[Ed. Note: Act to Stop the December 28-29 Salmod, Idaho Coyote and Wolf "Derby" and read Let slip the dogs of war: Wolf slaughter is afoot
Fear and hatred of wolves goes back in European history for centuries. Such lupophobia is still evident today in purportedly advanced civilizations like the U.S... Internet pages posted by “Sportsmen Against Wolves” are especially revealing, combining graphic photographs of slaughtered wolves with supportive comments by hunters. They see wolf protectors and wildlife conservationists as representing the kind of society they abhor: One of tree-hugging Bambi-lovers that threaten their way of life and right to shoot wolves.
But this phobia is certainly not shared by indigenous Native American Indians or by a growing majority of non-native American citizens who oppose wolf hunting and trapping. The wolf is a species symbolic of a nation divided by a bipolar society that has yet to find unity of vision and values, ethics and spirit.
Wolf hunting advocates disclose a disturbing degree of ignorance about the balance of nature, wolf-deer and prey-predator relationships. They perpetuate the erroneous belief that exterminating competing hunters such as the wolf is an act of conservation, a “ management tool” helping preserve the balance of nature, as well as a sporting challenge to kill a ‘worthy adversary” as a trophy, testament to one’s own hunting skills. The notion of co-existence,( involving conciliation within and between cultures and with other species), is anathema to this community living in close association with the last of the wild which most American citizens are calling to be better protected.
Wolf hunters, feeling threatened by wolf protectors and conservationists, are now enjoining across wolf-inhabiting states to justify and protect their rights. But if they were to connect their imagined fate with the fate of the wolf and every tree in the forest, hen in the prairie and frog in the swamp, they might realize, as Henry David Thoreau advised over a century ago, that “in wildness is the preservation of the world”. That does not mean the preservation of their way of life but their evolution into an effective, non-governmental community of wildlife monitors and conservators. Many deer hunters, for instance, like traditional Native American Indian hunters, having discovered the wisdom of biophilia, see themselves and wolves and other predators as essential components of healthy ecosystems. With such an ecological perspective they can begin to articulate a hunting ethic, which begins by separating any desire to kill from morally justified need; acknowledgement of the vital importance of wolves, humans and other predators in helping prevent deer overpopulation and loss of biodiversity, and then becoming a ‘boots on the ground’ force joining with other voices for conservation, habitat preservation and restoration in concert with wolves.
This is especially germane considering that across much of the U.S. the white tailed deer population has risen over the past century from some 300,000 to an estimated 25-30 million. Animal rightists must also evolve and not reflexively condemn all deer hunters as Bambi eaters. However, one Minnesota deer hunter and land owner told me that he used every part of the deer he shot and that there are plenty of deer because he and his neighbors plant corn and soy beans just for “their” deer. But not making any connection with his DNR-encouraged deer feeding, went on to say he had “shot two wolves on his property this season (2013) because there are too many wolves”.
So long as lupophobia and the trophy mentality persist, wolves and other essential predators will continue to be killed by some hunters as well as by cattle and sheep ranchers whose subsidized grazing rights on public lands should come with a caveat prohibiting lethal methods of predator control. Without a unified sensibility, like those deer hunters who also abhor the killing of wolves as sporting trophies along with the majority of non-hunters, the disunited states will surely continue to fall short of becoming a truly civilized society.
Within every culture there are sub-cultures and cults defined by demographics, economics, religious beliefs, education and values shared and opposing. Good governance accommodates such diversity to maximize the good of the nation state, including proper management of natural resources and public lands. But the record of the U.S. federal and most state governments is lamentable, pandering to vested minority interests. These include sanctioning and funding ranchers’ war on wolves and other predators and permitting hunters and trappers to kill wolves respectively for sport and fur pelts. This all amounts to a violation of public trust and calls for full accountability and a return to good governance “of the people, by the people, for the people”.
The public conflict over the fate of the Gray wolf has made this species an icon of opposing values and cultural discord. Resolution is called for through conciliation, legal protection of wolves, effective enforcement and inspiration through education, of the sanctity, rights and inherent value of wolves and all indigenous species and communities, human and non-human. The fate of the wolf in North America will be a measure of the success or failure of civil society to put compassion and reason, justice and respect to bear on all our relations and relationships.
Dr. Michael W. Fox is a well-known veterinarian, former vice president of
The Humane Society of the United States, former vice president of Humane
Society International and the author of more than 40 adult and children’s
books on animal care, animal behavior and bioethics. He is also a graduate
veterinarian from the Royal Veterinary College, London, whose research lead
to a PhD (Medicine) and a DSc (ethology/animal behavior) from the University
of London, England:
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