Is hunting Immoral?

Is hunting Immoral?
keda
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 3:55 AM:

There doesn't seem to be much clarity or argmuent as to why hunting animals for fun/entertainment/sport is wrong. If hunting itself isn't wrong (since it can be for survival) and entertainment itself isn't wrong, then why is this combination wrong? It should be taken into account that we do things mostly not in order to accomplish an abstract goal of survival but to still particular desires such as hunger and that the entertainment/survival dichotomy is quite wrong-headed to begin with, since entertainment clearly has a function in life, much similar to that of sleep. While I don't think animals have any rights, or duties for that matter, since they cannot concieve of such things, I would agree with Kant that animals have indirect moral status i.e. we have duties to other rational beings to not be cruel toward animals since cruelty toward them will affect our sensitivity toward humans as well, and so there may be special cases in which such sport could be wrong e.g. if it is driven by a desire to torture animals, but not in general, and I suppose this is also for that reason something which nature has instilled into men an instinct to react with moral disgust at such practices, and that would also explain the source of why some people suggest animals should have rights, although without any sound arguments.
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 5:40 AM:

keda wrote:
.. indirect moral status i.e. we have duties to other rational beings to not be cruel toward animals since cruelty toward them will affect our sensitivity toward humans as well,..


Perhaps there's a bit more to it than that. We shouldn't be cruel to animals, not just because it makes us insensitive, but for the sake of the animals themselves. Why shouldn't I pull the cat's tail? Because it makes me a sadist. But also because it hurts the cat. Even if it didn't make me a sadist, the hurt to the cat would be sufficient reason not to do it. So it would seem that the cat has some moral status based on its own interests, and not just indirect status arising from my moral capacities.

That doesn't establish that animals have rights. But it might indicate that they have some moral status in respect of their having interests and a capacity for suffering, flourishing and being harmed.

If hunting itself isn't wrong (since it can be for survival) and entertainment itself isn't wrong, then why is this combination wrong?


Ice cream's delicious and burgers are delicious, so why not burger ice cream?

But I don't think your argument needs this, anyhow. I'm just being pedantic.
keda
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#13 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 6:39 AM:

Cuthbert wrote:

But also because it hurts the cat. Even if it didn't make me a sadist, the hurt to the cat would be sufficient reason not to do it.
...
That doesn't establish that animals have rights. But it might indicate that they have some moral status in respect of their having interests and a capacity for suffering, flourishing and being harmed.

I don't fully undertand what you are saying here. The cat doesn't have a right to not be hurt, yet you are not allowed to hurt it? If this doesn't mean the cat has a right, then what does?
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 6:44 AM:

swstephe wrote:
Also, why the double standard? Do people think about the morality of setting off a bug bomb or leaving out mouse traps? They aren't going to eat them, and it probably isn't the most humane treatment.


You see, this to me is precisely what makes me slowly shake my head in moral philosophy discussions. There seem to be two broad approaches to moral philosophy: one which makes sense, where the intent of the culprit is morally judged; and one that does not, where the abstraction of the act is morally judged. People always ask questions ike "Is hunting immoral?" and people act surprised when there's no consensus... You can probably think of a scenario where any act would be the moral act.

Since I hold that only the first broad category of moral philosophy makes any sense, the question "Is hunting immoral" is meaningless since it says nothing about the teleology of the hunter. The pertinent question is: "Is killing animals for the pleasure of killing animals immoral?" Well, it's certainly cruel... Perhaps being cruel isn't immoral for some, is for others. Cruelty is the apex of immorality as I define it (pragmatically).

So, is killing animals for the sake of providing food cruel? No. Is not ensuring humane methods of killing animals to provide food cruel? No... callous, yes. Immoral... perhaps. If not immoral, certainly amoral. One does not derive pleasure from going for the least costly methods, directly but one does, for instance, save time and money from which pleasure is or may be derived.

Setting mouse traps... If we lived through a rodent-spread plague, would setting mouse traps be immoral? No. Again, look at the purpose. If one sets mouse traps because they want to kill mice for pleasure, that's an act of cruelty. If you're doing it to prevent disease then it is, at most, callousness.
ciceronianus
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#15 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 7:44 AM:

Morality is a peculiarly human construct. We do not speak of other animals as being moral or immoral. When they kill us, or one another, we don't question their morality.

When people claim that it is wrong for humans to kill other animals, then, the cotention being made must be that there is something in the conduct of the human that is improper. The act of killing or hurting a non-human must be objectionable in some fashion because a human is doing it.

