Bobcats, Trapping and Trophies

I don’t often re-post other blogs, but I recently came across a fantastic piece on the Wyoming Untrapped website that addresses trapping, trophy hunting and to borrow a phrase – the subjugation of wildlife. Please read Ken Bouley’s post, share it and, if you live in Wyoming, have family or friends there consider supporting Wyoming Untrapped.

My thanks go to Ken Bouley for granting permission to share his work including photographs, all content is reproduced below with some formatting changes. To view Ken’s wonderful photographs in full size, which I suggest, please visit his original post here.

Wyoming Untrapped, Ken Bouley, Bobcats, Trophy hunting, wildlife conservation, wildlife photography

Image ©Ken Bouley

Bobcats are always themselves. I live near a national park where I see them frequently, Lynx rufus californicus, along with badgers, coyotes, owls, otters, and more in the wild. I am always thrilled, and I savor the idea of another creature, out on its own, fending for itself, as they say, executing its evolved nature with the tools time has willed to it.

Though I sit inside at my desk right now, the bobcat I photographed last weekend is at this moment somewhere among the chaparral, resting for its next hunt, or sheltering from the rain under a boulder, or swiveling its ears to locate a coyote chorus on the next ridge, and gauge its distance. Last Sunday this cat stalked, caught, and ate a gopher in front of me, licked its paws and then walked away.

I suspect our evolution includes being enthralled by carnivores.  For one thing, we should find them (at least) interesting for our own well-being, lest we become prey. But for another, their presence signposts a healthy environment including food, water, cover, etc. So, they’re meaningful to us, whether the message is a threat or a reassurance. This is just an idea, and sometimes in evolutionary biology people are guilty of constructing what are called “just so” stories, which sound plausible but are not disprovable, and therefore don’t count as scientific theories.

Recently I’ve been concerned with trapping and hunting, especially trophy hunting and killing contests. I struggle to understand it. I recommend an article by Todd Wilkinson called A Death of Ethics: Is Hunting Destroying Itself? Hunters are not all the same, it argues, and should not all be tarred with the same brush (or rather shot with the same shotgun). I think that’s right to a certain extent.

Embedded in the article is an unsettling photograph of a dead or dying coyote, which I won’t attempt to describe here, but which revisits me, unexpectedly and against my will. The article also includes a video of someone hunting a coyote—successfully, I regret—with a snowmobile. Note I said with a snowmobile, not from a snowmobile. I know it’s not easy but just think about that. I know someone who won’t look at that picture after I described it to her. I myself have not (yet?) watched the video (and am re-conveying its content only from the written description).

The photograph and the video both come to us via social media, where the context, by the way, is conquest, not prosecution (or even just shame). In other words, whoever did this unspeakable act doesn’t mind speaking about it and is so callous (and, as I will argue, ethically crippled) as to brag about it. He has probably done it again since, who knows how many times. I can pity the “hunter” almost as much as the coyote, but I can only empathize with the canine.

How can this be? How can someone do such a thing, and be unconcerned with the dreadfulness of it?

Of course, we know there are psychopaths in our society, who are constitutionally incapable of empathy. But I don’t think that’s what this is. For one thing, there are too many people entirely cold-hearted towards animals for us to dismiss it is as neurologically crossed wires. Many of these people appear to be morally normal in other respects. You may have heard about the Florida teacher who drowned two raccoons and a possum in front of his students, as part of a lesson. Or the Idaho game commissioner forced to resign after killing an entire family of baboons with bow and arrow in Namibia (and yes, boasting about it on the web). And you know about Cecil the lion. Just a few days ago customs officers in India found a weakened leopard cub in a man’s luggage. Less anecdotally, Bobcats are legally “harvested” for the fur trade in 38 US states, and in seven Canadian provinces.

And whereas serial killers (of humans) don’t form social clubs, don’t solicit sponsorship for killing contests, and don’t generally run classroom demonstrations, there is evidence linking zoosadism with violence towards people. Some of the literature characterizes zoosadism as a precursor to psychotic behavior, rather than as a form of it.

