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The Ethics of Culling Elephants - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

The Ethics of Culling Elephants. Should elephants be culled?. Three stories… Ian Whyte Sipho Morake Jason Smith Culling elephants is… an international issue at odds with conservation? . Recent history of elephants in Africa demand for ivory

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The Ethics of Culling Elephants

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The Ethics of Culling Elephants

Should elephants be culled?

  • Three stories…

    • Ian Whyte

    • Sipho Morake

    • Jason Smith

  • Culling elephants is…

    • an international issue

    • at odds with conservation?

Recent history of elephants in Africa

  • demand for ivory

    • reduced numbers from 1.3 million to 609,000

      • in Africa 1979 – 1989

    • CITES ban on trade in elephant products 1989

      • did achieve reduction in poaching

      • poaching in KNP? 285

Kruger’s dilemma: A case study

  • how many were there long ago in the area?

    • historical evidence  not many

  • 1967  aerial count: 6,586

    • decide – 7,000 as limit [“carrying capacity”]

    • annual aerial census [helicopter]

    • decide then on removal quota

      • capture, translocation, culling

Kruger now?

  • current practice

    • moratorium: stopped culling in 1994

      • challenged by animal rights group

    • numbers?

      • not 7,000

      • but 9,150 [1999]

      • 11,671 [2003]

      • impact on biodiversity?

      • “park destroyed in 10 years’ time”?

Should elephants be culled?

  • Part 1 – Should we manage elephant populations?

  • “Hands off elephants?”

    • The nature of the issue

      1. A complex set of intersecting issues

      2. Even no decision is a major decision, because of the consequences.

      3. Science has information, not answers. Emotions have attitudes, not solutions.

Conclusion 1:

  • It is our choice, based on our ethics, what we want from conservation areas

  • This eventually ends up as guidelines for management practices.

  • There is no scientific information & data that forces us to make a definite choice one way or the other.

  • Emotions must be critically interrogated to become meaningful guides to action in conjunction with reason and ethics.

Against culling [1]: "Leave nature alone: Don't interfere."

  • allow nature to run its course; establish own balance

  • firm scientific evidence from many disciplines

  • let nature be; elephant problem will sort itself out

  • problems:

    • damage may take centuries to recover, if ever

    • risk irreplaceable areas of pristine natural beauty?

    • story: Daphne Sheldrick in Tsavo 1970–1971

Environmental laissez faire

  • dying of starvation over a period of weeks  shot by a rifle from a helicopter within two minutes?

  • drought & human inaction and omission

  • mistaken assumption; “nature…”

    • ecological processes operate at large scales

  • pristine wilderness areas have shrunk dramatically.

Conservation areas

  • sanctuaries for wildlife

  • small islands of wilderness

    • amidst the African lake of human settlements

  • established to protect wildlife from extinction

    • human population growth

    • exploitation and destruction through hunting

Conservation areas

  • artificial constructions & sites of human interference

    • examples

      • “fences”

      • rivers

      • artificial water-holes

      • cattle

      • exotic plant material

  • goal of the conservation of wilderness areas

    • protect natural world diversity

  • why not use the concept biodiversity?

    • because I want to deliberately include…

      • all forms of life…

      • …as well as landscapes

      • places of geological interest

      • ecological processes & ecosystems

      • water systems

      • genetic diversity, and so on

  • We must interfere to correct unacceptable human influences that disturb nature’s balance

    otherwise we will merely condone human intervention and interference that occur anyway.

    Conclusion 2:

  • Humans have already massively interfered with nature and must take responsibility for this interference

  • therefore we ought to interfere responsibly to conserve pristine wilderness areas in as natural a state as possible for future generations.

Against culling [2]: “Animals have rights and thus no elephant may be shot”

  • harshest critics of culling = animal rights activists

  • do animals really have rights?

  • do all sentient beings have interests we must protect?

  • “let them be!”

  • keep “human predators out of their affairs”

    • animals cannot administer their own rights

    • cull elephants to protect the rights of millions of other living beings?

    • story: Knobnose & Doughnut

Conclusion 3:

  • Elephants are very special animals [mammals] that deserve treatment with respect.

  • But, they are not rights bearers at the same level as human beings

  • They are not necessarily deserving of much more respect than dogs or lions.

Against culling [3]: “Ban human utilization of conservation areas”

  • link to culling? abattoirs

  • conservation areas used by human beings?

  • political preconditions for their existence

  • goal = conservation of natural world diversity

  • NB

    • conservation areas can have multiple uses

    • can induce complex, diverse human experiences

Four uses of conservation areas

1. deep appreciation - in awe of its wonders

  • a humbling experience

    2. interests of the current generation

  • must have access & an opportunity to visit

    Conclusion 4: We cannot ignore the interests of tourists… manage with the utmost care to portray natural world diversity at its best.

