Speciesism in three uneasy pieces

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

I don’t read the morning paper anymore so much as I confront it. What will it be today–a romantic, river-runs-through-it feature on catch-and-release fly fishing? Gloating trophy shots of dudes in hunter orange and the ungulates they conquered with high-powered rifles? Another guest opinion column defending trapping as a management tool for a renewable resource? (Or, in the case of wolves, as suppression of unwanted competition for the aforementioned ungulates?)

Maybe a photo of a child clinging to a sheep in a mutton bustin’ contest? An article on taxidermy, horse racing at the fairgrounds, or a feature on  the derring-do of bullfighters? (You used to know them as rodeo clowns, but they’ve come up in the world.) A full-page ad for a local ammo manufacturer featuring teenage girls and their African safari kills? Ice fishing tourney stats? No matter the season, there’s always a reason for animal exploitation–and someone willing to talk about it, someone ready to report it, and someone eager to read about it.

Within four days recently, a trio of items appeared in the paper to perfectly illustrate the speciesism that so naturally saturates the human experience. Whether for entertainment, convenience, or greed and entitlement, we human animals are a speciesist species.

Speciesism for fun: Don’t fence me in (and display me at the zoo)

Our Montana governor, what a hoot. The sometimes folksy, sometimes outrageous soundbites. The bolo tie. Jag, the ever-present border collie. The Missoulian reports that Gov. Schweitzer recently visited Zoo Montana to provide a boost to the Billings facility now under new management after a fiscal meltdown and loss of accreditation. Talk revolved around new funding sources, regaining accredited status, even expansion. A zoo, after all, is a tourist attraction–and that means money.

Zoos aren’t sanctuaries. Some sanctuaries, like the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, don’t allow people in to gawk at the animals, whereas zoos are all about gawking. Zoos claim to be educational, but how educational is a Siberian tiger “exhibited” in Montana? In the wild, a male Siberian tiger’s range can be over 770 square miles–nearly half a million acres. The Billings zoo, including botanical gardens, is 70 acres. What small fraction of that do the tigers occupy? How much natural behavior–if any–can be exhibited in extreme confinement? And the obvious question (well, obvious to some)–what gives our species the right to steal the liberty of another? To display them as curiosities–as living trophies? (Apparent answer: Because we can.)

Dale Jamieson (writing in Morality’s Progress: Essays on humans, other animals, and the rest of nature, 2002), asks in his essay Against Zoos, “Couldn’t most of the important educational objectives better be achieved by exhibiting empty cages with explanations of why they are empty?”

But I’m guessing that empty cages wouldn’t fly with Gov. Schweitzer, who called Zoo Montana “the crown jewel of Montana wildlife” and suggested that people heading to Yellowstone could stop off at Zoo Montana for a captive preview of what they might see in the wild. Isn’t that kinda like visiting the Black Velvet Art Emporium as a warm-up for the Louvre?

Most telling, though, was the reason for Jag’s atypical absence during the visit, even though zoo staff had prepared for the border collie’s presence. “We’re going to the zoo,” said the governor, “and he doesn’t like seeing animals in cages.”

Smart dog. Compassionate dog.

Speciesism for convenience: Don’t fence me in (and kill me for being captive)

“Deer on base to be killed,” read the headline. The base is Malmstrom Air Force Base on the eastern edge of Great Falls, MT. The deer are native wildlife–whitetail and mule deer–who used to roam freely on and off base but were trapped inside when a 7.8-foot-tall perimeter fence was installed in 2010. Now? They’re inconvenient interlopers. Hazards. Why, they could even pose a national security threat. Hey America, you’re either with us–or you’re with the deer.

Officials say the deer are being shot because they present human health and safety hazards and could increase operations costs, which could impact mission readiness. The base has a zero-tolerance policy toward large free-roaming animals on or adjacent to the aircraft movement.

You are perhaps envisioning tens–maybe hundreds–of deer frolicking on runways, browsing with impunity around missile silos, and carelessly leaving piles o’ pellets with no thought to the looming terrorist threat. But no. “The estimated population of 13 deer on the base could increase to 36 in three years,” said the agent-assassin from Wildlife Services, called in to save mission readiness from the Bambi insurgency. “We wanted to address this issue with the deer before the numbers got too high,” said the ironically-titled chief of conservation for Malmstrom.

Look, these are people who can deliver highly-sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missiles to targets on, well, other continents. And they want us to believe that–where 13 deer are concerned–the lethal solution is the only solution? There’s your proof that when all you have is weaponry, everything looks like a target.

Speciesism for greed, entitlement: Saving natural order as we know it want it

Coming Soon to Public Land Near Me: Wolf Trapping! Along with trapping are increased opportunities for trophy by bullet or arrow. Wolves can now be hunted and/or trapped a full six months of the year in Montana, from September 1st through February 28th. In a cursory nod to revered national park wildlife, quotas are in effect in two hunting districts near Glacier and Yellowstone, but any statewide quota has been discarded. Have at ’em!

“Trapping will be used as a wildlife management tool aimed at bringing Montana’s rapidly growing wolf population into a social balance that reflects the biological realities of the species and their shared habitats as well as the public tolerance and values of the people who live and work in Montana.”
~Ken McDonald, chief of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ wildlife bureau in Helena (FWP website)

Sounds authoritative, but anyone care to guess which carries more weight–the “biological realities” of wolves or “public tolerance and values” of humans? (For more on the social ecology of predators and how hunting can actually thwart control, read “The Politics of the Montana Wolf Hunt” by ecologist and author George Wuerthner.)

Here’s the crux of the matter:

FWP has been under pressure by ranchers and hunters to do more to reduce the wolf population just a year after a congressional budget rider removed federal protections for the animal from Idaho and Montana. They complain that the rising wolf population threatens elk herds and livestock (Ravalli Republic).

With the exception of hideously cruel snaring, sportsmen’s and ranchers’ wish lists were filled by the benevolent state agency, whose spokesperson has already engaged in some pre-damage damage control: “These trappers must be thoughtful and they need to understand that they’ll be representing their fellow Montanans and hunters and trappers everywhere.” Likewise, a rancher and trapper offered this caution: “Without a ton of ethics and a ton of experience, we’re going to be in trouble. Trapping is under major attack, and we are going to be under the microscope.”

Thoughtful trappers who possess a ton of ethics? These are people who bait, load, and conceal maiming and deadly weapons on public lands and walk away from them. There’s no so-called “fair chase”–there’s no chase at all. “We trappers do cause pain and suffering to animals and apologize to no one,” said a local trapper in an oft-quoted guest column. How’s that for thoughtful?

Wish I could check this out for Jag’s reaction. If he doesn’t like seeing animals in cages, imagine how he must feel about traps.

29 Responses

  1. Kathleen, it never ceases to amaze me how you find so many obvious disconnects between the vision Montanans have of themselves as humane and the reality that they have created a virtual (and in some cases literal) concentration camp for animals.

