Here is an article on ethics I wrote recently for African Hunter Magazine:
Ethical Conduct Considerations for Hunters
By Rory Young
There is much misconception about what ethics is and how it can benefit us. Many Hunters view it with suspicion and imagine it will just add to their long list of things to worry about.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The question of right and wrong is a part of everything we think, say and do throughout the day and cannot be avoided. It is a simple fact that every human knows that there is a right way and a wrong way to do anything. Understanding ethics makes identifying the right from the wrong easier and having a code of ethics, either as an individual or an organization, makes the decision a simple process.
So what exactly are ethics?
The term comes from the Greek word Ethos, which means “character”.
Ethics are what an individual or organization determines to be right or wrong for that individual or organization and reflect their values and standards. They are the principles, values, standards and rules of behaviour that guide our decisions and behaviour in our work.
What is a code of ethics?
Ethical codes are adopted by organizations to assist members in understanding the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and in applying that understanding to their decisions. Any individual can also at any time adopt his own ethical code.
An ethical code generally implies codes of business ethics, codes of conduct for employees, and codes of professional practice.
Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers and every other profession on the planet have codes of conduct governing what is considered to be ethically sound behaviour. This is usually known as a Code of Professional Practice.
Even pirates had codes of conduct known either Codes of Brethren or Articles.
The reason all these professions, from Lawyers to Pirates (hehehe) have codes of ethics is because there is a need within any society to have common standards and values which the group as a whole and the individuals that make up that group practice, promote and defend.
It is wrong for people to assume that ethics equates to idealism and high mindedness. That is not the case at all; take the pirate codes for example. No one would describe pirates as idealists! Yet nearly every pirate crew had a code of conduct. The reason is that a group needs to understand what the entirety of its values is in order to work towards a common goal. What is right and wrong for a group can even be extremely self-serving. There is nothing wrong with that, assuming we have other rules and standards for the other aspects of our lives.
When you say you are a hunter you immediately identify yourself as part of that whole group who call themselves Hunters. Many countries have very good laws in place to govern hunting. Still, that does not mean that there are not still many questions of right and wrong left to decide for ourselves. These fall in to the category of ethics.
As hunters how do we determine what is right and wrong behaviour?
Right and wrong behaviour for the people of a state as a whole is determined by the constitution and laws enacted by parliament and enforced by the officers of the law.
On the other hand religion is the realm of the soul and its precepts and commandments deal with good and evil.
In the case of hunting good ethics can be determined by whatever is good or bad for hunting and hunters, as well as the country and all those affected by hunting. By extension it includes those areas that directly or indirectly benefit or hinder hunting and hunters and all those who are affected in any way by the activity.
From a purely egoistic viewpoint it boils down to that behaviour that benefits hunters and hunting is good and behaviour that hinders hunters and hunting is bad. However, when you think of it, upsetting or benefiting the State and all those who are affected by hunting and hunters will impact hunting and hunters positively or negatively. Therefore even from the most selfish viewpoint it is necessary to have and adhere to good ethics.
A code of ethics should also contribute to the welfare of its key stakeholders and also respect the rights of all those affected by its operations. Even from an egoistic viewpoint this makes sense because we don’t operate-in a vacuum; our behaviour is noted by others who are affected by it and by those who feel it is important. All of those people can and do work with or r against our interests. Whether they work for or against our interests depends on how we portray ourselves and our profession to them. So, perceptions are important.
So how does a code of ethics benefit us?
Codes of ethics benefit us in many ways, chiefly:
By defining acceptable behaviours.
By helping to avoid conflicts of interest.
By providing a yardstick against which we can judge our own ethics and the ethics of others.
By promoting high standards of practice and professionalism.
By codifying, enhancing and promoting group identity.
Most importantly they protect and promote our image via transparent standards and values.
So what would be worth including in a code of ethics?
It should cover all aspects of hunting and fields affected by the activity.
It should oppose all prejudice with respect to sex, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual preference, colour, or physical or mental disability;
If should promote peaceful resolution of conflict.
Furthermore it should promote a positive image to outsiders and in this regard it is important to bear in mind is that the future of hunting is always in the hands of the non-hunting majority. That non-hunting majority is for the most part meat-eaters yet unbelievably they are for the most part against hunting. This strange contradiction didn’t happen by chance. It is a direct result of the bad attitude and resulting bad behaviour of hunters without ethics. The biggest threat to the continuation of hunting as a legal pursuit worldwide is the bad behaviour of unethical hunters.
The negative perception can be broken down into three areas. Those are waste, suffering and conservation. These three issues dovetail with other areas directly affecting hunting. From these and the other issues previously mentioned it is possible to build a code of ethics.
Here is an example I have created and try to adhere to myself. . Any hunter or hunting organisation can create a code of ethics to follow as a guideline or as an established code of conduct:
Breaking the law is the first, most obvious negative. If someone breaks the law, not only do they become criminals but they also cast all hunters in a bad light. Hunters must always uphold and defend the law, especially law relating to hunting, firearms and conservation.
Because hunting is dependent on the environment, not caring for our environment is unacceptable. We have an ethical obligation to ourselves, our fellow hunters and to all future generations of hunters to conserve, protect and nurture the natural environment in which we liveline, work and play.
We should never waste anything. We should honour an animal hunted by utilizing as much of it as possible.
A hunter should never deliberately wound an animal or allow an animal to be deliberately wounded. We are hunters, not torturers. Anyone who takes pleasure in causing suffering belongs in an institution.
Hunting is a dangerous activity. We should endeavour to make if as safe as possible through adherence to firearms and other safety procedures and golden rules. We should never attempt or do anything that could conceivably result in injury or death of anyone on anything other than the quarry. Furthermore, a hunter should always respect public and private property. He should never hunt on any property without the knowledge and approval of the appropriate authority even if not required by law. If someone knows you are shooting in an area they can take any necessary precautions.
Because the future of hunting depends on its acceptance by the public, it is only right that we protect it and defend and promote its reputation whenever and wherever necessary. The slandering of other hunters and hunting itself is unacceptable. In fact we should defend ethical hunting whenever and wherever necessary.
When under the guidance of a professional a hunter should treat them with the respect they deserve. They are not servants and are there not only to ensure you get your trophy, but that you do so without loss of life or limb. They may be called upon to save your life or vice-versa. The same applies to trackers, skinners and all other staff. They are professionals. Treat them as such.
We must treat the communities we encounter with the same respect and courtesy that we would expect to be treated ourselves.
One could go into much more detail of course. However, a code of ethics is probably better as a broad set of guideliness gridlines nattier that than a narrow set of rules. In the end it is the hunter himself who will follow these standards and judge himself by them..
My intention here is to plant seeds that hopefully will someday grow and bear fruit.
It is a subject that sorely needs discussing and I sincerely hope that this short article stimulates discussion. If it results in just even one person changing one bad habits thenm I will consider having written it time well spent.
This is how I believe we should view ethics. It is an attempt to do the right thing and better ourselves and better our image in the eyes of the world.. Even if it only results in a small improvement over a long period it is still worth it. At the very least we will all sleep better and be able to look at our children and say, “I tried to do the RIGHT thing even when I didn’t have to”.
Rory J. A. Young
14th March 2013