Wolf Killings are Based on the Most Cynical of Premises January 18, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada.
Tags: animal protectiion, brigitte bardot, Canada, conservation, norway, roger hollander, RUSSI, russia, wildlife, wolf extermination, wolf hunt, wolf killing, wolves
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Governments in Russia, Canada and Scandinavia claim they need to protect lesser species and habitats – while continuing their smash and grab raid on natural resources
A wolf hunter in Hasselforsreviret, Sweden. (Photo: Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple of weeks ago, the former actress warned that if two circus elephants thought to be carrying tuberculosis are killed as a result of a ruling by a French court, she will follow Gérard Depardieu by applying for a Russian passport:
“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants … then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery”.
As a general principle, I think anyone who threatens to move to another country if they don’t get their way should be obliged to do so. This, for example, would rid the United Kingdom of some of its greediest and most demanding bankers who, despite their promises, are still here. And Tracey Emin.
But if Bardot does move to Russia, which I reckon is about as likely as Vladimir Putin being elected to the board of Amnesty International, she’ll find that France’s record on the treatment and protection of animals, while often brutal, is almost exemplary by comparison to her adopted country’s. Take for example the decree on Tuesday by the president of the Sakha Republic (also known as Yakutia) in Siberia.
There are 3,500 wolves in Sakha, which sounds like a lot until you discover that the republic is the size of India. President Yegor Borisov wants to reduce the population to 500 through an intensive three-month hunt, supported by a state of emergency, bounties for every wolf shot and a prize of 1m roubles for the hunters who kill the most.
This “emergency” massacre is necessary, he claims, because wolves are killing too many domestic animals. Last year, apparently, they incurred 5m roubles’ (£103,500) worth of losses – considerably less than the likely cost of the wolf hunt. Would it not make more sense to use the money to compensate the farmers? Would it not make more sense to protect the wolves’ natural prey: animals such as hares which are currently being overhunted by people, driving the wolves to look elsewhere for food?
In November, when I wrote about plans to exterminate wolves in Norway, some of those who supported the killings wrote to me to explain that there are plenty of wolves in Russia, so why bother protecting them in Scandinavia? Doubtless the Russian supporters of Borisov’s bloodbath will respond that there are plenty of wolves left in Canada, so why bother protecting them in Russia?
Well they too are likely to be disappointed, as similar massacres are being planned there, on the most cynical of premises.
In Alberta, the province systematically corrupted and brutalised by the oil curse, and whose polluted politics are now corrupting public life throughout Canada, the government plans to carry out a mass killing of wolves by shooting them from helicopters and poisoning them with strychnine.
The reason, ostensibly, is to protect the woodland caribou, a subspecies of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus caribou), whose numbers have been diminishing rapidly. This, according to the Alberta Caribou Committee, is because wolves have been killing them.
So what is this Alberta Caribou Committee? As you might expect, it represents all the usual environmental organisations, such as, er, PetroCanada, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Koch Petroleum, TransCanada Pipelines, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the pulp company Daishowa Marubeni.
Between them they have decided – and apparently convinced both the provincial and federal governments – that the problem afflicting the province’s caribou is not the fragmentation of their habitat by seismic lines, pipelines, roads, oil platforms, timber cutting and the transformation of pristine forest into wasteland by tar sands operations, but the natural predator with which the species has lived for thousands of years.
Never mind that analysis of wolves’ feces show that they eat very few caribou, as they prefer to hunt deer. Never mind that the woodland caribou is highly susceptible to disturbance, and that all the evidence points to the destruction of their habitat as the major factor causing their decline. Something other than the smash and grab exploitation now raging across Saudi Alberta must be to blame. And what better scapegoat could there be than the animal demonised for centuries on both sides of the Atlantic?
Wolf killing is the excuse the federal government needs to remove protection from all but 5% of pristine woodland caribou habitat. As Cliff Wallis of the Alberta Wilderness Association points out “The plan gives the appearance of doing something, but the details read ‘business as usual’ for Alberta oil sands, oil and gas and forestry.” Killing wolves suggests that the caribou are being protected, even while they are being driven to extinction by scarcely regulated industry. Already, hundreds of wolves have been shot and poisoned: now the government intends to intensify this effort.
Something similar is happening in British Columbia. In November a wolf-killing competition, sponsored among others by the Peace River Rod and Gun Club, was announced. It will take place across the winter, and offers cash prizes for the hunters who kill the biggest and smallest wolves. The wolves are driven to exhaustion by snowmobiles, then shot.
