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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Another Elephant Rant

I know, but it's my blog.  Don't agree with me?  Feel free to edify me in the comments section with reasoned, factual arguments.  Ad hominem attacks will receive no response.

I came across this quote the other day:

Already I was beginning to fall into the African way of thinking: That if
you properly respect what you are after, and shoot it cleanly and on
the animal's terrain, if you imprison in your mind all the wonder of the
day from sky to smell to breeze to flowers—then you have not merely
killed an animal. You have lent immortality to a beast you have killed
because you loved him and wanted him forever so that you could always
recapture the day - Robert Ruark

That last line sounds more than a little bit psychopathic to me.

Killed him because you loved him?

You're not going to "remember him forever" because you're not immortal.  A mortal being can no more grant another being immortality than blood can be had from a stone.  It also seems counter-intuitive that ending a being's existence is the method of granting immortality since immortality, by definition, means to never die.

It's been repeated, ad nauseam, that the "economic value" placed on these creatures is a good thing since that is what will "save" them.  Is not their economic value precisely the reason that poachers kill them?  Based upon most of the corpses left behind by poachers, they're not killing them for meat.  They are killing them for the "economically valuable" ivory.  The very fact that ivory has any economic value in this day and age doesn't speak very highly of the maturity of our species.

Poaching seems to be a hazardous occupation (sadly, not nearly hazardous enough) so one can assume that these people are doing it for monetary gain, not for fun.  It's the trophy hunters that kill them for fun, for the adrenaline rush, to pretend that they're living in a time that's past, whatever the reason.  The days of Ruark and Taylor are long past.  In their day, there were many more elephants than there are now, not that that makes their "adventurous exploits" any less vile.  Elephants are an extremely endangered species with less than three quarters of a million African elephants and forty thousand Asian elephants in the wild.

This begs the question, is it better to kill an intelligent, endangered creature to get money or, pay money to kill that same creature for a fleeting thrill?  Either way the elephant loses.

I understand that there are other factors besides poaching (illegal killing) and trophy hunting (legal killing) contributing to the seemingly inevitable extinction of the elephant, like habitat loss, human encroachment, "revenge" killing, etc.  I fail to understand how "legally" killing these animals is seen as "helping" them.  The elephant population is a zero-sum game, there are a finite number of them.  They are being killed faster than they reproduce, killing ANY of them, legally or not, is still shrinking their numbers, it doesn't take spherical trigonometry to figure this out.  Why not take the fraction of a percent of the money from a hunting permit that actually makes it to the "conservation efforts" and give it to an actual conservation organization and maybe, this is going to sound nuts, not kill the elephant?  With that, you've actually made some difference and spared a creature that you claim to love and respect.


  1. Thank you for this post, Dewey. I'm guessing that not a lot of followers on any gun site, including this one, will agree with you, but I think that you're spot on.

  2. Thanks for your post Dewey. Problem is that doesn't matter which "conservation" organization you give the $$ to, if they claim to be opposed to hunting 1 animal they are, fo the most part, opposed to hunting all animals. Poaching is already illegal as is the sale/purchase of "new" ivory and ivory products. The permit fees, trophy fees, etc actually do go to help combat poaching. Without those fees there would be no funds available to go after the poachers. Plus, the meat and animal products are turned over to local tribes and are certainly thankful to receive them. I have never hunted outside of the USA, but I do know quite a few sportsmen and women who have hunted dangerous game in Africa. Each species is challenging in their own way. Would I hunt an elephant? If I could afford it I might, but I have absolutely no desire to travel overseas for anything. Cape Buffalo, however, would definitely get my juices flowing!!

    I enjoy reading your "Rants", you are on the $$ with much of what you say. Keep it up.

    1. The question is whether it is wrong to kill a sentient being. Elephants are no doubt sentient, it has been proven. Cetaceans are not killed for sport in civilized societies, neither are any of the great apes. What makes killing an elephant different?

