Though data is unreliable due to the fact that most kills are not monitored or unreported, it is thought that approximately 100 million animals are killed by hunters each year. The vast majority of these are killed by recreational hunters, not those who hunt to survive. In the United States, wildlife officials estimate that for every animal killed legally by hunters, another is killed illegally.
Many hunters argue that animals they shoot die instantly and painlessly, however, the data tells a very different story. A study of 80 radio-collared white-tailed deer found that of the 22 deer who had been shot with “traditional archery equipment,” 11 were wounded and not recovered by hunters. The situation is no better for animals shot by guns, a British study of deer hunting found that 11 percent of deer who’d been killed by hunters died only after being shot two or more times and that some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes before dying. Those who do manage to escape will likely die painfully from blood loss, shock or starvation. We do not need scientific studies to tell us that being shot with a gun or a bow hurts, and there is no rational reason to suppose that animals do not experience this pain just as we do when struck by arrows or bullets.
Many hunters argue that hunting is justified because it helps with conservation. This argument is particularly ironic, since it was hunters who wiped out natural predators who controlled populations in the first place. Predators are in fact still being killed in order to keep game populations high. Besides this, the vast majority of hunted species—such as waterfowl, upland birds, mourning doves, squirrels and raccoons, provide minimal sustenance and do not require population control. As for those who do overpopulate, it is thought that killing animals like deer does not dent numbers, as deer’s biological cycles adapt to lost population; litter sizes increase to compensate for losses and a higher availability of food. This is because most hunters kill mature male deer, not does. A single buck can breed with many does, as many as 20, meaning that remaining bucks compensate for those who are killed. Even when natural phenomenon pushes populations up, lack of food availability rights the balance, ensuring strong animals survive to maintain the herd. Nature does not require human intervention to restrict numbers, it has its own systems of natural selection which have worked for billions of years, long before hunters decided to “help” to solve a problem that they helped to create in the first place.
Unless a hunter is a member of a community which is reliant on sustenance hunting to survive, they cannot reasonably claim that they kill animals for anything other than pleasure. In the west, hunting is certainly not more accessible than eating plants, considering the fact that your average hunter spends $2000 per year on hunting alone. To claim, as so many hunters do, that hunting is kinder than the alternative of buying meat from stores is to create a false dichotomy in which the only two options are killing animals yourself or paying for others to do it for you. It is beyond doubt that the vast majority of us can be perfectly healthy without consuming any animal products whatsoever, therefore the vast majority of those who choose to hunt animals do so purely for selfish reasons of palate and entertainment. In our modern society where a wealth of affordable alternatives are widely available, there can be no justification for taking part in, or supporting, this cruel, violent and inhumane industry.