A young crocodile who utters a distress call will bring immediate help from completely unrelated adult crocodiles, even if it means risking their lives…Obviously this altruism does not extend to us. Saltwater crocodiles kill approximately one person every year in Australia. The same is true, more or less, in North America, where between 2000 and 2010, the American alligator killed thirteen people. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, it is believed that the Nile crocodile kills hundreds (possibly thousands) of people each year.
We are not prey for most supreme predators, but we are for crocodiles it would seem. They happily consume us.
Read the full post and wish Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson a happy birthday here! (Birthday is the 28th; post timed to catch it in the New Zealand time zone.)
Banner photo from:
Some writers think nature isn’t very nice. David Pearce is one such writer. Pearce told George Dvorsky at the weblog io9 (a daily publication connected with Gawker.com that “covers science, science fiction, and the future”) that re-programming nature so as to eliminate animal habits we don’t like isn’t a new idea: “The Bible prophesies that the wolf and the lion shall lie down with the lamb.”
Conceiving the natural world as pitted against many animals’ interests, Pearce, a utilitarian philosopher, hopes biologists devise ways of reducing suffering in natural habitats as well as in captivity. In “Reprogramming Predators (Blueprint for a Cruelty-Free World)” Pearce discusses “the problem of predation” and proposes that predators be eliminated—either by extinction or genetic engineering. Then, Pearce proposes, buffalo and zebras would be managed with contraception technologies in wildlife parks. “On almost every future scenario, we’re destined to play God, says Pearce. “So let’s aim to be compassionate gods and replace the cruelty of Darwinian life with something better.”
Philosophical grandstanding aside, we’re not going to have an Earth devoid of carnivores. They belong to the natural system of trophic cascades that keeps the whole bio-community functioning. Consider that almost all communities of birds feed their hatchlings insects and worms, and the obvious becomes clear. To wipe out natural predation is an impossible dream that would very quickly lend itself to ethical and environmental nightmares.
It’s a fact of life on Earth as well as a strain on the advocate’s emotions that the world’s animals often have short, stressful lives. Tom Regan acknowledges: “When it comes to interspecies relations, nature is red in tooth and claw.” Regan’s Case for Animal Rights firmly states that the rights view does not, however, urge us to control others; instead, it obliges us to let other animals carve out their own destiny. Animal rights does not boil down to pain relief, and the call to control the lions and bobcats from doing what they do to live shows that at the most striking level. We humans can refrain from killing others; and we’ve developed, and can spread, the ethic of non-violence. But forcing other animals, including obligate carnivores, to subscribe to vegetarianism would bring no challenge to our control over other animals; it is, rather, human dominion on overdrive.
“Reprogramming Predators: Blueprint for a Cruelty-Free World” (2009), published on the BLTC [“Better Living Through Chemistry”] Research website, whose mission statement asserts that “Post-Darwinian superminds” can and should abolish pain. David Pearce has assured me, when I wrote previously about this issue for a book, that the website is not meant to be satire.
Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights (1983), at 357.
Thanks to Bernard Jones for bringing George Dvorsky’s piece to my attention.
Polar Bear Family Group Photo Credit: Susanne Miller/USFWS