take from the environment. These aren’t commodities that are available via walmart, these are living beings every bit alive as we special humans are, taking that life has an impact whether readily evident or not. To some, killing an animal isn’t much different from killing a human. I guess that brings the philosophy round to say that it has merit in the laws when applied to humans and so it should apply to other beings; the intent and method by which a life is taken matters on moral and philosophical levels. (I’m sure there’s an argument regarding the psyche as well but I’ll stick to this for now.)

    • JB says:

      Thanks, Salle. I appreciate the thoughtful response. I understand your perspective (i.e., too much violence and hunting encourages this violence), but I would point out that anyone who eats meat and doesn’t hunt simply has someone else do their killing for them. This separates people from “natural” processes, which may, in and of itself, be problematic for society.

      • Salle says:

        I agree. I eat meat, wild game acquired from friends who do hunt, and some commercially processed but not much of that. I know that many, in this country for certain, have no acquaintance with meat that isn’t already processed and first seen under cellophane or on the plate. I was introduced to hunting and home butchering of poultry and ungulates as a young child, it made me sick. (I truly have a hard time with meat I might eat to this day.)

        I can see your point about the separation issue, I am guilty of using it to make meat more palatable. If it were left to me to procure and process the meat (ie hunting, field dressing and all that bloody, gory stuff)… I’d be eating other things instead and/or bartering with others using things I can grow or something. That said, how these hunters, from whom I do acquire game meat, hunt does matter to me and I take that into consideration when an offer is made as to whether I would accept it or not.

        • JB says:

          I’m in a similar position. Gave up on beef and most processed meats (though I make some exceptions). I too get venison from family members.

          I actually enjoy hunting (and fishing) quite a bit, though I haven’t hunted in years. I’ve never taken any pleasure in the kill, and I hate cleaning animals–even fish. It does serve– very effectively in my opinion–to remind people where their protein comes from.

        • JEFF E says:

          I believe everyone should have intimate knowledge as to how the food on their dinner plate ended up there, including all of the steps taken to process it, should that be commercial or not; flora or fauna.

          • mike post says:

            Jeff, this reminds me of a post that appeared here long ago (the author need not be named) wherein the comment was that all the nasty hunters who slaughter wildlife should get a life and buy their meat at the supermarket so that no animals are harmed…

  6. Dave says:

    “Restricting the activities of a minority simply because a majority finds them distasteful is bad public policy—no matter the issue.”

    Bad public policy? Does this include setting fire to kittens, beating dogs with baseball bats, or starving horses to death? Leg-hold traps are something more than “distasteful”. They represent nothing less than animal abuse, mistreatment, cruelty, and torture, and an affront to civilized society. Why should abusing animals with leg-hold traps be any less restricted than the examples of animal abuse mentioned above?

    • JB says:

      Dave: I think a compelling argument can be made for opposing each of the practices you’ve mentioned. The *trick* (as I mentioned above) is to frame the argument such that it is centered on human needs and the public good, rather than on purely moral grounds.

      Personally, I have seen foothold traps used well with very little injury to an animal. I have also seen what happens when they are used by people who don’t know what they’re doing (and it isn’t pretty). Likewise, we all know what guns, knives, cars, etc. are capable of doing to people in the wrong hands. So do you oppose the tool (which is designed to restrain wildlife) or the method in which it is sometimes employed?

  7. Mike says:

    Is Wildlife News becoming anti-wildlife? With articles like this, one has to wonder.

    What’s going on, Ralph?

  8. Mike says:

    JB misses the entire point, of course. The question is not how should animals die, but why? Why should they die? Only then can we can we answer the question of HOW.

    • JB says:

      I’m willing to learn, Mike. So why, in your opinion, should animals die?

      • william huard says:

        I don’t agree with you JB when you say that the argument should be centered around human needs. It has everything to do with morality. Do humans NEED to trap animals for their fur? Or do they do it based on greed, the fact that they can, and to promote the tired old myth about trapping being part of the “hunting heritage” steeped in tradition and passed down through the generations…..What’s worse, as we have discussed before, trapping policy is focused exclusively around the NEEDS and WANTS of the trapper- and the animals wellbeing is completely ignored- if that isn’t a disconnect I don’t know what is….

        • Salle says:

          I would make that argument too, William. I don’t agree with the regs being focused on the convenience of the trapper. I don’t see a reason for it for “harvest” purposes.

        • JB says:


          I should have been more specific. I did not mean to comment on the legitimacy of anyone’s philosophy; rather, I framed the issue in this way for pragmatic purposes. Our political system does NOT recognize the rights of animals.

          In the US we have enshrined the freedom of religion as a right of all citizens, so if you or others don’t want to hunt or trap for moral reasons then you are entitled to do that. However, only a small minority of people believe that animals should have rights similar to humans. Absent such rights, advocates of animal rights and animal welfare are stuck justifying their policy preferences relative to their utility to human beings.

          • william huard says:

            Our political system does not recognize animals having rights you say…. Animals are protected with our laws to not be the subject of cruelty, neglect, and torture. The problem is these laws are not enforced on a consistent basis because special interest groups like hunters and trappers have the politicians exempt them from cruelty statutes. If someone in society catches an animal in a trap and they don’t have a trappers license, they could face persecution for committing a crime against wildlife, when a trapper leaves an animal in a trap for a week somehow that’s different?

          • Paul says:


            I certainly have never though that animals should have the same rights as humans. That being said they are still living and feeling beings that deserve as much compassion as we can provide, especially when being used for our purposes. I eat very little meat, but when I do purchase meat I go as far as investigating the source to make sure their advertising is not all hype. I am of the opinion that if we are going to use an animal for any purpose then that animal better have a comfortable life and a quick and painless death. That is why I deplore factory farming. The animal is nothing more than a product period. Little concern is given to their lives and deaths. That is what bugs me the most. What if we were in that same position and a superior species came to earth and subjugated us to the same treatment? And as an atheist the morality that I attach to the treatment of an animal has no connection to religion. I came up knowing what was right or wrong and I did not need religion to tell me so. In fact I think that when religion is brought into the whole treatment of animals issue it just muddies the water. Dominion, anyone?

            And for the record I think that many in the “animal rights” crowd are whack jobs. I understand and often agree with their goals, but they often take it too far. As much as the HSUS is demonized, I align myself far more with them than the nutjobs in PETA.

          • JB says:


            Animals are protected, I agree. But their protection is not justified by any right enforceable by law. Animals are either property or not (in the case of wildlife) and thus have no right that is enforceable by law.

            In the case of wildlife, we justify their protection based upon their utility to people, and we justify anti-cruelty laws based primarily on how such cruelty impacts people.

            – – – –


            “Religion” is typically recognized as a source of morality (what is “right” or “wrong”) and that is how (and why) I used the term. Whether your source of morality is Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Mother Nature or some other divinity matters not. Wherever your notions of morality come from, you are protected–so long as your beliefs do not infringe on others’ rights. That is the point I was trying to make. Like it or not, animals are seen as property (or a resource) to be utilized by people. When you restrict people’s ability to use animals, you infringe on their liberties. *NOTE* Before you start start typing about injustice, I’m not claiming that this is RIGHT, I am simply telling you that this is the way our legal system views animals. And it is very unlikely to change in the near term.

          • Salle says:

            “However, only a small minority of people believe that animals should have rights similar to humans. Absent such rights, advocates of animal rights and animal welfare are stuck justifying their policy preferences relative to their utility to human beings.”

            And therein lies the rub, for me at least. Is it religious dogma that promotes this species superiority in our midst? Or something more?

            I know that the majority of the religions I have had foisted on me preach species-centrism for humans, which I always thought was outright wrong. In many cultures all the other living beings in our world deserve respect every bit as much as we claim for ourselves. I feel more comfortable with that and lament that it is not a consideration in our “only money and the power over others that it can buy are sacred” mentality we currently adhere to these days. All human constructions that only humans understand and practice, to the detriment of everyone else including ourselves.

    • Salle says:

      But Mike,

      Every living thing will eventually die, it is why the question “how” is posed.

      Our culture has a problem with the natural cycles that define life, we can’t seem to accept that over which we have no control. If you examine how other cultures rationalize and react to death, you’ll see that it is quite different from the way we deal with it in the good ol’ US of A. We refuse to let go of things, we demand that anything that is beneficial become the norm to the extent that we overdo it. So you hear how nobody is supposed to die and that all death is wrong and someone needs to be blamed if not punished for the death of someone, including some animals… but only some it appears.

      • Mike says:

        Right, everything will die, including us. But much of the killing of animals is a choice we make, and not always for survival.

        So the question remains, why should animals die? When that is answerd, then we can figure out the “how”.

  9. Jon Way says:

    This is a very loaded topic one of which I was obviously involved in last week. I think there are a couple of issues here. Predator hunting is likely NOT favored by much of the public b.c (as JB indicates):
    1. they are not eaten like deer and turkey (etc), but also:
    2. b.c they have a sentience that many would consider above or at the top of the wild animal world. In other words, most of us know that deer are smart and cunning but carnivores, just to survive in the wild, have to be very smart and intelligent.

