Hunting is the seeking, pursuance and capture or destruction of game and wild animals for subsistence, profit or sport. Most governments establish "open" and "closed" hunting seasons and require hunters to be licensed. However, in some parts of the world the number of individuals wishing to hunt as a sport and who take advantage of the open season is increasing to such an extent that problems are being created. Numbers of people are shot every year in hunting accidents. However, uncontrolled hunting is clearly most destructive of wildlife and may severely endanger rare species. Depending on the animals hunted, certain methods of hunting may be either cruel or wantonly destructive. Examples are the use of automatic weapons, nets, hand grenades, dynamite (in rivers and lakes), certain types of poison, or use of dogs. Despite claims by hunters that shooting an animal is more humane than death by starvation, many game animals are left wounded by unskilled hunters and many others are claimed to have been killed by error. Untended traps are a possible source of injury to humans, as is the possibility of bites from trapped animals. A major reason for the overpopulation of certain animals is the destruction of their natural predators by man. This upsets a delicate ecological balance in nature.
Mankind has developed through hunting. Many native peoples around the world continue to survive through hunting and do so only in respond to their basic needs. Modern forms of hunting arose with the invention of firearms through which killing for pleasure became a primary motivation, as with the slaughter of game in Africa and the bison in North America.
It is estimated that there are some 15 million hunters in the USA alone. In North America it is estimated that some 175 million animals are killed annually by hunters and trappers, including: 24,000 bear, 55,000 caribou, 67,000 moose, 84,000 antelope, 100,000 elk, 2.6 million deer, 21 million waterfowl, 27 million rabbits, 32 million squirrels, and 94 million upland birds. Game herds in Botswana have been decimated by illegal hunters. In many Muslim countries where pork is taboo, warthog and wild boar are hunted and killed as a threat to crops but the meat is wasted (in some cases thousands of pigs are left to rot). In Italy, hunting la caccia usually means shooting birds, mainly small ones like finches and thrushes; populations of migrating birds, protected in the countries where they breed and over-winter, can be decimated as they cross parts of southern Europe.
Hunters devise a number of spurious rationalizations to justify their cruelty to animals. Their involvement in wildlife management is merely designed to ensure that there are adequate numbers of particular species to be killed, not to ensure an appropriate ecological balance. As a traditional sport, it is difficult to justify when one party is both defenceless and unaware of the nature of the contest. Recreational hunting facilities are supported to a greater extent by the general tax-payer than through hunting licences and fees.
Hunters are lovers of nature. As such they have ensured the allocation of major resources to nature conservation thus ensuring that many species are saved from extinction. Hunting is an appropriate means of maintaining viable population levels of species whose numbers otherwise escalate.