Wyoming Untrapped, Ken Bouley, Bobcats, Trophy hunting, wildlife conservation, wildlife photography

Image ©Ken Bouley

In Wilkinson’s aforementioned article, he carefully differentiates classical hunters in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition, who follow a clear code of ethics built around fair pursuit, no wanton waste, and respect for the animal, from the thrill-seeking, bloodlust, snowmobile crowd. (If you doubt the prevalence of the latter, just google “killing contests.”) This seems the main point of the article.Although those differences are important, there is something in common between the two groups.

Consider this argument:

  • Premise 1: It is wrong to cause suffering unnecessarily.
  • Premise 2: Trapping and hunting, especially trophy hunting, cause suffering unnecessarily.

Conclusion: Therefore, trapping and hunting, especially trophy hunting, are wrong.

In logic, an argument is called “valid” when, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. An argument is called “sound” if it is valid and its premises are true. If it’s sound, then its conclusion is true – it’s right, and there’s no getting around it. Reading the above syllogism, it’s hard to see how it could be invalid except in some technical, esoteric sense. But it could fail to be sound if one or both of its premises are wrong.

One way that could be is if some hunting or trapping is necessary (then the second premise is false). “Necessary” here could mean the activity is subsistence, a matter of survival. In 2019, in the United States anyway, you would be pressed to substantiate such a claim, but for the sake of argument let’s say we admit some hunting is a matter of survival and perhaps some trapping is literally the only available livelihood for some people in some circumstances. Such cases are excluded. Trophy hunting and killing contests are certainly not.

(By the way, sometimes you encounter this reasoning: if animals hunt, it’s natural, and people are part of nature; therefore hunting by people is not wrong. But firstly, most hunting by animals is subsistence. People don’t need to eat meat at all. More to the point, moral questions don’t arise in the first place unless there is choice involved. We can’t say if animals do it then it’s OK, otherwise, we include infanticide, rape, cannibalism, etc.)

The more significant and relevant challenge to the argument is if the first premise is false, which would be the case if animals don’t suffer, or if only human suffering matters. In his now famous work, Practical Ethics (1979), Peter Singer writes:

“The basis of my belief that animals can feel pain is similar to the basis of my belief that children can feel pain. Animals in pain behave in much the same way as humans do, and their behavior is sufficient justification for the belief that they feel pain. It is true that, with the exception of a few animals who have learned to communicate with us in a human language, they cannot actually say that they are feeling pain – but babies and toddlers cannot talk either. They find other ways to make their inner states apparent, however, demonstrating that we can be sure that a being is feeling pain even if the being cannot use language. To back up our inference from animal behavior, we can point to the fact that the nervous systems of all vertebrates, and especially of birds and mammals, are fundamentally similar. Those parts of the human nervous system that are concerned with feeling pain are relatively old, in evolutionary terms. Unlike the cerebral cortex, which developed only after our ancestors diverged from other mammals, the basic nervous system evolved in more distant ancestors and so is common to all of the other ‘higher’ animals, including humans. This anatomical parallel makes it likely that the capacity of vertebrate animals to feel is similar to our own.”
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Wyoming Untrapped, Ken Bouley, Bobcats, Trophy hunting, wildlife conservation, wildlife photography

Image ©Ken Bouley

Wyoming Untrapped, Ken Bouley, Bobcats, Trophy hunting, wildlife conservation, wildlife photography

Image ©Ken Bouley

I’m tempted to omit any adjudication but will say it’s equally easy to produce old testament quotes to justify genocide (of humans). Of course, it’s not just Christian societies which have traditionally battered animals as if they were inanimate and insignificant. But the first quote is just the kind of anachronism the Enlightenment shed light on, exposited via such insights as offered in the second quote.

