The moral status of animals
Each Labor Day from 1934 to 1998, a live animal shooting festival took place in the small town of Hegins, Pennsylvania (USA), before the event was banned. Participants travelled from around the globe to take part. In the annual event, some 5,000 pigeons were released from traps, one by one, only to become targets for participants. Most of the birds who were shot — more than three-quarters, according to investigators for The Fund for Animals — were wounded but not immediately killed. Some would be left on the shooting fields as each contestant completed his or her round of shooting, while some would escape to nearby woods to die slowly from their wounds. After each round was completed, young children collected injured birds and killed them by stomping on them, ripping off their heads, smashing them against the sides of barrels, or tossing them into barrels to suffocate among other dying or dead pigeons. The shooters and children did not carry out these activities in secrecy. Thousands of spectators paid admission to sit in bleachers, eat, drink beer, and roar their approval for the shooters and children.
One may occasionally hear the claim that human use of animals raises no ethical issues whatsoever. If that is correct, then none of the actions just described — shooting live pigeons for fun, stomping them to death, tearing off their heads, and so on — is morally problematic. Nor, for that matter, is encouraging children to take part in cruelty to animals, or