Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 15 October 1915
A correspondent who has been fishing on the Eden asks a curious question; and I doubt if my answer will please him or other sportsmen. On the banks of the river and the land near rabbits were so plentiful as to be a veritable plague to the farmers. Whilst fishing he came across a young rabbit with its feet fast in a toothed trap; he released it, and it bounded away apparently joyfully. He asks: “Under all circumstances could that action of mine be called humane?” To relieve any creature’s pain is humane, but it does not follow that the action and method of relief were wise. The destruction of rabbits is necessary, and no cheap and quick “humane” method has yet been discovered; when I find a trapped rabbit I do not release it, but kill it as quickly as possible, and a rabbit is easily killed.
What strikes me as curious is that a man who fishes for sport should ask such a question. I have fished and I have trapped, and shall probably do so again, though I do not now use toothed traps, which are certainly cruel; a skilled fisherman gives his victims very little real pain, but accidents do happen – gorged hooks, or hooks in the eye or other tender spots, – so that an accusation of inhumanity may be justly made against him. If the fisherman releases a trapped rabbit – a destructive animal which someone is striving to keep down in days when all economically destructive creatures must be kept in check, – why does he not release the hooked fish that he has caught for his own enjoyment and not to supply people with food? The question of the professional fisherman is quite another matter.
Source: Guardian Environment