Why has Defenders of Wildlife become Defenders of Livestock?
I’m always looking for news that could be wonderful topics for research in academic disciplines that focus on human-animal relationships. To the end, I just received an essay by David Kirby titled “Why Some Conservationists Approve the Killing of a Wolf Pack.” The subtitle of Mr. Kirby’s essay is “Washington state is set to eliminate an entire group of endangered gray wolves linked to livestock deaths.”
Who are Defenders of Wildlife defending? Why is killing a “necessary component” of conservation?
Mr. Kirby’s entire essay is available online, however, I want to mention here the following text:
“Among the conservation groups approving the protocol was Defenders of Wildlife. ‘We have met and significantly exceeded that threshold,’ said Shawn Cantrell, northwest director of Defenders of Wildlife. ‘This is for us very sad and disappointing because we really hate to see any cows or any animals killed, [but] we do support the department moving forward at this time,’ he said.”
We also read:
“Another group that approved the protocol, Conservation Northwest, echoed Cantrell’s sentiments in a statement on its website.
‘Though it’s tremendously difficult to see wolves killed, we understand and accept this action as a necessary component of coexistence where people, wolves and livestock share territory,’ the group said.
I was utterly shocked when I read this, as were many people who immediately emailed me about this decision. Indeed, Defenders of Wildlife and others are not defending wildlife, but rather, they are defending livestock. If there’s any other way to unpack this it’s eluding me and many many others. Why is killing a “necessary component” component of conservation?
Of course, other conservation groups strongly oppose this decision. Here is a statement released by the Center for Biological Diversity called “Conservationists Express Outrage That Entire Pack of Wolves, 12 Percent of State Population, to Be Killed for Preying on Livestock on Public Lands.”
Conservation psychology, anthrozoology, and compassionate conservation to the rescue
While trying to figure out how this decision came about, I came to the conclusion that it is a gold mine of research for conservation psychologists and anthrozoologists who study human-animal relationships. Those people who are interested in the rapidly growing international field of compassionate conservation also should be able to provide important input. The guiding principles of compassionate conservation are “First do no harm” and the lives of all individuals matter (please see, for example, “Compassionate Conservation Meets Cecil the Slain Lion,” “Compassionate Conservation: More than ‘Welfarism Gone Wild’” and many links therein).
The vexing question that comes up in different forms basically is, “How can people claim to defend other animals and then allow them to be killed?” I really can’t say any more other than there are some serious inconsistencies that really need to be studied and explained, and I hope that conservation psychologists, anthrozoologists, and compassionate conservationists can help us along.
If wolves and other animals cannot depend on those who claim to defend them to actually defend them, just on whom can they truly rely? Judging by the deluge of email I’m seeing on questions of this sort, numerous others also are rather perplexed, and to say the least, shocked.
Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.