Conservation and the Need to Save and Preserve the Wild Animals of the World
This generation and the one to come will determine whether most of the "top-of-the-food chain" predators and large animals such as elephants will survive or become extinct. They are becoming endangered or extinct at an alarming rate.
Harvard University entomologist Edward O. Wilson, often-called "the father of biodiversity," estimates that right now we are losing at least three species every hour. He also states that by far the most serious problem is habitat loss. Today more than 100 species of mammals are threatened with extinction. By contrast, in the last 400 years some 36 species have become extinct, mostly because of the destructive acts of human beings. The growth in the rate of extinction is alarming. Because clothing designers and others have considered spotted furs as symbols of high fashion, leopards have been killed in large numbers over much of Africa and bobcats are being trapped heavily in the western U.S. Marine mammals have been ruthlessly decimated. Whaling has reduced populations of some of the large whales to the verge of possible extinction, and many thousands of dolphins have been killed during commercial netting operations for tuna. Unless attitudes and practices are altered, the mammalian population of the world will continue to be decimated at an ever-increasing rate.
The population of tigers in the last century has declined by 95 percent and some fear that they will be extinct by 2010. Tiger bone is in high demand for Chinese medicine and apparently a lot of medicine containing tiger parts has been making its way to North America. It's not just tigers either. Rare leopards, deer and other animals are also being illegally traded.
Humans have destroyed more than 30 per cent of the natural world since 1970. A stark new report, the Living Planet Index, analyzes the deterioration of the world's forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems between 1970 and 1995, and it reveals that global consumption pressure has doubled in a generation. "The results are chilling," said Jorgen Randers, deputy director general of WWF International, at a press conference in London.
The Living Planet Index reveals that since 1970, wood and water consumption has almost doubled; carbon dioxide emissions have increased two and a half times; freshwater systems have declined by 50 per cent; and the world's forest cover has decreased by 13 per cent.
"This has been the most destructive period in the history of the natural world since the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago" declared Jorgen Randers. "If we continue without change, the economic, social and environmental costs will be catastrophic."
This is not our Earth to do with as we wish. It belongs to all the living beings, and they each have the right to their place on it. We should provide for habitat for all the beings to have a place, so that our generation and the one to come right after us isn't responsible for the annihilation of the important life forms presently on Earth.
It is my fondest hope that the majority of the Earth's human population will soon realize the value and worth of maintaining viable populations of the existing wild animals. The world would be a very sterile place without the majesty of the tiger, the beauty of the leopard, or the joy and playfulness of a fox or river otter.
Many people care enough for individual animals to go down to the pound and save a dog or cat, but these same individuals do nothing while animals are being slaughtered in mass all over the world for such petty reasons as belief that a ground-up organ or bone of a particular species such as a bear or tiger can somehow aid longevity or cure some disease. We as a nation continue to do business with countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan, and other Asian countries that do a huge business in black market animal organs, bones, ivory, and skins for apparel. If we as a country took a strong moral stand against such hypocrisy, these countries might well crack down on such slaughter, as it is a small part of their gross domestic product. It does, however, endanger large numbers of species.
We need to realize that we are part and parcel of the animal kingdom. Anything that diminishes or detracts from that kingdom ultimately affects us all. Much as we have tried to deny it, we are only about 15,000 years removed from living exactly as other predators do now.
The same types of buzz words are used to describe extermination of animals as were used early in the last century and in the century before that to describe the killing of other humans. Such words as "control the species," "thin out the population," "manage their numbers." etc. I lived through segregation. I have seen how man can rationalize even the arrogant dehumanization of one's fellow man. I never understood it then, and I don't understand now the application to other species of animals. We killed many other races, enslaved them, kept them subjugated, and we were able to rationalize that the same way we rationalize killing of animals for a variety of reasons. We somehow differentiate "our" group or race based on three to six generations of history. This is an arbitrary way of deciding what we are; why not go back ten or twelve generations? One might find that there isn't as much difference between races at that point. Going back 15,000 years, we might learn that we aren't too different from those animals we are killing without a thought.
According to an article by Andrew Rowan published in Natural History magazine, there was a pet funeral as long ago as 12,000 years ago in Israel. They found an elderly human with his hand affectionately resting on the shoulder of a five-month-old puppy. Realize that the Bronze Age didn't begin until around 5,000 years ago. The start of the Early Bronze Age was 3100 B.C. So, although ancient man realized the value and love attributed to their animal friends, we haven't progressed that much emotionally towards animal rights in 12,000 years.
In pre-Christian Rome, both Ovid and Catullus wrote poems to commemorate the death of pets.
The epitaph on an ancient Greek grave marker warns passersby not to smile, for it is the site where someone buried his dog with his own hands.
