Ethics Case Study
(Big Game Hunting in Namibia)
Department of Recreation & Tourism Management, Vancouver Island University TOUR 161: Organizing and Leading - F21N01
Dr. Garrett Stone
Big Game Hunting in Namibia
What are the issues identified in this scenario?
This scenario can be examined from several angles and includes various problems. From the point of view of some people, killing animals is generally inhumane and immoral, and it must be stopped. This is debatable because many (not all) of these people, for example, have no problem with millions of domestic animals being killed for food every day. Perhaps because this volume of slaughter takes place in industrial centers, and these people are only in contact with the final product, which is meat, from this whole process, and for this reason, they have no moral or intellectual problems with it. Because the slaughtered animal has no character in their eyes. Regarding killing for meat, we should also consider that eating some animals is morally troublesome when animals are perceived as worthy of moral concern. The more moral concern we afford an entity, the more immoral it becomes to harm it (Loughnan, 2014).
At the same time, from the point of view of some conservationists, the issue of species extinction is raised, and they believe that while many species are in danger of extinction, hunting should be stopped. According to them, hunting is one of the main causes of wildlife extinction. This is also debatable because studies in different parts of the world suggest that other more important factors play a role, such as degradation of habitat due to the development of residential areas and deforestation, overexploitation, agriculture, emerging diseases, and climate change (Cho, 2019). Also, in the discussion of hunting, the two issues must be separated. One is trophy hunting, which is based on the wildlife census and is done in a limited and controlled way, and the other is illegal hunting (poaching), which is done in an uncontrolled and excessive way.
From another perspective, the relatively positive aspects of this type of hunting should be considered. From an environmental point of view, limited hunting of old male mammals in many species, especially those who are territorial and males control access to a number of females (Harris, 2002), can lead to an increase in the number of those species. In this particular case, the male rhino in question does not allow the younger males to show off and even kills them, while he himself no longer has the necessary sexual ability, and this reduces the number of births in the group. There is a similar situation, especially in other mammals such as Ibex, wild sheep, etc. Even if the old male is able to reproduce as much as the young ones, there is an issue of genetic diversity. This means that all descendants in a group will have the same genome (common father) for a long time, which can cause significant problems with disease and adaptation to the environment. However, in his article, “Genetic Consequences of Hunting: What Do We Know and What Should We Do?”, Harris states that these genetic changes are difficult to detect in short term (Harris, 2002). Therefore, it is possible to help the survival and proliferation of a specific group by physically removing the old male.
On the other hand, governments and organizations in developing countries usually have small budgets for environmental protection. Many of these countries suffer from a lack of human resources and equipment to protect natural areas. This leads to the extinction of large numbers of wildlife in various ways, such as poaching, livestock entering protected areas, and so on.
What are the options – possible course of actions open to you?
Considering the aspects of the issue, if we want to justify hunting in Namibia morally, we can look at it from the perspective of consequentialism. Suppose limited hunting (selective based on age and sex) has a positive effect on wildlife conservation and at the same time generates income, employment, and information about wildlife (sustainable development). In that case, it can be concluded that this is ethically acceptable.
On the other hand, based on consequentialism ethical framework, if it is scientifically and empirically proven that the result of hunting, however limited, is the extinction of wildlife, it should generally be stopped. In other words, achievements such as economic prosperity, job creation, etc., will only be worthwhile if they are accompanied by species population growth and recovery.
If we look at this issue from the point of view of right, we can reach two different points of view. If we consider that the rights of human beings in the ethic frameworks also apply to animals, then not only should endangered wildlife not be killed, but other animals such as livestock should not be killed or even taken captive to use their milk and other products. This will be a great contradiction for human society because chickens and cows kept and killed on farms are no different from rhinos that live in Africa.
On the other hand, if we do not give animals the same human rights, we can say that hunting animals is not a moral obstacle, and we should only consider issues such as species conservation. This kind of look, of course, depends on the type and extent of our perception of animals. The fact that for some animals, we have a more humane face and for others not, it has a great impact on our decisions and comments (Loughnan, 2014). For example, many people may consider high degree of rights for animals such as dogs, cats, and horses and may think that killing or harassing these animals is like killing a human. But for Thanksgiving turkeys, there is no such thing as a right to live. So, eating turkey (and other livestock) is not morally wrong. While all these animals are somehow the same, it is only in our minds that we give less rights to some and more rights to others. There is no doubt that animals feel pain and all living things have the right to live, but humankind today faces many contradictions in life.