    I wonder: If your gently sarcastic, mildly caustic verbal jabs were posted on billboards throughout the state, would the guys and gals with the guns … bows … knives … hooks … traps … cages … missiles and drones — that is, the weaponized residents of Big Sky Country — feel the least bit ashamed of their unethical ethics, their thoughtless thoughtfulness, their intolerant tolerance, their unapologetic sadism, their Nazi-esque animal genocide?

  2. In contrast to the usually compelling arguments put up by the author, this latest blog seems more like mere bitter blovating about Western culture through the eyes of a disapproving newcomer.
    It’s unfortunate the local news causes so much moral outrage in one particular reader, but I doubt many of us Westeners are going to apologize for hunting, trapping and ranching, nor have any substantive points been presented for why we should.

    Furthermore, one who claims to enjoy this area’s abundant wildlife and vast public lands should perhaps not be so quick to criticise many of the very people and organizations who made it all possible in the first place, and continue to put up or pitch in considerable funding, time and effort to ensure its continued conservation.
    Conservation organizations active in the Greater Yellowstone area, making an actual difference, are not in principle opposed to hunting or ranching.

    The various controversies and debates regarding those things are, rather, over matters of specific instance of practice.
    The author might consider, for instance, spending time with Trout Unlimited, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition or the Nature Conservancy — to name only a few — before again going off about how horrid hunters, ranchers, trappers and other supposed abusers animals and the earth are.
    Consider, also, if hate-filled,blood-lusting ranchers, hunters and trappers were as influential as they’re made out to be here, would wolves have ever been reintroduced into the Greater Yellowstone to begin with?

    I think one sentence in particular captures the self-contradiction irony and ultimate failure of “speciesism” to be even a legitimate concept.

    “Whether for entertainment, convenience, or greed and entitlement, we human animals are a speciesist species.”

    Don’t expect to be taken seriously if you insist humans are merely an animal, of no more intrinsic worth than any other, and then get into a moral huff if and when we put our own kind first. Because that’s exactly what all animals do — and with an often brutal and utilitarian efficiency.
    If humans do have a higher contemplative and moral obligation toward nature and Her creatures (which I think we do), then it is precisely because of our essential ascendency over animals that said obligation even exists.

    Whether Montana’s wolf trapping program could prove too heavy-handed, I can’t say. I grew up and spent my young adulthood in Montana, but I’ve not lived there for quite some time, and remain largely unfamiliar with the on-the-ground situation regarding wolves there. Most of the information I get from Big Sky country is anecdotal and by way of anti-wolf sources, which I trust no more than I do stridently anti-hunting/anti-ranching points of view.

    However, one can be certain the state, like Wyoming and Idaho, has a vested interest in not letting its wolf population dip below the level that would prompt a re-listing and the reinstatement of federal jurisdiction.

    Be all that as it may and despite how distasteful trapping might be for some, it’s a sure bet we’re being far more magnanimous and tolerant toward wolves than they would be toward us — or any other competitive species, for that matter.

  3. Your Montana Newz sounds like a print version of my incoming emails… On a global level from the dogs in Greece to the bulls in Spain to the Canadian seals to the zoos and other trappers closer to home – You’re absolutely right we are a rapacious, speciesist species.

    I don’t like being a human member… Not at all. But I sure wouldn’t want to be one of them either. They don’t stand a chance in China… Or anywhere else within our lustful wants! I do believe in cause and effect though. And my hope is that eventually, all who have earned it… Get exactly their due.

  4. Hal, there are several things to refute in your commentary but I’ll focus on one statement, which is at the crux of the current wolf hunt and — in my view –the rightful opposition to the hunt. You wrote:

    “Consider, also, if hate-filled, blood-lusting ranchers, hunters and trappers were as influential as they’re made out to be here, would wolves have ever been reintroduced into the Greater Yellowstone to begin with?”

    You need to read up on the history of the wolf reintroduction if you think this proves anything about the “powerlessness” of ranchers and hunters. First, the only reason Rocky Mountain gray wolves had a chance at reintroduction was because of the 1973 passage of the ESA. The imperative of the ESA was a recovery plan for the wolves.

    FROM THE START, ranchers put up a huge fight against the efforts of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery team. They did not prevail only because of this one significant listing. The delisting proved that the only thing standing between the wolves and the “hate-filled ranchers” was the ESA. And absent the listing, not even monumental public pressure to the contrary is enough to fight the influence of these special interests.

    In fact, what’s happening now proves precisely the opposite of what you state. It proves that without protections like the ESA, all wildlife is subject to the inordinate power of hunting and ranching coalitions. Consider that despite strong public pressure and in some cases, anti-hunting contingencies being much stronger in force at meetings and in policy commentaries, the will of the anti-wolf hunters, ranchers and trappers becomes law.

    Consider, too, that the delisting took the form of a rider on a budget bill — unprecedented in the history of the ESA. Jon Tester and Mike Simpson (MT/ID), beholden to their state financial interests, slipped this into legislation, proving, again, that the power of anti-wolf interests like agricultural ones can override an entrenched wildlife protection mechanism, in the most duplicitous way. Everyone should worry about a system where economic powers can arbitrarily override wildlife safeguards that have preserved and protected our North American wildlife for decades.

  5. Ingrid,

    I’m well aware of the history and circumstance of the wolf reintroduction program — having had a front-row seat to it. I was living in Montana with the program began, and have since lived in Idaho and now, Wyoming.

    I’m also well-aware of the anti-wolf hyperbole and hysteria, especially among hunters and ranchers. I’m an avid hunter myself, have spent considerable time around ranching, and as a young man even worked a few summers as a ranch hand.

    Many hunters, no doubt, have a crummy perspective on predators in general, and wolves in particular. This vexes and saddens me.

    However, many more hunters than you might expect are also perfectly willing to live with wolves. Or, at least, accept that they are here to stay.

    Be all that as it may, I find many of your contentions here the flip side of the same hyperbole that has tainted the wolf issue from the get-go.

    Wolves are not an “endangered species” in the universal sense. ESA status was given the Greater Yellowstone wolves as a mechanism of special circumstance — in order to allow that population to gain a viable status in this area.

    It was never the intent that the Greater Yellowstone wolves be kept under indefinite or permanent ESA protection. It was also understood from the very start that they day would come when the wolves would be delisted, management handed over to the states, and public hunting of wolves would be allowed.

    If you’re going to object to wolf hunting in general principle, you’ve got a tough row to hoe, and you will have to fall back on ideology, rather than facts of biology, or the parameters of the reintroduction program.

    Also bear in mind, the number of wolves had exceeded — by many times — the target population levels established at the outset of the reintroduction programs.

