Wearing Alligators

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Wearing Alligators

[Ed. Note: This article epitomizes many actions taken around the world to "save species," to "protect endangered species." On the face, they appears to be positive: an increase in the number of animals of a given species, an increase in the size of protected habitat, an increase in protections for animals who reside in those habitats. However, these kinds of actions and policies have NO concern or regard for animals as individuals. Each and EVERY living being is worthy of our protection. Buying "alligator handbags" may be considered an act of "wildlife protection" or "habitat protection" to some people, but not to the tortured, slaughtered alligators.]

By Patrick Battuello, Animal Rights blog

As numbers increased, alligator farming (1985), in combination with the annual September hunt that harvests some 35,000 gators, became the state-sanctioned remedy (to “provide long term benefits to the survival of the species, maintain its habitats, and provide significant economic benefits to landowners, alligator farmers and alligator hunters.”

“Today there are more alligators indoors in Louisiana than there were in the wilds of Louisiana before the ranching program started in 1985.” The skin and meat are valuable commodities. National Geographic reports that, internationally, 75% of wild hides and 85% of farmed hides come from Louisiana. According to Elsey: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone. The farmers have a constant source of eggs, and landowners get a substantial economic value for maintaining critical habitat. If you buy an alligator product, you’re supporting the conservation of wetlands and the preservation of critical habitat that benefits not just the alligator, but also furred animals, waterfowl, and other creatures that inhabit the wetlands. It’s an act of conservation.”

“There’s a bumper sticker down here that says, ‘If you want to save an alligator, buy a handbag,’ and that’s completely true. We wish we could get people to understand that.” (Ruth Elsey, wildlife biologist, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana)

 

In an effort to preserve wetlands, Louisiana offers private landowners (who own 75% of alligator habitat) a financial incentive not to convert their land to something else. It is called Alligator Marsh to Market (1972). Before the program, alligator hunting was largely unregulated, and population levels became dangerously low. Hunting was banned, and the American Alligator was designated an endangered species. As numbers increased, alligator farming (1985), in combination with the annual September hunt that harvests some 35,000 gators, became the state-sanctioned remedy (to “provide long term benefits to the survival of the species, maintain its habitats, and provide significant economic benefits to landowners, alligator farmers and alligator hunters”). Economic benefits: approaching $1 billion since inception. The Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council says that over $20 million is generated annually between the hunted alligators and the eggs harvested for farm production. Big business is firmly entrenched.

In farming, eggs are collected (hundreds of thousands per year) and sent to farms to incubate, hatch, and grow. A year or two later, when 3-4 feet, the young reptiles are sold for slaughter (or processed on-site). Some (around 15%) are transplanted back into the wild to maintain sustainable numbers. Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery in Louisiana says, “Today there are more alligators indoors in Louisiana than there were in the wilds of Louisiana before the ranching program started in 1985.”

   

The skin and meat are valuable commodities. National Geographic reports that, internationally, 75% of wild hides and 85% of farmed hides come from Louisiana. According to Elsey: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone. The farmers have a constant source of eggs, and landowners get a substantial economic value for maintaining critical habitat. If you buy an alligator product, you’re supporting the conservation of wetlands and the preservation of critical habitat that benefits not just the alligator, but also furred animals, waterfowl, and other creatures that inhabit the wetlands. It’s an act of conservation.” But how do we get from that to this?

Mark Porter, proud owner of Porter’s Gator Processing and Gator Farm, was featured in a NY Times article on alligator farming. A hunter, Porter decided to capitalize on the rearing and processing segments of the industry and started a new company. He learned as he went: “When he noticed that refrigerated air seemed to kill the animals, he would pile them up in his walk-in refrigerator and skin them when they stopped moving. Only later did he realize that they were not dead, but dormant, and he was skinning them alive. ‘Now we just hit them on the head with a baseball bat,’ he said.” When the writer was introduced to the gator house, Porter remarked, “I’m fixing to hammer these guys right after Christmas.” The uses for alligator skin are limited only by imagination. As for the meat, Asian chefs prize the legs (“like baby dinosaur drumsticks”), and Porter joked, “You put one on a plate and it looks like the biggest frog leg you’ve ever seen.” Even the head (boiled, shellacked, and sold as an ornament) has economic value.

Information on the actual slaughter is scarce (I do not believe alligators are protected under the Humane Slaughter Act), but this description comes from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida: “Slaughter on alligator farms is often inhumane. Alligators are clubbed with hammers or shot with a bangstick, while some farms sever the spinal cord using axes or sharp wedges, leaving the animal alive but paralyzed while he or she is skinned. It is not uncommon for alligators to be skinned while still breathing, their eyes open and fully conscious.”

These quotes (Science Daily, 8/13/01) by crocodilian biologist Timothy Scott best illustrate the subterfuge of alligator management: “In some ways, I think it is unfortunate because they are supposed to be here and we are encroaching on their habitat. By and large, they leave people alone…. They have more fear of us than we do of them.” But then: “Some staunch environmentalists and animal rights activists should be aware that the only way we have been able to protect and save crocodilians around the world is to use them as a renewable natural resource.” By the way, Dr. Scott conducted research on what alligator diet would produce the greatest meat and leather yield for farmers.

It should be clear whose interests are truly being served. Biologists are enlisted to lobby the public with disingenuous babble about bags and belts benefiting alligators (who can live 50+ years if humans would simply let them be where they are). I would sooner have the American Alligator disappear than be subjected to pain, suffering, and premature death; all done, ostensibly, in the name of conservation. Animal advocates are not arguing against the preservation of wetlands and other open spaces, just the means in which to achieve it.