Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pam v. J-Lo

I have mixed feelings about people wearing animal fur. I have a beautiful red fox (Vulpes vulpes) skin displayed in my apartment. The skin belonged to a fox culled at Heron Hill during a time when the predator population had exploded, resulting in a decline in duck, quail, and rabbit populations. A number of foxes were trapped and a balance was again achieved.

Yet, despite my acceptance of predator control as a pragmatic conservation technique, I am generally turned off by trapping. I am not anti-trapping per se, and I appreciate the fact that its practitioners learn a great deal about the natural world, but a bullet represents a more humane death. I also find it troubling that urbanites, most of whom have only a vague, Disney-fied appreciation of wildlife, account for the majority of fur buyers. Excepting the far north, where the climate demands extra layers, it is not the trappers who don dead animals. Like diamonds, fur is but one more luxury in a world already too freighted with frivolous commodities that have hidden moral and environmental costs. (Though, lest we forget, cotton, the principal material in clothing worldwide, is far more destructive to animal species than the fur trade. If animal rights groups really want to help the rest of creation, they should consider targeting the cotton industry to demand more sustainable practices.)

But, while I find myself in the grey zone on the fur issue, Pamela Anderson does not. Everyone’s favorite "Baywatch" babe and rock-star sex toy is currently campaigning against Jennifer Lopez and other celebrities who wear fur. Anderson called Lopez an “idiot” in the press and asked People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to “step up” its anti-fur campaigning by targeting J-Lo in particular. I hope Lopez likes paint.

Lopez has repeatedly demonstrated that she has no understanding of the natural world and little to no respect for animals, but Anderson knows only what "Bambi" and "The Bear" have taught her. A precious, willfully ignorant understanding of Nature is only marginally preferable to having none at all. Most troubling, though, is the sense that neither celebrity could be educated about wildlife because its reality is deemed boring by people like J-Lo or cruel by precious types like Anderson.

Photo credit:


OGeorge said...

While I have absolutely no use for trappers myself, traps are indeed more humane than the rabies, mange, or starvation that would bring down the fox population naturally. I know you know that the "balance" you talk about is really a state of constant fluctuation. Interesting that we think we have to put our foot on the population control side of the scales so often. What a shame we don't look in the mirror.

"Most troubling, though, is the sense that neither individual (AND MOST OTHER PEOPLE it would seem) could be educated about Nature because the reality is deemed either boring by people like J-Lo or horrible by precious types like Anderson." I agree, but will add that while nature is merely indifferent, it certainly appears horrible from a modern "humane" viewpoint. If you treated your dog like nature treats a fox, you'd be brought up on criminal charges. There's a very long discussion there.

On a brighter (maybe) note HH, they've just announced the confirmed sighting of a male Ivory-billed Woodpecker in southeastern Arkansas. Hopefully he's got a girlfriend and some cousins out there, or we'll heve to go back to the presumed extinct label soon.

Hungry Hyaena said...

Your points about "balance" are important. I contemplated heading down that road in this post, but I thought better of it. As you know, I can ramble. In short, though, humans desperately need to take a good, long stare into the mirror. Predator control is incomplete without controls placed on the ultimate predator.

I also agree with your thoughts on the horrors of Nature. There is indeed a "very long discussion there." Trouble is, as you point out above, we are also Nature. Our "humane" perspectives are an outgrowth of our evolution, both social and biological, and any in-depth examination of human motivation leads us quickly back to similar horrors. Hell, you need not even examine motivation. Any newspaper will remind us that contemporary Homo sapiens are prone to the same barbaric acts and attitudes they were 50,000 years ago...even 250,000 years ago, for that matter. Everything is relatively relative, I suppose. ;)

Regarding the Ivory-billed woodpecker, see my post above. Go woodpeckers!

Mikhail Capone said...

Oh man, I'm so tired of the crappy 'they'd starve otherwise, so we're doing them a favour by killing them' argument. What a bunch of bullshit that only hunters can use to feel good about killing life.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Popular opinion aside, the "crappy" argument is backed up by sound science. Like many issues in wildlife biology, though, the matter is a complex one. Starvation is really the least of our worries. Inhumane and awful though death by starvation may be, increasing disease, habitat destruction and a resulting crash in biodiversity are more likely threats. Keep in mind that these over-population worries only apply to certain species, notably the large, libidinous ungulates and many predators. The best example I can think of, not surprisingly, is Homo sapiens.

I am in 100% agreement with you regarding the excuses people use "to feel good about killing life." As you have probably gathered from previous posts, I am a hunter myself, albeit one with infrequent opportunities. Killing is not a particularly enjoyable act, though I do feel it a powerful one. Hunting led me to vegetarianism (unless I catch, in the case of fish, or kill it myself) because a large part of the existential connection is fractured when one consumes industry meats. (Of course, general environmental principles also encouraged me to make the dietary transition.)

The truth of the matter is we're not "doing them a favor by killing them," we're doing ourselves a favor. It's sound conservation, and we are attempting to maintain a "balance," one allowing for the greatest biodiversity possible, which will help all species in the long run.

Later today, I plan to post about elephant populations in southern Africa, with links to an article discussing exactly such concerns.