    Secondly, to discuss the topic of leg-hold traps for instance. JB indicates (paraphrased) that the minor shouldn’t be excluded for the majority. Leg-holds are a good example b.c they can be helpful in wildlife studies or in specific cases where a legitimate problem animal needs to be captured (say a coyote stalking people in a residential area). So in those cases leg-holds would be acceptable to probably a majority of people. However, the thought of people using leg-holds to trap and kill animals for recreational purposes, as purported by all state game agencies in states where the activity is legal, is much less publicly accepted. The problem is who gets to make these decisions and the disconnect with state game agencies and the public is often seen through public referendums which disproportionately target either trapping and/or protection predator(s) in some way.

    • william huard says:

      And this “minority shouldn’t be excluded for the majority nonsense” I’ll present you JB with two separate scenarios both from this week…
      In this second case- 8% of people in Virginia support the use of hounds to “train”, trap and kill wildlife for enjoyment….The 8%- are the “Slob” Hounders and the “Slob” Trappers that trap the fox and coyote for a “profit” and ship these aniamls to the hunting clubs…..These people are slime-

      One of the canned hunters in Indiana was cited a few years ago for drugging his animals, and also offloading them from transport vehicles right to the killing pens……

      • JB says:


        I think you’re missing my point. Many people feel just as strongly about the termination of an unwanted pregnancy as you feel about the mistreatment of wildlife, and they are equally sure that the practice is morally inexcusable. However, our legal system does not recognize any enforceable right on the part of animals or unborn fetuses.
        So while you insist that the notion that “restricting the activities of a minority simply because a majority finds them distasteful is bad public policy—no matter the issue” is nonsense; I would counter, that the lack of such a principle allows for policies such as segregation and Jim Crow laws that restrict minority rights based upon majority rule.

        • JB says:

          To follow up; the point isn’t that minority rights cannot or should not be restricted by the majority–the point, to be blunt, is that the majority should have a damn good reason. So Mike asks “why should wildlife be killed”, but one might just as well ask “why not”? I’m not (despite Mike’s contention) trying to step away from either question. I am, however, looking for an answer to the second–just as any policymaker would. That is, if you insist on restricting the right of someone to take wildlife, what justification can you provide? If all you’ve got is “it’s wrong” then I’m afraid policy isn’t going to change any time soon, no matter how passionate you are.

          • william huard says:

            I guess the question is-Does thrill killing SADISTIC behavior deserve to be a “liberty” and what redeeming value does “thrill killing” serve society as a whole….

          • Savebears says:

            Why does you opinion matter more William?

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            William –
            Can you be more specific about your definition of “thrill killing”; at least which activities you mean to describe by the term?

          • william huard says:


            I have described thrill killing on this blog many times. All hunting involves some sort of thrill killing. Not all thrill killing is necessarily bad. People that hunt to put food on the table is a very acceptable form of hunting. As you get into the other forms of “hunting” is where the problem starts. Canned hunters that kill animals for the trophy only are “slob hunters” or ‘thrill killers”. Wildlife penners, hound hunters, and trappers would go into this category as well. The object or goal of these people is the gratification they obtain from the suffering of the animal. Moreoften than not these people employ shortcuts, or forms of unfair advantage, like the use of dogs, baiting, electronic signals etc
            With all due respect Mark I really don’t expect you to understand, after all, your job is to promote the killing of predators through “wildlife management” (ie killing imaginary wolves in the LOLO for example) in order to satify your goal of having more animals available for harvest for your constituents…..

          • william huard says:

            You should read both of Alan’s posts- I agree 100% with what he says. Anyone that would derive pleasure or a rush from allowing hounds or dogs to rip a defenseless animal to pieces is really sick, and these practices are still allowed in many southern states. Without morals or ethics what does that say about us as a species?

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            William –
            I asked the question to focus the discussion. That you consider all hunting a form of thrill killing illustrates both your ignorance of the hunting tradition and your willingness, again, to emply egregious invectives that appeal to public outrage of violations of social norms. The North American hunting tradition and it’s values do not include any rational interpretation of “thrill killing” as you cavalierly employ the term in your references and objections to the hunting tradition.

          • william huard says:

            Open your eyes Mark. The “North American Hunting Tradition” and all those “values” that you talk about are in a steady decline.

          • william huard says:

            There is no better evidence than your legions of “mindless” hunters out there killing all but 151 wolves in your state. Your State is an embarrassment Mark- sorry to tell you.

          • Elk275 says:

            William, you and others are very critical of hunting with hounds, what are your feelings on falconry? I have never been hunting with falcons but from what I understand that falconer allows the falcon to tear apart a bird and eat it in order to kept the bird interested.

          • william huard says:

            Well Elk -in my book falconry is not “hunting” Who is doing the hunting? The falconer or the falcon? What’s next- hunting with aliens? If hunters were serious about protecting those “values” that they keep blabbing about- they wouldn’t lump themselves in with the hounders, pigeon shooters,
            trappers and penners and claim-“assault on the huntin heritage” whenever anyone questions them

          • WM says:


            The topic being discussed has sideboards of “reasoned debate.”

            You need to get a grip on reality and perhaps step away a bit from your repetitive and obsessive choice to use inflamatory terms like “thrill killing” and “sadistic,” “mindless” and “slob hunters.”

            The reality is and was ever since the contemplated reintroduction of wolves to the NRM in 1995 their numbers would be controlled. It was part of the reasoned mitigation impacts of reintroduction in the EIS- adverse effects on ungulate populations and livestock, and the ability to control their range and spatial distribution.

            For perspective, let’s just add to the discussion the reality that ID, MT, WY and now OR in the NRM; and MN, WI, MI in the Western Great Lakes have had to kill, and will continue to kill under control actions or hunting seasons (past, present or proposed) thousands of wolves in the coming years.

            You, I and others may not like it, but it is a reality of having them on the landscape, so again William, get a grip.

            The objective of reintroduction/repopulation was meeting the statutory requirements of the ESA to avoid species extinction (although the significant portion of range could be argued). We are well beyond that, now, and it is doubtful even if ID were to take the most aggressive actions, their wolf population would not be reduced to the minimum of < 151, for reasons we have discussed here.

            And as for your "thrill kill" theories, reasoned debate would prevent me from saying this, but I will anyway. Stick them where the sun don't shine.

          • JB says:

            “Does thrill killing SADISTIC behavior deserve to be a “liberty” and what redeeming value does “thrill killing” serve society as a whole.”

            Again, you are painting hunters with an overly broad brush. Are there sadists that hunt? Undoubtedly. But you know well–though you seem reluctant to admit it–that the vast majority of hunters are not sadists.

            So would ban all legitimate hunting simply because some people enjoy killing? You do realize that this would not put an end to the killing of wildlife, nor would it put an end to sadism, right?

            Your focus seems to be on WHY people kill animals more so than the HOW (per Mike’s comment). Do I have that right? Here’s the problem with this perspective. All policy faces a tradeoff between fairness and enforceability. Banning an entire class of activities to prevent people from abusing wildlife restricts the freedoms of the majority of ethical hunters in an attempt to restrict the unethical behavior of the minority (which is unfair). On the other hand, you might go after the behavior itself; however, that can be problematic because what you deplore so much isn’t the act of killing but people deriving pleasure from it. Yet, it would be impossible to construct an enforceable statute that bans “sadism in hunting”. Such a ban would require prosecutors in a criminal case to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) the intent to inflict harm in order to derive pleasure. Which simply isn’t feasible.

            A final alternative would be to ban specific types of behaviors that we don’t believe are ethical hunting (e.g., hunting using some electronic device, or hunting over bait). A number of states do this, but still run into problems with enforcement. For example, what happens when a hunter hunts near bait, but did not know it was there? Do prosecutors need to prove knowledge of the bait?

            Anyway, a few ideas to ponder.

          • william huard says:


            You are one to talk about “reasoned debate”…. You have blamed “environmental activists” and the HSUS for these heavy handed wolf control actions. After some of your recent posts- I have to ask- were is the “reasoned” in that mix? Maybe in the same place where the sun don’t shine perhaps?

          • JB says:

            Ha! Found a passage of text that deals with this very subject.

            From: Freyfogle, E. T., and D. D. Goble. 2009. Wildlife Law: A Primer. Washington, DC: Island Press.

            “If lawmakers were concerned about drafting fair laws–laws that distinguished carefully between conduct that seems bad and conduct that does not–they would likely define crimes to take into account a person’s knowledge and intent…The problem with this approach is that precise, detailed rules create too many enforcement problems. Prosecutors often cannot prove intent or knowledge, and behavior is sometimes ambiguous. Lawmakers have responded to enforcement challenges by defining criminal conduct more broadly than they otherwise might, so as to make prosecutions much easier. In the case of many offenses, they define crimes in terms of circumstantial acts and often omit considerations of knowledge and intent. In doing so, they define wrongful conduct in ways that also penalize behavior that could be entirely innocent.”

