Is it ethical if its legal?

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by Cleathorn, Nov 30, 2010.

  1. Cleathorn

    Cleathorn AH Senior Member

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    I recently made my one and only post about the venerable subject of Mark Sullivan. I was asked to and therefore did re-post it on another popular internet forum. The response was both good and bad, and when it was bad, it was really bad. Cyber-bullying to the extreme.

    One very disturbing trend emerged from a large group. That is, the idea that hunting ethics and self-policing the sport, and the sportsmen who participate in hunting, is unworthy of discussion. The logic is that if its legal - then one person should not opine about how another person hunts.

    Do you agree with that? I do not.

    Personally, I think there must be a high ethical standard for the modern day hunter. I believe that we as hunters must promote our role in conservation, stewardship and wildlife management. We must speak out against the anti-hunting rhetoric that is all to come and we must be equally willing to admit that some people, and some practices, are unethical and therefore not defensible.

    Case in point. On a recent dangerous game hunt I shared a camp with a very nice older gentleman who shot and hit, but did not immediately kill, a cape buffalo. they tracked that buffalo for the entire day and most of the next 2 days. Eventually the game scout said that they had made the best effort possible and could go on to hunt another buffalo. Since he did draw blood, he was obligated to pay the trophy fee, but he could have, if he wanted, taken another cape buffalo at no additional cost. He refused to do that. instead, they stayed on the small herd until they crossed out of the concession and were gone forever.

    I admire that man as being among the most ethical hunters I have met. Could he have legally taken another Buffalo - yes. But would it have been ethical - I do not think so. I am glad I did not have to make that decision.

    My fundamental point is, there are things which are legal in the hunting realm that are not ethical. Passing up on follow ups shots on wounded game and pursuing them until they charge falls into the legal yet unethical playbook, at least for me (I also want to come home so that plays into the calculus as well).

    I am interested in whether you think that if its legal, then its ok and we should all stay out of each others business, or, in the alternative, as the stewards of wildlife in this era, should we as hunters go beyond the letter of the law and follow a higher "ethical" code?

    I am serious about this query. Please do not resort to name-calling and abusive language or personal attacks on me or others who share their views. I would really like to see were the majority of posters end up on this issue.
  2. TOM

    TOM AH Elite

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    I think we are "self-policing" in that we can't tolerate unethical behavior from anyone who pursues our passion. The minute we start letting people "by" with shady behavior, we lower the credibility of all hunters.
  3. Skyline

    Skyline AH Fanatic

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    Cleathorn............perhaps you can get this topic set up as a poll to go along with comments. There will probably be a bunch who would click the mouse on a poll but hesitate to comment. I'm pretty sure you already know where I stand on this.
  4. Big5

    Big5 AH Enthusiast

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    Cleathorn, I too find that trend disturbing. I believe only an unprincipled person would support the position that all things legal must therefore be ethical.
  5. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Is it ethical if it's legal? Maybe, but maybe not. I don't think the two should be considered synonyms. What is legal is decided by the laws of the local governing body. But just because something is legal, does not mean that I may find it to be right and thus I may find it to be unethical.

    For example, in Iran it is the law of their country that a woman can be stoned to death for committing the "crime" of adultery. Since Iran's gov't made this the law it is indeed illegal to commit adultery and it is also legal for anyone guilty of the crime to be stoned to death. Do I find this ethical? Of course not.

    In the case of Mark Sullivan, if there is no law against shooting an elephant in the rear end to get him turn around for a kill shot, well then it's not illegal. But it sure isn't ethical in my mind either and is a disgusting practice.

    When it comes to hunting ethics, it's not about the law. It's about doing what's right in regards to those hunting situations that are not covered by the laws.

    Laws and ethics are not one in the same.
  6. Hartzview Hunting Safaris

    Hartzview Hunting Safaris SPONSOR AH Fanatic

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    Hello everyone,

    This sure is a very sensitive subject and I have seen all kinds of hunting and as Phil said the "law" and "ethics" is not in the same league. What I would like to say is that in my opinion the way certain people hunt for video footage is unethical.

