Should Blood-Sports Be Banned?

I say it’s time that all deliberate cruel killing of animals for “sport” be banned by law. There is no excuse for causing immense pain and suffering to these creatures just for the sheer heck of it… for fun and games. Okay, I know animals are killed for meat… but there’s a difference: the animals in that situation CAN be treated humanely right up to the moment they are killed instantly. I’m not saying that’s an ideal situation. There are other objections to killing for meat but what concerns me in this posting is UNNECESSARY AND DELIBERATE CRUELTY TO ANIMALS FOR FUN.

In Spain, bulls are tortured to death… by being stabbed with lances and darts and then taunted by the “heroic” Matador who kills him with a sword. In Ireland, hares are captured and forced to act as bait for savage dogs at so-called coursing events. The animals are terrorised to amuse the spectators and many are mauled to death. Foxes are hunted with packs of hounds… chased to exhaustion and then ripped to pieces, again for “fun”. Some nations or states allow cockfighting, dogfighting, badger baiting… you name it.

Anything you can think of that can inflict agonising pain and suffering on an animal is deemed “sport” by some set of people out there. Is shooting a cruel sport? It certainly is when the shot bird or animal, as often happens, is not killed by the bullet or pellets but just injured and left to die of its injuries. And there’s the question of how blood sport fans behave towards other human beings. In his book Bad Hare Days, Irish animal protection campaigner and journalist John Fitzgerald highlights the violence and bullying to which opponents of organised cruelty to animals are subjected… hey pay a high price for their compassion. In Ireland, campaigners have been severely assaulted, fired from their jobs for being against blood sports, and have suffered wrongful arrest at the hands of police who were leading members of hare coursing clubs. Fitzgerald addresses brilliantly the link between the violence and cruelty of blood sports and violence directed against human beings, and makes a powerful case for banning blood sports both on the grounds of animal cruelty and the risk to human safety and wellbeing inherent in these “recreational cruelties”.

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Whilst these numbers might seem relatively small as a percentage of the workforce, the jobs are concentrated in a small number of areas across the country. Hunting is also an integral part of effective wildlife management and makes a positive contribution to the countryside in general. Only those animals that are edible or pests are hunted – and they would have to be killed anyway regardless of whether it was for sport or not. Hunting with dogs is not especially cruel as it is natural to many animals to be chased, and the adrenaline they experience limits their suffering.

Hounds may rip a fox apart, but this only occurs after its death, which is usually very quick. In America, taxes collected from hunters are used to fund conservation work and monitor the number of animals that need to be killed each season. Evidence from America shows a strong positive correlation between increases in hunting and the numbers of game species, largely because hunting provides an incentive to protect land rather than manage it purely in the interests of agriculture. | To summarise, I personally am against blood sports and do feel quite strongly about my opinion.

At the end of the day the test for whether beings should enjoy moral significance is their capacity to feel pain. Animals react in a way consistent with our understanding of what it is to be in pain – they scream and avoid the source of that pain. Research also shows that the pain sensing structures of animals’ nervous systems are similar to our own. A distinction cannot be made between animals and humans on grounds of intelligence since we don’t consider the new-born, senile or mentally impaired to be non-human.

Therefore, both humans and animals should enjoy equal moral consideration. Any attempt to distinguish between animals and people is ‘speciesism’. To say that animals deserve less consideration simply because they are animals is analogous to claiming that women deserve inferior treatment by virtue of their sex. ‘The question is not, Can animals reason? Nor, Can they talk? But can they suffer’. (Vicki Hearn, What’s Wrong with Animal Rights? )

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