There’s an idea contained in the second quote which I think is worth pondering, and this is how I try to answer the question of how someone can kill a coyote with a snowmobile and brag about it. Some people don’t care about animals because they don’t think of animals as anything to care about. As implied in the second quote, and of course well past 1789, some people thought it was ok to enslave Africans because they didn’t think of Africans as anything to care about. Women were once property; at one time children were rather beaten than heard. One can conceive of the entire progress of ethics and regard for justice in human society as an ever-expanding sphere of consideration, from the self to the family, to the clan/tribe, race, nation, and not-quite-finally, to the global community. “Not-quite” because if you accept that you must be morally concerned with anything capable of suffering, then the species boundary is arbitrary, and must fall.

Incidentally, if that is right, then “nationalists” could be considered in some sense morally evolved by virtue of the ability to care about strangers, to feel a kinship with their countrymen… although of course, the ugly reality of it includes jingoism and xenophobia. I wonder if people involved in wildlife killing contests are more likely to be concerned with “illegal aliens” and supportive of border walls and the like.

Another noteworthy aside is that some people who apparently don’t feel it necessary to grant any sympathy to wild animals nonetheless genuinely love their own pets (sometimes these are hunting dogs).  So, the same person who will sleep with their dogs and send them out to tree a mountain lion ahead of their taking the heroic shot will genuinely mourn if one of those dogs is killed by the beset cat. The apparent inconsistency is not on its face problematic and might be explained by considering that the dog is accepted into the tribe, so the ever-expanding sphere of consideration is not actually strict with respect to species but uses other criteria.

Anyway, I am suggesting that categorically excluding (wild) animals from any moral consideration is a necessary aspect of a classic, Roosevelt hunter or Voyager trapper as much as it is of a less palatable and courser death-fetishist as would hunt a dog with a snowmobile. The former is less objectionable to the populace, and is woven into our cultural history, and would rather the latter go away so as not to scrape at the veneer of tradition.

The former, too, maintains that respect for the animal is necessary (one of the three pillars of the hunter’s moral code), and this is a serious point. I wonder, however, if one can respect a wild animal and kill it.

I realize one can pull the trigger or release the bowstring with an attitude of respect, and I have no doubt this is often the case. But is that what’s important, the frame of mind around the act?

If that’s the important part, then, of course, one could commit murder with an attitude of respect, or capture a slave that way, or beat a child that way, etc. Should a judge be more lenient if she believes you indeed robbed a shop owner, but with an attitude of respect? Can you really fire a bullet or shoot an arrow through the ribs and into the heart or lungs of a living creature… with respect? Is respect merely an emotion or can it be judged objectively? Put differently, if hunters are willing to ambush and shoot-dead creatures they respect, what are they willing to do to those they don’t respect? The fact remains that for the coyote (or elk or cougar or grizzly), whether you are trampled under a snowmobile by a braggart trailing empty beer cans or shot from a legal blind with marksmanship and proper attendant piety, you may suffer terror and pain — especially if it is not a clean shot. Cecil the lion was shot with an arrow but not found again and finished off until the next morning, 10 to 12 hours later. And of course, the rest of your life is denied you—with respect.

Wyoming Untrapped, Ken Bouley, Bobcats, Trophy hunting, wildlife conservation, wildlife photography

Image ©Ken Bouley

If wild animals have intrinsic value and are sentient beings who can suffer, this supplants a popular sentiment heard from sincere, liberal people with conservationist impulses. I always get a little uncomfortable when I hear a defense of wildlife or wilderness based on the anthropocentric notion of commonwealth (natural resources, land of many uses, good planets are hard to find, etc.) Wildlife belongs to everyone, you will hear, and if you over-hunt this area now, or clear-cut it, or flood it with a boondoggle dam, we’ll all be denied beauty and recreation, and my grandchildren will inherit a less healthy, ecologically impoverished world. There are mindfulness and justification in that sentiment. However, it limits the sphere of concern, still, to people only, and does not oppose any kind of cruelty unless there is some consequence to people, some ricochet to be dodged. But wildlife belongs to itself and we should not arrange our ethics such that it admits of slaughtering innocent creatures so long as there’s plenty of them.

