I’m into my second week of a brutal virus that has sapped my will to do just about anything, so I’m afraid I won’t be showing you any cute birds this week to coo over. Instead, I’ll briefly discuss something I came across during my listless week stuck in bed surfing the web, then retire back to the important business of feeling sorry for myself and looking at pictures of cats. Since this involves the ethics of hunting, this is actually somewhat akin to setting fire to the fuse and retiring a safe distance.  No matter, I’ll be busy looking at cats with captions.

The story is brought about by a forthcoming book, Eating Aliens, One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species. The author, Jackson Landers, posits that there are few ways the public can make meaningful contributions to controlling invasive species, or even awareness of, as opposed to climate change or habitat loss. But what they can do is go out and hunt these species for food.

The article is worth reading in full, and it is also worth checking your preconceptions at the door. Jackson isn’t some mindless bunny-killer trying to find justifications for hunting, he came at hunting from being a vegetarian as a way of ethically sourcing meat. He argues that wild meat is ethically sound because it lacks the suffering of intensively farmed animals. A deer that has lived its life in the wild and dies in an instant has suffered a great deal less than a battery chicken, and has done less damage to the planet than an intensively raised cow. And removing an introduced animal helps benefit native ecosystems. So Jackson is arguing that conservationists should be teaming up with hunters and ethical eaters to chow down on the problem of introduced species!

There are I think limits to the practical applicability of this. In New Zealand hunters have been an asset to conservation in helping control damaging introduced species in many instances, but the danger is that the hunters want some level of introduced species to be maintained so they can keep hunting. That said, there is room here for an interesting discussion about the sourcing of the meat we eat, and the potential role for hunting in obtaining some of it.

Written by Duncan
Duncan Wright is a Wellington-based ornithologist working on the evolution of New Zealand's birds. He's previously poked albatrosses with sticks in Hawaii, provided target practice for gulls in California, chased monkeys up and down hills Uganda, wrestled sharks in the Bahamas and played God with grasshopper genetics in Namibia. He came into studying birds rather later in life, and could quit any time he wants to.