Save the Animals—For Their Sake, Not Mine

Anthropocentricism is so deeply imbedded into the human psyche that these days it’s even hard to find a wildlife-related action alert which doesn’t focus on how some group of people might benefit from the continued existence of a given species. The well-being of the individual animal—let alone its species—so often takes a back seat to the ways humans benefit or profit from them.
Take wolves, for example. When Montana’s wildlife lawmakers were considering closing a few small areas around Yellowstone to wolf hunting and trapping, the primary reasons given by most wolf proponents for wanting the exclusion zones had to do with the value wolves have as tourist attractions and as part of a scientific study. To the majority of those who testified, the facts that the wolves themselves are sentient beings and/or are essential elements in nature’s design—who don’t deserve to be shot on sight as vermin—seemed secondary to the ways in which watchers and biologists were affected by the wrongful deaths of Yellowstone wolves.

Similarly, a petition to force Facebook to remove the page, Wolf Butchering, Cooking, and Recipes reads, “To protect the Wolves, and the Sensitivities of Native Americans. It is offensive, and a discrimination against the Religious Beliefs of Native Americans.” Of course I signed the petition, but I did so for the sake of the wolves, not because of anyone’s purported religious beliefs. I’m against cannibalism as well—for the sake of the victims of such barbarity, not because the culinary choice is considered a cultural taboo. At the same time, I don’t want migratory waterfowl habitat set aside just so I can go bird watching, or to save the whales so I can go whale watching. It’s about them, not about our perception or enjoyment of them.

As we’ve all heard, ad nauseam, “sportsmen” help wildlife by hunting—or so they would have us believe. As James McWilliams blogged in a timely post entitled Hunting, Land Conservation, and Blood Lust, “This land preservation defense of hunting is a common one. Get enough people who like to blow away animals on board and you can prevent undeveloped land from becoming a Walmart,” dispelling this myth with, “The vast majority of conservation-driven hunting policies are designed not to improve the quality of a particular ecosystem but to improve the quality of the hunt.”

Westerners didn’t know okapis or orangutans even existed until around a century ago. Were the lives of such unutilized and therefore unappreciated animals meaningless up until the day they were “discovered”? You or I may never get the chance to see a black rhino or a snow leopard, but that certainly doesn’t diminish their intrinsic value.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

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17 thoughts on “Save the Animals—For Their Sake, Not Mine

  1. Bravo! You’ve captured the essence of what distinguishes a true, altruistic friend of animals from the innumerable phonies out there peddling “sustainability” but who only wish to “save” wild animals so that they will be available for further human exploitation.

  2. Pingback: Save the Animals—For Their Sake, Not Mine « danielleriggens

  3. I agree. To me, nameless wolves are just as important as famous ones. The fact that a particular animal isn’t of some “worth” to a human does not mean it will suffer any less when killed. Thanks for writing about this subject, Jim .

  4. Well said! i was just ruminating on this issue and relatyed ones, as I watched an old episode of The West Wing– in which GOP candidate Arnold Vinnick gets a round of applause for supporting the drilling of oil wells in Alaska because nobody goes to see the glorious sights that will be destroyed. As if the ecosystem there exists solely for the purpose of human tourism needs.

    The assertion goes utterly unchallenged in the the show. Which is a damn shame.

  5. That is what turned me off from organizations that wanted only to use wolves, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes for their instrumental value (IE Eco-tourism) as a reason to save them rather than intrinsic value by them just being what they are. We need to stop trying to save a protect our selfish investments by using innocent creatures as a front.

  6. Thank you for making such a wonderful point. I am sick of hunters acting as though their murderous ways are helping to maintain some delicate balance in our ecosystem. Humans tend to rationalize away whatever wrongdoing they are committing or have committed….. and the worst are apparently too afraid to admit to themselves that killing is just that…… killing, under whatever guise they try to cloak it. Thank you again for writing something that I have been feeling, but haven’t put together as eloquently as you!

  7. Totally agree with you ..if human beings could make that shift away from only thinking in terms of our own benefit we might make some progress. But I do think in the short term, the economic/tourism argument has some power.

    With ref to the hunting = conservation argument..we heard that over and over again in the UK before we outlawed fox hunting. Never could get my head around that one, our local hunt frequently followed up with, ‘we never catch anything anyway, so don’t worry about it’ …which made the argument even more bizarre!

      • Oh they caught things here too…still do, though not with hounds and people following on horseback…. it’s been illegal to do that since 2005, and a hunt was recently prosecuted for encouraging and allowing hounds to kill a fox. We watch anxiously, as the government we have at the moment is making pro-hunting noises, and have the support of a very vocal minority of moneyed, landowning people.

  8. Hey Jim, it’s nearly DE- Day, as in de listing for wolves in the lower 48( except Red Wolves and probably Mexican Gray wolves) for which there are 8 and 2 breeding pairs left in the wild, I believe, at this date?
    So I am begging everyone to call or e-mail, sign the petitions, stop the de-listing! Wolves need safe places to go there will be no wolves.
    I know you don’t care what Indians think about wolves or what wolves think about Indians or that whole argument, I wouldn’t expect it would be a big issue for you but it is unwise to distance a huge bunch of wolf supporters. Wolves need saving, none of us argue that point. We must not argue among groups with harmless, like goals. There are too many ignorant fools and wolf-haters and trophy hunters drooling for wolf blood now!
    I can only speak from my own experience with most of my life spent doing a wide variety of charity work, some with the local Native community, with Wolves, and protecting the Water, Earth and Creatures. In the circles of friends I know and hold dear, many have four legs. Many others are Abenaki. We speak of wolves as Wolf People and Brother and Sister Wolf, Grandmother and Grandfather Wolf. There will be fools no matter where life takes you and some humans will do anything for a buck but during my time with Mali and Sharon at The Drum, Inc. nobody disrespected wolves, harmed wolves and I dare say, probably would have been tied to a tree to think about it if they did? It was at sweatlodge then that I had an ancient stone reveal she was a wolf spirit. You may never again know someone who talked in a vision type trance with a wolf spirit inside a stone. I didn’t know what it was or very much about wolves at the time. The medicine man fell over when I asked him about it. Mali’s white wolf was there so maybe the wolf spirit felt safe? Mali was a vegan, too, so was Mano. Nobody hunted either. Bottom line, if I haden’t been beating myself up working for three charities, I never would have met an ancient wolf spirit or had any idea to rescue wolves or wolfdogs for the past 20 plus years. Also, in dealings with gov’t boards and agencies it can be beneficial to one’s cause to show them that they messed up in the area of civil rights laws if the ESA can’t be used or is being abused. Read as if they are not going to respect animal laws then use people laws to protect animals and people. Personhood may be a new concept to grant to animals from the perspective of the non Native American culture. It’s a lifeway choice thousands of years old for us. And not just wolves, all creatures, even ants are the Ant People.

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