    The reason for this is not because we are jealous on what he has achieved with his films and charges. To me a charge indicates that I made an unforseen mistake somewhere in the hunt and is now in a situation you do not want to be in... I always say a charge from any dangerous game animal is like a bad car wreck where you walk away from unscaved. You NEVER want it to happen again but there is always a chance as you drive everyday of your life...!

    To get to my point. When you do your PH course in South Africa they teach you about ethics. And this is more or less what it comes down to:

    "Whenever you hunt any animal your main purpose as a PH is to get your client into a safe position where he can shoot at the animal with the intention to kill the animal in the most humane and effective way without the animal suffering."

    Now tell me when you let a wounded animal stand there for 10 minutes while you try and get him to charge.... Is that animal suffering or not?

    Thank you for a great post.

    Best regards,
  7. Thunder head

    Thunder head AH Enthusiast

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    Like many other subjects we could discuss this is a hard one to answer. The problem is were do you draw the line.
    Its like baiting for deer hunting. Its the norm, and has been for years in places like Texas. If you grew up there and thats all you know, you probably consider it an ethical practice. I have always lived in a state were hunting over bait is illegal. I was raised that baiting is cheating and your not much of a hunter if you have to bait a deer to kill it. This subject has been debated to death. Whos right and whos wrong. Depends on where your from.

    I personaly do not agree with the way Mister Sullivan conducts his video hunts, so i wouldnt buy one of his videos. I definatly wouldnt go on a hunt with him.

    I belive that a healthy discussion between hunters about legal Vs. ethical does not hurt a thing, as long as it is kept in the family. When its dragged out for all the liberal media to exploit, that a problem!!!
  8. davidarizpe

    davidarizpe AH Veteran

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    If any of us would be living in the bush and the drougth were keeping you starved with no other option to feed your children but to hunt and you did not have a weapon, and you made a snare and catched a duiker and roasted it over coals and fed your young, that would epitomized ethical behavior, yet is ilegal in many countries
  9. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    "One very disturbing trend emerged from a large group. That is, the idea that hunting ethics and self-policing the sport, and the sportsmen who participate in hunting, is unworthy of discussion. The logic is that if its legal - then one person should not opine about how another person hunts.

    Do you agree with that? I do not.

    Personally, I think there must be a high ethical standard for the modern day hunter. I believe that we as hunters must promote our role in conservation, stewardship and wildlife management. We must speak out against the anti-hunting rhetoric that is all to come and we must be equally willing to admit that some people, and some practices, are unethical and therefore not defensible." by Cleathorn

    Just because, something is legal, doesn't mean it's ethical...and everyone seems to have their own ethics on which they are willing to take a stand and fight.

    I think the issue of bringing crossbows into the archery season in U.S. raises a lot of feathers or hunting on Sunday. The fact of the matter there is always going to be controversy.
  10. Spiral Horn Safaris

    Spiral Horn Safaris AH Fanatic

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    Hi Cleathorn

    My I start out by saying great post!

    Well basically I say that what is legal will not necessarily be ethical.

    There is a great deal of factors to take in to consideration hunting in my opinion is somewhat of a school. The people you meet along the way (peers and mentors) will play a vital role in how you interoperate what is ethical. Cultural differences will defiantly play a major role as well.

    Here is a simple example in Europe they do driven hunts while I have no desire to ever do such a hunt it would not be up to me to decide whether it is ethical for a few reasons:

    1 I have never done it so can’t be the judge.
    2 I have no experience in hunting Europe so would not know other hunting tactics that might be more expectable to my ethical standard of hunting.
    3 The laws of the country might be different as to what I am used too.
    4 Since I have never participated in such a hunt I might not realize how difficult it might actually be.