      Your statement that without hunting and trophy fees there would be no money for anti-poaching efforts is wrong on its face. Have you ever looked into how much of that money actually makes it to anti-poaching programs? It is barely worth mentioning. The majority of their funding comes from conservation groups that most people never heard of, and at least two of them could care less if you want to shoot a whitetail for the freezer.

      Regarding those that benefit from someone else temporarily providing their food, I don't care about them. No one cares whether you or I are fed. The axiom, "can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em" comes to mind. Besides, the human species, by numbers, is not endangered. It's also a cheap, lazy justification for the killing of an intelligent animal, for no reason other than bragging rights and the thrill of it.

      The problem with humans in general is that we think that we're the only self-aware and intelligent species on the planet and anything that's not us should be fair game.

    2. My dictionary says "sentient" means "able to perceive or feel things".
      If that is the word we're using, what game animal is not sentient?
      Are elephants more intelligent than a red grouse? Certainly, but isn't the line one draws fairly and necessarily arbitrary?
      I personally have no desire to shoot an elephant, but I wouldn't mind shooting a sable or a kudu. I'm not sure I can see the arbitrary line very clearly between them.
      You're certainly on fairly solid ground when you argue that their reproduction rate may not justify the rate they are being hunted. That's fairly basic math.
      But you're also making a moral argument that involves something rather different than spherical trig that I'm not too sure I understand. Canada Geese linger and apparently mourn their dead, lifelong mate which indicates a pretty advanced level of sentience. Shouldn't the same moral argument include them?
      I personally have no great desire to ever shoot a big cat or bear either but if their populations can sustain it I don't begrudge someone else that sport. And I suspect I wouldn't begrudge them that even if someone were to prove a mountain lion is as smart as an elephant.

    3. Perhaps I should have used the words "self-aware" in addition to "sentient". I would agree that all game animals are sentient and yes, I certainly do believe that an elephant is more intelligent than a red grouse, since it's proven that elephants are self-aware. It may be arbitrary but the line that I've drawn is specifically at trophy hunting, that idea that the animal's head would look better on the wall than on his body, to kill something for no more than a fleeting thrill which, if done as a child, is a sign of mental disorder and treated as such but glossed over and glorified when done as an adult. Killing anything simply for the joy of killing is abnormal, killing something for food is completely normal.
      The only animal other than humans that kill for reasons other than sustenance are chimpanzees. This is not surprising since their DNA is almost identical to ours due to the fact that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor.
      You're right in that I'm making a moral argument. I make no apology for that and yes, it probably should should include all game animals since, in much of the modern world, sustenance hunting isn't necessary, but hunting is encouraged in order to "maintain a healthy population" or some such. It's ironic in the extreme that the species which proliferates unhindered and alters its (and everything else's) environment (often detrimentally) the most, has the hubris to "determine" what population levels are "correct" for other species. Nature used to do this, and quite well. By now, you're probably pegging me as an environmentalist (probably whacko) but "the environment" is where we all live, to not care about it, and everything in it, is to be irredeemably ignorant. Pick an animal, any animal, and imagine it was never here, now imagine it was discovered on another planet, that would be the most significant event in history but since they're already here, no big deal.

  3. Thank you, Mr Vicknair.

    I am responding to your post in full agreement, because it would mean a loss of income for me to agree publicly. I am an old man who saw a lot of magnificent wildlife that is now sadly depleted, and cannot accept any argument that tries to whitewash the further reduction of the number of our animal heritage. It takes courage to openly talk the way you have done, sir. Kudos to you. And the very best wishes to you in your constant quest to go beyond perfection in crafting your masterpieces!

  4. 100% agree, there are just some animals that I won't kill but unfortunately-- to mudpuppy's point-- I can't clearly articulate why. I will not kill top predators, cetaceans, elephants, and equines-- to name a few. However,
    habitat loss is the main reason for their decline and hunters should be invested in habitat restoration.