Are hunting and fishing sports?
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
Hunting and fishing are traditions that go back thousands of years. Occurring in a variety of forms ranging from organized international competition to a father bonding with his son, the art of stalking animals is one of the largest “sport” industries.
An example of the wide popularity of the hunting “sport” can be put in material form when one looks at the number of hunting apparel shops scattered across North America. Stores specializing primarily in hunting and fishing equipment can be found almost everywhere. These games are even more popular at an amateur level. More so than other organized sports, particularly in rural areas.
But does the pursuit of animals—particularly the majority variations where they are killed after—really count as a “sport”? There is no official definition of a sport, although the international organization known as SportAccord is widely regarded as the moderator of all sport. As an organization, they encompass all international sports federations at a world level. Among other definitions, their criterion concludes that a “sport” cannot be harmful to any living creature.
Animal rights are a complicated issue, and whether or not hunting/fishing is moral is irrelevant to its sport status. However, one could argue the animals pursued are at a distinct disadvantage. While game and fish can easily elude the player, even if they think they have a sure target, there are only a distinct few that could fight back against their pursuer.
SportAccord offers many sports in a category that is animal-based, such as equestrianism. Equestrian-based sports involve the horse as a willing player. The human and animal work together to achieve a specific target. In hunting and fishing, the animal becomes the target. Some forms of hunting/fishing do not harm the animal, such as catch-and-release style fishing. Nevertheless, in most types the goal is to track down and kill another being.
None of the Olympic sports involve trying to hurt an opponent. Ideally, nobody ever gets hurt in a match. Hunting and fishing exist in a weird state where the animals are targets, but also opponents. Most of the thrill and challenge of hunting and fishing comes from the struggle of the animal to avoid being captured.
On the other hand, many human-centred sports involve capturing an opponent in some way. Most forms of tag, capture-the-flag, baseball, and football all involve chasing down and detaining opponents as a main objective.
Most forms of hunting and fishing have a common shared ethic among their participants—they involve eating what they kill. In this sense, they may be seen as necessities. Indeed, many origins of the games may stem from essential survival. However, no international sports to this date, involve consuming the flesh of the loser.
Perhaps W.S Gilbert summed up the debate when he said, “Deer hunting would be fine sport, if only the deer had guns.”