The first and most important stakeholder is the animal itself. The rhino has the right to live, and it feels pain and suffering. Also, its specie and the survival of the animal must be preserved.
Considering the economic aspects of big game hunting, local communities, park rangers, and government organizations of the target country can be regarded as stakeholders. These groups directly benefit from hunting income. Many people in the local community may become unemployed or engage in poaching to earn money if trophy hunting is stopped. Also, the organizations in charge of environmental protection and national parks in the target country cannot adequately protect wildlife and parks without sufficient funding.
International organizations such as NWF, IUCN, WWF, many national and international NGOs, and individual conservationists are also among the stakeholders. Their efforts aim to conserve endangered species, maintain biodiversity and natural integrity.
The other beneficiary, in this case, is the hunter himself. He is looking to complete his trophies by paying a lot of money. Strange as it may sound, many of them are involved in conservation and environmental activities in various ways to inform and attract financial aid for wildlife conservation. Hunters are among the most ardent conservationists around. “In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen,” and “The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality, the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.” Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, said years ago. Hunters – along with anglers – also were the driving force behind the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, a set of wildlife management principles established more than a century ago that declare that wildlife belongs to everyone, not just the rich and privileged (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2018).
Selecting and justifying the best (most ethical) course of action
If we look at the issue one-dimensionally and consider that wildlife has the right to life, hunting is immoral, endangered animals should not be hunted, paying large sums of money does not give people the right to hunt, etc., trophy hunting and big game hunting will seem immoral. But if we look at it from the perspective of sustainable development, sustainable use of natural resources, and environment protection, we can conclude that supervised and scientific trophy hunting and big game hunting can be ethically correct because it both preserves wildlife and improves the living conditions of local people. The major wildlife conservation organizations also approve this type of hunting.
World Wildlife Fund, as one of the major international conservation organizations in the world, is not opposed to hunting programs that present no threat to the survival of threatened species and, where such species are involved, are part of a demonstrated conservation and management strategy that is scientifically based, properly managed, and strictly enforced, with revenues and benefits going back into conservation and local communities. We have seen in specific circumstances where strong standards are in place that such programs can reduce poaching, lead to species population growth and recovery, provide valuable income to local communities for conservation and development projects, and provide incentives for communities to engage in wildlife conservation for the long-term (World Wildlife Fund, 2021).
In addition, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has developed ‘Guiding Principles for Using Trophy Hunting as a Conservation Tool.’ This document recognizes that when well-managed, trophy hunting can deliver important benefits for species protection and recovery, habitat conservation, and reducing illegal hunting and illegal wildlife trade, as well as delivering important livelihood benefits to rural communities (e.g. in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Canada, Pakistan and several European countries) (IUCN, 2019).
Various research and studies have been conducted in different countries on the socio-economic effects of hunting on local communities. In Pakistan, for example, researchers have concluded that hunting programs have positive effects on the community in the study area. Local communities in the study area received benefits such as employment, livelihood grants, and indirect benefits in the form of development projects (Ali, 2015).
Utilitarianism can support big game hunting in Namibia. Utilitarianism refers to the view that right actions and practices maximize the aggregated happiness of all those affected by them (Sinnott-Armstrong, 2019). In this case, most of the stakeholders benefit from hunting. Perhaps the old white rhino is the only stakeholder who doesn’t benefit, at least not directly. Breeding and conservation of other black rhinos may be the only benefit to the old black rhino. In fact, we cannot keep everyone happy. Ultimately, we must strive to maximize profits for the maximum number of stakeholders.
Loughnan, S., Bastian, B., & Haslam, N. (2014). The Psychology of Eating Animals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(2), 104–108. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44318731
Renee Cho, 2019, Why Endangered Species Matter, Retrieved from:
Harris, R. B., Wall, W. A., & Allendorf, F. W. (2002). Genetic Consequences of Hunting: What Do We Know and What Should We Do? Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006), 30(2), 634–643. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3784528
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2018, Hunters as Conservationists, Retrieved from:
World Wildlife Fund, 2021, Sustainable Use of Wildlife, Retrieved from:
IUCN, 2019, Compatibility of Trophy Hunting as a Form of Sustainable Use with IUCN’s Objectives, Retrieved from:
Ali, H., Shafi, M. M., Khan, H., Shah, M., & Khan, M. (2017). Socio-economic benefits of community based trophy hunting programs. Environmental Economics, 6(1), 9-17.
Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2019). Consequentialism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (2019th ed.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2019/entries/consequentialism/