What would it take to accomplish the serious, wrenching, full-scale readjustments that in fact are necessary to save the Earth … and (create) a new, modest, regardful relationship with the Earth and its species? — Richard Kreitner in The Nation
On April 14, UW-Madison and the Nelson Institute offered a Steven Rinella event at the Discovery Center. Rinella hosts his own hit TV show, “MeatEater,” on the Sportsmen’s Channel. About 250 mostly white males attended. UW-Madison had run a free MOOC (massive open online course) called “The Land Ethic Reclaimed: Perceptive Hunting, Aldo Leopold, and Conservation,” which attracted 6,000 participants. Paul Robbins, executive director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, was instrumental in getting Rinella to speak, and gave an enthusiastic introduction, saying, “There is nothing this guy will not eat.”
It turned out that Rinella “trapped my ass off for 10 years” until the Russian fur market recently collapsed. A personable storyteller, he engaged the crowd with his hunting philosophy — but I heard nothing new. His “responsible hunting” was a rationale for taking trophy Dall sheep. “You’re beating old man winter” when killing a 12-year-old sheep. (Getting older myself, I would be less than pleased to have someone kill me to spare me another winter.)
The World Wildlife Fund and the London Zoological Society published data that 52 percent of all wildlife on Earth was destroyed in the 40 years from 1970 to 2010. This destruction is accelerating.
The Center for Biological Diversity has a “Take Extinction Off Your Plate” website. It says: “Meat production is one of the main drivers of environmental degradation globally, and the crisis is rapidly growing worse. … This ever-increasing meat consumption in a world of more than 7 billion people is already taking a staggering toll on wildlife, habitat, water resources, air quality and the climate.”
The World Watch Institute’s study on methane and greenhouse gases from livestock production found a stunning 52 percent of greenhouse gases come from animal agriculture. That study shows that a 25 percent reduction in meat and dairy by 2017 would not only make a rapid reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gases, but would also reverse the world food and water crisis.
Why would the Nelson Institute and UW-Madison promote forums and classes celebrating hunting, trapping, and meat-eating? Are they so beholden to this dairy state with a 10 percent hunting minority that they compromise core environmental values?
I asked the director of the Nelson Institute why in an email. He replied, “We host a variety of speakers at the institute, including Steven Rinella (whose powerful message to the hunters in his audience was to obey the rules, value the land, and think before shooting), but also Jane Goodall, and Buddhist monks from Bhutan. We believe the purpose of a university is to host the widest range of ideas as possible, open the universe of discussion and debate to all points of view, and welcome free and open expression.”
So let’s parse Robbins’ reply: “Obey the rules.” Hunting and trapping have been deregulated with almost no oversight. The “rules” allow running packs of dogs on coyotes year-round statewide, pitting packs of dogs in combination with traps and high-powered military grade weapons against a keystone wolf population, so endangered that it took 38 years and millions of dollars to give them token presence on the landscape. The rules allow indiscriminate trapping of as much life as can be taken on $5 new license. Trappers are massively destroying beavers, who create habitat for half of the rare and endangered species on Earth and are water-keepers. The rules are to fund the state agency on killing licenses so that 90 percent of us have no say in governing our “commons.” It does not seem that “obey the rules” means much of anything.
“Value the land” goes back to Leopold 70 years ago. We face very different challenges today. Leopold presided over bounty destruction of wolves, and was a game manager of his time. He touted killing natural top and mid-range predators to have more “game” animals to kill. He had a land ethic but not a wildlife ethic.
“Think before shooting.” So does Rinella’s magical thinking that he has created a “totem” of the skull of a Dall ram he killed differ in any way from just wanting to reduce an animal to private possession and personal ego accomplishment? Did the shooter think before killing the wolf whose skull is a decorated trinket bedecked with Swarovski crystals, featured on the Sportsmen’s Channel website?
This self-congratulatory machismo is expanding as the world is dying. Who will lead in addressing the major causes of this extinction crisis, not just to tweak or “reform” but to reverse it? All oxygen-breathing beings, including humans, are imperiled by climate change, human overpopulation, killing obsessions, and meat-eating.
UW-Madison and the Nelson Institute betray our trust. We need the truth and full-scale readjustments based purely on the truth.
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress election and vote had an appallingly apathetic turnout. The 4,613 citizens, dominated by trappers and hounders, voted for a crane hunt; gave trappers 24-hour trapping for seven months; expanded fisher, otter and turtle trapping; and just barely spared the white deer.
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