As Tammy just discussed, elephants have the intrinsic right to exist. The suggested problem with the carrying capacity is a completely legitimate motivation for the practice of culling; however, we must consider the way that culling is done and the ethical impacts that it has. I know we’re all animal science majors and probably have a soft spot in our hearts for animals–you probably wouldn’t ask “why would an animal, in this case the elephant, have rights like humans do? ”–but it is a question very necessary to address in making the argument against culling.
Humanity tends to demean the “unalienable rights” stated by Thomas Jefferson (and inspired by Thomas Locke): “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The most basic right–the right to live. Intrinsic right is the foundation of elephant cull ethics, in fact any ethical argument. What is intrinsic right? Basically, the intrinsic right of the elephant is its right in itself–it has the right to exist ‘just because. ” Question on threatening biodiversity… exaggerated… intrinsic right more important, ethically. If it was so drastic natural causes would have the populations under control.
The claims of environmental ruin are heavily exaggerated. What about the right of liberty and pursuit of happiness? It is extremely necessary to educate on what animal welfare is, and why is matters, especially in protecting the victims of unnecessary murder–elephants. The term “animal welfare” is quite subjective but generally it is understood to refer to an animal’s body and physical environment. Basically, if an animal is healthy, it is faring well. But what is unfortunately ignored in how an animal is “faring” is the animal’s emotional state.
The idea of animals having emotions is discarded all the time, and therefore the rights to “a pursuit of happiness” of said animals are said to not exist. However, the presence of pain, fear, and sadness–three emotions very important to watch in the elephants subjected to cull–in an animal’s mind is backed by science. It is conclusive that animals, too, have behavioral needs that must be met, in addition to their physical needs, that entitle them, too, to the “unalienable rights”. Now that you’re educated on animal welfare (you probably already were), I bet you’re wondering why this is all important to the case of the cull.
There’s the aftermath: one result of elephant cull is meat. The smoked meat is worth about $5. 45/lb, and the ivory is about $16. 30/lb. Considering a 5000-6000 pound animal with about 1000 lbs of usable meat, this is quite the prize. Something to think about is the importance of monetary results of cull versus the intrinsic rights and emotional needs of the elephants. Derek Jensen, an American author and environmental activist stated, “If monetary value is attached to something it will be exploited until it’s gone. That’s what happens when you convert living beings to cash.
That conversion, from living forests to lumber, schools of cod to fish sticks, and onward to numbers on a ledger, is the central process of our economic system. ” What is more important? That’s the aftermath, now there’s the actual cull. According to Hennie Lotter, a professor of philosophy at the University of Johannesburg, “Culling can only be ethically justified if a clear and convincing case can be made that it is the last resort for dealing with an urgent problem after all other options have convincingly failed.
Analogous to justifying a war in which fellow humans will be killed, culling can be justifiable only as an ethically flawed procedure to be employed under strict conditions.? The funny thing is, the motivation for even considering culling is completely misunderstood, specifically the supposed problems of human-elephant interaction. The real reason behind the hostility seen by groups of African elephants is not population problems, but intelligence. Scientists have studied the behavior of these creatures and put them on par with animals like dolphins in their human-like intelligence.
Some examples of this: Elephants use tools. Like primates, calves will play with objects found in their natural environment. It’s not all play, though. Elephants use sticks to scratch themselves, shoo away flies, and intimidate enemies. In captivity, elephants have used large rocks to short circuit electric fences. Communication is another gauge of animal intelligence, and elephants use both verbal and body language. They can hear lower frequencies than humans and also sense vibrations through their hyper sensitive feet from miles away.
They have self-awareness and can recognize themselves in a mirror. Especially in the case of the cull, elephants mourn their dead. When one dies, the others will gather around and touch the body with their trunks. They watch the body and mourn for several days, only leaving for food. In migration, they will mourn a spot in which a family member has died. Most importantly, as I stated, the hostility that humans give as a reason for cull is because of intelligence. They say “elephants never forget,” and this isn’t completely false. Elephants are incredible in their ability to retain cultural memory.
Scientists have studied the behavior of wild elephants groups that have been hunted and groups that have not been hunted. Only in the groups that had been hunted was a fear of or hostility towards humans a problem. It seems to make sense as to why the elephants of Kruger National Park, who were victims of mass slaughter prior to 1995, would display fear of or hostility towards humans. If the motivation of culling isn’t controversial enough, let’s discuss the methods. Using the lethal tranquilizing drug suxamethonium chloride, better known as Scoline, elephants were herded together by helicopter and then darted.
The drug literally brought elephants to their knees, leaving them to suffocate to death while remaining fully conscious and unable to move – a process that took several minutes. If death did not come quickly enough, they were shot in the head. Is it not obvious as to why we must recognize the fear, pain, and sadness that inhabits these animals? The practice creates fear in these animals thanks to remembrance of past culls, pain as they suffer every final minute to their death, and sadness as they mourn the loss of family members. The motivations are weak, and the collection of profit from the practice is despicable. Is it worth it?