Four uses of conservation areas

3. future generations

  • must have similar opportunities to ours

  • pristine, wilderness areas: once lost, gone forever

    4. pragmatic uses

  • the benefits we don’t yet know

  • the benefits we do know

    • story: Joshua

Must we reject sustainable use of wildlife?

  • reasonable moral pluralism

  • cultural-ethical imperialism?

  • Can rich, privileged First World environmental activists impose their cultural and personal ethical views about deeply controversial moral issues of hunting and eating meat…

  • …on poor African rural peasants with centuries of traditions of sustainable use of African wildlife having minimal impact on the environment?

Conclusion 5

  • We cannot ignore …people living next to wildlife sanctuaries; ….the history of their neglect…, or their exploitation through the expropriation of their land for conservation purposes

  • The legitimacy of conservation… can be established partly through benefiting the people most closely affected by conservation in their daily lives, those who often bear the cost of conservation…

Interlude – A case for intervention

  • to protect natural ecological processes

    • reverse or neutralize human interference

  • treat animals with respect to preserve their lives

    • intervene when absolutely necessary in conflicts to promote the diversities of the natural world

  • humans have multiple uses for conservation areas.

    • respect such uses if they do not spoil or harm the preservation of natural world diversities

Part 2 – Is culling elephants ethical?

  • current management options

    • simulation of nature, translocation, contraception, and culling

  • ethically acceptable?

  • all four are ethically flawed

  • an issue in the “real world”

  • strive to realize the best of several bad options

  • best option by far - not to interfere with elephants

Simulate nature: uncertain experiments

  • eliminate all human interventions

    • e.g. waterholes

    • will keep numbers at acceptable levels

      • experimental ideas not yet proven workable

  • kill young calves between 4 and 9 years old

    • they would die in droughts anyway

      • cruel to mothers and herds?

Translocation: ambiguous export

  • story: Douw Grobler

  • a high risk operation

  • limited trauma of translocation…

    • ethically better than culling

  • translocation almost excluded as option…

    • vacancies in elephant habitat are scarce

    • merely temporarily exporting the elephant problem to other conservation areas

Conclusion 6 - Translocation

  • Although expensive, one of the ethically most acceptable ways of dealing with overpopulation

  • the procedure is risky, the animals are traumatized, and they are severely disoriented

  • At least they are still alive and can enjoy the company of their core family group.

  • Translocation has limited value, as the demand for elephants is minimal compared to the supply.

Contraception: a possible, though perhaps flawed solution still under investigation

  • a long-term solution?

  • pZP “one shot vaccine” for five years & safe

  • behavioral change & practical?

  • “a promising alternative” and “might soon”

  • wait for long term scientific studies

  • logistics and cost of vaccination

  • invasive method

  • allo-mothering?

Conclusion 7

  • presents the apparent promise of a successful non-violent intervention to limit elephant numbers

  • raises ethical issues – a chemical invasion

  • this method should be used judiciously in small elephant herds on an experimental basis, and be carefully studied and monitored

  • perhaps in future well-supported evidence might show this method to be ethically best justified, as well as logistically feasible.

“The killing fields of culling”

  • stories: Andrew & Katy Payne

  • Culling is gruesome.

    • In an ideal world we should not even consider it.

[1] Culling only to deal with a serious and imminent threat to the continued existence of the rich diversities of the natural world.

  • Reasons must be firmly supported by the best available scientific information

  • The optimum number requires a complex judgment:

    how many elephants to fulfill their creative ecosystemic function of opening up woodland

    to establish habitat requirements,

    open up living space, and

    generate opportunities for other species to flourish.

[2] Culling can never be the first option, but must be the only option left to avoid a conservation disaster

[4] well-trained, professional teams should avoid prolonging any suffering by killing the elephants as humanely as possible in as short a time as possible [debriefing, counselling?]

[5] The number of elephants to be culled must be proportionate to the threat they pose.

[6] As much as possible of the evidence of a culling must be removed from the conservation area for the sake of the elephants.

[7] One could argue a case that magnificent trophy animals ought to be excluded from culling…

The case for not killing elephants in special relationships with humans needs almost no argument.

[8] If culling is justified in a specific case, then the meat, hide, and ivory must be utilized to the benefit of conservation.

Conclusion 8

  • If culling is to be used, it must only be used as a last resort once reasonable people judge that all possible other options have been explored and exhausted

  • If chosen, culling must be done as humanely as possible.

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