Ethnology is the science of the behavior of animals in their natural, or wild, state. Ethnology mainly concerns instinctive or inherited behavior rather than learned behavior, according to the definition generally used. Therefore, emotional behavior doesn't seem to be taken into consideration. However, the first ethnologists, in the early 1900s, believed that their studies would reveal the origins of human's ethics; that is why they borrowed the term ethnology from philosophy, where it refers to the evolution of human values. Therefore, the original presumption that our emotional values are derived from a common source was more valid than the current progression of accepted attitudes. As a matter of fact, American counterparts of European ethnologists prefer the terms Sociobiology, behavioral biology, or comparative psychology.
Ethics, or moral philosophy, the branch of philosophy concerned with conduct and character, is the systematic study of the principles and methods for distinguishing right from wrong and good from bad.
Experiences that have led to ethical inquiry are uncertainty or conflicts of opinion about what ought to be done; the sometimes painful consequences of an action that earlier seemed perfectly acceptable; and awareness of differences in norms and practices among different societies. As an example, segregation became so widespread from the middle 1800s to the middle 1900s that it was an accepted practice in the south, and it wasn't questioned for almost 100 years. Killing animals for sport or vanity is a like practice; it has been accepted for so long that rarely does one stop to think about the morality of killing a sentient being just for pleasure or ego. Careful analysis would show that such an attitude could easily desensitize one to killing of any sort. Either killing for pleasure or vanity is universally wrong, or it can easily be condoned no matter who or what the subject of the killing is. This falls under the heading of theoretical ethics (Is any one of these standards really right or are they all just arbitrary?) Normative ethics aims to prescribe; it searches for norms, not in the sense of what is average and in that sense normal, but in the sense of authoritative standards of what ought to be. Therefore, under a normative ethical standard, killing for any reason other that self-defense, defense of another being, or in order to eat cannot be condoned under any standard of accepted behavior. Certainly not killing for pleasure or vanity.
There is a section or type of moral ethics category known as moral skepticism. A form of this category is ethical relativism; the view that there is no one correct moral code for all times and all peoples, that each group has its own morality relative to its wants and values, and that all moral ideas are necessarily relative to a particular culture. It must be accepted that many, many people fall into this category. Thus, if one wants to rationalize hunting or trapping for fur, they just say it is an accepted behavior among their peer group and justify it on that basis--just as cannibals are justified in eating human beings by the standards of their own culture. If there is no right or wrong that can be determined apart from the conventions of one's own culture or peer group, the questions arises of what ought to be done when different cultures or peer groups come into conflict. Among cannibals, should one eat another human?
Consequentialism maintains that the morality of an action is determined solely by its consequences. A form of this is "ideal utilitarianism," which maintains that one ought to do that act of all those available in the circumstances that would produce the most good. Aristotle advocated what is called self-realizationism, or perfectionism, which holds that the ultimate end is the full development or perfection of the self.
What is most widely practiced today is a form or theory called Egoism, which is based on the idea that everyone always acts out of self-interest. This view is not just a challenge to the normative theory; it is a challenge to ethical theory itself. It raises the question that seems to be widespread today--Why should I be moral? What's in it for me? It presupposes that if there is no advantage to being moral, there is no reason to be.
Some philosophers distinguish between personal ethics and social ethics. Personal ethics is taken as comprehending how one should act in relation to oneself-pride and self-esteem. Social ethics is how one should act in relation to others. In other words, distinguishing between duties to oneself and duties to others. (For example, should I do anything I want to, as long as it doesn't intentionally hurt another?)
There is a concept called the "chain of being," which was created by Plotinus in the 3rd Century, A.D. It is involved with the hierarchical nature, function, and organization of the universe. The concept is dictated a series of linked stages from God, to Angel, to Man, to Animal, to Plant, and to Dust.
In the late 1700s', a satirical publication appeared called A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF BRUTES. The author, a distinguished Cambridge professor named Thomas Taylor, tried to refute the arguments of those who would advocate women's rights. He said that if the argument for equality was sound when applied to women, why should it not be applied to dogs, cats, and horses? The reasoning seemed to hold for these "brutes," too; yet to hold that brutes had rights was manifestly absurd. The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment (such as the right to vote); it requires equal consideration. Equal consideration for different beings may lead to different treatment and different rights.
It would be dangerous to rest the case against racism and sexism among humans on the belief that all significant differences between races and sexes are environmental in origin, rather than genetic. The opponent of, say, racism that takes this line will be unable to avoid conceding that if differences in ability do after all prove to have some genetic connection with race, racism would in some way be defensible. We should make it quite clear that the claim to equality does not depend on intelligence, moral capacity, physical strength, or similar matters of fact. Equality is a moral idea, not an assertion of facts. There is no logically compelling reason for assuming that a factual difference in ability between two people justifies any difference in the amount of consideration we give to their needs and interests. "Each to count for one and none for more than one," according to Jeremy Bentham, the founder of the utilitarian school of moral philosophy. In other words, the interests of every being affected by an action are to be taken into account and give the same weight as the like interests of any other being.
