What writer Daniel Duane (“Sacrificial Ram”) calls “free-market wildlife conservation”—American trophy hunters paying huge fees to shoot rare animals—the rest of us call extortion. This pay-as-you-slay logic could be used to undermine just about every environmental-protection standard worldwide: Why stop timber companies from logging old-growth forests if they plant a few trees somewhere else? Why not allow oil companies to drill in pristine wilderness areas as long as they sprinkle some money on local economies?
The history of linking commercial gain to wildlife killing reveals a pattern of conservation calamities—from the historical overexploitation of whales to the modern-day mismanagement of African lions. The lure of big-money license fees causes malleable authorities to allow more and more killing—resulting in unsustainable levels of slaughter. In addition, by shooting the largest animals to score the most points for the record books, the healthiest animals are removed from the gene pool, and the sick and small are left to reproduce in an anti-Darwinian survival of the weakest.
Paying $12,000 to construct a watering hole for sheep doesn’t make someone a hero when the motivation is to lure sheep to drinking water and shoot them. Our actions are judged not only by economics but also by moral values, and true conservation includes respect for individual animals as well as protection of the habitat in which they live.
Executive Vice President
The Humane Society of the U.S.
Environmentally conscious hunting is phony baloney. Trophy hunters, who kill animals for fun, get to look like responsible stewards of the land, when, in fact, all they’re doing is helping create a few more bighorns just so they can blow them away, decapitate them, and stick the heads on their walls. It’s all about freedom for the hunters, not freedom for the animals they hunt.
My fellow liberals really frustrate me because they seem to believe that human rights are the only rights that are important. Our fellow, equally sentient species, particularly endangered species, have rights too, and one of them should be to retain their heads.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
As an outdoorsperson who grew up with hunting rifles in the house, I’d like to point out that Drettmann, the fellow who shot the ram, was not exactly “hunting”—he was “shooting.” Ramon Arce and the other guides did the hunting. They clearly know the terrain and the animal. Drettmann was led to the spot, not unlike a child taken camping. Then he pointed his gun with a long-distance sight from over a mile away, somewhat like target practice. Someone else cut up and carried away the meat, and prepared the meal.
Ray Lee, the president of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, calls hunting “reconnecting with what the last 3 million years of human existence have been.” Huh? What part of Drettmann’s role does that? Until the last little sliver of time, hunters had to get a lot closer to the animal, and their low-tech weapons put them physically at risk and gave the animal at least some chance to defend itself or run away. The tradition Drettmann actually reconnects with is one of class distinctions, where the local “beaters” (with few other ways of making a living) flush game for a rich person to shoot for pleasure.
Santa Monica, California
The Tailpipe Trap
In “The Asthma Trap” the author, Sara Corbett, alludes to air pollution and living near bus routes as factors contributing to childhood asthma. Let’s be more specific. Diesel exhaust contains toxic particles that are known to trigger asthma and cause cancer. Yet we send our kids to school every day on diesel-powered buses that allow significant levels of diesel exhaust into the cabin of the bus, making the kids’ ride to school likely the most toxic part of their day. Is it any wonder asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism in schools? It’s time we started using low-polluting fuels such as biodiesel or natural gas to send our kids to school.
“Left, Right, and Wrong” by Garret Keizer is one of the most informed, thoughtfully written assessments of modern politics I’ve read. Although I share the pluralistic views of your readership, I’ve had just about enough of firebrand, leftist “us against them” rhetoric that alienates instead of embraces those of us who, as Keizer puts it, “live in the shack with all the dogs.” I agree with him: Republicans have brilliantly outfoxed Democrats by adopting the “moral” conviction to which the left long ago waved goodbye.
Brooklyn, New York
Facts on the Ground
Your article about “enduring” military bases in Iraq, “Digging In” by Joshua Hammer, talks about Pizza Huts and DVD stores, a Burger King and a gym. I’m based near the so-called permanent structures you’re talking about. The Pizza Hut is operated out of mobile trailers. The DVD stores are nothing but storage containers, opened up, with lighting installed. There isn’t anything permanent about storage containers. The Burger King is located in a trailer, and the gym is in a tent. The DVD stores, and some other stores, are actually run by Iraqis, and provide vital cash flow to the local population.
Mother Jones welcomes letters from readers. Please include your name, address, and telephone number; to ensure timely publication of your letter, please send it as soon as possible. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Email to backtalk@ motherjones.com; fax to (415) 321-1701; or send to Backtalk, Mother Jones, 222 Sutter Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94108.