    Rather, the debate over wolf hunting will — or at least should — center upon matters of specific instance. Nobody with real knowledge of wolf population dynamics or wildlife biology in general is under the illusion that public hunting will wipe the Greater Yellowstone population out.

    And yes, I know several such people on a first-name basis.

    Instead, again, the debates are over to what degree hunting should be applied, and in what areas.

    Again, particular to this discussion, the question is not whether wolves should be hunted at all. It is whether allowing the public to trap wolves is going too far.

    Another key point you apparently missed, or ignored, is that the states have a vested interest in not letting the wolf populations dip below the levels that will re-impliment ESA protection.

    In sum, I appreciate your interest in this issue, and even share some of your sentiments. Wolves are wildlife, and vital to the ecosystem — not the vermin some would try to make them out to be.

    But your statements cause me to question seriously both the depth and scope of your knowledge regarding the wolf issue. You seem to be reflecting only one, strident, point of view.

  6. In challenging my “strident” point of view on wolves, you’re completely ignoring how this delisting came about. The method through which these extirpation efforts arose negates arguments about the scientific efficacy of these policies.

    Efforts to reduce regulatory protections failed, in some part, because there wasn’t a biological consensus in terms of the effects of the hunt. It’s only because of a back-room, sneaky deal in which the rider was attached, that a legislative override occurred in this situation.

    That is a serious assault to the ESA as a whole — that wildlife protections can be removed not on the basis of science, but rather upon the whims of legislators who propose such a measure to satisfy powerful, financial constituents. Your arguments about the current wolf provisions being based on fact and science are clearly weakened by the methodology that actually worked to circumvent proper scientific and regulatory channels.

    Now, in effect, we have an open Pandora’s box, where stuffing the issue back into the proper parameters of a gutted regulatory structure probably won’t happen. All of this was disingenuous, politically and financially motivated, and in no way the product of consensus among those who know wolves. There is no way to take the arguments of ranchers and hunters seriously, under the auspices of this ruse.

  7. Hal 9000, intrinsic worth is an inherent condition of self that is neither assigned by others, nor dependent on intelligence (whatever that’s supposed to be), or the external value others place on human or nonhuman selves.

    We humans have a moral obligation to other animals, not because of some imagined ascendency over them, but because most of us have alternatives to causing them harm, which other animals do not have. Caring about our own species doesn’t require us to hurt others — except possibly in remote societies, where humans have no choice but to hunt in order to survive, or in actual cases of self defense, which are rare. Still, self defense doesn’t entitle us to kill free-living animals who wander into human settlements. Rather, we’re obliged to recognize that our imposition on their habitat is the reason they have strayed into ours. So the real answer is to respect them and their environment.

    Human civilization was built on the myth of human supremacy — now we know better, and it’s time for our culture to evolve with this understanding.

    Ellie Maldonado

  8. Thank you, Kathleen Stachowski, for this very informative article. I also like “Other Nations”.

  9. Ingrid,

    You’re rolling issues together here, and coming up with what I would still contend are rather flimsy conclusions, based upon an overly-simplistic views both of the issue, and the people involved.

    Have you made an honest effort to look deeply into this issue from the perspective of people who are directly affected, or do you just have an axe to grind with “hunters and ranchers?” (neither of which are, btw, monolithic groups with only one opinion about wolves, or anything else.)

    From an ecological and management standpoint, the wolves were well past the benchmark of being ready for delisting several years ago.

    The consensus on that might not have been completely universal — but it was broad enough to make the constant lawsuits blocking delisting start to look more like contrarian ideology rather than genuine concern for the greater good.

    From a certain perspective, the budget rider delisting in Montana and Idaho was not “sneaky” at all. Rather it was an effort to get around the afore-mentioned cascade of anti-delisting lawsuits that were seriously starting to gum up the works and, again, were rooted in more in ideology than anything else.

    Yes, images of good old boy rednecks shooting wolves and grinning about it makes for good press and a pulling of urban and suburban heartstrings. And some groups took that ball and ran as far as they could with it.

    But in the end, the plan as implemented had to move forward. I, for one, was getting more than fed up with the demonization of Westerners by people who haven’t a clue what it’s like to live in close proximity with large predators.

    The budget rider might have set a bad precedent, I agree. But, time will tell, and your conclusions sound hyperbolic.

    The Mead/Salazar deal struck for delisting in Wyoming might have followed better channels, from a purely political standpoint.

    Also, the general prognosis for the Greater Yellowstone wolves is good, according to the numerous experts I regularly visit with.

    My take, in general, is that wolves are a polarizing subject, as one would expect them to be. Polarized subjects tend to breed hyperbolic views on either side.

    Being, as I mentioned, deeply ingrained in the hunting and ranching communities, I listened for years to hyperbolic rhetoric about how wolves would destroy everything. Now, it seems, the hyperbole is coming from the other side — ranchers and hunters are bullies and thugs, the wolves will be slaughtered, ecology will slide back downhill — and so on.

    Truthfully, I’m over both sides of it.

    Wolves are here to stay.

    Some will be hunted and killed.

    Those who have a vexation over either one — or both — of those basic facts need, I think, to get past it, because it’s long past the time I can take exaggerated and polarized views seriously.

  10. Ellie,

    I’m not interested in sermons. Your views on humans, animals and our respective places in the universe aren’t any more undisputed truth to me than an evangelical religionist trying to tell me Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

    Humans have every much right to define the parameters of how things happen on our turf as any other creature.

    You’re failing, I think, to see a huge middle ground between humans living only in grass huts in sub-tropical zones, or completely destroying nature and killing everything that moves.

    Furthermore, your assertion that we essentially have no place to exercise some degree of control over nature on the fringes of our own civilization strikes me as rather ironic, coming over a computer on the Internet.

  11. A sermon, Hal? Apparently, you can’t argue with what I said about intrinsic worth, and you have no reasonable defense of the myth of human supremacy, which your view depends on.

    Humans have been defining the pararmeters of our turf for at least 10,000 years, while at the same we imposed on the turf of other animals, and made some of them our slaves. Apparently, you want them to respect our boundaries while we didn’t and don’t respect theirs; and then you object to a moral position against causing gratuitous harm?

    For both moral and practical reasons, I assert our obligation to respect the lives and habitat of other animals, as in turn they will respect ours.

  12. Ellie,

    I think the term “sermon” applies, because you ideas strike me as fantastical, and held with a religious fervor that is apparently unable to recognize the validity of other possibilities.

    I see no reason why humans should somehow be apologetic about or ashamed of being the most successful species on the globe. And I, again, find it ironic that you would make such a suggestion while employing a medium based upon the latest human technology.

    True, and I agree with you here, we should hold a moral standard — which animals neither have, or need.

    Still, I see your ideas as only one extreme end of a range of possible options and approaches.

    Ignorantly and flippantly trying to grind nature under our heel is not only immoral and unethical, it’s also foolish and ultimately self-destructive. Indeed, we now are seeing what are probably only the first hints of a great reckoning for a series of poor ecological choices on our part.