          • william huard says:

            Your points are well taken. I never said I wanted to ban all hunting.

          • WM says:


            ++You have blamed “environmental activists” and the HSUS for these heavy handed wolf control actions.++

            What I said, william, was that HSUS (which as an animal rights group never wants wolves delisted EVER), and some environmental activist groups have turned the ESA upside down using esoteric legal arguments as an offensive tool in a politically risky environment. As a consequence it got more backlash than would have likely happened if they would have just let the delisting play out.

            For example, the rush you see the Great Lakes states taking to initiate hunting seasons, and self help livestock control actions ASAP is a predictable reaction to the HSUS litigation which postponed MN wolf delisting for 10 years, and MI and WI for at least 5 years.

            This kind of jumps over the question of how animals (wolves) should die, and deals with the reality that they will die in larger numbers in a very short while, mostly at the hands of hunters/at risk ranchers, and with some trapping (which does raise the question of how some might die a slower, more painful death).

            But, here is something to think about. Had the delisting gone forward as originally planned, maybe the trapping thing which so many of us find distasteful might not have been employed so readily abd aggressively. So, maybe some of those responsible for these strategies should step up and take credit for the use of trapping to kill larger numbers to get to desired state management levels more quickly. Bet they didn’t figure on that strategic risk exposure.

          • WM says:


            What page in the Freyfogle text?

          • Mike says:

            Stoning women with rocks and burning people alive was tradition, too Mark.

            Let’s not confuse tradition with “correct”.

            Evolution requires changes in behavior.

            Please spare everyone the “North American Hunting Model of Conservation and Tradition By Good Wholesome People With Values Across this Whitebread Landscape and the Amber Waves of Grain” talk. It sounds so fake. No offense.

          • JB says:


            I left it at the office. It’s in the 140s or 150s.

          • Mike says:

            ++Again, you are painting hunters with an overly broad brush. Are there sadists that hunt? Undoubtedly. But you know well–though you seem reluctant to admit it–that the vast majority of hunters are not sadists.++

            I fly fish. Does that make me a sadist? Yes. Anyone who kills or maims when their lives are not in danger or dependent upon the killing is a sadist. That includes the entire hunting community.

            Let’s not mince words because *we* are the ones doing it. No offense, but so much is said in many words and it amounts to very little.

            We are sadists. Hunters are sadists. people who yank around animals are sadists.

            Simple, to the point. No pontification or analysis needed.

            A long time from now, this will change. The number of hunters are dropping through the roof. New generations aren’t buying the fake John Wayne act. Yet park visitation is up big time.

            The new kids are smart. They know about the environment. They read about it online, maybe take a couple trips. They don’t need to kill things to enjoy it. They’re more secure in their sexuality and in their place in life without the sterotypial “man-padding” that past generations tethered to.

          • JEFF E says:

            The word sadist is derived from one “Marquis de Sade” a frenchman who pretty much wrote the book on sexual deviancy.
            Hence the word sadist and all of it’s derivatives has the meaning of an individual who receives sexual gratification from preforming acts of cruelty or violence.
            Now I can only speak for myself but that is certainly not what happens when I hunt, fish, or pull a carrot from the ground.

            If that is what you are experiencing, as you have admitted too, then it goes a long way in explaining why you seem so conflicted and confused about the subject matter at hand.

          • Mike says:

            Jeff –

            Nice dodge and a terrible, IQ-draining lesson in semantics.

            Try the Merriam-Webster dictionary next time. And hey, also try to be a man and own up to your own flaws, too.

            You’re not outside of this. Man up. Admit what you do. Show a level of self-awareness that rises above many of the mopes that trod this planet’s soil.

          • JB says:


            Freyfogle & Goble, p. 143.

          • JEFF E says:

            I didn’t need too, but perhaps you should.


          • JEFF E says:

            And not that it will, in your case, do any good, the medical definition as per your source:

      • Mike says:

        good post, William.

  10. Doryfun says:

    Wow! I haven’t even had time to finish reading and digesting all these posts. Dr Robert Schmidt was right, based on 54 comments in less than about half a day. Looks like a pretty important issue for wildlife managers to consider.

    • Salle says:

      Yeah, if only they would actually trouble themselves to “consider”.

      • Wildlife managers that make decisions about how animals die have arrived at their present positions by sucking up to politicians and superiors over the years.
        They are much more concerned with keeping their jobs and not attracting the negative attention of someone who could end their employment (Governor Otter for example) than they are about
        how wildlife is killed. They have learned to go with the flow and to promote the “company line”.

  11. Immer Treue says:

    To put a slightly different twist on this thread, as some believe human are the ultimate predators, ie to the disgust for some to even think, we are animals…

    I know some of you have recently had parents in nursing homes. My mother is on her 4th year, and besides her over the years, I have observed others with slow lingering deaths where they slowly but surely “rot” away no matter how muchloving and tender care they are given.

    I remember my grandmother in the death throws of cancer begging to die each night.

    I nor any of my close friends who have discussed these issues desire this sort of conclusion, nor would we wish it upon others.

    Back to the point I wanted to make, it’s unique we do this to our loved ones, when we have a pet and do the “HUMANE” thing and put them down.

  12. Doryfun says:

    Disputing the question being asked, how, rather than why, seems a waste of time, given we occupy a live and die universe. That takes care of the why part (everything dies). Perhaps “when” would be better to include with the “how?” Determining when it is ok to kill is something wildlife managers have always had to do, and why we have the ESA and hunting seasons.

    But, what about other “whens,” like when is it ok to trap or snare, for example? If it were up to me, I would restrict it to purposes for reintroductions of indigenous species wiped out, and/or aiding ESA objectives.

    I’m not religious, and though I believe in freedom of religion, I question how much we allow it to spill into our politics and management. Salle’s suggestion about considering how other cultures deal with death is a good one.

    We live in a country where religious belief is much higher than in most other countries and atheism is treated like black plague. Basic supremacist/dominionist attitudes are how the west was won. Our culture still manages wildlife under utilitarian measures, and continues to perpetuate the dominionist approach to fish and game policy. “Game,” itself is a loaded word.

    Last night 60 Minutes had a story on trophy hunting in Texas, as a means of justifying funding for conservation efforts to save endangered species. This morning, on the Today Show there was a story about animal rights and using chimps for medical research. This further emphasizes the importance of what Dr Schmidt concluded.

    When I was a kid, I could never kill anything. Once I went to fish and wildlife school and learned a little more about limiting factors, and concepts like carrying capacities, hunters harvesting surplus that would be taken by winter/hunger, etcetera, it made hunting a little more palatable to me. But, when I considered I liked to eat meat, I could no longer justify eating it, unless I would be willing to kill it myself. Otherwise, I would be a hypocrite. Not only meat, comes from dead animals. Leather belts, shoe soles, and a lot of other things humans use come from such, often far below the radar of its derivation. (It is hard to not lead a life total free of hypocrisy of something, all things considered).

    When I learned about the attitude of native people giving animals equal importance and the idea of “gifting” (animals life as gift to humans), could I better accept the act of killing. So, I would second Dr. Schmidt’s idea of urging wildlife professionals to not only examine how we kill, (ie. Questions like legitimacy of trapping for profit) but also some basic mgt 101 concepts and tools and principles as being too dominionist oriented. It is time to re-examine the “how’s” of these things too. If we were to elevate animals to a higher level it might lead to more acceptable management policies by both consumptive and non-consumptive appreciations. Of course, that might mean we would not use animals anymore for medical research. Like we need more humans on the planet, anyway, or need to live beyond 120 yrs old. I like people, but why do we give so much sanctity to humans over animals? Equal rights seem like a better balance.

    If we can make an exception to killing humans during war, then we should be able to make exceptions to kill wildlife for subsistence or food, but be more sensitive to “how” we “take” or receive the “gift.”

    • Nancy says:

      Great response Doryfun.

      I found the segment on “game” farms in Texas disturbing and their reasoning behind having these farms – killing near extinct or highly endangered species to save them – downright obscene.

  13. topher says:

    Perhaps Mr. Gamblin could include a short description of idaho’s hunting rules and regulations and how they apply to fair chase hunting and traditional hunting methods. I think many will be surprised to learn of idaho’s dedication to traditional hunting methods and how these methods contribute to what many people consider fair chase hunting. When we ask “how an animal should die?” we should be able to reply “as quickly and humane as is possible while still allowing the animal a reasonable chance of escape.” Idaho has what I consider to be a very good set of restrictions on muzzeloader and archery equipment that I believe help contribute to what is , in my opinion,a fair chase hunt.

