Ethics of a photograph containing a baited animal

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,626
1,996
Alberta, Canada
ooF Fighters said:
In the end, it's your own ethics that determine what goes into your portfolio. Just know that you may be at a distinct disadvantage, having held yourself to standards higher than National Geographic photographers.-
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/shark-pictures-not-fake-brain-skerry/
Interesting video that highlights why totally natural may not be feasible. Thanks.

The nice thing about hobby nature photography is that by shear chance opportunities arise that can produce photos that are occasionally/more likely rarely, award winning. It's the "chance" fun factor that makes the endeavor worthwhile along with all the great photos that are not award winning but really nice to view while reliving the experience.

While there are certain practices that I personally would never engage in (i.e. feeding wildlife on trips through national parks where it is forbidden and where numerous people may feed and then the feeding disappears for a season leaving the animals disadvantaged or creates safety hazards), I still think the key is being honest about the techniques used.

Jack
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
ooF Fighters said:
In the end, it's your own ethics that determine what goes into your portfolio. Just know that you may be at a distinct disadvantage, having held yourself to standards higher than National Geographic photographers.-
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/shark-pictures-not-fake-brain-skerry/
This is why it's important to consult with a wildlife biologist who specializes in the kind of animal you want to photograph. Some species will habituate to human interaction, others not so much. Habituation is usually bad for wild animals. There are exceptions: current belief is that dogs evolved from wolves through habituation.

As humans we all should evolve our ethics as we gain life experience: I doubt any of us would like to see a world full of people who act with the ethics of a 2-year old. Even in adulthood we must continue to examine our own ethics. I've heard several stories of "alternative medicine" practitioners who have walked-away from lucrative businesses after figuring out that what they were taught doesn't actually work.

So yes, you should be willing to put yourself at a disadvantage to avoid being unethical. When you take a photo you should ask yourself whether your photo will benefit the subject (or their population/species/society) as much as it benefits you. If the answer is no, then think twice about it.
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
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unfocused said:
One thing I keep thinking about is how farmers along the natural flyways of Sandhill Cranes are encouraged to leave some of their grain in the field. In fact, even wildlife refuges do this. Is that baiting?
No, because the program was designed by biologists for the benefit of the bird species. The ethical questions are: who benefits, and who is harmed (or may be harmed)? Only the appropriate scientists are in position to answer these questions for wild species.
 

CanonFanBoy

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Jan 28, 2015
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Orangutan said:
slclick said:
Orangutan said:
CanonFanBoy said:
slclick said:
Excellent shot, end of story.
Best answer by far. I think that is really all that is wanted. Driving a truck into a wild area for a photo changes behavior more than tossing a fish. Silly discussion for sure.
History is full of scoundrels who claimed that the ends justify the means.

This is not to say that baiting is always wrong, but it's always worthwhile to think whether you have the expertise to know whether it negatively affects the animal.
in the end it's just a picture,
Are you a wildlife biologist? If not, your assertion has no value. Only someone who has professional knowledge of the effects of habituation is qualified to assert that it's not harmful to the animal.
Lol! And only Evel Knievel knew his jumps were dangerous. Silly as can be. :eek:
 

Orangutan

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Sep 25, 2010
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CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
slclick said:
Orangutan said:
CanonFanBoy said:
slclick said:
Excellent shot, end of story.
Best answer by far. I think that is really all that is wanted. Driving a truck into a wild area for a photo changes behavior more than tossing a fish. Silly discussion for sure.
History is full of scoundrels who claimed that the ends justify the means.

This is not to say that baiting is always wrong, but it's always worthwhile to think whether you have the expertise to know whether it negatively affects the animal.
in the end it's just a picture,
Are you a wildlife biologist? If not, your assertion has no value. Only someone who has professional knowledge of the effects of habituation is qualified to assert that it's not harmful to the animal.
Lol! And only Evel Knieval knows his jumps are dangerous. Silly as can be. :eek:
Let me see if I understand you correctly: you're saying that aptitude, training, experience and practice are needed for good photography, but none of those are needed to understand animal behavior and welfare? Well, I'll be darned! Your real name must be Scott Pruitt, amirite?

I would not trust a lawyer to perform surgery.

I would not trust a doctor to defend me in court.

I would not trust either of these to fix my plumbing or electrical problems.

And I would not trust a photographer to make a scientific judgement about wildlife.

Each discipline requires separate study and experience.
 

snoke

EOS RP
Jul 20, 2017
303
47
kirispupis said:
So far, my belief is that this photo, should never go into my portfolio because the animal was baited.
Like model situation. Man made construct. Many portfolio with model picture.

