This essay seeks to see if one side or the other in the hunting debate gets more purchase if we first ask what gives the state the moral right to promote sport hunting when the practice is in deep decline. We look at the dominant economic and political reasons for state support, none of which settle the moral matter. We then look at various state appeals to moral justification (ethical hunting, the right to hunt, the value of heritage, etc.) and determine that they beg the same prior questions that hunters beg--questions about the new scientific understanding of animal cognition and about the ideal individual and society in the 21st C. Neither side in the philosophical debate is helped by state promotion of hunting, given that anti-hunters also often dispense with the deeper questions and the relevant science. Conclusion: the debate should be based on the new scientific understanding of animals' capacities and on current ideals of the individual and society. State policy should reflect that.
thehe state should see that it is on slippery ground when it devises programs to gratify hunters and to encourage the innocent, the reluctant, and the lapsed to take up the practice.