    However, there is no wrong in trying to mitigate the presence and effects of large predators on the fringes of human settlement.

    Questions of general principle regarding wolves being here, and being hunted, are settled. The views on either of the far ends of those issues had their chance to howl (no pun intended). And indeed, howl they did.

    But, that has long since gotten wearisome to those of us who actually live in or next to wolf territory. It’s time to move on, and discuss the practical specifics — now that wolves have been delisted.

  13. Hal, if you think the situation in Idaho is reasonable in terms of wolf population reduction — even among those who agree to the hunt — you aren’t looking at the figures accurately. Idaho has eliminated almost half of its wolf population within a year, which amounts to, essentially, a bait-and-switch on the original promises to uphold the population at various numbers. Organizations like Defenders of Wildlife (not by any stretch an extreme group) are rightfully alarmed. From what I’ve read, never has endangered species been delisted only to be driven toward elimination so quickly. Clearly, the policy here is anything but conservation based.

    That, of course, is assuming agreement on the wolf hunt and its parameters to begin with. Your comments ignore important biological and social facts about wolves, including the way hunts fracture strong family structures and disrupt territorial and group viability and actually change wolf behavior as a result. It’s much more nuanced complex than “culling” a few animals — as is any situation where we humans command oversight without adequate understanding for these principles. “Your” side of the issue (hunters) do not take those facets into account when you’re clamoring in line for your wolf tag. I also know people in this area, too, and one person who works in a natural resources capacity sent me information and photos when the tags first became available. Distasteful isn’t a strong enough term to describe the attitude surrounding those first days of legal wolf hunting.

    As far as which numbers are legitimate in terms of ecological sustainability, there is more than one study suggesting that wolves, in current numbers, have done nothing but benefit the ecosystems of Yellowstone and surrounding areas — making them more diverse and vibrant in every way. It’s impossible to view the hunters’ perception of wolves with anything but the greatest degree of cynicism, given how they stand to benefit from the absence of wolves. The fact that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has supported these measures is a clear indicator of some of those underlying motives …. particularly since its these same organizations that rally for increased tags when animals like elk become a “problem.” The motives in eradicating competitive predators are transparent and even if hunters such as yourself aren’t motivated by these considerations, there is a clear conflict of interest in the foxes minding the henhouse, as it were. Hunters stand to benefit personally, some financially, from the wolf hunt. Conservationists and wildlife rehabilitators like myself do not benefit personally or financially from arguing for a more reasoned and compassionate approach to predator interactions.

    Lastly, you use words like “hyperbolic” and suggest I might have an “axe to grind” with hunters. I’ve written nothing close to hyperbolic and I suggest you revisit the definition if you construe my comments as such. As far as an “axe to grind,” all of us commenting here have a wolf in the race, as it were. Of course I have a strong point of view which happens to differ dramatically from yours. Having an axe to grind implies revenge and a grudge, and is a grossly unfair and lazy characterization of a viewpoint you simply find unpalatable. It’s easy to try and “win” by using ad hominem labels for those who disagree. All of these counter-arguments to the hunt are legitimate concerns, voiced in the face of some pretty dirty maneuvers on the part of those who don’t want, and have never wanted, the reintroduction of wolves where they were previously eradicated.

  14. Dateline Bozeman — “A conservation group wants a trap-free buffer in Montana to protect wolves roaming outside Yellowstone National Park.” The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, according to a very recent news item, says “trapping could decimate the greater Yellowstone wolf population.”

    Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_0e87ef14-cbc7-566d-8e84-a3abf7892bfc.html#ixzz21xKKTScn

    Way back up there in the early comments, you’ll recall that HAL instructed me to “consider…spending time with Trout Unlimited, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition or the Nature Conservancy — to name only a few — before again going off…” I supported GYC when I first moved to Montana 12 years ago–from elsewhere in the West. (And BTW, I live in and recreate in wolf–and bear & lion–territory.) That support ended when their response to the Yellowstone bison slaughter was weak to nonexistent back in the last decade–like the wolf issue, another one dominated by politics (again, the livestock industry) instead of conservation biology and respect for the species. I’m glad to see that they are now calling for no wolf trapping around YNP, though of course I’d prefer to see no cruel and often indiscriminate trapping of any species anywhere.

    Note to Ellie: Your ideas, eloquently stated, strike me NOT as “fantastical” or fanatical, but right-on. The other possibilities have been examined and rejected on speciesist grounds.

  15. I imagine if I were a hunter like yourself, Hal, it would be easier for me to believe other “animals have no morals”; that “they ‘need’ to be killed”; or “we ‘need’ to kill them” — but I hope I’d be open to other views that might even change my own.

    Actually many animals do have a sense of right and wrong, because they’re capable of empathy, the root of morality that evolved in other animals long before we came along. Empathy also fosters altruism, especially within groups, but among different species as well; and unlike us, other animals almost always kill for survival. That’s not a sermon — it’s science.

    It’s also science (i.e., nutrition) that most humans don’t need to kill other animals for food or clothing, and if we use a little empathy, instead of hunters’ myths, we’d know animals don’t have a need to be killed — they want to live just like we do.

    Hunters kill because they want to kill, starving wolves who depend on these animals for survival, forcing them to search for food outside their habitat. And now the hunter’s “solution” is to kill the wolves. Do you honestly not see the error in that? You create the problem by killing, and then want to solve it by killing. It won’t work!

    Btw, I don’t think we’re the most successful species on earth — after all, roaches have been around for millions of years before us, and probably will be for millions of years after we’re gone — but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with success. It’s how success is achieved that matters — fairness counts.

  16. Kathleen, thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m glad to know other possibilities have been examined, and rejected with reasonable and good cause.