Wyoming Untrapped recently cosponsored a study which found that bobcats in Yellowstone are worth about 1,000 times more alive than dead. Such studies are quite useful in certain arenas and certainly there are many agencies and constituencies where such a finding will sway officials and policy, and this is good. Note this is a prudential argument, not a moral one. But hypothetically, what if the numbers had come out differently? The numbers might, in fact, come out differently for rhinos or pangolins or skunks, or Tule elk (as in Point Reyes National Seashore). Trophy hunters make similar claims in reverse for the net effects of their hunts (that the fees collected do more good than harm compared against the “taking” of the trophy animals), and the most common rebuttal is that they have the math backward. But once you accept a commercial set of terms, the chips will fall where they will.

Seemingly, things are improving, though not fast enough. I believe hunting and trapping will eventually go the way of slavery, segregation, corporal punishment, and frontier justice. I realize abhorrence of these is not quite universal, but as a society, we have sworn them off, and we presume private holdouts are a dying breed, if asymptotically. You can see parallels in the trends, with fewer defenders, fewer practitioners and mounting opposition in various public spheres. And as Steven Pinker points out in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, there are tipping points — things can change quickly. It was not long ago when people in many cultures attended public executions, on a Saturday afternoon, as entertainment, jeering at the doomed on display.

Pinker “The way to explain the decline of violence is to identify the changes in our cultural and material milieu that have given our peaceable motives the upper hand.”

We are not genetically any different from our recent ancestors who were doing the jeering. Our grandparents and great-grandparents likely had beliefs and practices we find reprehensible, and an interesting question is, what are the things we do or tolerate now which will be similarly reviled by the generation about to be born. I hope there are many because it will mean progress.

Groups such as Wyoming Untrapped, Project Coyote, the Center for Biological Diversity, embody “the changes in our cultural and material milieu that have given our peaceable motives the upper hand.” They are gathering momentum, exposing cruelty and injustice, amplifying and channeling growing public sentiment, and influencing policies and legislation. There is a new bill right now aiming to make animal cruelty a federal offense.

Wyoming Untrapped, Ken Bouley, Bobcats, Trophy hunting, wildlife conservation, wildlife photography

Image ©Ken Bouley

I encourage anyone motivated at all by the plight of wild animals who are hunted and trapped to do three things

  • vote accordingly;
  • reach out to support at least one group like those just mentioned;
  • and don’t be afraid to let people know that you think it’s wrong and has to stop.

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” – Ed Abbey

Personally, I’m allergic to confrontation, but the more I think about the immense suffering caused by hunting and trapping, the more I force myself to speak up.

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”  – Winston Churchill

Of course, if you are not motivated by this suffering, it’s unlikely an ethical argument is going to change that. Some people miss the good old days and would attend those public executions if only they were still on. Some are motivated only by self-interest and prudential arguments; some will simply obey the law; some are moved by fear of shame. The demographics of relevant attitudes, motivations, and practices are undoubtedly complex. And yet progress on the social scale seems inexorable.

Last Sunday as I was headed home after watching that bobcat, I saw another cat on the side of the road and stopped, got out slowly and quietly to peer over the raised shoulder and into the field where she (I think) was sitting still. I was fortunate to have two extraordinary sightings in one short afternoon. She saw me—they always do—and I was careful not to get too close. You never want to disturb a hunt or other essential activity (well, mostly, they hunt.) She wasn’t hunting though, but yawned, groomed, squinted, and stretched, much like my house cats do. (I’ve never heard a bobcat purr, but I read that they do.) This cat was free and relatively safe in a national park. Many more are in very different situations where they can be hunted or trapped without limit, where they are considered ‘furbearers,’ nuisance species, varmints. It’s not right, and it has to stop.