The view of animals as non-feeling creatures of reflex was made popular by Descartes' philosophy of science in the 1600's. It has long been undercut by other philosophical approaches and by better understanding of animal behavior.
During the millions of years that preceded the appearance of human life, extinction of organisms was linked to large-scale geologic and climatic changes. Now, however, the changes are greatly accelerated by clearing land for farms and towns, lumbering, mining, building dams, draining wetlands, and hunting. These all have the potential to completely destroy whole ecosystems. Human population and desires are requiring more food, shelter, clothing, more energy-using devices, and hunting without regard for consequences or effects on the ecosystems or the environment.
For instance, whaling, while supplying only 1 percent of the protein needs of any country that is actively engaged in whaling, is about to annihilate whole species of whales. In Russia, for example, whale meat is used to feed animals that are raised for their pelts. Thus, people wearing furs for vanity are not only responsible for animals getting killed for their ego, but are indirectly contributing to the ultimate disappearance of the great whales. Many species have been hunted to the point of extinction for their fur, hides, or feathers. These include many of the big cats, alligators, caymans, quetzal birds, eastern gray kangaroos, egrets, and birds of paradise. Many more are being systematically extinguished for supposed cures for a variety of ailments. These include the rhino, bears, and tigers.
About 500 species have disappeared in North America since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Among these are the passenger pigeon, heath hen, auk, eastern bison, and sea mink.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists more than 615 species of animals and plants that are currently in danger of disappearing within the U.S. Some biologists believe that at least another 3,500 species, many of them plants, amphibians, and insects, may be in danger.
In many cases animals have been hunted to near-extinction, but a combination of human-induced factors such as the loss of the environmental conditions in which they thrive, the ecological impact of industrial technology, and the invasion of foreign animals and plants have proved deadly for many endangered species. While conservation efforts in the past tended to focus on the protection of desirable species, these achievements addressed only one component of biodiversity, which also encompasses habitat and genetic diversity. Biologists, naturalists, environmentalists, and conservationists historically responded whenever a bird or mammal neared extinction, which placed the emphasis in wildlife policy on the protection of individual species. What needs to take place is to take a broader approach, such as protecting entire habitats, to save our biological heritage.
The U.S. Supreme Court limited the standing of environmental organizations to sue the government to enforce the Endangered Species Act during the Court's 1992 session.
Congress in 1978 formed an interagency panel called the Endangered Species Committee to determine whether a project's economic benefits could override the need to preserve an endangered species.
The amended Endangered Species Act has given some species a chance to survive. While recovery is slow, between 1973 and 1991 the Fish and Wildlife Service removed the American alligator, the brown pelican, the Rydberg milk-vetch, and three Pacific island birds from endangered status. The bald eagle and peregrine falcon also may have received at least a reprieve from extinction. During this time, seven listed species have been lost, including the dusky seaside sparrow, the blue pike, the Sampson's pearly mussel, and the Santa Barbara song sparrow.
Although about 50 new species are added to the endangered species list each year, 300 additional species may have gone extinct while waiting for governmental recognition. While the number of species listed each year has increased since the early 1980s, Ralph Morgenweck, assistant director of fish and wildlife enhancement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, notes that progress is slow because developing and implementing recovery plans is a costly and time-consuming process. Morgenweck believer that protecting entire ecosystems would be more cost effective than a species-by-species approach.
The debate over the Endangered Species Act revolves primarily around the price tag on wildlife preservation. The cost of protecting wildlife and plants is often cited as lost jobs and opportunities in mining, logging, construction, cattle grazing, and hunting. Some spokespeople argue that environmentalists are using the Endangered Species Act to stop economic growth. The 1978 amendments to the Endangered Species Act stipulated that federal officials must research economic and environmental factors when choosing critical habitat recovery plans for each species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annual budget is around $60 million, but it would cost an estimated $460 million for 10 years to keep pace with the number of species that merit protection.
The ultimate goal of the Endangered Species Act is to ensure the long-term survival of a species. The current rate of extinction is the highest in the entire fossil record, in large part because of human activity. The current rate of extinction is 1000 times normal. The introduction of non-native species, hunting, and the degradation and loss of habitat are causing extinctions at a rate that many scientists consider a crisis. Protecting species in the wild most often means conserving the habitats where they live and breed. The recovery plans designed to achieve the goals of the Endangered Species Act often are developed too slowly or have provisions that cannot be justified scientifically. Unless we act, humanity will drive a large fraction of the plant's species to extinction within the next century. The Hawaiian Islands have already lost most of their bird species, many of their plants, and now are home to more endangered species per square mile than almost any other part of the planet. Private property rights are not absolute in the U.S. and such rights have to be balanced against the larger society's interests, which may include environmental protection.
