ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Trophy Hunting Debate

A Case for Ethics

This article attempts to unravel the underlying reasoning behind the contemporary practice of "trophy hunting." It uses deontology to critique the debate on trophy hunting, which, it reckons, is based on utilitarianism. This debate is wrongly pitched between those who consider trophy hunting as economically viable and those who decry this viability. This understanding treats environment as "unrelated" or "irrelevant" domain for the economic benefits, denies its intrinsic value and makes its instrumental use as a collective norm.

This article is dedicated to Ashok Acharya of University of Delhi whose inquisitiveness has always inspired me. I am highly indebted to my brother Zaboor Ahmad, my friends including Rupak, Tanya and Aadil who all helped in identifying key issues in the debate.

Jahangir, the 17th century Mughal emperor of India, is known for his passion for hunting. He is said to have hunted hundreds of lions and tigers (Divyabhanusinh 2009). The Mughal emperors pursuits are not only deemed unethicalor even illegal from todays vantage point but also barbarous in general terms. Back in the 17th century, however, such a legalistic and ethical understanding was yet to emerge in India or elsewhere.

Today, the same practice has emerged in a new avatar; it is popularly called trophy hunting. The practice is essentially the same as those in medieval times except the mode of justifying it. What has changed in essence is the cruelty associated with hunting animals. Today Jahangir could have been legally and rightfully hunting animals had he been paying for his hunts, the amount which could have been redirected for the very preservation of the species in question. Such is the understanding behind the contemporary idea of trophy hunting.

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