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      topher, All –
      I too appreciate the discussion and thoughtful contributions to this thread. The principles and ethics inherent in our hunting tradition emphasize the responsibility each hunter has to ensure as quick and humane a death as possible for the animals we kill. At the same time, hunting like natural predation, is part and parcel of the natural world we are a part of. HOW we, as members of the ecosystem we inhabit, respect and steward these resources that we benefit from affects our own quality and dignity in life, our place and role in nature and our identity as the top predator in nature.
      In that role, the rules by which we govern our hunting activities do guide how animals are killed, attempting to ensure those deaths are within the norms of our society.

  14. In all aspects of morality for animals and human animals the big ingredient is that we humans do not understand the process and reality of death, or the birth for that matter, at all. It makes it really hard to manage another species, let alone ourselves, without answers. I personally cannot conceive of the idea of killing a grizzly bear, for instance, because I consider them incredibly beautiful animals. My personal experiences have brought me to that conclusion, but my personal experience is as limited as each of yours to your own narrow view. So, why is it easy for me to swat a fly, then, if I wouldn’t kill a grizzly for being a pest? What is the difference? There really isn’t one and we are stuck with a piss poor understanding of the universe and a much less than perfect view of our role in it. As a result my advice to managers of wildlife would be to do as little as possible because you might cause more harm than good. Our history shows (worldwide) than when we kill what we think are pests for the better good, we sometimes make mistakes. If you squash the scorpion in your house, you make room for the cockroaches . .
    I don’t envy wildlife managers because whatever they do someone has a good reason to call it wrong.

    • william huard says:

      Take the case of Idaho for instance. Here you have the Otter administration- a backward administration in every way possible, including ‘wildlife management” who has shown utter contempt for anything to do with the Federal Government…..except when they want Wildlife Services and our tax dollars to come in with their 1920 style hit job of the “mythical wolves of the LOLO”. They want sharpshooters, helicopters, and the goon squad to come in an try “to artificially boost ungulate numbers”- in an area that has been in decline for decades……

      The Feds should tell Otter to take a hike.

  15. Nancy says:

    The responses to this topic have been very interesting JB and since this statement:

    “Jeremy is passionate about wildlife–at one time or another, he has called himself hunter, angler, and wildlife photographer”

    is an insight into your wildlife related background, I’m curious to know if you’ve formed any personal opinions as to “How should animals die?”

    Why do many anglers take great joy in catching that big fish, only to release it after a few pictures?

    Could or would, big game, head hunters, ever get the same kind of joy snapping a picture (instead of pulling the trigger) when they’ve got that animal in their sights?

    Both often lay out the same expenses for gear, booking trips, etc. for the same kind of experience.

    Why the difference in mentalities?

    Just curious 🙂

    • JB says:


      In the most general sense, I am (admittedly) ambiguous concerning how animals die. The “natural” deaths that animals die are generally much worse than dying at the hands of any hunter. (Or as a former teacher once advised me, “Mother Nature is a bitch”.) Thus, I am skeptical of limiting hunting methods based on the notion that they are “cruel”. That said, I am very sympathetic to the ideal that we should try and limit the pain and suffering of sentient beings. This seems a worthy goal of any society.

      Ultimately, my interest is making wildlife management more responsive to societal concerns. There is a long term trend toward decreased trust in government. I’d like to make sure that the institution of wildlife management is responsive enough to societal concerns so as to remain relevant in the coming decades and avoid the distrust that plagues other governmental institutions.

      • Nancy says:

        “The “natural” deaths that animals die are generally much worse than dying at the hands of any hunter”

        So, death by hunter is a better alternative than maybe having the chance to live to a ripe old age?

        • Savebears says:

          Ripe old age in the natural world is not very common, we have done some aging studies on various animals that have been found by wardens, field worker and such, in the state of Montana, the average whitetail buck lives to be around 6 to 7 years old. Now of course are are exceptions and every year very old bucks are found or taken by hunters, but the life span of many wild animals is not a long time.

        • JB says:


          Let’s not confuse arguments. I said I was skeptical of the argument that hunting is “cruel” because the manner in which mother nature kills seems crueler to me. So generally, death-by-hunter is LESS CRUEL (not necessarily better) than death-by-nature. Fair?

          The age to which an animal lives isn’t really all that relevant, except where it potentially affects the gene pool. For example, if hunters disproportionately kill animals with certain types of characteristics before they have a chance to breed.

          • Nancy says:

            “So generally, death-by-hunter is LESS CRUEL (not necessarily better) than death-by-nature. Fair?”

            I guess that really depends on the hunter or the hunting method 🙂

          • Elk275 says:

            Nancy it depends upon shot placement 95% of the time.

  16. Ralph Maughan says:

    I want to thank JB for posting this thoughtful article. I was away for most of the day and wasn’t able to comment meaningfully on it, tho I have added a couple.

    As JB said this issue is not only of ethical relevance, but very important to wildlife managers. I will add that it is important to them as individuals and as members of a social institution — a government agency.

    • JB says:

      Thanks, Ralph. It’s been great to see a lively (and largely well-reasoned) response!

  17. Doryfun says:

    Thanks JB for highlighting an issue that everyone has deep thoughts about and inspiring more questions we should be asking of ourselves. (as people and influencer’s of the natural world).

    In a sense, we have all been examining animal/human rights, as we struggle about what gets killed and how they die. There is an interesting video that premiered July 2011 called Sky Island , narrated by Meryl Streep, with readings from Scott Momaday. It has great photography and an applicable message about living rightly in the world.

    Enjoy at:

  18. LiddyARA says:

    What exactly gives human beings the right, or privilege to determine “how animals should die?” Some say our intelligence. Which then brings one to ask, if there were a more intelligent species on Earth, would they then right to determine how human beings and all other animals should die?

    If it’s morally wrong to cull the human population, which is beyond 7 billion at the moment, why is it then not morally wrong to cull a certain animal population?

    My point is that no one has the right to determine “how animals should die”, no matter how hard we rationalize, and make excuses for doing it. But since this is the world in which we live, if animals must die, they should die as painlessly as possible, and without prolonged suffering. Does killing them painlessly make it right? IMO, no it doesn’t.

    • LiddyARA says:

      Sorry about the typing, was in a rush.

    • skyrim says:

      “If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reasons. ~C.S. Lewis

  19. Dan says:

    What a stupid thread.

    This is just like everything else human. We must control it, exert our power. Influence it to our own tastes and liking.

    In the natural world things just happen. If a wolf is hungry, it eats if it can. It takes animals however it can and it consumes it however it can. Sometimes, in our eyes, it’s gory, sometimes not so much. But, one thing is for sure – it just happens.

    I hunt a lot. Mostly to fill the freezer. I have killed a lot of animals. I can assure you, it happens the same way for me as a wolf. Sometimes it’s fairly clean sometimes not, but it happens.

    Pain and suffering is a skewed human creation. In nature, pain is a living response to something wrong period.

    • Paul says:

      Then I guess the next time you have a headache or other pain you should just deal with it rather than taking any medicine to relieve it because it is just a skewed human creation and natural. Last time I checked we were mammals and part of the animal kingdom as well so I guess that pain and suffering for us should be ignored-it just happens. Are you saying that an animal’s pain is not the same as a humans?

      • Savebears says:


        I do deal with it, I don’t take any medications at all, the only time I have taken medication was when they rebuilt my hip, don’t take anything now, don’t like feeling altered.

      • Elk275 says:

        ++Last time I checked we were mammals and part of the animal kingdom as well so I guess that pain and suffering for us should be ignored-it just happens. Are you saying that an animal’s pain is not the same as a humans?++

        Interesting! I have seen badly horses cut up in barb wire and they just stand there. I have always wondered about an animal’s pain tolerance. I think that animals have higher pain tolerances than humans.

        • Paul says:

          I can’t even believe that this is an issue. We as humans have the ability to lessen pain and suffering with all species that we use for our own purposes, even ourselves. If an animal can be killed quickly and as painlessly as possible why is it even a question? Those that get enjoyment out of that pain are sick bastards, period. Animals may be better at hiding pain as I know all too well from my rehab work, but they still feel pain. You ever try clipping a dog’s nails and go a little too low? That yelp and squeal is not from joy.

      • Dan says:

        I think you missed the point entirely. People act as if there is a set value for pain and suffering. The theme seems to be that we can influence or control this set value. Manipulate it. My point hinges around the fact that there is no sure way to kill anything instantly and cleanly. The damned part of hunting (human or animal hunter) is that you have to put something in an animal to disrupt it’s systems. (tooth, bullet or otherwise) Sometimes that happens nicely, sometimes not. As a wolf uses what’s available to it, I use what is available to me. It has claws, teeth, strength, etc and I have arrows, bullets, etc to use. Any method could result in clean and efficient or gory and long. Living things have coping mechanisms to deal with pain. Serious injuries are typically numbed by the brain functions after a few minutes.
        I say that pain and suffering is conjured up because people think of it as a value that can be eliminated. No, it’s a natural process that is a signal that something is wrong in your systems.
        People take pain meds all the time. So what? It is their response to their body’s response that something is wrong. We can debate finer points but typically they are masking another issue.
        All living things exploit other living things. This is the root of nature. I also think this is a dumb thread because once again it strikes at removing humans from nature. We are apart of it and we will always exploit other living things. I believe this thought of removing humans from natural processes stems from the urbanization of humans. The efficiencies provided to humans from living in the urban environment removes them from the gory details of nature.

