What Does It Mean to ‘Kill Humanely’?

Some say predators, such as wolves, kill cruelly, whereas human hunters kill swiftly and painlessly — but neither notion is fair nor accurate.

| October/November 2011

Mama Wolf With Pups On Grass

Do wolves have any less right to hunt to feed their families than human hunters do to feed their families?


Lately, I often find myself grasping for a noun to represent the word “humane.” According to the dictionary, that word is “humaneness.” But that’s hard to say, looks strange on paper and just sounds weird. So, by instinct, I usually grab the word “humanity.”

That also sounds wrong.

I need the word when I say something like, “The humaneness of concentrated feedlot operations is questionable.” Or, “Consumers today judge farmers more and more on their humaneness.”

Wouldn’t it sound better to say we are judged on our humanity?

But “humanity” is a dubious choice, not only because the dictionary says it’s wrong, but also because it has another meaning: “of or pertaining to human beings.”

That other meaning is, possibly, contradictory.

doug gregory
10/27/2011 1:05:29 AM

Mr Welch, thank you for your article and thanks to 5 comments posted so far. We live in one of the Rocky Mountian states that has a booming wolf population and growing grizzly bear population. My wife and I both come from homesteading/farming/ranching families, some of whom are still struggling to make a living from the land, so we understand both sides of this coin to a degree. We are also hunters and fisherpersons who firmly believe in a swift and merciful end as possible to the animals we take to feed our family. We are very interested to hear from the rest of the country on their thoughts on this article.

bryan welch
10/25/2011 7:30:03 PM

Thanks for the feedback! It's great to hear your perspectives.

lou nathaniel
10/25/2011 1:47:35 PM

Bravo!I came to read expecting to find some limp-wristed apology or indictment of people and or predators. What I found was a reasoned and reasonable article. Well done!

stephen gagne
10/25/2011 6:27:38 AM

This is a great article. I find it funny that some people forget that we and other animals are part of the natural world. I think that many people are vain, trying to change everything around them. Life (all life not just ours) is about balance. We should never forget that the more we try to change the world around us the balance of things will return. I personally am annoyed by notions like discouraging predators from killing and leaving it to the humans. Wow really how insane a notion. How about we leave nature to do what she does. Mother nature has been around longer than we humans let her do her job.

juli brink
10/24/2011 2:18:19 PM

Absolutely!....love your article! And I agree.....I understand the need of hunting when there is an over population of a species...it helps keep them from starving and humans from losing more livestock than needed.....I understand hunting to feed our families....all animals, even predatos have every right to share the land as we do. If we destroy the natural balance, what will happen? We would surely destroy ourselves as well. Thank you for the article, I wish there was a more "merciful" way to control animal populations. Maybe someone will find a cheap and easy way and share it with the world so humans would be more likely to use it instead of previous methods.

kelly hooker
10/22/2011 3:40:41 PM

As I read the article, a single question came to mind...How can we expect wolves, tigers, lions etc to kill humanely when they aren't human? I still vividly remember after all these years, (not telling how many exactly) sitting in front of the TV watching Wild Kingdom with my parents. The slowest zebra in the herd had been targeted by the lioness and there was no doubt his life was coming to an end. As a young child I asked my father why is the lion so mean and cruel? His response, as an avid hunter, fisherman and farmer, was very simple, "she has cubs to feed and he was slowing down the herd." Seems like simple wisdom to last a lifetime. This wisdom fed our family through many winters with a freezer full of venison, fish and other game as well as animals raised on our land. I ask myself now how cruel is it for any animal, two or four legged to kill to feed itself or its family? While at the same time, how cruel is it to poison predators, severely wound them or "hunt" simply to take the best parts and leave the rest to rot in a field when so many are going to bed hungry? I grew up very simply knowing that when an animal, finned or furred, dies for my behalf it is owed the diginity of a swift death and the thanks for its life. We are all predators of some sort or another. How we survive really depends on what type of predator we are. Many Thanks to Mr. Welch for this article!

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