  17. Ingrid,
    Your growing indignation does nothing to assuage the underlying strident, and yes, hyperbolic, nature of the stance you’re taking.
    First, let me debunk assumptions you’re making.
    I don’t have a “side,” per se. Yes, I’m a hunter, but my view, in case you’ve not been able to figure this out by now, is sharply opposed to many — but hardly all — hunters, regarding predators in general and wolves in particular.
    I strongly and enthusiastically support wolves being here. I do not see them as “competition” for me filling my freezer with venison.
    The range and depth of the ecological good wolves do is self-evident and irrefutable. Objections that wolves are “destroying” the environment or “decimating” game herds are rooted in pure and inexcusable ignorance.
    I will not buy any wolf tags or attempt to kill any wolves. If I’m elk hunting and spot wolves moving in, I’ll back off and give the wolves the first chance and the first take.
    Just because I have no problem with the general principle of wolf hunting, and think it was long past time for them to be delisted, that does not mean I don’t take issue with some of the specifics in all three states.
    I most certianly take issue with the “revenge” mentality under which many hunters with wolf tags seem to be taking to the field.
    Furthermore, “hunter” and “conservationist/environmentalist” are not mutually exclusive terms.
    Indeed, the environmental movement and conservation model as we know them today are rooted in the template set down by Aldo Leopold and other avid hunters.
    Leopold’s philosophy was practically a second Gospel in my household growing up.
    If I had my way, his “Green Fire” essay regarding wolves would be standard reading in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho Hunter Education courses.
    I won’t name names here, but suffice it to say, if you knew who my own father was, or some of his close associates — all veritable giants in the Western environmental/wilderness preservation movements, you might feel compelled to eat your words regarding hunters and environmentalists being necessarily and essentially at odds.
    Indeed, on of those men told me, years ago, “there are parties with a vested interest in driving a wedge between hunters and the ‘green’ environmental movement.”
    Frankly, Ingrid, your sentiments here are playing directly into that ruse. Keep playing that game, and the subdivision developers could end up screwing us all, and laughing all the way to the bank.
    (btw, I tell the same thing to hunters who rail on ‘green’ groups.)
    Also, yes, I would consider Defenders of Wildlife to be on the extreme edge of things, and most definitely on the wrong side of this canine donnybrook.
    RMEF is hardly without sin, but neither are they anything like the nefarious gang you’re trying to make them out to be.
    How many RMEF members do you know, of have spent time with?
    I would consider such groups as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Wyoming, Montana and Idaho Wilderness associations, the Nature Conservancy and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers much better examples of reputable and realistic conservation organizations.
    And while not all of them are on board with wolf management/hunting policies as they are (GYC most notably), none of them are in principle anti-hunting/anti-ranching.
    So, once again, what I’m seeing in your post is an over-simplified view of things, bent upon demonizing people and groups with whom you disagree.
    Being bitter about how the delisting went through serves no purpose, any more than being bitter over wolves being here does.
    Regardless of who is upset, two things are now axiomatic. Wolves are here to stay. Wolves will be hunted.
    Let’s discuss and debate specifics within the parameters of those axioms. Because, frankly, anything else is just a waste of time and energy.

  18. Ellie,
    Again, I’m seeing a lot of glossy pontification, and not much substance.
    Animals do what they need to do. Up to including eating their own young, if that’s what it takes. There is no blame in any of it. Animals simply are, and simply do. Frankly, I have no interest in projections that would assign human attributes to them, and distill the simple purity of the wild beasts.

    Your sweeping statements regarding hunters are also of little consequence. Humans have been hunting in the lands I live in for at least 13,000 years (that we currently know of).

    Please don’t tell me “why” I hunt. You’ve obviously not a clue.

  19. Hal,

    First, it’s difficult to know if you’re speaking with integrity when you choose to post under a pseudonym. Normally, I wouldn’t address that aspect of discussion since commenters obviously have a right to post anonymously or as they see fit — and I’m sure you have your reasons. But, since you persist in your ad hominem arguments, making character assessments about me and others — about my personal bitterness and so forth which is, indeed, making this whole thing personal — I will say you have no leg to stand on with personal attacks, when you’re in hiding behind a pseudonym. It’s quite easy to call into question another motives, all the while making claims about who you are, your own involvement, and the legacy of family members — when you know there’s no substantiation required. I’m not saying these things aren’t true. But you’re unlikely to persuade anyone that your motives are more upstanding than mine or anyone’s, when those elements of your character are not transparent for public consumption.

    As far as environmentalism being linked with hunting, you assume quite a lot when you say that I’m buying into a “ruse.” I’m well aware of environmental history and the various icons of that movement, including some who were hunters. There were an equal number of early conservationists, John Muir included, who abhorred hunting, and who saw the early hunting conservation movement as self-serving in terms of preserving animals for the purpose of their own hunting and entertainment. Of course, in the end, the hunters who advocated for conservation at least put an end to the wretched market hunting that nearly wiped out shorebirds and other North American species, and drove yet others to extinction. But most importantly, they were trying to fix damage incurred by none other than — hunters. Hunters will often argue that market hunting was a different game altogether. It was. But among those market hunters were many sport and subsistence hunters who exploited the market niches for financial gain. The hunters who saw the light are heroes in as much as they became, after some introspection, decent individuals who made reparation on the damages wreaked by their own sport. Still, there were many who preceded them, who saw the future course of ecological destruction wreaked by hunting, and whose calls went unanswered.

    As far as mutual interests and cross-purposes, certainly in the area of habitat restoration, our interests collide and are often compatible. But there are significant areas of difference where hunting interests and other ecological interests share public land. I won’t go into detail, but if you have the family background in environmentalism that you claim, you will know the various divergent paths the groups have followed out of necessity. One recent example is the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act which most hunters and hunting groups supported, but which stands to open areas previously closed to hunting activity, to hunting. These are motives that are not compatible with the way others of us see the shared usage of public lands. Where I live in Washington, there are few state wildlife lands where I can photograph, for example, without being witness to four months of incessant waterfowl hunting. We may share the ultimate motive of habitat preservation, but we differ dramatically in how we think those lands ought to be preserved for the animals, for which species, how the money should be invested, and to what end. Buying into a ruse, I am not.

    Finally, you write, “So, once again, what I’m seeing in your post is an over-simplified view of things, bent upon demonizing people and groups with whom you disagree.” That’s interesting. I’m glad you said “what I’m seeing” because what you’re seeing is clearly an interpretation that skews what I actually wrote, and what others here have written. Rather than reverting, again, to your apparent default tactic, the ad hominem critique, I would look more carefully at the personal filter through which you are reading these comments and deriving these suppositions. Again, I have no idea what that filter is because clearly, I don’t know who you are or what you represent. — But when you say my viewpoint is “once again” “overly-simplified” and that I “demonize” my opposition and you point out some “growing indignation” on my part and so forth, you’re interjecting personal motives and perceived character flaws, rather than arguing the words at face value. For the record, I gave you the benefit of the doubt in my comment when I said, “even if hunters such as yourself aren’t motivated by these considerations” (the considerations of wolf eradication, tags, etc.) Obviously, you chose to overlook that comment to uphold the perception you wish to have of me, and which I’ve addressed above.

    btw, I lived in Colorado and know two ‘former’ members of RMEF. One, a forest ranger, stopped supporting the organization because his own view of hunting — yes, he is a hunter — different from the political motives he saw inherent in that organization and others.

  20. p.s. I had to double check but Defenders of Wildlife is, in fact, a member of the coalition you uphold as “reasonable” — GYC. Their membership doesn’t imply agreement on all points, but their inclusion does suggest they are respected as part of this partnership, and not too “extreme” to have a voice in the plan.

  21. Ingrid,
    I find it troubling that you keep accusing me of slinging ad homs. All I’m doing is calling out ideology that many here consider axioms or forgone conclusions as, well, ideology.