        • JB says:

          “My point hinges around the fact that there is no sure way to kill anything instantly and cleanly.”

          There’s also no sure way to ace a test, get a job, find a spouse, or to achieve a host of other desirable purposes. The fact that some goal is not always achievable does not negate the value in trying.

          • Paul says:

            Thank you JB. that is the point that I was trying to get across in my initial post.

        • JB says:

          “I say that pain and suffering is conjured up because people think of it as a value that can be eliminated.”

          I would suggest that [some] people view pain and suffering in animals empathetically, and desire to eliminate OR REDUCE pain and suffering. Wouldn’t you agree that reducing pain and suffering is a desirable goal?

        • JB says:

          I’ll make one more comment regarding separating humans from nature…

          “Nature” is definitely a human construct–one that we devised explicitly to separate humans (and their endeavors) from the rest of the universe. Try this for an exercise: Make humanity part of your definition of nature and then try and find something that is “unnatural”. You see? Include humans as part of nature and nature means everything. If nature means everything, then the concept loses its utility–that is, it cannot be used to distinguish one thing from any other.

          I think the “we are part of nature” argument is often employed as a way of lessening our collective responsibility for our impacts on natural systems. Specifically, people use this argument to suggest that because we are part of nature we somehow have less of an obligation to seek to mitigate our impacts on natural environments.

        • SEAK Mossback says:

          A lights-out head shot is about as close as it is possible to come. Lots of hunters in this area prefer it, partly because Sitka blacktails are small, very tasty, and often encountered at close range (with head above foliage) while hunters are often over-powered with potential brown bear self-defense in mind. I’ve even heard a few say “I like to go for head shots because you either get the deer or it runs away”, which I emphatically disagree with. If there is that much uncertainty, it is quite possible they will run away with a nasty, eventually fatal head injury. Usually better to go with the sure thing (heart-lungs) because they will die very quickly after running a short distance, which, as JB points out is less painful than 99% of the ways they would die naturally. That said, I always look for the head shot first which is taken with my scope sighted rifle only if the deer motionless and feet away, or farther if I can rest on a solid tree. I know a couple of people, including a friend in Tenakee and Richard Nelson in Sitka (well-known author who also does the awesome Encounters program on public radio) who, based on personal ethics, limit themselves entirely to head shots with certainty of immediate death (which generally means feet away), but both live in locations of very high deer abundance. The hunter education program here discourages head shots, for reasons I can well understand — strongly encouraging greater certainty for young hunters is better than saving 5 or 10 seconds of pain and some damaged meat, with a chance of much worse. I have also heard one hunter say his group decided not to take any head shots because they did not like what it does to a deer’s head — they thought it was disrespectful (or in some cases may be concerned with a photo or trophy or how the carcass would look to others). That’s one argument I personally don’t buy at all, but such decisions are very personal between you and the deer. As humans we should feel a personal imperative to limit suffering in the way we kill animals, but that doesn’t make it “better” than what happens through other pathways in the ecosystem. That said, with snow stacked very high here now and deer, fawns first, currently dying slow deaths on the beaches in this area with most of their forage covered — I see absolutely no reason why anyone should feel a twinge of remorse for having quickly displaced some of those deaths by quickly killing their limit of 4 deer (or 6 if you live in Tenakee or Sitka) during the season.

    • JB says:


      I guess I’m confused about what it is you’re trying to say? Distilling your response down to its relevant pieces, you’ve suggested:

      “This is just like everything else human. We must control it, exert our power. Influence it to our own tastes and liking… In the natural world things just happen… Pain and suffering is a skewed human creation. In nature, pain is a living response to something wrong period.”

      So pain and suffering is a “human creation” that we should “control” and “exert our power”? Is that right? So, unless we thought pain was something desirable, wouldn’t it behoove us to “exert” some control over our own behavior in order to reduce pain and suffering?

  20. Nancy says:

    Oh come SB – we are often comparing oranges to apples here, depending on who thinks they have the best “orchard”

    • Savebears says:


      You and I are in 100% agreement on your statement, we always compare apples and oranges, and many, including myself will point it out ever single time. What most seem to gloss over, this is actually a thread about morals, which is different to each and every single one of us. If I make a statement which goes against your morals, then I will be called on the carpet! And I am sure, when you make a statement that goes against mine I will call you on the carpet.

      • Nancy says:

        And thankfully SB, the “rug” burns have been held to a minimum 🙂 cuz you live and relate to the same area I do.

  21. Immer Treue says:

    It’s tough to believe that 121 comments have in one way or another been in response to how should animals die. JHC! If you are a human, and you are to kill, harvest, trap, an animal; as quickly, painlessly and humanely as possible!

  22. Dan says:

    So a wolf can catch a critter and kill it over the time period of hours or days. But I’m going to be held to some defined “standard” How JB are you going to police this standard? Who is going to train me? What are you going to do to me if I don’t meet the killing standard? Just what does this debate really mean? I believe the means we use today are more than sufficient to dispatch an animal quickly. Science supports my beliefs. There are volumes of ballistics data on penetration and wound channels of all current methods of kill. The managers have used this science to allow the methods we use today. What I’m saying is this book was already written, we cleanly kill and are far better at it that any other creature. To debate how animals “should” be killed is a debate that should be titled “Should humans be allowed to kill animals” This thread is dumb because it has nothing to with “how” but everything to with “should?”
    Your tact of pain and suffering is dumb because animals clearly don’t anguish in pain as we humans. The use of pain in this piece is a play on human emotions. Pain and suffering is used in our culture to denote extreme hardship and carries extreme emotional value. If other words were used to separate the humanizing of killing of animals (such as “dispatch time”) it would lose value just as the term “nature” does if humans are included. Your value of trying to do better is equivalent to re-inventing the wheel but without using rubber. aka it just doesn’t work very well.

    • JB says:

      “But I’m going to be held to some defined “standard” How JB are you going to police this standard? Who is going to train me? What are you going to do to me if I don’t meet the killing standard?”

      I agree that these are very good questions. If you read through the comments (above), you will see that I posed a few of them myself.

      “What I’m saying is this book was already written, we cleanly kill and are far better at it that any other creature. To debate how animals “should” be killed is a debate that should be titled “Should humans be allowed to kill animals?”

      I would agree that we USUALLY go about killing in ways that is far quicker and less painful than deaths animals would experience from non-humans. But not always. And in some cases, the policies we’ve established allow people to kill animals in ways that many people do not believe are humane, or find extremely distasteful.

      I posed the question “How should animals die” in recognition that hunting is well supported activity in our society, but many people object to hunting under certain conditions. Both you and Mike have sought to redefine the problem (question) such that it polarizes people into two camps: those who support human use (hunting), and those who don’t. I posed the question in such a way that avoids this polarization with the recognition that most people fall somewhere in between you and Mike.

      “Your tact of pain and suffering is dumb because animals clearly don’t anguish in pain as we humans.”

      I can assure you that animals do feel pain, Dan–though differences in species’ physiology (especially the central nervous system) suggest that different species feel and interpret pain differently from people. Scientists make the reasonable assumption that animals similar to humans physiologically interpret pain sensations similar to the way humans interpret these sensations. Some research suggests that certain species even respond empathetically to other animals’ pain (specifically, Jane Goodall’s work with chimps).

      At the very least, having this conversation lets people with different perspectives and different understandings of the world learn from one another. If you’d rather go back to name-calling, that’s you prerogative.

      • Jon Way says:

        Many animals definitely experience pain but I would also argue that most animals have higher pain thresholds than most humans. I have seen eastern coyotes that were shot or had a broken leg that survive. It amazes me every time to see it happen.

        Similarly, many athletes have a pain threshold that most of America (at least) can’t imagine – think of football players and what they deal with to play whereas most of us would be out of commission for a few weeks, let alone play in a game. I once ran (track and field) in college on a fractured shin for about 1 month before discovering the discomfort of why my leg hurt so much…. Anyhow, I submit (like Doryfun notes) that most animals definitely feel pain, but how animals deal with it also deals with their threshold for pain and I would think their threshold is off the charts compared to ours. Not that that justifies some of the things we do to them (like have them wait in traps to be eventually beaten over the head to death in order to preserve their pelts).