What, then, is it about the fact that a human is killing or hurting a non-human that we object to? Obviously, we have been killing them for a very long time. Most of us eat them. Whether we should eat them should, I think, be addressed in another thread (likely it has been).

I believe the reason why objection is made against hunting specifically is that some people (like me) feel that killing or injuring a non-human merely for sport is something a human should not do. There doesn't appear to be any acceptable justification for it when it is done for no better reason than it is "fun."

Hunting is sometimes justified because, for example, it is necessary to do something to limit deer from destroying crops, causing car accidents, etc. In that sense, there may be an acceptable reason for hunting. But causing pain or ending life just for kicks seems to put too high a value on mere self-gratification.
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#16 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 7:45 AM:

I don't fully undertand what you are saying here. The cat doesn't have a right to not be hurt, yet you are not allowed to hurt it? If this doesn't mean the cat has a right, then what does?


It think it means we have moral duties towards cats, on account of their capacity to suffer and be harmed, but cats have neither duties nor rights in relation to us. That's because we are rational and they are not. So cats have an independent moral status despite having no moral capacity.

The fact that pulling the tail hurts the cat is a reason not to pull its tail, regardless of any effect it may or may not have on my own moral character or my behaviour to other humans. That's because the cat has interests - i.e. it can be harmed or benefited - and it can experience pain and pleasure - and there is no conflict of interests that would justify my harming it rather than leaving it alone. As we learn when we are children: 'Leave the dam' cat alone. It hasn't done you any harm.'

I don't think it follows that the cat has rights. A right would be of no value to a cat. As you said, it couldn't conceive of such a thing. Rights are useful partly because the owner of the right and the beneficiary of it are the same person. They are personal justified claims upon others. If there were only duties we would lack the power to compel others to do their duty to us. But when it comes to cats there are only duties.
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#17 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 9:39 AM:

ciceronianus wrote:
I believe the reason why objection is made against hunting specifically is that some people (like me) feel that killing or injuring a non-human merely for sport is something a human should not do. There doesn't appear to be any acceptable justification for it when it is done for no better reason than it is "fun."


As I see it, there's a distinction between a moral statement (killing animals for fun is bad) and an ethical statement (killing animals for fun is something one should not do). The former is a statement about a person: it is a value judgement of that personality. A person who kills for pleasure is a bad person. Ethical statements (one should, one should not) are about consequences.

ciceronianus wrote:
Hunting is sometimes justified because, for example, it is necessary to do something to limit deer from destroying crops, causing car accidents, etc. In that sense, there may be an acceptable reason for hunting. But causing pain or ending life just for kicks seems to put too high a value on mere self-gratification.

This is rationalised rather than justified: we deem the interests of, say, deer to be irrelevant in the furtherance of our own interests. We wish to drive cars, deer make it harder, exterminate deer. This is okay because we wish to drive cars. The validity of killing deer is measured with respect to the furtherance of our interests - a rationalisation.
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#18 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 10:16 AM:

swstephe, thanks for the response. I don't think hypocrisy demonstrates a necessary problem with our beliefs. I'd say it demonstrates a necessary problem for our justifications and/or conclusions. If I have a poor argument for a moral belief, and I continue believing it anyone, it's not necessarily a false belief. If laziness is my pragmatic justification, that's not necessarily inconsistent with what we see. How many people would say we have obligations to help certain people, yet they regularly do nothing? And they though these obligations existed before, in ancient times, and we now have actual systems in place to fulfill some of these obligations. I think morality is an ideal that we have difficulty reaching, and ethics is the study of how to consider "the best solutions" based on "the current variables." Ideally, you might not murder even for self-defense (I don't buy this). Kant probably would.

I'm not convinced Kant wasn't right about morality. I don't assume he is based on pragmatics, but I wouldn't necessarily dismiss him outright.

There are plenty of varying cultural values on animals. I'll concede that if we had to presume whether animal rights are an objective human value, I'd be inclined to say no, it varies. I think most people consequentially disregard whatever value they have for animals on the basis of pragmatics, which I can understand. However, I think there is a problem fundamental with consequentialism. Kant and Bernard Williams both addressed this somewhat. It doesn't seem to alleviate our feeling of "dirty hands" when we use a "bad" methodology for desirable ends. I think it's disturbing that many people tend to actively deny the negatives about killing animals, albeit as small as they may be. In an ideal world, why would animals die at all?

I have a few fundamental views about morality. One is that given the choice between two theoretically equal but incompatible alternatives, there will be a choice. If one could body-switch and reach a consensus, no person would choice a world that actively engages on causing purposeful pain over one that doesn't. The exceptions would be any "necessary" pain that is inherent in existence.

