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Recreational killing of wild animals can foster environmental stewardship

Abstract

Proposals to downsize the human population or protect large areas of the planet imply that biodiversity conservation is possible only when humans are excluded, but effective conservation action is shown by groups engaged in consumptive wildlife use. We demonstrate that recreational fishing and hunting can develop nature relationships that shape environmental stewardship. Sustainably catching, killing and eating wildlife is identified as a transformative sensory and emotionally charged experience that triggers environmental virtue and conservation. This outlook is less likely for hunting and fishing practices that disconnect users from the catch-and-kill experience or result in only superficial interactions with wildlife. However, excluding recreational wildlife use will probably jeopardize environmental stewardship.

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Fig. 1: Importance of the mentored education of young people.
Fig. 2: A relational and embedded perspective can engender the most effective stewardship.
Fig. 3: Disembedding the hunter or angler.

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Acknowledgements

E.v.E. wrote this article under funding from the Swedish Research Council (Svenska Forskningsrådet Formas), grant number Formas Dnr 2019-01168. T.G. received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 866350). All images are original artwork created for this article by J. Miller.

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S.S. conceived the original question, which was developed through conversation with E.v.E., T.G., C.J.L. and R.A. The first draft was written by S.S.; E.v.E., T.G., C.J.L. and R.A. provided ongoing advice on the article structure and refinements to visualizations, and helped to re-write all subsequent drafts. All authors agreed on the final version of the paper.

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Correspondence to Samuel Shephard or Erica von Essen.

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Shephard, S., von Essen, E., Gieser, T. et al. Recreational killing of wild animals can foster environmental stewardship. Nat Sustain (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-024-01379-7

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