Like Alberta’s, the provincial government of British Columbia plans to relax the regulations governing the killing of wolves and to wipe them out in some parts of the province. Again, the excuse is to protect caribou; which again are threatened primarily by human activities.
You cannot rely on other countries to do what you refuse to do at home. There’s only one place in which a government can be sure of protecting wildlife, and that’s the place over which it has jurisdiction.
George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com
Wolves Fall Prey to Canada’s Rapacious Tar Sands Business September 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, animal rights, Canada, caribou, conservation, ecology, environment, keystone xl, oil industry, paul paquet, peter kent, pipeline, roger hollander, tar sands, wolves
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On the pretext of protecting caribou, wolves are threatened with a cull. But the real ‘conservation’ is of oil industry profits
Wolves are routinely, baselessly and contemptuously blamed for the demise of everything from marmots to mountain caribou in western Canada. Given that attitude, we at Raincoast Conservation Foundation are appalled, though not surprised, by Canada’s proposed strategy to “recover” dwindling populations of boreal forest caribou in northern Alberta’s tar sands territory. Essentially, the plan favours the destruction of wolves over any consequential protection, enhancement or expansion of caribou habitat.
Clearly, the caribou recovery strategy is not based on ecological principles or available science. Rather, it represents an ideology on the part of advocates for industrial exploitation of our environment, which subsumes all other principles to economic growth, always at the expense of ecological integrity. Owing to the breadth of the human niche, which continues to expand via technological progress, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of nonhuman species in the aggregate. The real cost of Alberta’s tar sands development, which includes the potential transport of oil by Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines is being borne by wolves, caribou and other wild species.
Consistent with Canada’s now well-deserved reputation as an environmental laggard, the caribou recovery strategy evolved over several years and many politicised iterations, carefully massaged by government pen pushers and elected officials who did their very best to ignore and obscure the advice of consulting biologists and ecologists. So, the government should quit implying that the consultation approach provides a scientifically credible basis for decisions. Apparently, scientists can lead federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to information, but they cannot make him think.
Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada’s industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.
The relentless destruction of boreal forest wilderness via tar sands development has conspired to deprive caribou of their life requisites while exposing them to levels of predation they did not evolve with and are incapable of adapting to. Consequently, caribou are on a long-term slide to extinction; not because of what wolves and other predators are doing but because of what humans have already done.
Controlling wolves by killing them or by the use of non-lethal sterilisation techniques is biologically unsound as a long-term method for reducing wolf populations and protecting hoofed animals (ungulates) from predation. Lethal control has a well documented failed record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Killing wolves indiscriminately at levels sufficient to suppress populations disrupts pack social structure and upsets the stability of established territories, allowing more wolves to breed while promoting the immigration of wolves from nearby populations.
At the broadest level, the caribou strategy favours human selfishness at the expense of other species. Implicit is the idea that commercial enterprise is being purchased by the subversion of the natural world, with one set of ethical principles being applied to humans and another to the rest of nature. The strategy panders to the ecologically destructive wants of society by sacrificing the most basic needs of caribou. In doing so, it blatantly contradicts the lesson Aldo Leopold taught us so well: the basis of sound conservation is not merely pragmatic it; is also ethical.
Simply, the caribou strategy is not commensurate with the threats to the species’ survival. What is desperately needed is a caribou strategy designed to solve the problem faster than it is being created. Protecting limited habitat for caribou while killing thousands of wolves as the exploitation of the tar sands continues to expand will not accomplish this goal. Against scientific counsel otherwise, though, politicians have decided that industrial activities have primacy over the conservation needs of endangered caribou (and frankly, all things living).
Tar sands cheerleaders try hard to convince Canadians that we can become an “energy superpower” while maintaining our country’s environment. They are, of course, wrong. Thousands of wolves will be just some of the causalities along the way. Minister Kent and his successors will find more opportunity to feign empathy as Canadians also bid farewell to populations of birds, amphibians and other mammals, including caribou, that will be lost as collateral damage from tar sands development. How much of our country’s irreplaceable natural legacy will Canadians allow to be sacrificed at the altar of oil industry greed?
Paul Paquet is senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. An international consultant and lecturer, with numerous university affiliations, he is an internationally recognised authority on mammalian carnivores, especially wolves.