Hunting has become a type of tourism which is designed to promote species conservation, benefit rural economies, and encourage more people to visit the area. It seems to be particularly popular in Arctic areas, such as Northern Canada, Alaska and Sweden, and in parts of Africa. Hunting tourism is also known as Consumptive Wildlife Tourism (CWT) (Lovelock 2008), as the animals are being directly interacted with (being shot or captured), rather than just observed. Although some tourists argue that it is a cultural experience, it remains a controversial issue as it is ethically ambivalent. The biggest opponents to it are animal rights and welfare organisations. The purpose of this post is to examine whether CWT or hunting tourism can be considered a form of conservation.
It can be a form of conservation
In the Canadian Arctic, the polar bears’ land became governmentally protected as hunting tourism became a popular form of conservation. The Canadian government passed an act in 1970 allowing indigenous people to continue hunting polar bears and additionally allowed it to become a Native-guided tourist sport (Freeman and Wenzel 2006). This decision was economically beneficial for both government and the locals, as profit was made from the tourists, which provided more jobs for the locals, and more meat could be sold. It also enabled the natives to hold onto their traditional culture, as they utilised dog sleds and their psychic abilities which was necessary for a successful hunt (Foote and Wenzel 2008:120). Ultimately, the results of Freeman and Wenzel’s study showed that due to the natives’ extensive knowledge of polar bear ecology, the population had not been depleted, leading to the conclusion that polar bear conservation hunting was a success. However it is necessary to note that this may change over an extended period of time as people are interfering with the bears’ natural environment (see Derocher and Stirling 1992). This is not just the case for polar bear hunting; economic benefits with no species depletion can also be seen in Zambia (Lewis and Alpert 1997).
As it has already been touched upon, hunting tourism is not only used as a way to protect endangered species, but it is also beneficial for local economies. In Northern Sweden, the landscape is sparsely populated and consumptive hunting has benefited the locals economically and culturally (Willebrand 2009:210). Traditionally hunting tourism was criticised because people felt it was an unnecessary use of resources. And whilst there are still people sceptical of it, the younger generations tend to believe that an increase in hunting tourism is necessary in order to keep younger people in the community employed (2009:214). Moreover, among the tourism sectors in Southern Africa, wildlife hunting has contributed greatly to the economy, and it has ensured that the surrounding landscape is being protected (Novelli et al 2006:76). The hunting is regulated and takes place in a controlled environment, which suggests that the species populations are being carefully monitored. Often in these cases, non-consumptive tourism (wildlife watching) occurs alongside hunting tourism for maximum profits. Finally, the economic cost of some species mean that population control is a necessary concept to introduce. In Norway, the number of moose in certain areas are problematic to the extent that they have become to be perceived as a pest as they are causing road accidents and destroying human-controlled pine forests (Storaas et al 2001). In these cases, hunting the moose is economically beneficial for the locals as it helps prevent the moose from destroying other parts of the economy.
The issue of hunting tourism is controversial and there are many issues surrounding the idea of killing a species in order to conserve it. Here I will argue why hunting tourism is a debatable issue, and why people would benefit more from interacting with living animals. Firstly, taking into consideration the far-away distances of many popular hunting destinations (such as the Arctic), this is environmentally problematic. A study done in Churchill, Manitoba found that the carbon cost of flying people up to the Arctic locations in order to consumptively (or non-consumptively) interact with the polar bears was very environmentally damaging, and thus may have had a direct negative impact upon polar bear populations (Dawson et al 2010). Additionally, as climatic warming continues as a result of greenhouse gases, the polar bears’ habitats will reduce, leading to an increase in negative human-polar bear interactions (Stirling and Derocher 1993:244). Polar bear populations will decrease which means that hunting in the name of conservation will potentially become incredibly damaging to their ecology and ability to thrive naturally.
Moreover, the ways in which people treat animals in this way is morally ambivalent, and to put it bluntly, can be perceived as being selfish. People often over exploit the animals (Deere 2011) and sometimes will illegally hunt over the quota, thus rendering the conservation factor useless. Also, as we can recognise with other types of tourism such as mass tourism (sun/sand/sea tourism), they hold a reputation for being unsustainable and unethical once they become too popular. If this was to happen with hunting tourism, it can be speculated that animal species and their natural environment could be wiped out in as little as a couple of decades. Moreover, seeing an animal as a mere economic product or as property is problematic because it implies that they have no integral value. This questions far more than the scope of this post, but it really whittles down to the ‘Animal Question’: should they have rights? Or, are we as humans superior to them? (Franklin 2008).