    • Alan says:

      “I’m going to be held to some defined “standard” How JB are you going to police this standard? Who is going to train me?”
      Do you really have to ask that question? Really? You “police” yourself as a decent, civilized human being. If you, as a hunter, are making every effort to make as clean and quick a kill as possible; if you inadvertently wound an animal and you make every reasonable effort to locate it as quickly as possible and finish it off, then you have done your job. If, on the other hand, you gut-shoot an animal and kick back and have a couple of beers while it lay there crying in agony, bleeding to death; or you are a trapper who decides to be lazy and sleep in for a few days rather than check his traps, even though you know there is a good chance something is caught in them; then there is something seriously wrong with you.
      I could sit here and argue about the merits, or lack there of, of hunting; but this has absolutely nothing to do with that. It’s about being a decent human being.
      “How should animals die?” In a perfect world all animals, including us, would simply lie down, go to sleep, and not wake up. I sure know that’s how I’d like go. But this isn’t a perfect world. The better question, and essentially what this thread has evolved into is, “How should people kill animals?”. Most would agree that people have to kill animals. For food, to prevent property damage, clothing, whatever. So, how should we do it? In my mind, every decent, civilized human being would say, “As quickly and painlessly as possible.”
      As I see it this is so black and white it’s not even real. No one is advocating a “pain police”. If I were to cause someone or something unnecessary pain and suffering, I couldn’t live with myself. Doesn’t mean I couldn’t kill something if I had to. I suspect that most people who post here, hunter or not, would feel the same way.

  23. Doryfun says:


    Add to that list of animals that feel pain – spiders. There was a good story in Conservation Biology Magazine awhile back that revealed recent studies that proved just such.

    As a steelhead guide, I have often heard fishermen claim fish don’t feel much pain. Never did believe it, still don’t. But, I have noticed how much pain a fishermen feels when hooked by their own gear.

  24. Doryfun says:

    To those who don’t think it is important to ask the question as to how animals die, and should be changed to if they die or not, I would submit this analogy.

    If you had the choice to ride in a boat through class V whitewater, with guide A who has only tipped over two times, compared to guide B who has tipped 12 times, which boat do you wish to ride in? Not getting in the boat would be the choice of riding or not. But once riding,does it make a difference? It does, if you pay attention to statistics.

  25. Ryan says:

    Without wading through the ethos arguments, the bottom line is that everything you do as a human leads to the death or displacement of animals. Farming creats vast wastelands of monocultures that displace a large portion of native wildlife. Even as a “vegatarian” your enviromental and animal impact is still high.

    The sad fact of life is that for us to exist, animals had to die. Whether it be for the leather on your sneakers or hiking boots or the protein in your fridge. The only question is, are you an assissin who looks their food in the eyes, or someone who prefers to pay someone to do their dirty work..

    • WM says:

      ++Whether it be for the leather on your sneakers or hiking boots or the protein in your fridge….++

      The sad fact is most people do not understand where their face and bath soap (stearic acid is just tallow, or rendered fat that has been hydolized), cosmetics, perfumes, lubricants, fabric processing chemicals and even some medications come from….animal fats, proteins and the tissue and organs (pig/cow pancreas extract makes insulin for humans) that produce them.

      Tell that to some of these animal rights folks …..Eeeewwwwww! but do they stop using the products?

      • WM says:

        Sorry, hydolized should read hydRolyized.

        • Doryfun says:

          Ryan, WM,
          I think I mentioned way back at the beginning of this thread about how hard it is not to be hypocritical at some level, since there are so many things we use that comes from dead animals. beyond just fishing and hunting, food, etc.

          I like to think most of the non-hunting folks on here realize that. So again, it isn’t about killing or not, it is about the degree we are willing to accept what methods are used. And how humane we can possbily make it, as that too is a bit of a pardoxical word. Most conscientious fishermen and hunters try to minimize pain and suffering, best they can, but accept these aflictions when taking up their technologies.

          • Alan says:

            Exactly. The subject of the thread is not, “Should animals die?”, but rather, “How should animals die?”

          • Ryan says:

            I guess the point is missed, its worthless argument. Take away their home and they starve, shoot them they die, breed them from chicks live in confined conditions and then cut their heads off and they still die. What is the difference between an animal getting crushed in a body trap or snared and getting driven into a shoot with it herd and getting a metal rod to the noggin? I think its not about how animals die, its all about how animals live.

            I would be willing to guess the coyote that died in a snare or was shot by a predator caller and turned into a coat, lived a much better life than the cow that made your sneakers. I will say without a shadow of a doubt that the wild fowl, elk, and deer in my freezer lived a much better life than did any of the animals in the meat aisle of even your local whole foods.

          • JB says:


            When I asked, “how should animals die” I had hoped people would think seriously about what methods of killing they approve of, knowing that their approval is in part a function of the pain caused to animals, and in part, a function of what they deem to be acceptable behavior for people.

            That some people oppose hunting does not surprise me; nor does the fact that some oppose any regulation of hunting methods (beyond what are in place). (The “slippery slope” argument rears its ugly head). What’s surprised me is how much these extremes are represented here in this thread, when I know they are not representative of the broader population.

            I’m just curious: Are there any restrictions on methods of killing that you are comfortable with?

          • Ryan says:


            I am no fan of torture in any shape or form.

            Without delving to much into feelings.. Would be better to live a full life ended by a 1 or 2 day stay in a foot trap or to spend your whole living in your own shit being over fed with the eventual demise of being driven into a salughter house?

            Which is crueler and more inhumane?

          • JB says:

            Fair enough, Ryan.

        • WM says:


          You guys are right. Ryan’s comment seemed like a good opportunity to insert a fact footnote, since the “should” issue had already been raised in this thread in the discussion of “how.” It also seems there are some here who never can quite get to the “how” part, which most everyone agrees should be quickly, humanely, and with respect, whenever possible.

          There is another aspect that includes how the animal lived, as in the case of those processes in which certain fluids, tissues are extracted for human use, no doubt with discomfort/pain, and to say nothing of the conditions under which they live in captivity for our benefit. There is hypocricy all along this continuium.

  26. Doryfun says:


    All animals, domestic or wild, don’t know one way from the other about which one is a better way to live, only human value systems measure that. How animals live is one issue, how they die is another.

    • WM says:


      ++All animals, domestic or wild, don’t know one way from the other about which one is a better way to live++

      I know your comment is to Ryan, but I would like to question your conclusion, if I understand your statement.

      If a horse has the opportunity to be in a tight corral eating nothing, standing in a foot of mud, or out on lush pasture out of the mud, which do you suppose it might choose?

      If an elk has a winter feeding choice of being on steeper ground eating browse in deep snow at higher elevation, or on flat ground grazing at lower elevation (predator issue excluded) which do you suppose it would choose?

      • Nancy says:

        This might give you alittle insight into those questions WM:

      • Ryan says:


        Your article illustrates my point, what good is you die, if how you live is that terrible.

        Rarely in life is someone judged by their death or how they died within reason.

        • Nancy says:

          Yes but your comment Ryan was

          “All animals, domestic or wild, don’t know one way from the other about which one is a better way to live, only human value systems measure that.”

          Obviously this bear did.

        • Ryan says:

          No, that was Doryfun’s comment..

        • JB says:

          “Rarely in life is someone judged by their death or how they died within reason.”

          Very true; however, we can’t but help judge the “quality” of a death upon hearing how someone died. How often have your heard the phrase, “what a horrible way to go.” So, armed with the knowledge that some ways to die are better than others and the ability to inflict death quickly, do we have a responsibility to take measures to help ensure that wildlife die at human hands in a manner that most consider to be humane?

          • Ryan says:


            Fair enough. I guess this is eliciting some personal insight on my own views. I feel death is of very little consequence and completely over hyped.

            When people talk about the vicitms of 911 I am sure many of them would share the sentiment “what a horrible way to go” personally if given the choice to die with a few hours of panic to to go via cancer, emphysema, drawn out old age, or starvation the choice would be simple for me.

            And I believe at that is the crux of this debate. If the metrics of time of suffering are brough it, the human causes of death are probably the most humane in the end when compared to disease, starvation, and predation (all natural forms of death). That is what creates the fallacy of this whole aregument and brings us back up to the point of how an animal lives as the important part.

          • JB says:


            I agree with you on several of these points. Humans generally do kill animals far more humanely than nature; and I would rather animals live a wild life, than be bred in captivity for our use. The quality of life DOES matter. And I would add: if each of us had to kill our own meat we would not only be more conscious of where our food came from, we would consume it far less frequently (and be healthier to boot).

            Still, while these are great arguments to consider how animals live, this thread was about how they die. As I said early on, I’m personally ambiguous about how animals die (for many of the same reasons you list). However, I recognize that people’s support for our utilization of wildlife resources depends in part upon how they view hunting; and how they view hunting depends, in part, upon how we police/regulate these activities.

