Like many issues, the answer here probably lies somewhere in the middle. Also, smug slanted viewpoints from both sides leave out critical facts which need to be considered. The evidence is contestable.
From the pro-hunting side, one fact which is ignored by the opposing side is the fact that a lot of land has been set aside specifically for hunting. It appears that this land would not even be available if this wasn’t the case. Another factor is that in much of Europe, Asia, and other places, land and animal resources have been depleted over many centuries; while in North America, there is still a lot of open land teeming with animals. Western Europeans being appalled by American hunters somehow doesn’t sit right with me. Hunting is an American tradition because most of the United States was made up of rural independent people who practiced self-determinism up until fairly recently.
Another issue that would favor the pro-hunting side is that groups like PETA carry some extreme ideas. I know, I don’t like the term “extreme ideas,” because sometimes they can be a good thing. However, I think that when PETA says that fishing should be eliminated because the hooks hurt the fishes’ mouths, then most of us would probably agree that this is absurd. Personally, I have no emotional attachment to fish discomfort. They simply are not the same type of complex creatures as mammals are. One could make an equally strong argument that plants feel pain as well. This can be backed up by science. When leaves are cut, plants emit a strong frequency, as if they’re “screaming.”
Also, invasive species in North America, like wild boars and nutrias do a tremendous amount of damage to the land. Those animals could be hunted off of the continent without any ecological repercussions. Even the common rat species are an immeasurable health hazard in large cities where there are as many rats as humans.
On the anti-hunting side, hunting concerns often use weak “animal management” arguments. While there is some truth to this, they take it to unfounded proportions. Another issue is the unreasonable amount of hunting of mountain lions, wolves, bobcats, and lynxes. Maybe some thinning out is needed in a few areas in the western states, but the childish panic at the sight of mountain lions has been a centuries-old problem; to the point where there are virtually none of these big cats on the east coast outside of Florida. Hundreds of millions of people have lived in California during the past century, yet only about a dozen people have been killed by mountain lions.
Wolves have been hunted to extinction in almost all of the U.S., partly due to this same childish panic. Although wolves can be a danger to people, and are a major threat to domestic livestock, just exactly who said that everything in this country absolutely MUST be perfectly safe? Someone has a much greater chance at being injured or killed by two-legged animals in these major cities, than they do at being injured or killed by wolves. Look at the cable television program “Gangland.” Those are dangerous wild animals too. In addition, the small cats are an important part of the food chain, and they seem to have been overhunted. By taking out too many small cats, the rodent population balloons out of proportion.
Another issue is the increase of “cowardly hunting.” By that I mean the increase in mean-spirited activities like shooting a racoon who just happens to enter a backyard, or capturing an animal and allowing a hunter to enter a closed quarters to shoot it and pretend that it was a fair hunt. The ritual clubbing to death of small animals, like foxes, has been an issue at various times, although I’m not sure if this is still in practice. Of course, the clubbing of baby seals, or the practice of shooting wolves from aircraft are other forms of cowardly hunting.
Needless to say, there are many policies and attitudes which probably need to be updated and tweaked a bit to establish a better “land ethic.” Due to the strong interest, by people of every political persuasion, regarding organic food; there has been a new open-mindedness regarding hunting. Hopefully this will lead to a little bit of a different approach to this subject.
One last issue, which I think deserves mention, is the more recent push to literally give certain animals “status” in courts of law. I believe that horses, dogs, and cats probably should officially be given some degree of respect not commonly given to other animals. However, I’m not especially fond of the idea of “animal cops” running around giving tickets; while on the other hand, someone shouldn’t be able to torture and/or kill a dog or cat, and just walk away unpunished. That particular concept probably needs further thought.