Legalized Poaching makes as much sense as Legalized Murder

Cecil the Lion and hunter Walter Palmer

Cecil the Lion and hunter Walter Palmer

With the whole controversy about a lion being killed by an American for sport, many libertarians have noted that licensed hunting (suddenly they support that!) brings great benefits to the species and the locals. A hunter can pay a hefty fee for the privilege to hunt an animal and the money goes to raise more animals and conservation efforts. Some of the money can also go to locals, and the meat is often given or sold to them as well. This does have the potential for a sustainable business. An entrepreneur could breed lions and give out a handful of permits every year. However, there is a question if any of this is even justified.

Proponents claim that poaching will happen anyway, so we may as well create a system where people can legally hunt animals and pay money that goes towards conservation. If done correctly, this can be a great boon to the animals and programs for them. But saying that it will happen is as specious a claim as that robbery, rape, and murder will happen, so we should create a legal permit system for those too. Arguably, prostitution is a form of legalized rape. There is consent, but the activity is fairly similar in that one takes full possession and advantage of the other. Indeed, the fact that rape rates and prostitute availability are inversely proportional strengthens the comparison. Rhode Island accidentally decriminalized prostitution for a few years in the 2000s and rape declined noticeably. In Queensland, Australia, it was found that rape shot up 149% after prostitution was banned in 1959, while other violent crimes only went up 49%. This merits further study, but the two examples strongly suggest “legalized rape” would almost end rape.

Murder is still a problem, often a significant one. By the logic of poaching proponents, we should legalize killing people as well in order to stem homicide. This, of course, sounds ridiculous, and it is. Who is to decide who can live and who can die? Should it be ok to go out shooting or strangling primitives, so that we can give a million dollars to the family to better their life. Put yourself in their shoes as their father or mother is lost. It sounds evil, and it is. This is exactly what poaching is. There is a presumption that there is a right to kill X and that people will want to do it anyway, so we may as well legalize and control it. Murder happens anyway. Should we legalize and control that?

However, it is worth noting that there is a gruesome potential business here. Libertarianism generally presumes one has the right to end their life and sell their body. People who want to do so, whether for terminal illness, or they are no longer interested in life, could sign themselves over to a human hunting agency. They would decide how they prefer to die, and twisted individuals would be able to pay for the ability to kill the person. The money would go to pay debts, the family, or another cause. Would it reduce the murder rate? Perhaps, perhaps not. I suspect that most murders are not for simple sport or pleasure, and mostly occur among those who would be unable to pay, and often by those that have unstable emotions.

This is exactly the point. Why is there a presumption that animals are going to be killed, so we may as well control and permit it? Why not just treat it like murder and heavily fine or execute murderers and poachers? This then brings us to the next question of whether its ok to kill for food. I am inclined to say yes, however, there is also a stipulation of population numbers. There are millions upon millions of chickens, cows, sheep, goats, etc in the world and they are actively bred. Not so for lions and tigers and elephants. If there were breeding programs that restored their population to great quantities, or perhaps a breeding program that was independent of the main populations, I can see it being possible. Until then, I see the killing of rare species as unacceptable as killing a human, and the two should be dealt with about equally.

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