            For me, the purpose of this thread was finding some common ground among hunting and non-hunting conservationists regarding how animals should die. From that perspective, this dialogue has been really useful. And thanks to everyone for keeping it civil…mostly. 🙂

      • Doryfun says:


        In answer to your question. Sure, if a horse knows the difference, it would be easy for it to choose the better condition. My point was a wild animal having never been penned, or a cow always in a corral would not have anything to compare it to, to know which is better. You can’t know good without knowing bad.

        I didn’ think it would be that complicated or a huge challenge.

        • WM says:

          Actually I think it is more complicated, and even that cow, elk, cougar or wolf has some level of raw curiosity that fuels its desire to seek nutrition, reproduce, safety and maybe socialize with (or avoid) its own, consistent with the character of the species. It will venture out regardless of whether it had experienced “good” somewhere in the past, and knowing more it may avoid the bad, however that is defined. It is in the nature of the animal (some cows maybe excepted).

          This, of course, has taken us off the core topic even further, but is somewhat germane, in my view.

    • Ryan says:


      By your logic, how would they know any other way to die or have a preference.

      “How animals live is one issue, how they die is another.”

      If you legnth of time as a detemining factor, how they die is a non issue.. What is 2 days at maximum over a span of years? How they die is really a non issue using those merits.

      Is it better for a cat to get ran by a pack of wolves or a pack of hounds?

      By way to dieing, getting ripped apart by a pack of wolves seems much worse to me than gettting a well placed bullet. What is the difference between getting your esophogus crushed by a cougar and getting strangled in a snare?

      The point is you are putting human value on to realatively equal ways of death.

      If we want to continue this path down anthropromorhism (sp) then wolves should know when they are causing un warranted pain and suffering and should be subject to the same treatment as humans that cause it.

      How they live and where they live are the important factors. If what you say it true that animals do not know the differnce where they live… Then how does it matter how they die?

      • Immer Treue says:

        All animals have the same two basic drives: Survive and reproduce. In order to do this, they must eat.

        Animals do not have the means to end a life quickly, and as benignly as possible. Man does. Why the debate?

        • Nancy says:

          I don’t know Immer 🙂

          We are the most intelligent (alteast thats what we think) species on the planet, yet many of our species have no problem inflecting pain and death on other species (and ourselves) over and over again and usually come up with great reasons/excuses as to why its necessary.

          • Immer Treue says:


            Sadly, you’ll get no argument from me.

            My original post very early in this thread, addresses this portion of your comment

            (+++usually come up with great reasons/excuses as to why its necessary+++)

            in a way very close to home for some if not most of us.

      • Ryan says:


        Isn’t that what drives humans well? The urge to survive and reproduce, granted there is more, but if you look at the very simple aborigional cultures that is there basis of survival.

        Get into higher level primates and pack animals and you have pack violence and other problems that plaugue man.

        “Animals do not have the means to end a life quickly, and as benignly as possible. Man does.”

        Ever watch a house cat and a mouse. Sometimes they kill them instantiously, others they mercilously play with them. This happens in many felines.

        • Immer Treue says:


          +++Isn’t that what drives humans well? The urge to survive and reproduce, granted there is more, but if you look at the very simple aborigional cultures that is there basis of survival.+++


          +++Ever watch a house cat and a mouse. Sometimes they kill them instantiously, others they mercilously play with them. This happens in many felines.+++

          House cats perhaps, but if an animal does this in the wild, and they are in dire need of food, foolish behavior allows Darwin into the picture.

          • Savebears says:

            I have watched wild cats, (Lions, Bobcat and Lynx) on many occasions over the years that play with their food just as a house cat does.

            Nancy, Cats don’t have a pack mentality, as far as feeding their owner, I don’t believe they have a sense of being “owned”. Some cats like being with the humans they live with and some cats don’t, sharing is not a behavior that has been documented in cats.

        • Nancy says:

          “Ever watch a house cat and a mouse. Sometimes they kill them instantiously, others they mercilously play with them”

          That kind of behavior happens in people too Ryan. I think they are called serial killers.

          Had a neighbor years ago who had a cat that would bring all sorts of little, living creatures into their house, thru the doggie door. Primal urge to “feed” their pack/owners?

        • Immer Treue says:


          ***All animals have the same two basic drives: Survive and reproduce. In order to do this, they must eat.***

          +++Isn’t that what drives humans well?+++

          To step aside from anthropocentrism (if impossible) in purely evolutionary terms, all we are is another animal.

        • Alan says:

          To the average house cat a mouse is a toy, not food. My cat will catch a mouse, play with it for awhile, and let it go unharmed when she gets bored. If she kills it, it was a mistake, and she will bring it to me and cry like she wants me to fix it! She never would eat it! Ever! Just like if I take her outside she will cry to go back in so she can go to the bathroom; she has no concept that the entire outdoors is a litter box! A barn cat, who eats what it catches and little more, is more likely to make a quick kill.
          The point is, we aren’t cats. Nor are we wolves, bears or badgers. We are civilized human beings.
          Suggesting that since a coyote lived a better life than a chicken in it’s poop in a coop, somehow makes it OK to leave that coyote in a leg snare for a few days is disturbing on so many levels. It’s kind of like saying, “My kid lives a much better life than kids in Africa or Asia, he’s well fed, kept warm and clean; therefore it’s OK to beat him!
          Is the chicken in the coop wrong too? Absolutely; but that’s another thread. Perhaps JB should start one: “How Should Animals Live?”

          • Ryan says:


            So what you are saying is that it is okay for a chicken to live in squalor for its whole life, but it is horrible for a coyote to die in a trap?

            BTW- When you cat lets a mouse or bird go, its still dead. The bacteria in a cats mouth ensures that any animal it bites will most likely die a horrible slow death due to infection.

          • Alan says:

            As I stated above: “Is the chicken in the coop wrong too? Absolutely; but that’s another thread. Perhaps JB should start one: “How Should Animals Live?”” Does that sound like I said the chicken coop was OK?
            Actually my cat doesn’t bite the mice, believe it or not. She just corners them and keeps them from getting away with her paws, nails retracted. It is the weirdest thing. When she gets bored she just walks away. Trust me, I’d rather she kill them because they are deer mice and they carry hantavirus. Usually when she has them cornered I can pop an old bowl over it and release them out in the back forty. My cat has never caught a bird, she is an indoor cat except when she goes out with me.

      • Doryfun says:


        Not sure I followed all your thoughts here, but it is easy to confuse human values with what value system animals have, if they have any.

        How an animal dies, may or may not matter to the animal, but it does matter to me, and I thought that was the just of the original intent of this thread, but it appears some folks want to make more out of it.

        So, I think JB has found plenty of material reading through this long tangled thread, and discovered how easy it is to get off track.

        • Nancy says:

          Or he may discover how to get on track Doryfun.

          Ms Grandin( My Life with Autism) said it best:

          “I believe that the best way to create good living conditions for any animal, whether it’s a captive animal living in a zoo, a farm animal or a pet, is to base animal welfare programs on the core emotion systems in the brain. My theory is that the environment animals live in should activate their positive emotions as much as possible, and not activate their negative emotions any more than necessary. If we get the animal’s emotions rights, we will have fewer problem behaviors… All animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain.”
          ― Temple Grandin, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals

          • WM says:


            And for more background, of course, Temple Grandin, is an animal science professor at Colorado St. U, and is an authority on designing cattle directional chutes which minimize stress to them as they are moved, ultimately to the slaughter house.

        • Ryan says:


          I guess there is the fundamental difference, I do not care about how an animal dies within reason. What I do care about is the ecosystem and enviroment in which they live.

  27. Alan says:

    You know, this thread in a microcosm is indicative of why we can’t get anything done in Washington. We are a country of bickerers. It’s a simple question: “How SHOULD animals die?” The answer is simple: “As painlessly and with as little suffering as possible!” That’s how they SHOULD die. That’s how we SHOULD die. In the real world it doesn’t always work that way. But you would think it would be simple to agree that that’s how everything SHOULD die.
    I am convinced that if someone were to start a thread stating that the sky is blue there would be 200 comments arguing the point, “It’s not blue on a cloudy day…What about air pollution?…Still blue behind..Used to be blue until man polluted it…Wait a minute fella, pollution isn’t caused be anything people do!!…It’s just an allusion, it’s not really blue” Etc.

    • Cobra says:


    • WM says:


      To get back to the core of the thread, then, JB posed the how question.

      How (if at all is not an option) do you think animals, like wolves in a control action should die? Cyanide in its various forms, bullet, shotgun, poison laced meat balls, trap (which types), netted or tranquilized then later euthanized, and when?

      Should these be administered by professionals, volunteers or recreational hunters (for those methods that are appropriate)? Should each have ethics and sensitivity training before hitting the field (remember the Killer Bee photo and vitriol filled thread that was up for a over a month on this forum)? Is a helicopter too instrusive?

      Should some individuals – whether professional or recreational- be screened or prohibited from participating because of their psychological makeup and motivation? Should some individuals specifically be prohibited from engaging in control actions or hunting of any sort because it may feed a perceived psychopathic condition?