You must frame, expose, process. Picture cannot make itself.

If you honest when talk about it, what problem?
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
snoke said:
kirispupis said:
So far, my belief is that this photo, should never go into my portfolio because the animal was baited.
Like model situation. Man made construct. Many portfolio with model picture.
100% wrong. Human models are able to decide for themselves whether the modeling contract is a fair bargain, wild animals are not.

You don't feed a Labrador Retriever all the food it wants because it can't see the long-term effects of excess consumption.
 
Nov 3, 2014
698
507
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
 
Nov 3, 2014
698
507
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
Of course that sounds reasonable. I think we all get that. No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk. But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.

However, the basic fact is that anyone who thinks that they can photograph wildlife without exploiting it in some way is living in a fantasy world. It's childish not to accept that simple fact and hiding behind the "we're doing science" facade doesn't change anything. Everyone has an agenda.

That's pretty much all I have to say on it. Everyone has to find a space they can live with on this topic. I'm always working to define mine. I'm sure that most people who don't agree with me come by their position honestly and they are entitled to them.
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
3
Graphic.Artifacts said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk.
Unfortunately, I think some were saying that.


But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.
Yup.
 

swkitt

I'm New Here
Dec 8, 2015
16
1
In my opinion, if you wonder whether you should put it in your portfolio or not, then the reply is NO.
You were there, you saw how the guy feed the eagle, and it didn't satisfy you, unless you wouldn't ask. So just don't put it, a portfolio is not a stamp collection, and having a sea eagle in it don't make you a better photographer.

Also, some of you may not know, but sometimes, the fish that the boat guys send to the eagles are filled with styrofoam bits, so that they will float longer... even if the eagle is able to take it apart when he eats, that's not very good for environment and ethical, hmm ?

Apart of that, if some people are happy with their photos they made with baits, good for them. Some kind of baiting is harmless, but some is not.
 

CanonFanBoy

Real men single speed.
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Jan 28, 2015
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Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk.
Unfortunately, I think some were saying that.


But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.
Yup.
Yes, just like the Nat Geo biologist/photographer that baited eagles in the Aleutian Islands to get his shots. He's a biologist, so that's okay. http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/15/everyday-eagles-the-flip-side-of-a-national-symbol/
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
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CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk.
Unfortunately, I think some were saying that.


But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.
Yup.
Yes, just like the Nat Geo biologist/photographer that baited eagles in the Aleutian Islands to get his shots. He's a biologist, so that's okay. http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/15/everyday-eagles-the-flip-side-of-a-national-symbol/
I don't know this guy, but the article doesn't appear to say that he baited them. Rather, that he hung out with fisherman, and the fish business attracted them.

You are clearly missing an important point: there's a difference between photographing an existing relationship between wild animals and human activity versus actively baiting wild animals for the purpose of getting photos. the first is an unfortunate side-effect of human society; the second is mischief or worse.

Intent is important.
 

CanonFanBoy

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Jan 28, 2015
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Orangutan said:
CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk.
Unfortunately, I think some were saying that.


But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.
Yup.
Yes, just like the Nat Geo biologist/photographer that baited eagles in the Aleutian Islands to get his shots. He's a biologist, so that's okay. http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/15/everyday-eagles-the-flip-side-of-a-national-symbol/
I don't know this guy, but the article doesn't appear to say that he baited them. Rather, that he hung out with fisherman, and the fish business attracted them.

You are clearly missing an important point: there's a difference between photographing an existing relationship between wild animals and human activity versus actively baiting wild animals for the purpose of getting photos. the first is an unfortunate side-effect of human society; the second is mischief or worse.

Intent is important.
It specifically says he baited using frozen fish.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,265
1,926
Canada
Orangutan said:
You are clearly missing an important point: there's a difference between photographing an existing relationship between wild animals and human activity versus actively baiting wild animals for the purpose of getting photos. the first is an unfortunate side-effect of human society; the second is mischief or worse.

Intent is important.
Exactly!

For example, I live on the edge of the Ottawa river. There is about 50 square kilometers of corn fields in the local area.... The farmers harvest the corn, some is spilled as part of the process, and as a result there are HUGE flocks of Canada geese in the fields every fall during the day, and they spend the nights on the river. This has been going on for quite a long time, to the point where the stop here to fill up on corn has become an important part of the migration route. There is another spot, about 50K to the east of Ottawa, that has the same thing happen with snow geese. This is no longer "convenience" for the birds, it is now a solid part of the migration. This is not baiting, it is now part of the natural cycle....

