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Old 09-12-2006, 08:01 AM
Typical Buck
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Default Ethics

I was reading the whole stinkbelly elk thread and it got me to thinking about ethics. I really like and respect the folks on this site, especially the bowhunter forums. So here’s my question:

To what extent does the legality of doing something impact the ethics of doing it?

If something is legal, does that make it ethical? If something is illegal, does that make it unethical? Does the fact hat an action is legal or illegal have any impact on its ethics at all?


I’m asking primarily about hunting ethics here, but I imagine the principles should carry over into other areas.
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:14 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

IMO, for me ethical (in hunting terms)comes down to 2 things
1. Is it legal
2. Have i practiced and become proficient at the shot i am considering to reasonably say that it will be a humane kill.

Can someone come up with a situation that does not fall into this catagory that may be considered unethical? Most likely. But these are my general guidelines in the hunting woods
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:18 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

Here are some of my thoughts, pulled together from an article I wrote not too long ago, ethics is something I think about alot since I have two boys I am trying to raise the right way.

How would you define ethics? If we were to look up ethics in a dictionary we might find something along the lines of, “A system of moral principles,” or “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions, or a particular group, culture, etc.” One of my wildlife professors in college had a much simpler definition. She was fond of saying, “Ethics is what you do when you think no one is looking.” All of these statements are true. But quite simply stated, ethics are the rules for behavior that are accepted by a particular segment of society. The problem with ethics, of course, lies in the fact that different cultures have dissimilar ideals and behaviors, and therefore different ethical beliefs, especially when dealing with the treatment of animals. Religious and philosophical traditions as well as land use and recreation habits all play a significant role in the development of a system of beliefs. The rapidity of modern communication across vast distances merely magnifies the problem by bringing clashing cultures into contact.

“Any society that lives by hunting spends most of its time thinking about the animals that it hunts, and many elaborate systems of totems and taboos are still known among hunting tribes today, telling them what they must and must not do. These range from propitiating the spirit of the animal, so that it will submit easily and gracefully to being killed, to attempts to disarm its spirit after death so that it will not come back to haunt or harm the killer. The cultures of Eskimos, American Indians, and many of the tribes of subarctic Siberia-all of them, like Cro-Magnon man, cold-weather followers of big game-were steeped in rituals of this kind.”
Howell (1971)

“Subarctic Indians were obsessed with the responsibilities that man and animal had to one another. The injunction against killing too many animals ranked as the first law the Amerindian must obey. That he may be killed by a man who was his moral equal was the first law for animals. Thus the animal, when seeing that his meat, hide and so on was needed by the true hunter, was required to voluntarily surrender itself to the hunter. A hunter or an animal which did not obey the law violated the rules of nature.”

Whisker, (1981)

For a subsistence hunting culture, wildlife has great instrumental value. The parts of the animal’s body are required for survival by the hunter and his family. If the harvest is mis-managed or the game supplies are otherwise led to fail by the hunter, the results can be fatal to the hunting clan. Hunting is a means to survival, and therefore the rules for hunting behavior are rigidly maintained. Ethics, in effect, become law. In a modern context however, hunting is based on sport. For the modern hunter the primary value of hunting is intrinsic, or food for the soul, and the feeding of the body is secondary. It is the thrill of the chase, communing with nature, and being part of the natural world that makes us feel alive. The intrinsic value of sport hunting is no means to an end, as in survival, but the end in and of itself. There is a quote that I cannot ascribe to the proper author, but it is relevant nonetheless, and states, “Some people hunt so that they may live, and other people live so that they may hunt.”

One unique factor of modern hunting ethics is that the referee and spectators are generally absent from the field, unlike most other sports. The hunter is free to violate the accepted rules of behavior with only moderate fear of being caught if they so desire. This freedom, in effect, places a rather large moral load on the hunter. Some carry the burden easily, while others seem to constantly struggle. For the hunter that attempts to sidestep the ethical boundaries provided by his peers, there is a difficult fate, which is the loss of self-respect. By attempting to bypass the ethics of his culture, the hunter has lost the intrinsic value of the hunt, which was the only true trophy he had to begin with. A marvelous head on the wall is an empty victory if it was ill gotten, and a constant reminder of compromised morals.

Many of the rules for ethical hunting are universally ascribed to by the vast majority of hunters. No hunter who claims to be on solid ethical ground will willingly cause undue pain or suffering to the animal, fail to use all available resources in the recovery of game, or wantonly waste the meat provided by the kill. Most would also agree the hunter should know the capabilities of both themselves and their weapon, and attempt no shots on game that offer a marginal chance of success. But as we diverge into different areas and styles of hunting disagreement on proper ethics of hunters begin to emerge. In many cases there are specific reasons for the particular rules of ethical behavior in a certain area that may or may not be applicable in other areas. The constant bickering over minor points only serves to divide the ranks of hunters and diffuse our energy.
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:22 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

Ethicsoing the right thing even when no one is watching.
Expanded to also include: Doing what you, in your hunters heart, know is right, even when doing the opposite is legal!
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:22 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

For me, hunting ethics comes down to this..."would I teach this to my son"?
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:27 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

The only problem that I have with the post is taking a quartering to shot at an animal.
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:41 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

In short; If I can sleep at night, knowing that as a hunter, I provided due respect to game, laws and fellow sportsman, than yes, I was an ethical hunter that day.

Good thread...
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:47 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

I think that the legality of something and its ethics are intertwined, but not completely so. For instance, I admit to coming to a rolling stop at a stop sign if I can see clearly that no cars are coming. Also, if I were living in Germany in the 1930’s or 1940’s, I would not have turned in Jews or Gypsies to the Nazis, even if the law required me to do so.

I think that if legality is the sole, or even the primary determinant of ethics, then our ethics are subject to the whim of the politicians who make the laws...probably not the most qualified determiners of ethics.

For instance, when it comes to hunting, here in Virginia, hunting over bait for deer has been illegal for some time. However, this year it is “illegal to place or distribute food, salt, or minerals to feed or attract deer from September 1 through January 6, statewide,” even if you are not hunting over it. On the other hand, last year it was illegal to use electronic calls to attract bobcats; this year it is legal.

Does changing the law change the ethics of these tactics?
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:49 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

Lawful is not always ethical and ethical not always lawful. Putting a animal out of its misery when it is suffering out of season is unlawful ,but ethical .One example. I call people stupid to there face,I think that is ethical .It is my freedom of speech and expression.I can have any opinion I want and express it. People that dont reserch new auto repair records and then by a focus,cavalier or neon in my ethical opinionthey arestupid.
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Old 09-12-2006, 09:13 AM
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Default RE: Ethics

i agree.....someones sig line here or another board says it perfect.."ethics are what you do when noone is watching"

i couldnt agree more...and i like kenmans thinking as well.

just because its legal doesnt mean its ethical....but then again to another guy it might be. i would never shoot a turkey from a roost. i wont get into the legality of it in PA....there was a huge stink over it on another board. but i wouldnt do it legal or not. someone argued with me over it..that if you good enough to sneak up on a turkey in a tree you should kill it. i just dont see shooting something that is sleeping ethical. i dont ground pound pheasants...i wouldnt shoot a bedded deer(unless bedded because it was wounded) but everyones ethics are diffrent...whats ethical to one man may not be to another..
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