    I’ve stated, clearly, I’m finding ideas fantastical, long on bluster and short on fact. I’ve said nothing about the people behind them, because I don’t know them.

    Seems to me, you might be clutching at that straw — and the fact that I don’t post under my real name — rather than taking on any of the points I’ve raised.

    It’s ironic that you should say I’m falling back on “perceptions” of you, when your arguments are solidly couched in your own perceptions of certain people (mainly, hunters and ranchers), and your perception of how and why wolf delisting went down as it did.

    Your arguments also seem to expend considerable time pummeling strawmen. I’ve never said hunting is perfect, or that hunters, individually or as a group, always have the best methods or motives.

    I’m not here as the great white defender of hunting. Though, certainly, it’s a far cry from the so-called “market hunting,” of the past I’m not naive enough to think hunting as done today isn’t permeated with the influence of money.

    I’m also not pleased with hunters often being among the loudest clamoring for motorized access to public lands. But, ATVs are another subject, about which I could pontificate to homeric lengths.

    I’m sorry you find your self at cross purposes with waterfowl hunters. But, speaking of money, they put of a significant chunk of change toward the preservation of the habitat everybody enjoys.

    People join and quit groups all the time, for various reasons. Sometimes a “former” member can give an honest and insightful retrospect. And at other times, they could be the worst possible source of information. To repeat — I don’t regard RMEF as being without sin — but I also don’t think they are as nefarious as you’re trying to make them out to be either.

    They are on the record as saying they don’t oppose wolves being here.

    In short — as with any big institution or widespread practice — there’s much to dislike about hunting. I think you and I are probably far more on the same page than not regarding many specific points connected to hunting. Too many hunters hate wolves. Too many hunters are in it as an excuse to go out and drink beer with their buddies. Too many hunters think they have a God-given right to unlimited ATV access. And so on and on.

    I merely question your assertion about the degree to which hunters (and ranchers) have influenced the wolf issue. Once again, had it been up to many (but not all) of them, the wolf reintroduction program never would have made it past the suggestion stage.

    As I pointed out to you, the influence of other groups, though a series of lawsuits, frustrated the delisting process long past the time when many in the know, including Ed Bangs, were saying the wolves were more than ready to be delisted.

    My central point, again, is — that it’s long past time too grouse and gripe over A: Wolves being here, or B: Wolves being delisted and hunted.

    The goal of wolf management plans in the three states in question is not to eradicate wolves. The stated goal of RMEF and similar groups is not to wipe out wolves. That would be self-defeating. The last thing the states want is renewed implementation of federal control — which is exactly what will happen if too many wolves are killed.

    Furthermore, I think the notion that guys running around with rifles (regardless of their motives or attitude toward wolves) will, in the long run, do serious damage to wolf populations is founded in hype, rather than fact.

    Wolves are likely far too intelligent and elusive to fall prey to that type of hunting for very long. The seemingly spectacular number of wolves taken in Idaho, for instance, isn’t likely to be repeated once the wolves become savvy to what’s going on.

    Hence, Montana is trying trapping. Again, I’m not sure what to think about that. It might very well be too heavy-handed.

    If you honestly think wolves should be re-listed, please offer some substantive arguments to that point. And please please explain, whether you think that protection could, or should, be permanent.

  22. “In a letter to RMEF President David Allen, Olaus Murie’s son, Donald Murie, said the organization’s “all-out war against wolves” is “anathema to the entire Murie family.”
    “We must regretfully demand that unless you have a major change in policy regarding wolves that you cancel the Olaus Murie Award,” Donald Murie wrote. “The Murie name must never be associated with the unscientific and inhumane practices you are advancing.”


  23. Kathleen, one angry opinion, set in hyperbolic rhetoric, hardly a universal truth about RMEF makes.

    “All out war” is laughably inaccurate. That would require completely unregulated slaughter hunting, no seasons, no bag limits anywhere, as well as unmitigated and concerted trapping and poisoning campaigns. That’s what it took, and decades of it, to eliminate wolves from the Greater Yellowstone.

    No group, policy, plan or method currently involved, proposed or applied is anything even remotely like that.

    Once again, RMEF’s wolf policy might suffer from some — or even numerous — errors of specific example. However, the organization is on the record as saying it is willing to accept the reality of wolves being a permanent part of the landscape. To say RMEF is single-mindedly hell-bent on destroying wolves, or even remotely capable of doing so is, again, nothing short of laughable.

    Once again, let’s move past hysterical yelping at both extreme ends of opinion regarding wolves.

    Let’s move on to practical, nuts and bolts consideration of where to go from here, instead of pointing fingers at the “bad guys” (which could be hunters, ranchers, enviros, the government, Ed Bangs, or even the wolves themselves, depending upon who you talk to.)

    Polarized views do nothing for anybody. I’m past fed up with them.

  24. Hal, you make disparaging assumptions about those who disagree, suggesting they are ill-informed with simplistic viewpoints, are full of hyperbole, are indignant, are bitter, have axes to grind … all the while denying any accountability for the insulting nature of this commentary. Note — ad hominem attacks are usually assumed to be direct form of “you’re a fool” or some other such insult. But, casting doubt on a person’s motive, presuming their underlying state of mind (bitter, indignant), and dismissing their arguments as simplistic — tactics which divert from the essence of the logic — are merely more subtle forms of the same art. Ad hominem, since you question the designation, means a logically fallacious argument which derives not from the face value of the argument’s logic, but rather from some stated character flaw or detail that’s irrelevant to the discussion. Your comments fit those parameters, which makes the tactic more insidious in terms of plausible denial.

  25. Ingrid, not to get bogged down in a sniping match over perceptions regarding one another’s approaches, but you’re glossing things over if you are trying to deny that commentary by you and others here has not done its level best to assume the worst possible motives and methods on the part of RMEF and other groups or people with which or whom you might have disagreements regarding wolves.

    Am I ticked off? Well, yes. And if my own commentary regarding these matters has strayed toward too much bluster, I apologize. However, I won’t apologize for my well-founded irritation toward views that are, yes, rather ill-informed and terribly biased.

    As much as it might irritate your in turn, hunters, ranchers, the RMEF and others have just as much right to their views, and arguably more stake in the issue, than you do.

    You live in Washington. A Montana rancher who has lost calves to wolves, or an Idaho family who have hunted elk in a particular basin for multiple generations have every cause and right to be upset over some the effects of wolf reintroduction, and good reason to want some measure of control over wolves.

    Now, are their own legitimate concerns sometimes delivered in a wrapping of hyperbole and completely uncalled for “kill ’em all” rhetoric? Absolutely. Nevertheless,their rights and concerns are rooted in legitimacy, and, frankly, I’m sick of outsiders trying to pretend they aren’t.

