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Does hunting and fishing connect humans with nature or reinforce superiority complex

Humans always hunted and fished. In some societies, this was, and still is, necessary for survival. But in industrialized nations, hunting and fishing have taken on a new mantle — a recreational sport.

A recent study delves into the ethical and practical implications of this increasingly popular practice, exploring its benefits and potential impacts on different aspects of our daily lives.

Meet the team

Professor Robert Arlinghaus from the IGB, along with a team of philosophers, social scientists, and environmentalists, explores this phenomenon from a fresh lens.

They look at the emotional intensity that recreational hunting and fishing can provoke in individuals. Through their study, they bring our attention to its potential impact on environmental stewardship.

Environmental stewardship

The team proposes that the deep emotional connection forged between hunters, anglers, and the wild can lead to a strong sense of responsibility.

They argue that these feelings often translate into lifelong commitment towards environmental and species protection.

Two sides of the spectrum

However, not all outdoor experiences are catalysts for this kind of stewardship. The researchers clearly differentiate between intensive nature interaction, which can foster environmental responsibility, and superficially conducted hunting and fishing practices, which may not have the same effect.

Charles List, professor emeritus of philosophy at SUNY Plattsburgh University, New York, and co-author of the study, explains the idea well.

“Hunting and fishing generally require an intensive engagement with natural processes, ecosystems, the living creature and the annual and daily cycles,” List explains.

Deep nature connections made by hunting and fishing

This deep connection to nature can foster a strong sense of responsibility to protect wildlife and fish, known as stewardship.

Through activities like searching, finding, catching, killing, and processing wild animals, hunters and anglers become part of the natural food web.

This deep connection with nature can foster a strong sense of responsibility to protect wildlife and fish, known as stewardship.

“Hunting and fishing generally require an intensive engagement with natural processes, ecosystems, the living creature, and the annual and daily cycles,” said Prof. Arlinghaus, a sustainability researcher and fisheries professor at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Hunting, fishing, and the empathy gap

Just as there are two sides to every coin, the researchers also shed light on practices that might not foster a sense of responsibility.

Unfortunately, some hunting and fishing experiences are dominated by a desire for quick rewards rather than fostering a connection with nature.

According to Dr. Sam Shephard of Ave Maria University in Florida, these superficial experiences do not allow for an intensive examination of one’s relationship with nature and the impact on the lives of animals.

“There are examples of hunting and fishing experiences being dominated by market logic,” explained Dr. Shephard. He pointed to small put-and-take fishing ponds and canned hunting as examples.

These practices offer only superficial experiences of nature. They cater to the desire for a quick reward. Often, there is no deep examination of personal relationships with nature or the impact on the lives of animals.

Psycho-emotional triggers

The team also explores the skills and knowledge that hunting and fishing can impart. However, they emphasize that the critical factor is not just the practice but the psycho-emotional triggers that the activities stir in the individuals.

Catch-and-release fishing, for instance, can heighten the sense of responsibility towards the life of the fish. However, if executed for purely economic reasons, it does nothing to foster a sense of stewardship.

“Stewardship arises when people become aware of the consequences of their own actions and draw personally binding conclusions that lead to the sustainable management of animal populations, including to self-constraint about how many animals to take and how,” explained associate professor Erica von Essen of Stockholm Resilience Center.

She suggests that true stewardship arises when individuals comprehend the consequences of their actions and take binding decisions for the sustainable management of animal populations.

Societal pressures on traditional practices

In their study, the researchers also delve into the impact of societal pressures on traditional practices.

With societal taboos around killing wild animals in recreation, hunters and anglers often distance themselves from the emotional dimensions of their activities. Unfortunately, this shift undermines environmental stewardship.

Professor Arlinghaus explains, “An important basis for this is to remove the social taboo on killing wild animals in the context of recreational fishing and hunting.”

He believes such practices can build intense emotional connections and awareness of the consequences of one’s actions, which may lead to pro-environmental behavior and support for conservation efforts.

Stewardship’s role in hunting and fishing

The study led by Professor Robert Arlinghaus examines recreational hunting and fishing. It highlights how these activities can promote environmental stewardship.

The intense engagement hunters and anglers have with nature is crucial. This interaction often leads to a deep emotional connection and a commitment to protect wildlife and the environment.

However, not all hunting and fishing experiences foster this connection. Some are superficial and driven by quick rewards. These do not result in a strong sense of responsibility towards nature.

The researchers argue for the importance of psycho-emotional engagement. They propose that true stewardship comes from understanding the impact of one’s actions and making sustainable choices.

While the act of hunting and fishing can be controversial, it is important to comprehend the potential for fostering a sense of environmental responsibility.

As society continues to grapple with issues of conservation and environmental protection, the findings of this study offer a unique perspective that invites us all to explore our relationship with nature more deeply.

The full study was published in the journal Nature Sustainability.


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