Text and Pictures by Ken Bouley

British Columbia’s Wildlife Needs Your Help

Wildlife killing contests seem to be popping up everywhere, but Canadians may be shocked to learn that they are happening right here. Currently, British Columbia is allowing groups to host three such events and a number of animal protection groups have signed an open letter to ask the BC government to bring an immediate end to all current contests and, prohibit them from happening in the future. Killing wildlife for fun and points has no place in our society and it is time for all Canadians to take a stand against these outdated practices. Killing predators is not sustainable, ethical or scientific – it is simply an excuse for people to satisfy their blood lust.

In a phone interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, Wildlife Defence League Co-founder and Executive Director Tommy Knowles said tournaments like the one in Creston Valley are cruel, result in the unnecessary killing of predators, and that there’s little to no science “that these contests actually have any effect in recovering ungulate populations.”

So why does the government allow these tournaments of death to continue? The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources says it “doesn’t condone or encourage wildlife-killing contests but noted there are no rules that prevent them from being held so long as hunters are properly licensed and follow the laws.”  Remember, just because some is legal does not mean it is right.

Bristish Columbia, BC, wildlife, wolves, mountain lions, cougars, wildlife kiling contests

DISTURBING IMAGES: Photos submitted by environmental groups show hunters posing with predators they killed during wildlife killing contests.Global News

In addition to a wolf whacking contest a spokesperson for the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club told the Daily Hive that hunters are targeting cougars and it’s more likely that that animal would be taken out. A “predator tournament” running from March 16 to 24 sponsored by Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club has a point system for killing different animals: three points for cougars or wolves, two for coyotes and one for raccoons. They also offer cash prizes for the top three contestants.

Bristish Columbia, BC, wildlife, wolves, mountain lions, cougars, wildlife kiling contests

HOW TO HELP
  1. The Fur-Bearers have a petition for Canadians, with a form letter ready to go. Simply enter your name, address and email (please sign and share if you live in Canada)
  2. Conservation groups Wildlife Defence League and Pacific Wild also suggest people speak out against the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club’s Predator Tournament, and contests like it by contacting the province to voice their opposition against the event. This option is open to anyone regardless of where you live. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy may be contacted by email or phone:
  • Telephone: 1-800-663-7867
    EnquiryBC@gov.bc.ca
  • Hon. George Heyman – Minister of Environment & Climate Change Strategy.
    E-mail: george.heyman.MLA@leg.bc.ca
    Telephone:(250) 387-1187
  • Fish and Wildlife – Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development
  • Email: FishandWildlife@gov.bc.ca
    Telephone:1-877-855-3222
  • Hon. Doug Donaldson – Minster of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development
    Email: doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca
    Telephone: (250) 387-6240

Happy World Wildlife Day!

A fantastical illustrated scene to honor World Wildlife Day, but what are they reading about and why do they look so happy?

“Imagine a scene like this in the not to distant future wildlife gathered reading about how humans decided to finally stop hunting, trapping and killing other species. How humans finally gave up their cruel and destructive ways acknowledging that other species have a right to exist for their own purpose. A nice sentiment to think about on where we are and, how far we must go. It starts with changing our beliefs about wildlife and animals in general then, translating that into action. What side of history will you be on?”

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Imagine a scene like this in the not to distant future wildlife gathered reading about how humans decided to finally stop hunting, trapping & killing other species. That humans finally gave up their cruel & destructive ways acknowledging that other species have a right to exist for their own purpose. A nice sentiment on #worldwildlifeday2019 to think about on where we are & how far we must go. It starts with changing our beliefs about wildlife & animals in general then translating that into action. What side of history will you be on? . . #neverbesilent #betheirvoice #bethechange #bantrapping #bantrophyhunting #makefurhistory #furisnotfashion #savenature #wildlifeconservation #savelions #pumas #mountainlions #savewildlife #animalrights #killingisnotconservation #speciesism #endangeredspecies #extinctionisforever #weowethem #worldwildlifeday