    On the flip side, do others not also have legitimate concerns over the long-term preservation of wolves? Of course. In fact, I count myself among them. So long as the view is held or taken that wolves are, at best, an annoyance and, at worst, a blight, there are bound to be flaws in the approach to manage them.

    However, perpetual federal protection, a completely hands-off approach and constant disparaging of hunters, ranchers and others isn’t fair, rational, realistic or practical.

  26. Hal, as far as “assuming” motives, one doesn’t have to assume in the case of organizations which are public with their views. My comment about RMEF was this sentence: “The fact that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has supported these measures is a clear indicator of some of those underlying motives.” This is no secret, nor is it a gratuitous assumption. Read RMEF’s own literature to substantiate this. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the wolf hunts, and their interest in doing so is the preservation of populations of elk to hunt. They make no secret of that. Even their “wildlife center” is basically a hunting ranch. Beyond that I made no other “assumptions” about RMEF here.

    I may live in Washington right now, but I’m not a Washingtonian. I spent the last many years in California and grew up elsewhere still, and know many in the wildlife and ag communities. No one with land or with animals is immune to the influence of environmental predators. Anywhere. But how one reacts to that coexistence differs dramatically. Just because a person promotes and fights for a more compassionate and reasoned response to other apex or meso predators doesn’t imply they are naive to what it means to coexist with those predators. It means there are people working hard to find less cruel and lethal methods to deter predators where they feel it’s necessary. Marin County in California is a great example of this, where the county got fed up with poisoning and other coyote extermination efforts, and has become a success story in the use of predator-deterring dogs with respect to sheep and other farm animals. You tell me … what is the percentage of ranchers throughout Idaho, Montana and Wyoming who’ve employed every possible non-lethal means of deterrent before resorting to killing wolves? There are many methods which can and often are not used. And, I might add, wolves are often scapegoated in situations where it isn’t clear wolves have been responsible for the “damage” attributed to them.

    You keep mentioning that wolf recovery numbers now exceed original target numbers. You do realize even this is a contentious number, don’t you? There has been question about the original science and expectations based on what has been since learned about genetic connectivity and the vulnerabilities of genetically isolated populations like the ones in Yellowstone. I reiterate that there is no universal agreement on the delisting, and there are plenty of voices who suggest the delisting was premature based on the connectivity issue and other facets of recovery. There is valid concern that reduction of the wolf population by at least a half — which is what appears to be happening — will make that important genetic drift impossible, and thus set up a domino effect for the wolves. I know you disagree with this, but you’re presenting the pro-hunt “science” as irrefutable, and it simply is not.

    Furthermore, if conservation is the main goal of the hunt, a lot of wolf hunters are doing a piss-poor job as public stewards. There are more than a few isolated cases of grotesque cruelty and displays associated with the hunt … putting aside for a second the innately cruel aspects of trapping, etc. Even you don’t deny the vitriol on part of the wolf haters. As such, how on earth is it a wise conservation move to put tags into the hands of the very people who would like to see decimation of these wolves? You, personally, are of more sound mind when it comes to wolf conservation, and you have said that you would not like a wolf tag nor are you interested in shooting wolves. That leaves the dirty work, as it were, to those who have a clear interest in doing so. And sadly, that leaves the treatment of wolves in the hands of those who really couldn’t care less about their well-being or their sentience or their dissembled social structures and families. If you claim there’s no other way, I would suggest that if conservation were truly at the heart of the current wolf policies, it would not have become a public hunt, and there would have been work toward a consensus for how to better manage, humanely, the issue of a wolf overpopulation — a number on which, again, there is no consensus. Although not an ideal example, Rocky Mountain National Park employed an official elk cull several years back that did not result in a bloody grab for pelts that this wolf hunt most certainly has. You may argue that hunting will continue regardless. But I would argue in return that anyone who supports the hunt should expect this type of backlash given the parameters of what’s going on.

    Lastly, as far as my own personal bias, it might surprise you that I come from a lineage of farmers. The only reason I don’t have a parcel of farmed land handed down to me and my siblings is because that land was forcibly taken from my grandparents and my mother during World War II. But the land, the wild, wildlife, and caring for it is in my blood as much as it is yours. Just because I don’t share the viewpoint of those who would live more destructively with the animals among us, my viewpoint is construed by some, possibly even yourself, as ignorant. Far from it. My grandfather was a hunter, and two of my uncles were hunters. I never liked it, but I understood it from a harsh-winter subsistence and starvation standpoint … starvation of their families being a legitimate reason they hunted. Ironically, my family members, who were torn apart by the murder of war, advocated not for revenge, but rather for a peaceful resolution to issues that they prayed would never lead to the outcome they themselves faced. So it is possible to face the hardship of any type of horrendous loss — family, home, animals, livestock — without resorting to the type of vengeful response that we tend to see in those who come to hate animal predators.

    I will just say, that as long a lineage as Westerners have in ranching and farming — I don’t deny them that and am aware of that legacy from living in Colorado — the land belonged to others for much longer before those Westerners ever came along. And part of that heritage was a thriving population of wolves and other wildlife that has as much a right to exist as do those who later took and fenced and own the land. As such, I can’t help but promote and wish for a better plan — one that doesn’t always result in human retribution against those who share our land and our interests, which is how many in the west see wolves. Short of a change in methodology, our behavior as humans then shows no evolution beyond what we did to extirpate our own human predecessors on this land. The only difference is the target of that eradication mentality.

  27. Ingrid,
    I appreciate your clarification, and think our views are closer than you might think.

    I support the concept of wolf hunting. Ecologically, there’s no harm in it. And yes, I’ve known and have spoken at length will well-versed ecologists who aren’t under the jurisdiction of the Game and Fish, or the thrall of the commercialized side of hunting.
    The consensus seems to be, again, that wolves are intelligent and robust enough, some measure, fair chase hunting will do no harm at all to wolf ecology.

    That’s why I say, if you oppose even the general principle of wolf hunting, at all, then I’ll have to remain dubious about your position.

    I’m not naive. I know the wolf hunting programs have a generous measure of politics involved. Game managers have themselves told me (behind closed doors and out of general earshot, of course) that the hunts do partly serve as a “safety valve” to let off some of the steam of anti-wolf sentiment.

    Now, as pandering as that might seem at first blush, there’s also a very practical side to it. Public relations plays a part in wildlife and habitat management. I don’t think you can argue that if the local public is more accepting, or at least tolerant, of wolves, their preservation has a greater chance of success.

    I’m well aware of the dynamics of genetic exchange, and the fact that long-term wolf ecology rests not so much on sheer numbers, but on the ability of the animals to travel and mix across considerably large tracts of contiguous habitat.

    I’m am also, as you have apparently figured out, well aware of the incredibly ignorant and negative view of wolves among most (but again, I have to stress, certainly not all) hunters and ranchers.

