So, yet another public figure it being chastised for his hunting hobby by people with little to no knowledge of hunting.

Metallica is under fire for frontman James Hetfield’s association with bear hunting. A petition is being circulated to ban the group from performing at the Glastonbury festival, where they are set to perform in late June.

The controversy was prompted by Hetfield’s narration of a History Channel documentary, The Hunt, about hunting Kodiak bears in Alaska.

Most of the objectors let their feelings run away from them without considering the good that hunting does.

In fact, if you support animal conservation, you should support responsible hunting. It sounds like an oxymoron: kill animals in order to save them. But it has a long history of working.

The first thing to understand is that there is a difference between hunting and poaching. Hunting is a legal and ethical activity in which animals are killed in a way to preserve genetic diversity and a healthy population. In most species, only the mature males can be harvested legally, (those who have already had a chance to contribute to the genetic diversity of the population) and  only during certain times and seasons. Hunters are trained to identify older males, and work all the time to find better methods of identification. For example, The Lion Project in Zambia is researching additional, fool-proof methods for professional hunters to identify appropriate targets. In most cases, a portion of the money from licensing goes back into habitat preservation. Hunters also often belong and pay dues to organizations such as Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Mule Deer Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, and other groups which raise money for conservation.

Poaching, on the other hand, is the illegal killing of animals without regard to waste or sustainability. Poaching is normally done to sell animal parts on the black market, as is being done now with black rhinos, whose horn is valued in traditional Asian medicine. Once the prized body part is taken, the carcasses are left to rot.

The second thing to understand is that, even in countries where quotas are not established, once the animals have ‘market value’ they continue to exist and thrive. In Texas, scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle thrive. Ninety percent of the world’s population of these animals exists in Texas. Since there is a market for hunting them, vast herds are cultivated.

A similar story is playing out in various parts of Africa. While it is easy to have a romantic conception of elephants, the truth is that they are enormously destructive, able to cause thousands of dollars of damage in a few minutes. Fortunately, the benefits from selling elephant hunts (in this example, $12,500) provides an opposing reason to keep the elephant populations healthy. Without hunting, there would be no incentive for those affected by crop destruction to refrain from retaliating.

Finally, I’ll note that death by bullet is a kinder, quicker death than starvation, disease or being eaten while alive, which are the natural options for most wild animals.

Hunting can be a key conservation tool. So if you care about animals, consider hunting. Or at least get out of the way of those who do hunt.