The idea of a man-made list of preferred animals runs through Foer’s discussion of factory farming in Eating Animals. Orwell’s sentiment “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” represents the differing cultural views of the animals we live with versus the animals we eat. Aside from the food chain we humans have another list of animals which are sentimentally “more equal than others.” These include animals which inhabit the sacred wild far away from our homes, like cheetahs or polar bears–the kind of creatures you first learn to recognize in childhood picture books.
In Alberta, Canada the most popular native celebrity is the endangered and mystical woodland caribou. The Alberta caribous’ population has drastically declined over the last 25 years, causing grave worry amongst environmentalists and biologists. Their woodland habitat has endured a 95% disturbance from its original state: a staggering 60% beyond the land’s sustainable disturbance threshold. The Alberta government has rapidly approved the development of rural lands by industrial companies, making way for destructive drill rigs, roads, and deforestation with little to no hesitation. The extensive disturbance of this land has essentially rerouted and shrunk the natural herding paths of deer, moose, and caribou into one area: the caribou’s woodlands.
As we all know, where the favored protagonists roam, there the villains follow. The habitat disturbances over time have pulled a dense population of wolves into the woodlands, who lamentably prefer caribou meat above deer and moose. With pressure from environmentalist groups, the Alberta government has supported a “predator management program” to “remove” the wolves (AKA shoot them from helicopters). Instead of making moves to limit, downsize, or regulate industrial presence, the government has taken the easy way out: kill the endangered animal’s predator. While the wolves are not endangered, the act of treating these natural predators as pests to solve an over arching human-made problem, is beyond the scope of reason or ethics. When we will stop manipulating the ecosystem for our sentimental and monetary benefit?