    What I question, is how much push that attitude ultimately has. The federal government still has a hammer to hold over their heads, should those particular boys get too naughty, so to speak. Trust me, that last thing those parties want is for the wolves to be relisted. They might not like it, but they have a vested interest in behaving themselves.

    Ingrid, people can “wish” for the decimation of wolves all they want. But as many our Dads used to say when we would pepper them regarding our own wished-for outcomes — “Wish in one hand, (defecate) in the other, and see which one fills up first.”

    Regarding RMEF, of course they’ve made no secret about their desire for more elk. Which, many of them think, requires fewer wolves. I’m not taking issue with that. I’m taking issue with the supposition that they intend to wipe wolves out — or even could if they wanted to.

    Also, they are hardly monolithic. My own aforementioned father was a member. And trust me, he was no fan of “elk ranch” style management.

    Overall, RMEF is a good organization. And while in the big picture, the presence of wolves hasn’t affected elk hunting, there are pockets of territory where it has had a dramatic negative effect.

    You’re free to hold all the distaste you wish toward hunting, but no hunter is obligated to justify him or herself to you. For all its faults, the North American model of game management has, by and large, proved to be a great success. And hunters are hardly the only ones to benefit from it. There’s no reason I, or any of the numerous experts I’ve visited with, can find to think that same model of management can’t be applied to wolves.

    Rather, the problem becomes philosophical. When all — or at least most — hunters, can learn to regard wolves a wildlife, rather than “competition” or a blight, we will have gotten somewhere. I’m doing what I small part I can in that regard.

    The mentioned non-lethal methods of protecting cattle might or might not work in the vast landscapes here, as they do in the pastoral settings where they have proven effective. I would be eager to see a rancher or some ranchers try, so we could mull the results.

    I don’t think there’s any one-size-fit’s all solution. Wolf hunting might be effective in some areas, and do more harm than good in others. Some ranchers might indeed be just crying wolf, so to speak, while others might indeed have good cause to shoot some wolves.

    My point to you, after all this, is, I think you’re still taking too narrow a perspective, and are too quick to suppose your views are the only legitimate ones. How different are you than some of the hunters I butt heads with in that regard?

    And I simply don’t share your worries over the future of wolves, should things continue as they are. I see the need for tinkering and adjustment, not a complete course change. I think state management of wolves has a good long-term prognosis.

    Nobody got everything they wanted out of this issue, but I think the state and federal agencies in charge did a fairly good job of reasonable compromise.

    Of course, there are those who will never be happy, and continue to feel as if they’ve been shafted — either by wolves being here at all, or by wolves being hunted at all. There will continue to be those who really wish everybody else and all policy could somehow be bent to their views.

    Well, as the old saying went, wish in one hand…

  28. Hal, I’ve been in many discussions with hunters over the years, many who hold themselves to strict hunting ethics, way above what is permissible legally. As a wildlife rehabilitator and photographer, out in the field a lot, with hunters, I obviously bring a different perspective to the table. But I’ve found that ultimately, no matter how many points of agreement we have on issues of habitat (we do), in the end, nothing changes on either side. Hunters, generally speaking, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo — and are reticent to rein in or call for stricter regulations on even the most egregious practices of other hunters that so many of us find difficult to justify. And, because the status quo favors the interest of hunters on shared lands, the ultimate expectation is that someone like me yields to the idea that wildlife management and hunting practices, as they currently exist, are just fine. Frankly, I don’t believe that. I see a lot of bad behavior in the field, unmonitored. I see wildlife policies (like deer management programs in some areas) producing total imbalances in deer populations, for the interest of hunting. I see “varmint” hunting so unbelievably cruel, with species virtually unprotected by legal constraints. And I see a sport where individual actions take place largely out of public view, often physically barred from non-hunters (like waterfowl hunting areas), and where the honor system and personal integrity are often the only protection afforded wildlife in the field. Most non-hunters don’t see what I’ve seen, and can thus accept, on face value, the elements of tradition and conservation embedded in every hunting group’s script — including the various statements we read on the pro-wolf-hunt side. But, again, as someone who’s worked hands on with animals both wild and domestic, who are often the victims of human brutality or ignorance, my concerns go farther than population numbers. In addition to the overarching ecological balance we humans repeatedly upset, I am also concerned with our humanity toward and our treatment of other species. So, although I understand and appreciate the points of agreement to which you allude, at my age, after all this time and thousands of discussions, I don’t have any illusions that when push comes to shove, we will agree with the very concepts which concern you as a hunter or me as a non-hunter and rehabilitator.

    Which brings me to one of your points. You said, ” …. if you oppose even the general principle of wolf hunting, at all, then I’ll have to remain dubious about your position.” You’ll have to remain dubious, then. Because it appears, from this statement, that you can only take someone seriously if they support the principle of a wolf hunt in one way or another, and I do not — precisely because, at this point in time, any wolf hunt is so politically motivated and so laced with historic hatred. How, for instance, can you possibly justify a 50 percent reduction in ANY hunted species, over the span of just one year? That’s precisely what’s happening in Idaho and you’ve seen how the boundaries of the hunt are consistently changing from original intent, to year-round permissions and so forth. Beyond that, you’re saying this at a blog where you know there will be plenty of people who oppose all hunting in principle. If you are dubious about people who oppose wolf hunting at large, then what is in it for you, to argue with people here whose philosophical positions you would then question at every turn?

    Lastly, you wrote this: “I think you’re still taking too narrow a perspective, and are too quick to suppose your views are the only legitimate ones.” This is precisely the type of presumption I took issue with earlier. How do you know I’m “quick to suppose” that my views “are the only legitimate ones”? Because I hold strong opinions that I vigorously defend? By that measure, you defending your own strong views would mean you also suppose your views are the only legitimate ones. That’s a fallacy of reasoning. It’s one thing to say that my viewpoint does not seem broad enough from your perspective … quite another to suggest I’m asserting the only legitimacy in the discussion. Of course I assign legitimacy to my view … or I wouldn’t defend my position. In fact, I wish more people would have a strong view rather than remain apathetic in the face of massive global issues. But, debating a point from one’s own perspective is quite different from excluding all other points of view. On a debate team, you don’t concede points to the other team, but you take seriously the counter-arguments they make. It sounds like what you’re saying is that if I don’t agree with your points, I’m stripping them of legitimacy. Why on earth would I be debating this issue with you if I regarded your commentary as illegitimate? I disagree vehemently with some of what you write, but I don’t deny you the right to have that point of view, based on your own personal experience, philosophy and filters — whatever they may be. Mine are obviously quite different and a bit more visible, to boot.

  29. Pontificating? Hal, why not admit you just don’t want to discuss the moral considerations of hunting? Well, so be it, but please don’t hide behind the so-called “purity” of animals to deny they experience feelings and emotions similar to our own. Perhaps, if you admit that, it might lead you to feel guilty, as indeed I think you should — but then a guilty hunter would be no hunter.

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