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Let’s Talk About Your Cat

Let's Talk About Your Cat, Cats, Kittens, cat stories, rescue, adoption, Purr and Roar,

Let’s Talk About Your Cat, one of my favorite posts, is back for 2019 and this time it features Media Director of the non-profit charity Global March for Elephants and Rhinos Toronto (or No Ivory Toronto) and full time Registered Early Childhood Educator for the YMCA in Pickering Ontario, Simi Vadgama. Simi took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about her 3 beautiful mini house panthers and how they have changed her life.

Tell us about your cats and how they came into your life

Aragorn aka Aro is a big 5-year-old male who is independent, a little needy (when he is meowing for treats) and very intuitive – he know exactly how to comfort us when we’re sick or sad. Currently Aro lives with my parents and younger sister, about 8 minutes away from where I live with my fiancé Luis, so we visit quite often and arrange weekend play dates with him and our other adopted cats Luna and Stella. Aro loves to be around people, but when he’s alone we often find him cuddled up on the couch, rocking chair or on top of an air vent during the winter.

Growing up my sisters and I always wanted to have a cat companion but our parents would firmly express to us that they didn’t want any pets in the house. For some reason, when we asked them after returning from a trip to India where we had we gone to spread our grandfather’s ashes, they had changed their minds. My younger sister Keya, and my twin sister Siya went with my dad to a shelter where they met and adopted Aro who was just 8 weeks old, my family instantly fell in love with him! We found out that he had been rescued from a home where he had been abused – he had been kicked, frightened by loud noises and cruel people, so it took him a few weeks to adjust to his new surroundings once we got him home.

Black Cats, Adopt don't shop, Cats as family

Baby Aro “Aro’s adoption was a big learning experience for us because we’d never had any animals before – he truly changed our lives forever by bringing us closer together and making our family feel more complete.”

Aro was a great comfort to us all and he especially helped me while I was still grieving and struggling with the loss of my grandfather. My Mom always says he was a blessing to our family. We love him so much!

My fiancé Luis and I adopted Luna next in July 2018 from Pickering Animal Shelter. She was found in Cornwall and brought to the shelter during the wintertime where she had been for over a month, 8 other ginger/grey kittens who came in at the same time had all been adopted within a week. Luna has a dislocated joint on her front left paw which healed incorrectly and a missing claw, that in addition to the stigma of her being a black cat was very likely the reason she had not been adopted. I told Luis that we HAD to rescue her no matter what. So we adopted her and brought her to my parents house to meet Aro. They were both curious about each other but bonded pretty quickly which was amazing to observe.

Black Cats, Adopt don't shop, Cats are family

Aro and Luna when they first met

Black Cats, Adopt don't shop, Cats are family

“Luna lives with Luis and I at our condo. She is very quiet, relaxed, shy and loving. She’s also really independent, but likes to cuddle with Luis more!”

Finally there is Stella who we adopted in November 2018 from North Toronto Cat Rescue. She’s about 9 months old so she’s still a kitten and definitely acts like one – rambunctious, very curious and affectionate. It took Stella quite some time to adjust to her new home with Luna as she would hide and loud noises scared her. Stella didn’t like to be picked up at all and would run away when we’d try to come close to her which made me sad because I kept wondering what she’d gone through before she was found. I suspected her behavior was also due to the fact that she had just moved from being surrounded by kittens and playing with them at the rescue, to a completely new home with just one cat.

Black Cats, Adopt don't shop, Cats are family

Stella

Happily, after a few weeks Luna and Stella bonded, and we slowly gained her trust. Now Stella is always near us, constantly sniffing around and stealing our food – she loves to eat! She is also a hoarder and a little kleptomaniac! Luis and I often notice that items around the condo are missing, but we don’t have to look far to see where they are or guess who took them. Stella has stolen sandwiches from our plates, bread bags, makeup items – pretty much anything she can pick up with her teeth. She’s so entertaining!