Population control is a legitimate issue that is theoretically solvable by sterilization. Would I advocate a theoretical world-zoo? I don't know. There may be some inherent value in letting animals be animals that outweighs protecting their life. However, I'm not convinced this is the case.

I'd say there are justifiable reasons for specific individuals engaging in hunting, perhaps, but I'm not just a consequentialist. I think if people are hunting for the wrong reasons, they are doing a disservice to their moral integrity, if that makes any sense. It's rather meta-ethical and complex. I don't understand it myself.

The situation of boycotting is interesting. However, it's a complex issue for me. If I gave an axe to a murderer, because it was his axe, I think I'd be morally to blame. Kant disagrees. I disagree because I think all people aren't fundamentally capable of being both happy and moral, at least to the same degree. This is partly my idea of moral laziness. Part of moral laziness simply consists of poor rationalizations for inactivity and/or social structures making morality impractical.

I'm not saying businesses have no ethics. The market will cause changes, but I don't think the market system is necessarily a contract theory analysis. I'm not sure the obligation exists to purchase based on ethics. It might, but it's essentially dangerous. It's like throwing children on train of explosives. For every child you throw, you remove some explosives. If enough people don't participate, nobody wins.

I think it's difficult because I'm against the idea of a free market as a moral solution so theoretically there might be an obligation to simply not purchase, I don't know. I think Kantian ethics go too far. Collective boycotts I would probably support. Once people verbally agree, you might hold them morally accountable for failing to act. However, this isn't necessarily true in a pragmatic realm. If you can't enforce your agreement, will it be effective? Maybe. If not, the legal system inherently limits legal enforcement by individual groups making the free market essentially less effective.
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#19 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 10:16 AM:

Thinking Thing wrote:


As I see it, there's a distinction between a moral statement (killing animals for fun is bad) and an ethical statement (killing animals for fun is something one should not do). The former is a statement about a person: it is a value judgement of that personality. A person who kills for pleasure is a bad person. Ethical statements (one should, one should not) are about consequences.


I have trouble understanding the distinction, primarily because I do not see how "killing animals for fun is bad" is a statement about a person. I would treat both as value judgments.


Thinking Thing wrote:
This is rationalised rather than justified: we deem the interests of, say, deer to be irrelevant in the furtherance of our own interests. We wish to drive cars, deer make it harder, exterminate deer. This is okay because we wish to drive cars. The validity of killing deer is measured with respect to the furtherance of our interests - a rationalisation.


It would be a rationalization if the hunter hunted for pleasure, but brought up the other factors when told hunting is wrong. Otherwise, I think it's a justification, but one regarding which there could be disagreement. I think that reasons could be given for the view that we are entitled to further our interests over the interests of deer in the circumstances I reference.
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#20 - Quote - Permalink
Posted May 19, 2009 - 12:06 PM:

ciceronianus wrote:

I have trouble understanding the distinction, primarily because I do not see how "killing animals for fun is bad" is a statement about a person. I would treat both as value judgments.


Insofar as it is an abstraction of "a person who kills animals for fun is bad". Killing for fun is not necessarily something perceived in an action, but in a person. The value judgement of such a thing is of the person. An ethical judgement need be no more than a simple statement of the correct action. People, not actions, are evil; actions, not people, are wrong.

ciceronianus wrote:

It would be a rationalization if the hunter hunted for pleasure, but brought up the other factors when told hunting is wrong. Otherwise, I think it's a justification, but one regarding which there could be disagreement. I think that reasons could be given for the view that we are entitled to further our interests over the interests of deer in the circumstances I reference.

It's a rationalisation insofar as we use something we can accept to justify our actions when our actions aren't justified by that something. We tell ourselves: It's justified to kill deer so we can drive through their habitat without hitting one. This isn't dishonest, like a sport hunter eating his kill to justify his cruelty, but it is based on a dishonest premise: that our ends absolutely override those of others. The ends of the deer are simply and natural: to survive and reproduce. There is no reason why we need encroach on these, but we do it anyway for reasons of, well, laziness, convenience, apathy, etc, etc. We kill where killing is not necessary for our goals. We then justify it by saying it is, by making our goals look like killing is necessary. We build a hierarchy of false necessities that end up in the ultimate rationalisation of our most common misdeeds: I need to provide (true) -> I need to work -> I need to work where I don't live -> I need to drive between the two -> I need a road that takes the shortest route, wherever that leads -> I need to drive it at high speed -> I need to remove anything in my path -> I need to kill the deer.

And that is a rationalisation.
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