Blood Sports — Should They Be Abolished?
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Below is reproduced the Conan Doyle article only.
Should They Be Abolished?
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
H. A. VACHELL
SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
I cannot persuade myself that we are justified in taking life as a pleasure. To shoot for the pot must be right, since man must feed, and to kill creatures which live upon others (the hunting of foxes, for example) must also be right, since to slay one is to save many; but the rearing of birds in order to kill them, and the shooting of such inoffensive animals as hares and deer, cannot, I think, be justified.
I must admit that I shot a good deal before I came to this conclusion. Perhaps the fact, while it prevents my assuming any airs of virtue, will give my opinion greater weight, since good shooting is still within my reach, and I know nothing more exhilarating, than to wait on the borders of an autumn-tinted wood, to hear the crackling advance of beaters, to mark the sudden whir and the yell of "Mark over!" and then, over the topmost branches, to see a noble cock pheasant whizzing down wind at a pace which pitches him a hundred yards behind you when you have dropped him. But when your moment of exultation is over, and you note what a beautiful creature he is and how one instant of your pleasure has wrecked him, you feel that you had better think no longer if you mean to slip two more cartridges into your gun and stand by for another. Worse still it is when you hear that child-like wail of the wounded hare. I should think that there are few sportsmen who have not felt a disgust at their own handiwork when they have heard it. So, too, when you see the pheasant fly on with his legs showing beneath him as a sign that he is hard hit. He drops into the thick woods and is lost to sight. Perhaps it is as well for your peace of mind that he should be lost to thought also.
Of course, one is met always by the perfectly valid argument that the creatures would not live at all if it were not for the purposes of sport, and that it is presumably better from their point of view that they should eventually meet a violent death than that they should never have existed. No doubt this is true. But there is another side to the question, as to the effect of the sport upon ourselves — whether it does not blunt our own better feelings, harden our sympathies, brutalize our natures. A coward can do it as well as a brave man; a weakling can do it as well as a strong man. There is no ultimate good from it. Have we a moral right, then, to kill creatures for amusement? I know many of the best and most kind-hearted men who do it, but I still feel that in a more advanced age it will no longer be possible.