Spring 2018

                                                                                                                              FINAL PAPER

Fontenelle Forest is a nature reserve near Omaha whose mission it is to preserve the forest in its natural state. The forest has two rules for its visitors, the first one states, “All plant and animals life is strictly protected.”. The second rule says, “No hunting, fishing, or weapons.” In Jared Diamond's article, Must We Shoot Deer to Save Nature?, he says, “We felt that the first rule of nature reserve “management” should be to eliminate human interference” (Diamond, 2). In this case, we need to have a healthy balance of human interference in the forest to keep it from deteriorating. Fontenelle Forest is dying out due to the deer who reside there. As Diamond explained, “The sight felt like visiting an apparently thriving country and suddenly realizing that it was inhabited mainly by old people, and that most of the infants and children had died” (Diamond, 1).  The old people are the trees, who are failing to reproduce in their “ natural state.” There are no predators in Fontenelle Forest meaning, there is nothing to maintain the deer population. The rules in place are not in the best interest of the forest and should be altered in order to protect the future of this forest.

Aldo Leopold was an avid hunter and always assumed that wolves were a parasite. He stated, “I thought that fewer wolves meant more deer.” It wasn’t until he killed a wolf and watched her die that he realized nature is not set up in a way where wolves have no key part in the ecosystem. “I was young then, and full of trigger-itch. I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean a hunter paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agrees with such a view” (Aldo Leopold). Leopold would agree that these rules need to be modified in order to preserve the land in the right way. Leopold states that, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends to do otherwise." When examining Leopold’s Biotic Pyramid, we can see how he is inclusive of everything that inhabits the land. There are other things that live on the land than just the deer and elk. We have to have everyone’s best interest at heart.

Altering the rules would help save the trees that are dying out in this forest. Peter Singer's approach tells us that killing the deer is morally wrong because these animals have sentience. However, he claims that as long as there are good intentions and no pleasure being felt,  it would be permissible to hunt for the greater good. We can justify the morality of killing these creatures because we have to think about the rest of plants and animals that also inhabit the land. In this moral framework we look at happiness that will benefit the most amount of people, things, or animals.

One way we could revise the rules is by allowing there to be hunters on specific days or months. If we are interested in the greater good for Fontenelle Forest then hunting these animals would be the most appropriate way to do it. Since there are no critical predators in this ecosystem, we need to have something there to manually control the amount of deer there are. If continue to allow the deer population to increase, eventually there would no longer be enough seedlings for these deer to eat causing there to be starvation. One examples comes from Diamond’s article, “The classic example of mismanagement of keystone species in the United States was the disastrous sequence of events on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon, where thousands of mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, and bobcats were killed early in this century in an effort to protect 3,000 Rocky Mountain mule deer.  The effort succeeded so well that deer soared in numbers to nearly 100,000, severely overgrazed the vegetation, and destroyed populations of many other species before most of the deer themselves died of starvation” (Diamond, 2-3). This is a prime example that must be see as a warning. We are able to morally justify the need to kill, there are obvious signs as to what could happen if we do not control their populations.

Although there is a need for wildlife management, these animals are capable of feeling pleasure and pain. In the case of Tom Regan, we want to avoid causing any type suffering to the animals. In Regan's cruelty account we want to avoid being cruel to animals because it leads to people being cruel to other people. It is not morally acceptable to inflict suffering on the deer regardless of the greater good. These animals have rights and those rights will triumph over the forest’s need for more trees. They are subjects of life and are not just merely alive.

We have to be find a balance in Fontenelle Forest. It has lost its “keystone species” which is vital to the wellbeing of the environment. Something that is risky but morally acceptable would be to try and bring back that keystone species and adapt it to the new environment it is being placed in. It would be nature in its raw form and it will help maintain the population of the deer.

If we focus on what is morally right and wrong, then I believe we need to also look at the potential future and likelihood of the deer dying off. If they die off, we would be to blame because we didn’t do anything to prevent it. I assume we were the ones who took the keystone species away and that was morally wrong of us. I personally do not agree with Singer nor Regan, I know there is a way to meet in the middle where we can morally justify hunting in moderation. I don't agree to kill for for the greater good, I believe we should look at everyone and find a solution that way. I also don’t believe there is nothing we can do because it is not morally acceptable, it’s a matter of thinking what is acceptable for one person or for a whole community, not the majority.

A way to meet in the middle is to allow therapeutic hunting. The goal of therapeutic hunting is to control and maintain population. We would be doing it in the interest of the land and those who reside in it. The people playing out the hunting would feel no pleasure, it would simply be to manually control all of the deer. Gary Varner is the person who takes the ideas of Singer, Regan, and Leopold and molds them into one. We still have respect for these animals and provide them rights but we must also have respect for the other animals and plants. With the idea of therapeutic hunting, whatever game is killed and can them be processed as food and given away to low income areas. It would be a win-win to both humans, animals, and the land.

I would align my views with both Leopold and Varner. I would be all for therapeutic hunting. It is something that provides relief for all member of the environment, and we have everyone’s best interest at heart. We can’t have another tragedy like the one at Kaibab Plateau and I think that is when we morally justify our reason in therapeutic hunting.

The rules in place are not in the best interest of the forest and should be altered in order to protect the future of this forest. With the facts given, it is obvious that a lot can go wrong if we sit and do nothing about the growing populations of deer and elk. Changing the rules would be simple. We would combine both rules and state, “All animal and plants are protected unless there is a threat to the ecosystem, in which officials will resolve.” We can’t have a free for all when it comes to hunting, but we can have hunters to whose main purpose is to kill for population control.


Before I took this class I always assumed hunting was bad and that there was no moral way to justify taking an innocent animal’s life away. After reading about Aldo Leopold and hearing his stories about hunting, it made me realize there a bigger issues than just killing a deer. There are problems in the way we manage our wildlife that we aren’t aware of, like mass populations of deer, or the real hazards of plastic that affect our communities. Hunting for me did a full 360 spin. I can see the need to hunt and I agree with Leopold about the land and everything on it. We don’t care about the greater good, we care about everyone and that it something that really persuaded me to changed my thinking about hunting.

    The most meaningful thing I learned in this class was the way we view the Earth. In our module, when we watch the TED talk on plastics, it really drew my attention. I made a connection with Flint, Michigan. No one has fixed their problem of clea, accessible water. When we give these people plastic water gallons and bottle, those people are just as disposable as the plastic. That is the way we view them, we aren’t providing relief for them,  only making matters worse. This is going to always remind me that there is always something more we can do, those bottles aren’t enough.

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