One of the major arguments used against trapping relates to the number of non-target animals alleged to be harmed during the practice. The argument suggests that it is one thing to harm an animal that one wanted all along, but if the number of unwanted animals that are harmed is so high, then the means to capture the target animal may be too costly (in moral terms) to justify its continued use.
The argument is similar to that used against having police officers shoot at a felony suspect who is running into the crowd. Sure you want him to catch the felon but do you want to put a risk the large number of innocent people to do it?
Fishermen may think that they are immune from this kind of argument. After all, they may claim that any non-target fish caught, could be easily released with some exceptions. Unfortunately for fishermen they are wrong. The fact is the mere catching of fish and the stress incurred by the animal frequently results in injury and thereby increasing its susceptibility to infection and even death. (Source Rattner, Barnett A., et.al. Sources and Implications of Lead Ammunition and Fishing Tackle on Natural Resources. Bethesda, MD The Wildlife Society and American Fisheries Society Technical Review Committee on Lead in the Environment, 2008. p.25.)
But the trouble for fishermen doesn’t end there. It also extends to the threat lost filament and hooks pose to unsuspecting animals. Waterfowl frequently become entangled in the line and even ingest hooks that fishermen lost to fish when their lines broke. You may think that is just the cost of fishing. Kind of unintended consequences. But consider the impact of all the lead that falls into the environment from sinkers and other fishing tackle. The aforementioned study noted how the lead from fishing has had a deleterious impact on waterfowl, particularly long necked geese. The evidence was so great that Britain has even banned the use of lead sinkers and other countries have also either enacted bans or are considering restrictions. My point is not to condemn fishermen. Rather it is to show that fishing is subject to the same complaints lodged against fur trapping. If you hate one, you must hate the other or come up with a rational reason for the distinction. My hope is that you will ultimately love both.
Stephen M. Vantassel is a tutor of theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School. He specializes in ethics, particularly environmental ethics and war.
Stephen’s latest book is Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009).
Copyright 2010 Stephen M. Vantassel