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Mountain Lions Have Rights Too!

Posted on 4th December 2016

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This BBC report, about the issuing of "depredation order" allowing a mountain lion to be hunted, illustrates some of the typical poor logic and bad assumptions about wildlife and how wild animals are (mis-)treated.

Most people work on the assumption that wildlife is great (and should be protected) as long as it doesn't harm livestock, pets, business or people. This position is inherently flawed.

If you encroach on the territory, or steal the food supply, of wild animals, then there will inevitably come a point where the needs and desires of humans are in conflict with those of the wildlife:

  • If you keep alpacas on mountain slopes where mountain lions live, as has happened in this case, expect to lose some to predation;
  • If you build a dam, creating a lake or pond, which you stock with trout so that people will pay to fish there, in an area where there are populations of fish-eating birds or otters, don't complain if you end up feeding the wildlife with your expensive trout;
  • If you pay good money to go salmon fishing in Canada, do not expect that you have priority over the grisly bears who may also be fishing for salmon.

There are many cases where conservation measures have consequences on human life and commerce. Farmers in Scotland are still complaining that golden eagles are killing too many lambs in the spring. Wolves are making a comeback in Germany, and there are inevitable consequences on livestock, and eventually on human life. Gamekeepers in Scotland are regularly in trouble for their attempts to control wildlife populations, to limit predation on grouse raised for the hunt.

If we do conservation only as long as it doesn't inconvenience us, then we may as well not bother. Most wildlife will disappear, and humans will suffer as a result.

The wild animals (mountain lions, tigers, otters, large birds of prey, herons, sharks, etc.) were in the territories where humans consider them to be problems, long before humanity spread and bred to cover the planet from coast to coast. Why should the wildlife keep being pushed back to smaller and more marginal habitats? Humans also need to compromise. The only way that humanity will be prepared to compromise is if we formalise the inalienable rights of animals, sea-life, and even plants, so that they can have legal protection.