In Part I, I tried to spell out why I think that a particular defense of hunting based on participation in the natural order implies some fairly heavy conservationist commitments on the part of hunters. In this post, I want to spell out a different sort of implication of this defense.
Participation, like naturalness, comes in degrees; I can participate more or less fully in a given acitivity. And in the case of hunting we have a pretty clear sense of the spectrum of participation in the natural order: it runs from, on the one extreme, occassional forays into the field with little or no effort or chance of success to, on the other extreme, substistence or near subsistence hunting. Now, when hunters invoke participation in nature as a defense, what degree of participation is required to make this work? It seems clear to me that simple dalliances into the field on a sporadic basis are unlikely to be sufficient. After all, it is hard to see how this sort of hit-and-miss "participation" could generate a sufficiently significant impact on the individual's overall life projects to even call such activities participating in the natural order. It seems equally clear to me that someone who routinely kills enough game to feed themselves and their family (singular "they") is participating in a significant way and that such participation impacts their lives in a meaningful way. In between, there is a lot of gray area, but here is what I think is the minimum baseline requirement for participation:
- The hunter's commitment to hunting is substantive. The hunter is willing to put out the time and effort to master the relevant skills involved in hunting. He or she is willing to master their chosen weapon, learn the relevant sorts of woodsmanship required for their chosen quarry, and learn the relevant natural history involved in hunting that quarry in a serious way. Moreover, he or she is willing to pursue this quarry regularly (according to game laws) and prioritizes such pursuit reletively highly overall in his or her particular conception of the good life. Finally, when afield, the hunter is reasonably focused on being successful and is willing to work toward being consistently successful in his or her pursuits.
In sum: to participate is at a minimum to be regularly focused on taking game and to be adequately competent to make the likelihood of success more than an illusion. And even though I believe that this is the bare minimum required by the participation defense, it is a standard which many hunters simply fail to meet. Contrary to popular belief outside of the hunting community, most hunters really are competent with their weapons; it is with many or most of the remaining requirements that hunters are often below par.
But if we want to look at a more solid set of requirements for participation, I think we should include the following:
- Consistent success
- Nonselectivity/opportunism: taking the first legal animal(s)
- Primitiveness: dedication to achieving sucess with fewer technological fixes over time
- Persistence: regular pursuit of game
- Bioregionalism: pursuit of game from one's local bioregion
- Integratedness: hunting is an integral component of one's overall worldview
I won't try to defend these requirements at the moment. I do want to note a couple of things, however. First, these are highly demanding requirements. If we took them strictly to be requirements for an adequate degree of participation, very few modern hunters would pass. Still, they should be taken seriously as an ideal for all hunters. Moroever, they cast suspicion on certain types of hunting, such as traveling far from one's native bioregion to pursue exotics.
Second, there are trade-offs between the various requirements and their may be mutliple ways of satisfying them. For example, use of primitive weaponry may compromise success rates even for highly skilled hunters.