      I think this topic has lots of dimensions, and areas of potential disagreement. The nature of an animal – any animal- and its right to a quality life and morally swift death at the hands of humans wherever it might be is also important.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        WM –
        Good points. This really is a distinct topic from “whether” animals should be killed. There was an excellent example of how it can get off track from the old days way back in 1993, long before the killer bee, when wolves were considered something rare and wonderful, relegated to distant wilderness — and politicians in those distant areas felt an intense national spotlight whenever anybody official proposed to harm them. Governor Hickel called a big powwow (predator control summit) in Fairbanks over proposed wolf control for a caribou population just to the south, naively thinking some consensus could emerge. It turned into an occupy-Wallstreet sort of event. Opponents were screaming how unfair it was to shoot wolves from the air and the governor was feeling intense heat from both sides, so he authorized killing wolves but forbade shooting them from the air (helicopter), thinking that should take care of at least the greatest objection. So . . . . . rather than tracking wolves over fresh snow and coming in close for a quick kill with buck shot, crews dutifully set about tending some 700 wolf snares spread between Fairbanks and the Alaska Range — by helicopter. They removed a fair number of wolves by a great amount of effort, and certainly much greater expense. But in the process, they failed to completely placate noisy distant opponents (although some may have thought they got something out of the deal) while certainly not improving the humaneness of the operation, nor the cost, nor the mission (caribou, in addition to other wildlife, were caught incidentally in some of the snares). Gadfly Gordon Haber shadowed the operation with his video camera and made national TV with some disturbing footage, and the governor pulled the plug. The biological justification for the operation, with the benefit of hind-sight, would be a different topic for another day.

  28. Nancy says:

    “And for more background, of course, Temple Grandin, is an animal science professor at Colorado St. U, and is an authority on designing cattle directional chutes which minimize stress to them as they are moved, ultimately to the slaughter house”

    Know all about Ms Grandin’s background WM.

    What’s important here is the fact that she managed to re-direct the ongoing abuses in slaughterhouses (with a disability that brings many parents to their knees these days when diagnosed) because she cared enough about animals and their “fate to the plate” journey so prevailent in our society.

  29. Savebears says:

    After being close to death once in my life, I can honestly say, I don’t think about death, I know it can happen at any time and have no feelings on how it happens. I choose to focus on how I live. I can say, I don’t wish a painful death on any being, when I choose to kill anything, the hope is it is quick, but when I choose to kill, I also know it will not be painless, there will be at least some pain felt even with a very sharp arrow.

  30. Dan says:

    In my personal experience, I have found people who have a great distaste for hunting and killing have generally experienced a lot of trauma in their younger years. I think it’s like the adage that 80% of psychology majors are psychology majors to find out what’s wrong with themselves. I think the great majority of outspoken animal activists are filling a void from their youth. Parent problems, abuse problems, etc seem to translate to their later years into a constant seeking of a state of earthly harmony. I think they choose to ignore the brutal realities of nature. Realities that are gory and gruesome and seated deeply in exploitation of one creature to another. So, to sum up my thoughts on “How,” I think we as humans; leg traps, snares, buck-shot and all, are far more humane than the brutal realities of nature.

    • william huard says:

      Gee Dan-

      Now that we have you as our resident armchair psychologist maybe you can help us solve the problem of world hunger, global warming, and some of our other pressing world problems.

    • Ryan says:


      Its okay when you and Mike make the asinine prognosis about hunters, but if someone dare make a prognosis the other way its the worst thing ever.

    • Nancy says:

      I wonder Dan if the same thing can be said regarding some hunters who seem to take pleasure in killing animals simply for the hide or head? Trophies, bragging rights, a way to impress friends. Struggling perhaps with their childhood, which may have been abusive or filled with neglect?

      I see nothing wrong with seeking a state of earthly harmony, afterall its in real time.

      Might of mentioned before a brother-in-law who ate like a pig (fast foods) was terribly overweight, had numerous health problems but was totally convinced that it was okay to live like that because he had faith in the Almighty and because of that faith, felt he already had a place staked out in heaven when he keeled over 🙂

    • JB says:


      I think the people who oppose hunting have a variety of motivations for their activities–just as hunters have a variety of motivations for hunting. Stereotyping the opposition into “neat” categories is itself a type of defense mechanism–it allows you to easily dismiss their opinions without giving much thought to the substance of their critique. (Note: I have brought this up with those that oppose hunting before).

      Noting that human methods of harvest are generally more humane than the way wild animals “naturally” die doesn’t really answer the question that was posed.

  31. Dan says:

    First of all, I wrote “generally” not everyone. I think there are many reasons people oppose hunting. However, there is bound to be a major reason and I think my observations are truer than William would like to admit. I don’t want to dismiss the anti-hunting group at all. I would like to understand their root cause for their beliefs. It is very hard to get people to spill their true reasons. There are certainly any number of reasons, especially when the motivation behind an issue is more ideological than financial.
    You have repeatedly stated I have failed to address how an animal should die. How is never going to be cut and dry like tying your shoe. I think the “how” is more like a flow chart system. It depends on the motivation, resources and end goal. If I want to kill a million maggots or a few clams I might dip them in boiling water. I can not think of a situation where I would dip an elk in boiling water but I would certainly attempt to put an arrow into it’s heart/lung region. If I were lost in the woods I would certainly try to kill with a rock or stick if I didn’t have anything else suitable. Given that humans are extremely emotional, why can almost anyone smash a house fly and not think twice about it but struggle to see a cougar die. Scale? I think scale or size has a lot to do with it. No one gets emotional about killing flies so why should we get emotional about killing cows or sheep or wolves? My point is, I think our culture is extremely visual and we over emphasis our visual sense. The “how” we kill is with the means that make sense at the time and place given resources and goals.

    • Doryfun says:

      In a sense I would agree with Dan on the sliding scale (fly vs elk, act) comparisons we humans use for evaluating what we kill or not. The visual thing is also quite impactful. Before reading his comment, I was about to post about comparing rifle to bow for hunting. A lot of rifle hunters don’t care for bow hunters, often commenting about having seen an arrow sticking out of an animal once, or some related story. A rifle shot normally does much more damage, but it does not have the in-your-face affect that an arrow has. The visual aspect of an arrow creates much more stir.

      Some people like Ryan don’t care how animals are killed, within reason, he said.. (whatever that is), while other folks like me do. My guess is that there are far more people who do care how animals are killed. I normally try to live with things without a knee-jerk reaction to their presence (transferring rattlesnakes, spiders or insects elsewhere, rather than killing,etc – though do kill bees or mosquitoes that come after me). So, I too, find the elephant/ant variance in emotional response different types of animals give to humans quite curious.

      However, I don’t think it helps that much trying to psycho-analyze the hunter, or non-hunter, as it is only the extreme radicals at both ends that turn into problem psychopaths and society deals with those types with drugs or bars.

      Seek’s comments about the aerial wolf hunt controversy in AK, were interesting, and a bit bifurcatedly supported what I mentioned earlier on this post, about considering using choppers with sharp shooters as potentially a more surgical and less painful control method. I would rather see trapping, with exceptions for sound science, taken out of the tool box. Even Carter admits how cruel snaring can be.

      People always resist change, because it breeds uncertainty and sizzles our comfort zone. It is why breeching dams for salmon is such a controversy, but even economic impact studies show this is viable for the benefit of more people long term. A few barge pilots will need to rudely adjust their lifestyle. So too, would trappers, if trapping was eliminated. I don’t know how many trappers these days rely on it as a full time livelihood, nor are more recreational type trappers, to appreciate how many folks would be affected. Though I’m sure representatives would lobby hard against eliminating their methodologies.

      I still think Dr. Schmidt was right in urging wildlife professionals to pay more attention to their role in how animals die. Maybe Mark and any other wildlifer’s reading this thread will fodder-up on such mentor’s recommendations and apply when appropriate. Perhaps more debate on another post about the pros and cons of trapping as legitimate or a tired tool would help managers gauge public interest and support for or against??

    • JB says:

      “First of all, I wrote “generally” not everyone. I think there are many reasons people oppose hunting. However, there is bound to be a major reason and I think my observations are truer than William would like to admit.”

      Dan: Have you ever heard of the “fundamental attribution error”? Google it, and you’ll see why I think you (and William) are wrong. Of course neither of you will agree with me.

      “I don’t want to dismiss the anti-hunting group at all. I would like to understand their root cause for their beliefs.”

      If so, my advise is to not start a conversation with people who are anti-hunting by suggesting their political views originate with some sort of pathology. Again, that advise is the same for those who don’t like hunting and want to understand why people hunt.

      “You have repeatedly stated I have failed to address how an animal should die. How is never going to be cut and dry like tying your shoe. I think the “how” is more like a flow chart system.”

      I pressed because I thought you might have a better answer. I think this last response is pretty good. Thanks for the dialogue. 🙂


January 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey