Placing Animals Part II

Much of the second half of placing animals covered a lot of what was already talked about in previous books; farming and how it has changed has been pretty thoroughly covered in eating animals. Similarly, the last chapter dedicated a good chunk of itself to talking about the changing definition of ‘wild’ and the way that humans tend to romanticize certain animals or ecosystems more than others, which is a topic I feel like we have already talked to death.

I did think, however, that the last chapter brought up a couple interesting scenarios that sort of question our conception how humans and animals interact, and how we should interact with animals. The chapter talked a bit about efforts to try and protect certain of species of animals under trade agreements, and went on to mention how this caused problems with certain groups of natives who were accustomed to hunting ad eating some of the animals listed as protected. Is it morally okay to opt to try and protect and endangered species if hunting and eating that species is a key aspect of some indigenous culture? Personally, I think part of it depends on the ability of the natives to hunt the animals sustainably. Many countries seem to have problems with overhunting or overfishing; it seems that as humanity’s ability to capture animals en masse increases, animal populations are unable to keep up and many people are too blinded by the big hauls to be concerned about animal populations in the long run. Having people go in and evaluate the natural resource use of natives seems like a good idea, as opposed to passing widespread animal protection bills that overlook the culture specific interactions that locals have with their animals. This will not only protect animal populations, but help out the locals in the long term by making sure they don’t overhung and run out of food in the future.

Another interesting topic the book brought up was the notion of ‘an authentic wilderness experience’. The book lists two instances of this, in one case a country imported elephants to attract tourists and make it seem ‘wild’ even though elephants are not a natural part of the ecosystem, as well as whale-watching trips in which the whales are very closely monitored and tracked, as opposed to simply going out into the open ocean and hoping to to see a whale appear randomly and surprise you. By turning things that are ‘wild’ into an attraction, do we devalue them somehow? Does mass appeal of an authentic experience make it lose its authenticity. I think so. This is something we observe in a lot of different things; some niche trend or thing becomes more watered down the more popular it becomes, not only because people will try to mass-produce it and cash in on it, but also because part of the appeal of such niche things is often the fact that it is so new and unique. Is seeing an elephant really so exotic and ‘wild’ if everyone can do it? Part of the appeal of wilderness, I think, is the stark separation from our everyday life it represents. Nothing about it is manufactured; nobody is trying to cater to you. You are just taking nature in, unprotected and in the open.

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