The issue of hunting is a contentious one. For centuries it has been a popular “sport” and it comes in many forms: hunting with dogs, shooting animals, fishing with hooks, and others. Hunting with dogs is virtually banned in the UK now (although it does still go on) but should other forms go the same way, or is hunting perfectly acceptable?
For this week’s survey we decided to find out what children think of hunting. To find the answer we asked the following question: “Should hunting be allowed?” Now, this seems very black and white. Perhaps hunting for food is acceptable but hunting for sport is not. So we gave three possible answers to our question: Yes, hunting is acceptable; Maybe, if it is for food; and No, hunting should be banned.
Of the 2,891 schoolchildren who responded to our survey a mere 16% said that they thought hunting is acceptable. That is a tiny proportion. Perhaps we should not be surprised. As we have found in other surveys, the younger generation are much more progressive than their elders and generally want change – especially where environmental or conservation issues are concerned.
So, how many children want an outright ban on hunting? Perhaps this result will surprise you. It is not so overwhelming as you might suspect, given the very small proportion who agree with hunting. Just over a third (38%) believe that all forms of hunting should be banned. This seems like a contradiction, until you look at the final piece of data.
Very nearly half of the children we asked say that hunting for food may be acceptable, but hunting for sport is not. That is good news for pheasant shooters, anglers (who eat their catch – not ones who return it to the water after hooking it), deer hunters and the like. Not so good for hare coursers, badger baiters and the fox hunters of English tradition.
So, it seems that children are not quite as radical as we at first suspected. They are tolerant of hunting so long as it is done to provide food. Hunting for sport though they have very little respect for.
As we are talking of this ever-debated issue, let’s try to be fair and give the arguments both for and against hunting…
Tradition. Like it or not, humans are hunting animals. We have been doing it since we first climbed down from the trees in Africa so some would argue that hunting is in our very nature. In addition to that, some forms of hunting have become parts of our culture. Opponents would say that humans, unlike any other animal, can choose to override their natural instincts so we do not need to hunt. And traditions die out over time.
Population control. In a normal ecosystem the number of prey animals, such as deer or rabbits, is controlled by their natural predators. Wolves or bears for example. Sadly, these predators have been all but wiped out by man, certainly in the UK. So the prey animals keep on breeding and their populations become too large. Hunting is a way to keep them in check. Opponents might argue that a better way to control the number of prey animals would be to re-introduce the predators that humans wiped out.
Food. This final argument is the one which seems to have held sway with our respondents. As humans eat animals then hunting is actually a more humane way to kill them than raising them on a farm and then sending them to a slaughterhouse to die. At least they get to live a natural life and their deaths are quite quick. Of course, the counter argument to this is for us to stop eating meat. The number of vegetarians and vegans is forever on the rise, as we discovered in a previous poll.
Suffering. There is no denying that fighting for your life, even if you escape, is a traumatic experience. And, even if animals do survive a hunt, they may well die later form their injuries. And being killed is almost always painful. Opponents would say that a good shot can kill an animal instantly, removing any fear or suffering on the animals’ part.
Not necessary. Early humans hunted in order to live. If they did not catch an animal they might starve. Thankfully that situation has long since changed. There are alternatives to meat and nobody need starve. In fact, if we all gave up meat then there would be more food, not less. Opponents might argue that we need meat in our diet… but that is a contentious issue in itself.
Legal hunting sends the wrong message. Animal cruelty is wrong. I think everybody would agree on that. So, why is it acceptable to kill a wild rabbit or pheasant but not acceptable to do the same to a cat or a dog? By saying that hunting is acceptable we are sending a message to society that animals are there only for our pleasure and we can treat them as we wish. Opponents would say that the difference between domestic and wild animals justifies the different attitudes we have to them and so, the different ways we treat them.
Hunting, in one form or another, has been around for thousands of years. But now, it seems, the wheel has turned. With so few children now believing that hunting is acceptable, maybe in the future hunting will be consigned to the annals of history. We can but hope.EXPLORE THE WORLD OF CHILDREN’S SURVEYS
Here are the results from the 2,891 children who answered our question "Should hunting be allowed?" The survey was conducted in the week ending 2nd May 2021.
|Should hunting be allowed?||Percentage of Respondents|
|Maybe, if it is for food||46%|
|No, hunting should be banned||38%|
|Yes, hunting is acceptable||16%|