Hunting is often framed in a negative light – the illegal poaching of endangered species for personal benefit is one common issue. This type of ‘hunting’ destroys biodiversity – just like a pest would – and is absolutely unacceptable. Big game hunting purely for sport and pleasure may arguably be fine in legal and regulated settings, but it turns destructive when it reaches the point of trophy hunting. Think of poor Cecil the lion who was infamously the victim of illegal hunting. This type of glorified hunting is detrimental to the environment as much as the animals living in it; as one of the worse sides of hunting, these practices mustn’t be encouraged.
Yet, hunting can be used as a recreational sport. It can provide a source for goods and services, including skins for leather or fur, meat for food, ornamental objects for decoration, and so on. Hunting may also be a means of biological population control for either introduced species or over-populated native species in a particular area.
In Australia, this last use of hunting – the control of animal populations – is commonly used as a form of ‘pest-control,’ as it is often practiced on pests and introduced species. Kangaroos, although illegal to kill, have open seasons every so often to cull the numbers down a bit. As well as for goods, this serves as an example of how hunting may effectively manage a native species. Similarly, rabbits, foxes, camels and cane toads are all instances of biological ‘disaster’ where hunting and culling is an absolute necessity to quell their populations. When these species aren’t kept in check, they grow to the size where they compete with and push out other – often native – species, which may begin dying out, or relocating at best.
Using restrictive zones in addition to designated hunting areas may also be useful for controlling populations. Restrictive zones regulate animal access and include water catchment areas, government land, farms and urban areas. This helps keep protected animals (and people) safe from wild animals such as crocodiles in the Northern Territory. Alternatively, it may be better to relocate protected species.
One example of such relocation is the reintroduction of the eastern quoll – a small marsupial – to the Canberra region. The quoll was endangered by competition over and destruction of their habitat by introduced species such as rabbits, which ate their food-sources and hence became threatened in the area. This is, therefore, also a good example of how biological pests may destroy the delicate biodiversity of Australian environments. Similarly, we must take great care when approaching any species issue in Australia lest unforeseen consequences arise. Cane toads were originally introduced to remove cane beetles, which were introduced by accident and were eating all the sugar cane of Queensland. Yet, when introduced, the toads were more interested in other insects, their populations spiralled out of control, they damaged the local environment, and have since spread to the Northern Territory. Due to the poison sacks under their skin, cane toads also threaten native species that attempt to eat them. Hunting these little monsters is, therefore, actively encouraged to help quell their numbers and limit their destructive power.
Whilst hunting can have negative impacts when used for the wrong reasons, it is not inherently evil. Hunting is an essential method for maintaining our environment that we simply cannot do without. Rather than disparaging hunting, critics should instead focus on ensuring hunting practices are regulated by appropriate restrictions and guidance.