Who owns nature?
If wild birds belong to anyone, then they belong to all of us.
In relation to the proposed Utah crow hunt, and in relation to hunting issues in general, people often refer, with enthusiasm, to “opportunities to hunt.” This is presented as a universal good thing, as if there were no costs or consequences to anyone else.
This is fundamentally untrue. There are very real costs and consequences.
If there were no species at all that hunters could hunt in Utah, then hunters might indeed feel a sense of deprivation. However, dozens of bird and mammal species can already be hunted in Utah.
There need to be limits
Nothing in life comes without a cost, and it is the nature of life that there are always limitations. We all get used to living within these limitations, which are necessary out of respect for society and other human beings. Hunting is no exception, and there need to be limits.
We may enjoy driving super fast, but we are not allowed to do this on expressways which are used by other drivers too.
Maybe we enjoy playing loud rap music, that’s fine; we are entitled to enjoy whatever music we like. But if we equip our truck with giant speakers and blare our music at top volume in the downtown traffic of Salt Lake City, to the irritation of other drivers around us, then that is not okay, and it is not allowed.
Normal and natural limitations to our activities in life are necessary because there are other people in the world too, and we need to curb our activities, taking into account these other people.
Not everyone enjoys the sound of gunshots
Some people enjoy hunting, and we respect all people as fellow human beings, even if we have no understanding of why they do what they do.
Likewise, some other people enjoy nature, but they do not enjoy the sound of gunshots. If they are hiking in the peace and beauty of tall trees and beautiful flowers, with snow-capped mountains in the distance, they may feel a great sense of joy at the presence of wild birds – they may feel in awe at their grace and beauty, at the magnificence of their existence – at their grace and innocence. There is nothing more peaceful or beautiful, for example, than the sight of a pair of swans sailing together on a lake.
Gunshots disturb this boundless peace and tranquility. Gunshots are unsettling for many reasons. One, they are loud and jarring. Two, they are frightening – especially for someone who is with their children or their family pets. Three, the knowledge that a beautiful bird or animal is being killed or wounded, with every gunshot that is heard, is painful to many people. This may be a feeling that is incomprehensible to the person firing the gunshots, but that is not the point.
Just as some enjoy hunting, others enjoy the tranquility of nature and the absence of gunshots. They enjoy the lives of birds, not their deaths. They enjoy watching them fly; they enjoy the amazing variety of sounds made by crows and ravens, and their complex interactions with each other. They do not want birds deprived of the life nature has given them for no good reason; and the enjoyment of the hunter does not seem to be an adequate, good reason.
Who owns the bird’s life?
The bird’s life belongs to the bird – or to nature, or to all of us, whichever way we wish to see it – the life of the bird does not belong to the hunter.
Therefore, the concept that “opportunities to hunt” are an unlimited good thing that should be expanded whenever possible to more and more species and more and more counts of dead birds is not based on reality.
We live in a democracy, and there must be a balance struck among varying groups of people with diverse interests.
The facts are that there is more than one point of view among Utah residents, and hunters already have very ample opportunities to hunt. Their rights are not being curtailed in any way. No hunters in Utah are being forced to go without hunting. The Utah hunting community is greatly respected and very active; it is not under any threat, and it is not being deprived.
There is no need whatsoever to expand hunting to include crows just because it would be “enjoyable.” And this expansion of hunting would by no means be free of cost. There are real costs and consequences.
These costs are many. The cost of their lives and their happiness to the individual crows (and ravens and other birds who would also be shot) – and the potential cost to crow populations, especially in areas where they are already scarce.
There is the cost to the peace and beauty of the natural world. The beauty of nature is a blessing given in great abundance to the state of Utah, one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. This gift is greatly valued by Utah residents and by millions of visitors. There need to be limits on the extent to which this magnificent beauty is allowed to be disturbed by gunshots, and by the violent killing of wild birds and animals.
Because crows often frequent built up areas and suburbs, there is the very real danger of stray bullets, of children shooting up into trees towards small targets, without thinking too carefully about who may be standing or playing beyond the trees. And there is the cost to the peace of mind of parents worried about the safety of their children and their pets.
Why have a crow hunt?
There is also the simple fact that opportunities to hunt bring in revenue to the Division of Wildlife Resources. Revenue is a good thing, and more revenue for the Division would be a good thing. However, this particular source of revenue may represent a conflict of interest, and could interfere with the Division’s responsibility to safeguard the State’s wildlife. Creating other, additional sources of revenue would be useful in avoiding this potential conflict.
There is absolutely no demonstrated need for more opportunities to hunt – and the “opportunity to hunt” crows would not be free; it would come only at great cost — to the birds themselves, who have their own lives — and to the many residents of Utah who value their own peace and the safety of their families.
A crow hunt is not needed and should not be held without a very compelling reason, and none has been given.
What you can do