When we begin to see nature as mentor, gratitude tempers greed and the notion of ‘resources’ becomes obscene.” – Wes Jackson
One of the key concerns that I have in my work regarding connections in Nature is the failure of many conservationists, conservation organizations, and government “resource managers” to understand that mankind cannot control or manipulate Nature. Without burdening you with a lot of technical jargon, systems scientists have known for years that systems such as ecosystems are not predictable by mankind. For example, we all know that a storm system may be predictable for a short time period. But to predict the weather accurately for more than a few days is not possible. We know that controlling the weather is a futile task. The very same issues apply to Nature’s ecosystems because ecosystems and weather systems operate in the same manner. It is unfortunate that the field of systems science uses their own jargon to communicate in a way that is not understood by most people in the field of biology and ecology. As a result, the explanations for poor predictability of system behavior remain elusive to field ecologists who are making important conservation decisions.
This lack of understanding about ecosystem predictability is reflected in the use of the words “harvesting” or “management” by many conservation people. To the conservation “manager”, “harvesting” or “wildlife management” means to kill an animal so as to control a population or an ecosystem. “Management” or “harvesting” are politically correct words that allow the speaker to avoid using the word “kill” when he or she is talking about culling a group of animals or birds. Sadly, the use of these terms also cover up and justify the widespread practice of trophy killing by hunters. There is absolutely no scientific basis behind the hunting community’s claim that they are conserving Nature by killing animals.
The use of the words “harvesting” or “culling” are indicators that the conservationist or hunter truly believes that he or she can somehow control Nature. For the hunter, these words also justify a personal need to kill an animal. Sadly, these people have no clue regarding the consequences of their actions because they are incapable of making predictions. These folks are ignorant in the sense that they do not have the background or training to order the death of other creatures.
The long term consequences of these “harvesting” activities is the destruction of certain important connections in Nature. These broken connections include the disruption or destruction of “ecological services” provided by key predators such as wolves, bears, and cougars. This point was made clear when the wolves at Yellowstone National Park were eradicated under a government sanctioned program. The last wolves were killed in Yellowstone in 1926. But, starting in 1995, the wolves were restored in Yellowstone. There is a great video, Lords of Nature , which tells this story and makes a strong case against the “harvesting” of animals in Nature.
Much of my research for this blog site comes from web sites that I regularly visit. Over time, I have found these selected sites to offer information that is based upon solid science and good sense. One such blog site is called “Coyotes,Wolves,Cougars..forever!” . Blogmaster Rick Meril focuses his site on issues regarding top predators. Recently, Rick published a letter from one of his readers regarding the subject of “harvesting”. Rick has given me permission to publish that letter from a John W. Laundré. Rick offers some of his own comments as a preface to Mr. Laundré’s letter:
John Laundre is back with us today with a “straight shooter” outlook on what he rightly acknowledges as the cowardly and politically correct usage of the word “HARVEST” as it is used by State Game Commissions and Hunting/Fishing Groups to describe the kill quota or the number of kills achieved for the particular animal under discussion. John is a long time Puma and carnivore biologist who co-authored one of our most meaningful “Predator and Prey” paradigms of our modern era—-THE LANDSCAPE OF FEAR (google to read more). Read his entire thesis and “spot-on” analysis of hunter hypocrisy below.
Wildlife “harvesting” by John W. Laundré
Today we are inundated with what many people consider to be politically correct terms. These are words that are substituted for the real word we want to use but feel that others might find objectionable. Euphuisms that tend to conceal what we really are saying in a cloak of benignity.
One of the most commonly used and presumably accepted politically correct terms regarding hunting and for that matter fishing of animals is “harvesting”. Today we don’t hunt, trap, or fish, we…harvest! What does that mean? When I was young and went hunting, trapping and fishing, I took along something, gun, traps, rod and reel, that would hopefully kill an animal. I did not bring along a spade or a rake. My aim was to kill it, take its life away, not pull it out of the ground. To read the hunting and fishing literature today is like reading a garden magazine. So many of such and such animal were harvested this year, the crop looks good for the harvest season. Our harvest goals are….
What happened? How did we go from acknowledging that we actually went out to purposely kill an animal, supposedly to eat, to treating the whole operation as if it were a stroll through the garden looking for the ripest melon or tomato? Are modern hunters ashamed of what they do? Are they trying to hide the fact of what they do, shoot, trap, hook…kill animals? If so, why? If as they say and I still somewhat believe, hunting, humans acting as predators, is a respectable activity. We as with other predators evolved to feed upon other animals. Though the fact of modern day living reduces, even eliminates our need to kill wild animals for food, doing so occasionally does not violate any laws of nature. There are no retirement homes in nature and either an animal falls to a predator, possibly human, dies of hunger, or disease. No wild animal dies of old age.
Note, I am not delving into the whole issue of whether or not we as modern humans need to kill, that is another subject entirely. What I am arguing here is that if the “side” that advocates we have the “right” to hunt to kill animals, admits it! Why are they so ashamed of what they do that they hide behind, tolerate the use of such a demeaning term…harvesting. Animals are not melons, they are not corn, they are animals and if we want to use them, we need to kill them! And we need to admit that is what we are doing!
It seems the epitome of hypocrisy for a hunter to brandish his gun, strut around bragging about the xxx animal he is going to or has…harvested! Why do they do that? Are they trying to make killing of animals sound less horrendous to those who don’t hunt? For whatever reason, they have opted for the politically correct term that makes what they do sound no more malevolent than the ladies garden club where they “harvest” flowers, fruits, and vegetable. Oh nooo, we are not killing, we are harvesting, those deer, that makes it alright.
This hypocrisy has to stop. If hunters, trappers, fishermen, cannot openly admit that what they do is kill animals and continue to hide behind the skirts of gardeners, then they have no “right” to hunt. Come on you big bwana hunters, admit it and let the chips fall where they may. Be proud of what you do or put your guns, traps, fishing poles away and go harvest some real fruits and vegetables! Anyone who harvests wildlife does not deserve to be out in the wild.
It is my hope that one of the words retired this new year is the ridiculous use of “harvest” to sanctify, justify, nullify hunting for what it is…killing animals. Once we do that, then we can all honestly discuss not the right but the need to do so.
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.