    One can also argue the point of the Masaai who still hunt with spears and say they are conducting their hunts in a cruel (they can hunt with rifles and kill quick and clean) fashion when it takes 8 spears to kill a animal however it is not my place to say that it is unethical but my right to choose not to partake however cultural differences play a big role in this example. They have been doing this form of hunting for hundreds of years and it is a very important part of their culture and something that I should respect no matter what.

    Then you get the new syndrome of waiting for animals to charge or provoking charges for excitement purposes now there is where I personally draw the line if you want to prove that you are a tough guy well then provoke a charge with a spear in your hands.

    The fact of the matter is we are using high power rifles and they should be used in a effective clean fashion or what is the purpose.

    So the point I am trying to make here is that one can excuse a difference in ethics when it comes to a cultural difference however taunting game in the hope of boosting your ego with a charging lion and seeing if you are man enough to use a hight power rifle to execute it is not the moral responsible way that we as hunters should act nor do we need the names of moral ethical hunters tarnished by such acts.

    Yes we hunt dangerous game and yes it is exciting and we have to except that we might get in to some hairy situations however when we do it should be dealt with responsibly and as swiftly as possible.

    Only dumb or ignorant people believe that they are in control at all times.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Best Regards
    Louis van Bergen
  11. Leeukop Safaris

    Leeukop Safaris AH Veteran

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    I my opinion ethics is a personal thing because of the simple reason that each individual has his own norms and standards. Legislation to a point is the minimum standard to measure whether you are ethical or not.

    You need to ask three questions and answer them honestly to yourself.

    Q1: Is my action legal?
    Q2: Is my action ethical to me?
    Q3: Will my action positively influence the future of hunting?

    After answering these three questions and all three are a yes, you will be fairly safe to take the shot!

    Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all!

    Best Regards.
  12. Macs B

    Macs B AH Veteran

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    Let me ask you all a few questions regarding what you consider ethical. Every item on the list below was legal at the time and in the location where it occurred.

    1. Is hunting at night with night vision and spot lights ethical for shooting/managing wild pigs?
    2. Is it ethical to shoot/cull deer calves and yearlings year round in order to successfully manage the number of deer on your property?
    3. Is it ethical to place food stands and salt/mineral licks on your hunting grounds in order to artificially hold deer in an area that would not normally support the game numbers or to minimize their natural movements?
    4. Is it ethical to run whitetail deer with dog packs?
    5. Is it ethical to fly to South America and shoot doves by the thousands, until your shoulder bleeds and you run through five cases of shells per man?
    6. Is it ethical to hunt migratory birds over a 50 acre Milo field when the field was located and planted by an outfitter solely for the purpose of hunting?
    7. Is it ethical to pay an outfitter 40% more than the going rate if he guarantees you the opportunity to shoot a “Gold Medal” trophy class Elk?
    8. Is it ethical to bay wild boar with dogs and then kill it with a knife?
    9. Is it ethical to pay 10 dollars a head to sit on your bucket next to a grain field and shoot doves flying in to a water tank?
    10. Is it ethical to drive in a four wheeler to a prepositioned fully heated and enclosed box stand instead of packing in your tree stand on foot and setting it up on a likely trail?

    I think you can all see what I am getting at here. Ethics are an individual’s own perception of what is right. It really depends on who you are and where you live and hunt. I have had the opportunity to live all over the world. I’ve hunted in more than twenty US states as a resident. Every item on this list is an example of something I’ve seen either in the USA or on a hunt in Africa or Europe. I personally felt that running deer with dogs was not something I wanted to participate in while living in Louisiana, therefore I chose not to do it. Hunting wild boar in Hawaii with pit bulls and hounds and then killing the pig with a knife was something that I chose to do. I can’t say what the difference was between these two hunts, I personally had no issues with stabbing a boar with a knife as the dogs wrestled it but it just didn’t feel right to run whitetails with dogs. I routinely use night vision devices when boar hunting at night in Germany, yet I wouldn’t dream of doing it in Ohio. Some folks would never go to Africa and hunt behind a fence, yet see no problem with a 10,000 acre Texas high fence lease. Some hunters are willing to use electronic calls for migratory birds, others think that it’s unconscionable use anything other than a mouth call. There are just too many places and too many ways of doing things to say that any single moral compass is the right one. You have to decide what will sit right with you personally while remaining within the letter and intent of the law.
  13. ndbwhnter