Based on current trends of habitat destruction, it has been estimated that between 1 and 11 percent of the world's species will be committed to extinction by the year 2015. According to S.L. Pimm in Science, that figure is low. It assumes that we will protect the planet in its current condition. For birds, 11percent of the planet's species are already on a tract to extinction and this rate will almost certainly accelerate.
Since Columbus reached the New World, some 500 plant and animal species have become extinct in the U.S. The President's Council on Environmental Quality estimates that human activity has caused a tenfold increase in the historical rate of extinctions, and between 1980 and 1990 dozens of species came closer to extinction while awaiting federal protection.
The rain forest occupies only 6% of the Earth's land surface but contains more than 50% of the world's species. Over the past decade, the tropical forest has been shrinking almost 1% a year on average.
In the last 1000--4000 years, across the Pacific, according to S.L. Pimm, Polynesian colonists eliminated about 2000 species of birds--or about 15% of the plant's total.
For instance, in the eastern Aleutians 10,802 Steller sea lions were counted in 1985, but only 3,145 in 1989.
Nature resembles an intricate tapestry, a marvelously complex structure of which humans are an integral part--but only a part. By driving so many species to extinction, we have in effect grasped loose threads in that tapestry and begun to pull. For instance, pollution is killing the great coral reefs in the Florida Keys, thereby jeopardizing hundreds of marine species that depend on the reef for food and protection. The fishing industry there has already begun to feel the impact, and before long so will the region's tourist industry .
More than half of all medicines today can be traced to wild organisms, and chemicals from higher plants are the sole or major ingredients in 25% of all prescriptions written in the U.S. each year.
According to the Council on Environmental Quality's 1991 annual report, some 9,000 U.S. plant and animal species may be currently at risk. Yet, only about 700 of these species are currently listed on the Endangered Species list. Another 3,700 have been officially designated as "candidates" for listing and are awaiting legal protection--some for a long time. Approximately 650 plant species first proposed in 1976 are still waiting for legal protection.
The Act contains an emergency provision for listing desperate cases in a hurry, but listing a species typically takes a year from start to finish.
Hunters kill 250 million animals every year in the U.S. alone.
According to U. S. Fish and Wildlife, hunters made up 5% of the U. S. population in 1996, down from more than 7% in 1991.
Trappers in the U.S. alone kill approximately 4.9 million furbearing animals each year. Another 3.5 million animals are raised on fur "farms."
Although our basic instincts are for food, shelter, warmth, and safety, we have built up an entire value system around the false and superficial values based on greed, ego, and thirst for power. If one wants to analyze accurately the major reasons for our violent and lawless society, this basic flaw in our value system must be addressed. When we became able to go beyond our basic instinctual needs, we chose the self-aggrandizing values, rather than those such as honor, self-pride, ethical behavior, integrity, respect for other beings, dignity, and appreciation for other's rights as the goal for a successful life. Perhaps we can find some of the major problems with society by analyzing this value system.
We think of the dolphin as highly appreciated and admired, and we tend to think that they are being adequately protected and respected, but even the loved dolphin is being butchered at staggering rates. Off the coast of Peru approximately 8,000 to 15,000 dolphins are killed illegally each year both directly and indirectly in gill nets and by harpoons. Their meat is sent to Lima where it is sold for human consumption as an expensive delicacy. That is approximately the size of a human military division killed each year. Just off the coast of Maine, approximately 1,000 harbor porpoises have drowned in gill nets in each of the last two years. The fishermen call this an "incidental take." In Asia and South America tens of thousands of dolphins are still being killed every
A poll taken November 10-14, 1995, by the ICR Survey Research Group of Media, Pa., found wide support for beliefs usually identified with only a minority of radical animal-rights activists. Two-thirds of 1,004 Americans polled agree with a basic tenet of the animal-rights movement: "An animal's rights to live free of suffering should be just as important as a person's right to live free of suffering."
Two-thirds of people polled say it's seldom or never right to use animals in testing cosmetics. 59 percent say killing animals for fur is always wrong. 51 percent say sport hunting is always wrong. Hunting was okay with 60 percent of men, but only with 35 percent of women.
More than 500 companies now boast they don't test their cosmetics or household products on animals.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a report stating Americans spent almost $30 billion to observe, feed, and photograph wildlife in 1996. Also, 1 million jobs were created by wildlife watching, and spending by wildlife watchers has increased 21 percent since 1991. If wildlife watching were a Fortune 500 company in 1996, it would have ranked 23rd.