I can take their picture and it is not baiting....
 

Orangutan

EOS 5D Mark IV
Sep 25, 2010
2,140
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CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk.
Unfortunately, I think some were saying that.


But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.
Yup.
Yes, just like the Nat Geo biologist/photographer that baited eagles in the Aleutian Islands to get his shots. He's a biologist, so that's okay. http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/15/everyday-eagles-the-flip-side-of-a-national-symbol/
I don't know this guy, but the article doesn't appear to say that he baited them. Rather, that he hung out with fisherman, and the fish business attracted them.

You are clearly missing an important point: there's a difference between photographing an existing relationship between wild animals and human activity versus actively baiting wild animals for the purpose of getting photos. the first is an unfortunate side-effect of human society; the second is mischief or worse.

Intent is important.
It specifically says he baited using frozen fish.
I re-read, and you are correct. That was not ethical, regardless of his professional training.
 

CanonFanBoy

Real men single speed.
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Jan 28, 2015
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Orangutan said:
CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
CanonFanBoy said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
Orangutan said:
Graphic.Artifacts said:
As a poster previously alluded to; the entire U.S. National Wildlife Refuge complex (millions of acres) operates as a giant bird feeding and baiting system. If I have to drop all of those photo's that's going to leave a big hole in my portfolio. Should I feel guilty now for all of the Duck Stamps I've bought over the years? If poster's think the Audubon Society isn't just as complicit in baiting birds for their own purposes they are kidding themselves.

There is no absolute right or wrong here and ignore anybody who says that there is. Find a middle path you can live with and then go out and take some photo's.
As I keep trying to say, the question is who decides to provide food to the critters, and why. If the decision is made by qualified biologists, and if it's done for the benefit of the animals, then it's fine. What is not OK is for a photographer to decide on his own to bait an elusive animal because he covets the shot like a 2-year old covets sweets. "Because I really really want it" lost its value when you turned 5.
No one is saying it's OK to be a selfish jerk.
Unfortunately, I think some were saying that.


But that applies to any number of behaviors and certainly not just baiting.
Yup.
Yes, just like the Nat Geo biologist/photographer that baited eagles in the Aleutian Islands to get his shots. He's a biologist, so that's okay. http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/15/everyday-eagles-the-flip-side-of-a-national-symbol/
I don't know this guy, but the article doesn't appear to say that he baited them. Rather, that he hung out with fisherman, and the fish business attracted them.

You are clearly missing an important point: there's a difference between photographing an existing relationship between wild animals and human activity versus actively baiting wild animals for the purpose of getting photos. the first is an unfortunate side-effect of human society; the second is mischief or worse.

Intent is important.
It specifically says he baited using frozen fish.
I re-read, and you are correct. That was not ethical, regardless of his professional training.
Says you. I think it is. Like I said to the OP, "Follow your own conscience." Those birds have a healthy population thanks to man's activity in the area.
 

AlanF

Stay alert, control the camera, save photos
CR Pro
Aug 16, 2012
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6,476
The OP asked whether it is ethical from the photographic point of view not conservation. Here are two photos I took on a trip to Baddeck in Canada two years ago. The bald eagle was from a cruise where the crew were throwing fish into the sea and tourist cameras were clicking like mad. The osprey was a chance encounter as it flew overhead and I happened to have my camera at the ready as I was leaving my car in a car park. Which one do I prefer? The osprey by a country mile. It was totally unexpected and the flounder is either still alive or only just deceased. I still am pleased with the bald eagle but it gives me only a fraction of the satisfaction.
 

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aceflibble

EOS RP
May 8, 2015
297
66
There's a big difference between "we know where the animals are, and will go to them; if we toss out a little food we'll probably see them better" and "we're gonna put an irresistible pile of food in a place the animals would not usually go and set up camera traps all around".

If the animal is wild and doing what it would usually do in the place it would usually do it, snap away and use whatever good photographs you get. In the case of OP's image, the fact the fish was throw into the water by a person or picked out by the bird itself doesn't really make a difference one way or another to the bird itself; as long as you don't lie and claim it was a random fish the bird hunted on its own, it's fine.

If the animal is either becoming tame (relatively or entirely) by routine baiting, tricked into doing something it would not usually do in its daily routine, or has been tricked into coming to a location it would not usually come to, put the camera away and don't encourage whoever is interfering.