As it is highly unlikely that a conclusive decision will be made any time soon concerning animals and their place in a human-centric society, it can be expected that animals will continue to be exploited. However it can be argued that consumptive exploitation (such as hunting tourism), is not the most effective way to help protect a species, nor is it the most economically beneficial for people. It has been shown that in Australia (Peace 2005), and many other countries, that whale-watching tours have been a huge success. It is an incredibly popular ecotourist activity, and many of the tourists agree that they feel a personal connection to the whale. Alternatively, whale-hunting is condemned largely in the West and it is nowhere near as economically profitable as observing whales is. So the logical response is that animals are more valuable alive than they are dead, and therefore communities would benefit more from seeing animals in their natural habitat, rather than killing them in the name of protection. Humans have encroached onto the animals’ land, so therefore humans should learn to live alongside the animals and look for other methods of conserving them, as I believe that long-term this is not a sustainable way to live.
- Hunting tourism in some cases does seem to help with species conservation, alongside providing local economies with more revenue from foreign sources.
- However it is difficult to know whether this kind of hunting tourism will remain a form of conservation in the future, particularly concerning species such as polar bears.
- Hunting tourism can be environmentally damaging, particularly when people are flying long distances in order to interact with the animals. Humans are also impacting the ecology of the environment by directly getting involved with certain species.
- It is also ethically questionable. Should animals have rights, rather than just be valued as economically profitable objects? Disregarding an animals’ integral value could lead to over-exploitation and put the tourism industry at risk of becoming too unsustainable.
- There is evidence to show that in many situations, local economies can benefit of non-consumptive tourism involving animals, such as wildlife watching. Through this, more sustainable methods of conservation can be considered which doesn’t involve negative conflict.
What do you think? Do you think hunting tourism can be a form of conservation? Let me know, I’m open to friendly discussion!
Dawson, J. et al. (2010). The Carbon Cost of Polar Bear Viewing Tourism in Churchill, Canada. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 18(3). pp.319-336.
Deere, N.J. (2011). Exploitation or Conservation? Can the Hunting Tourism Industry in Africa be Sustainable? Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. pp.1-20.
Derocher, A.E. Stirling, I. (1992). The Population Dynamics of Polar Bears in Western Hudson Bay. In: McCullough, D.R. & Barrett, R.H. eds. Wildlife 2001: Populations. London: Elsevier Science Publishers. pp.1150-1159.
Derocher, A.E. Stirling, I. (1993). Possible Impact of Climatic Warming on Polar Bears. Arctic, 46(3). pp.240-245
Franklin, A. (2008). The ‘Animal Question’ and the Consumption of Wildlife. In: Lovelock, B. ed. Tourism and the Consumption of Wildlife: Hunting, Shooting and Sport Fishing. Routledge: Abingdon. pp.31-44.
Freeman, M.M.R. Wenzel, G.W. (2006). The Nature and Significance of Polar Bear Conservation Hunting in the Canadian Arctic. Arctic, 59(1). pp.21-30.
Lovelock, B. (2008). An Introduction to Consumptive Wildlife Tourism. In: Lovelock, B. ed. Tourism and the Consumption of Wildlife: Hunting, Shooting and Sport Fishing. Routledge: Abingdon. pp.3-31.
Novelli, M. et al. (2006). The Other Side of the Ecotourism Coin: Consumptive Tourism in South Africa. Journal of Ecotourism, 5(1-2). pp.62-79.
Peace, A. (2005). Loving Leviathan: The Discourse of Whale-Watching in Australian Ecotourism. In: Knight, J. ed. Animals in Person: Cultural Perspectives on Human-Animal Intimacy. Oxford and New York: Berg. pp.191-207.
Storaas, T. et al. (2001). The Economic Value of Moose in Norway: A Review. Alces, 37(1). pp.97-107.
Willebrand, T. (2009). Promoting Hunting Tourism in North Sweden: Options of Local Hunters. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 55(3). pp.209-216.