    ndbwhnter AH Enthusiast

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    Laws are implemented and enforced over the governed. Ethics are what we do when no-one is watching. In my case I ask myself a simple question, "Would I be proud to tell this story?" If the answer is anything but a resounding yes, it is not ethical in my opinion, regardless if it is legal.

    Just last night I could've filled my muzzle loader antlerless tag on a doe that was just off a road. My son and I were out scouting for this weekend and, legally, I could've exited the pickup, snuck 50 yards over a hill and shot her. Legal, yes, ethical, not in my opinion.

    Regardless if it was legal or ethical, it is not what I wanted to teach my son. As Jose Ortega Gasset said, "One does not hunt in order to kill, one kills in order to have hunted." The example above would have been a "kill" not a "hunt" and therefor was not within my ethical boundaries.

    Sure, my son would've got excited, we would've gotten some meat and some photos, but I would not be proud to tell the story.

    My son was confused at first, but when I told him that now we know where some deer are, we will go in this weekend, select a likely travel area, set up a blind and wait for a shot, he started to understand. Regardless if we get one or not this weekend, that will be a hunt and a story him and I can both proudly tell.

    nd
  14. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    This thread has pointed out much about ethics and not surprising the conclusion one would draw is that what one considers ethical another may not. Again not surprising, what one considers ethical is very subjective.

    That said there are some hunting practices in regards to hunting that the vast majority of hunters would consider unethical. In such cases what would non-hunters and more importantly anti-hunters think? Some might say "Who cares?" if it wasn't an illegal action.

    My answer is that I do. About a year ago I took for the 2nd time a hunters safety course. I didn't need to, but my son did in order to get his hunting license. One of the first questions the instructors asked of the class was whether hunting is right or a privilege? The answer at least here in Arizona is that it's a privilege. There is no constitutional right to hunt. Therefore that privilege is subject to being removed.

    By being tolerant of those extreme cases of unethical hunting behavior and not policing ourselves, it's my opinion we are giving ammo to and loading the guns of the anti-hunters and we also act as a recruiter of non-hunters to the anti-hunting army.

    Sorry if I come across as being on a soap box, I don't mean to come across as self-righteous. I would just hate to not be able to pass this wonderful part of my life on to my boys.
  15. Mike70560

    Mike70560 AH Fanatic

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    One of the first questions the instructors asked of the class was whether hunting is right or a privilege? The answer at least here in Arizona is that it's a privilege. There is no constitutional right to hunt.

    Our Louisiana State Constitution guarantees hunting is a right in Article 1.27. We voted it in a couple of years ago.

    Legislating ethics is a slippery slope. Forcing my ethics on others is not the answer. I see plenty of actions I do not consider ethical but others feel different.

    If it is legal is it ethical? No, I do not believe that. I will conduct myself ethically and when blatantly unethical behavior is displayed I will voice my opinion.
  16. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Your last sentence is all that I think I can ask for.
  17. M. Egan

    M. Egan AH Senior Member

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    Hi Guys (and girls)
    Great thread. My oppinion echos and mirrors most of the previous posts.
    Actions that are legal are the enforsable opinion of the current administration. Beyond this, actions that are ethical are personal or local or group oppinion. I believe that first we must satisfy our own standards, then the oppinions of those around you (buddies etc.) and then the customs of the region in which you are hunting. If I use these standards as a minimum, I find that my own actions leave me feeling satified. Of coarse all of this must fall within the law.
    It works for me, Mike Egan

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