Why you should care
Because sometimes you just gotta compromise.
Blame it on Posh Spice. In September 2014, the Welsh moors were overrun by micro pigs, having been popularized by celebrities like Victoria Beckham who bought them as pets. But baby animals don’t stay micro for long, and the pigs, set free once puberty hit, were soon running wild and interbreeding all over the countryside. So Swansea Council hired a licensed professional to shoot most of them — wee, wee, wee — all the way to their certain death.
Sometimes hunting is used to combat overpopulation, which can be a real problem in rural areas. Animals with no predators can spread disease, destroy crops and breed rampantly, leaving concerned citizens and local governments with no choice but to order — or participate in — culls. But why not shoot the animals with contraceptive darts instead of bullets?
It’d be hugely useful in places like India, for instance, where hunting is largely banned. There is an animal in the western state of Rajasthan in India called the nilgai, a kind of antelope that can tear up farmers’ fields. Some Rajasthanis consider it a kind of cow and thus sacred; even though the nilgai can be pests of the first order, and farmers can obtain hunting permits, most are reluctant to kill the animals. So the state government got creative: It invented a sport that looks a lot like hunting. Humans still shoot at an animal, but they don’t kill it. Instead, they aim for the ass and try to hit the creatures with immunocontraceptives.
No 14-year-old wants to be shot full of deer contraceptives, but it sure beats dying.
It’s true that most animals probably would rather not be sterilized, but Anita Carswell of In Defense of Animals says, “We think it is safe to say that when faced with sterilization or death, most animals would choose sterilization.”
Humans included. Even in regions where hunting isn’t prohibited by law or tradition, contraceptives are a better option than bullets. In October 2014, a Texas dove hunter fatally shot himself in the neck. The next month, a 14-year-old boy who was hunting deer in California shot and killed another 14-year-old who moved into his line of fire. No 14-year-old wants to be shot full of deer contraceptives, but it sure beats dying.
No, this solution won’t satisfy everyone. Some people really, really want to mount deer heads on their walls — or even, as in the case of sport hunter Nele Dageförde, just want to know that the meat they’re eating came from an animal that “had a pretty decent life” and wasn’t stuffed full of antibiotics or killed in an abattoir. On the other side are those who don’t countenance any kind of hunting for sport — even if it isn’t as cruel to sterilize an animal as it is to kill it. Contraceptives won’t do much to stop wild animals from destroying property in the short-term, either. And is overpopulation even a real thing? Maybe it’s human overpopulation we should be looking at rather than the tiny space the nilgai have managed to carve out for themselves in the world.
But, hey: A good compromise leaves everybody mad. Let’s snag the rifles from the hunters, but let them have their fun — and even do a little good for the environment — with guns that’ll only put a moratorium on the next generation of animals, not the one that’s currently alive.