DEAR READERS: Efforts to protect the wolf in North America have now been thwarted yet again by the Trump administration, as the Department of the Interior decided to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Yet there is only a fraction left of the original population that once ranged across much of the continent -- some 15% -- because of human encroachment, trapping, poisoning, snaring and shooting.
Ranchers, fur trappers and recreational “sports” hunters and outfitters are happy now. These special interest groups are not representative of the democratic majority that has voted in favor of animal and environmental protective legislation, yet this immoral minority wins once again. I say “immoral” advisedly, since there are many ranchers and hunters who respect and choose to protect the wolf, as well as the cougar and other predators. Some ranchers who lose stock to this increasingly displaced, persecuted and starving indigenous species see it as the price they must pay for encroaching on the wolf’s domain.
The immorality of conspicuous consumption and destruction is evident in Trump’s plan to strip protection from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and open up all 16.7 million acres to logging and other forms of “development” in one of the world’s largest, and last, temperate rainforests. The legacy of America’s imperialistic invasion, genocide and violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and species lives on as we continue to wolf down all that we can, in the name of the GNP: the gross national product.
No less is happening in other countries striving to live high off the hog: Grasslands, wetlands and forests are turned over to commodity crop monocultures and livestock- and poultry-feed production, displacing and disenfranchising small farm cooperatives and communities in the process. In our unbridled, conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels, we are indeed burning the Earth’s past as well as its, and our, future.
As one who has raised and studied wolves as an ethological scientist, winning their trust and devotion, I am crying now for our loss of humanity and sense of kinship with all life. No one who knows wolves, as I shared in my book “The Soul of the Wolf,” would ever seek to kill one as a trophy or wear their fur as some fashionable adornment. Indigenous peoples like the Ojibwe have a very different hunting ethic and regard for wolves. For them, and others who share their worldview, the wolf is a totemic species, a sacred presence in the life-community worthy of equal and fair consideration.
I challenge the bioethics of wolf and all wildlife management “science” that calibrates sustainable “harvesting” quotas and acceptable “recovery” counts. From a bioethical perspective, such management is purely anthropocentric. Like sustainable farming, wildlife management must be eco-centric; natural systems work best when we step outside and observe -- rather than intervene, control, exploit and kill.
Predator “services” have been long documented as contributing to herd health for deer and other herbivores, and to the protection of forest habitats from over-grazing/browsing. When fewer sapling trees are consumed, this enables forest regeneration, even more crucial in this age of climate change.
Beyond anthropocentric religious belief, there is no science-based evidence that nature was created for man’s exclusive use, that other animals are our inferiors or that natural resources are for us to harvest or exterminate however we choose.
Between the Golden Rule and the Rule of Gold is the Delphic Golden Mean: the concept that truth and goodness lie between the extremes. Where, in a society of conspicuous consumption, destruction, cancer and other “diseases of civilization,” do we find this mean? We must respect the Golden Rule and find that ethical point in our lives and politics, deciding the fate of the wolf and all we embrace. The choice is ultimately ours.
ONE HEALTH AND DOMESTIC CATS
Grant Sizemore of the American Bird Conservancy recently participated in Delaware Valley University’s One Health Seminar Series. The talk explored the impacts of at-large domestic cats on the health and welfare of animals, humans and the environment, and what steps we can all take to foster better health among our communities. To watch the presentation, search “Domestic Cats and One Health: What You Need to Know” on youtube.com.
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