Kayla Simon mug

When I was a kid, I played soccer and frequently traveled to tournaments around the Midwest. One of these tournaments stands out to me — not because I scored some amazing goal or saw a bicycle kick but because a parent of a friend (out of the millions of channels available on hotel television) chose to watch hunting. The way he cheered for it distinctly reminded me of the way people vicariously participate through their kids’ team sports. And I don’t get that.

But I don’t think the phrase “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” applies here. Some things you can just feel are wrong. Killing animals for the purpose of recreational sport is human immorality at its finest: a sport for anyone with money and a tendency to put their own enjoyment above the life of another living being.

The hunting mindset is destructive at its core. Even if you’re not a bloodthirsty killer, the desire to stalk and kill an animal rings shockingly apathetic. The inability to empathize with an animal, and in fact, glorify the killing of that life is alarming. At its worst, this disconnect can lead to a mentality that promotes trophy hunting.

Trophy hunting is hunting with the purpose of killing animals with certain traits, such as horns or a large body mass. In a 2003 letter published in Nature, a weekly scientific journal, researchers found trophy hunting affected the reproductive rates and thus, breeding pool, of the population.

In response, an article in the Journal of Animal Ecology reports that culling “low-quality” individuals in a population may counterbalance the strain trophy hunting puts on wild populations. However, this method doesn’t fix the underlying problem. It merely perpetuates the idea that trophy hunting is acceptable, leading hunters to pay money to kill exotic or big-game animals.

Unfortunately, this type of controlled hunting may be the only way to conserve the same animals they are killing. The money that hunters pay to kill these animals can be put into conservation funds, whereas photo-tours don’t draw in nearly as much, as reported by National Geographic.

Last week, TV personality Melissa Bachman drew public criticism when she posted a picture of herself posing with a lion she had shot. She went through acceptable legal channels to do so. Morally, it’s objectionable. For now, we’re forced to accept this destruction of life because it’s the only way the species can conceivably survive in the long run. In the future, we need to ultimately put more of an emphasis on the importance of animal life. We have to start by changing the way we look at hunting as a part of culture.

I realize that for some people, it’s part of their upbringing. Hunting is a way to connect with family and friends, a way to bond over a common interest. Tradition, on the other hand, is a sticky topic. Just because something’s been done for a long time doesn’t mean it should continue.

For example, shark fin soup is a delicacy in China, a tradition started by an emperor trying to exhibit his wealth. The sharks’ fins are sliced off and the still-living bodies are tossed back to die. As horrifying as that sounds, the long-term effects are just as startling. More than 70 million sharks were killed last year to feed the demand for the soup, according to the Washington Post. The upside? In the past two years, consumption of shark fin soup is down by 50 to 70 percent as a direct result of advertisements creating awareness of the situation. Even the most entrenched traditions are changeable, with some effort and a perspective change.

People have to learn to hunt somewhere. When beginners start learning to hunt, they may not be able to kill animals quickly and mercifully. They may injure animals without bringing them down entirely. There’s no guarantee even an experienced hunter will take down every animal in a humane way.

There’s something desperately awful about taking a child out to experience nature by handing them a gun and telling them to kill it. That’s like going to the most beautiful art museum in the world and ripping down canvasses because “someone will just make another one.” It teaches children that killing is a goal, a healthy way to view another life and socially acceptable. Screw violent video games; teaching kids to wield guns is the real danger to America’s youth.

Furthermore, hunting is kind of an exercise in futility. If winning means ending up with the kill, then the animal in question has no chance in this game. Hunters have guns, allowing them to keep their distance from the animals’ defenses (claws, teeth, etc.). They can also use camouflage, scents and products that make animal calls that tilt the odds completely to the hunter. For crying out loud, the deer doesn’t even know it’s playing.

And to what end? In modern times, hunting is a luxurious cruelty, not a necessity. Eating the meat after your monthly hunting trip doesn’t justify the action. The truth is, Alaska is the only state that has been cleared to practice subsistence hunting, or the “noncommercial customary and traditional uses” of fish and wildlife, according to the United States Department of the Interior.

The majority of modern sport hunters rely mainly on meat from the grocery store. It may not be killed humanely, but permitting hunting hasn’t stopped them from eating it. Culling the population may have desirable effects, but it should be a necessary evil, not something to look forward to. This rationale comes after the desire to hunt. Just because an action has a beneficial consequence doesn’t mean the consequence motivates the behavior. People hunt because they want to. They don’t want to stop, so they look for reasons that justify it.

It comes down to this—if you really feel the need to shoot at a moving target, take up paintball. At least everyone playing consents to getting hit.

Kayla Simon is a sophomore communication studies major. Reach her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com.

This is part of the DN's point-counterpoint on hunting. Check out the opinion page to read Emily Kuklinski's take on it.