Black Cats, Adopt don't shop, Cats are family

Luna and Stella Christmas 2018

She’s also a very floppy cat when she wants attention. She flops on the floor and waits for us to rub her and she is like jelly when we pick her up – she LOVES it.  We constantly thank the universe for bringing Luna and Stella into our lives and look forward to seeing them both from the moment we wake up to when we come home from work.

What is your first memory or experience with cats?

I was born and raised in England and lived there for the first 10 years of my life, we had neighbors who had cats and they would often visit our backyard and my sisters and I loved to play with them. We always wanted to adopt a cat growing up, and remember our dad telling us stories about the cat he used to have as his companion when he was growing up in Uganda, in East Africa. I think that’s why he loves cats just like we do. 

Anything else people should know?

I always tell people to adopt, not shop, when they’re looking to care for an animal and also to ignore the stigma around black cats because none of the nonsense and superstitions about them are true! Black cats are magnificent and equally as beautiful as any other cat out there. For those who live in Toronto and surrounding areas I would recommend North Toronto Cat RescuePickering Animal Shelter where we adopted Aro and the girls from, and Toronto Cat Rescue, another great no-kill charity.

If you would like to have your cat/s featured on Let’s Talk About Your Cat, feel free to contact me at purrandroar(at)gmail(dot)com

The Subjugation of Canadian Wildlife: Failures of Principle and Policy

The Subjugation of Canadian Wildlife by author, and Professor Emeritus of Communication at the University of Calgary, Dr. Max Foran, takes an in-depth and honest look at wildlife management policies in Canada like no other book has done before and, it is a book that should be mandatory reading for anyone who has an interest in Canadian wildlife. It is for those who wish to better understand our relationship with wildlife, where we went wrong and what needs to be done in order to put an end to our ongoing, often violent, assault on them. If you live outside of Canada, particularly if you live in the U.S., you will find this book worth a read as all of North America shares an almost identical history when it comes to wildlife conservation.

Max has written an extensive list of books focusing on western Canadian urban, rural and cultural topics, but he tells me that The Subjugation of Canadian Wildlife is his best and most important book to date. At its core the book is about our disconnected relationship with wildlife and failure as a people and a country to do what is both morally and ethically right. What makes this book so powerful is how it intelligently links the roles that science, culture, religion, philosophy, politics and history play in how we view and deal with wildlife. Finally, in one book we can see how they come together to influence policies, emotion, and ultimately our decisions. The Subjugation of Canadian Wildlife is also very accessible which means the reader doesn’t need a background in science, history or wildlife conservation to understand and appreciate its passionate and urgent message. This is a book that we, and wildlife, need now.

We need to get away from wildlife being cute, they are not cute, they are our fellow residents and they are the ones we live with so the sooner we understand them the better we will be able to treat them. There is always going to be incidences, but we must realize that they are independent souls who inhabit the planet with us and the solution is not to kill them.” – Max Foran

Will the outdated anthropocentric views that continue to dominate wildlife management change? Will the fear, paranoia and often exaggerated “frenzied emphasis on human safety” that justifies how we treat wildlife, especially predators like cougars, continue to rule? If we are willing to evolve is society ready to put an end to the destructive and abhorrent practice of trophy hunting? Or as stated in the book, is the price of change too high?

I recently spoke to Max about his book, the interview can be heard below, and some of the themes it covers. A few of the major takeaways from my discussion include the fact that our belief system must change first and, the sooner we end the practice of trophy hunting the better. In addition, Canada and elsewhere, must banish the idea that wildlife is a resource. Wildlife agencies must embrace change and start to acknowledge the irrefutable evidence of animal cognition and that wildlife is autonomous. What else is needed? Max tells me education is part of it along with recognizing the proactive measures happening elsewhere, publicizing them and making these narratives the new norm. We must start to “see wildlife as selves” and we must create an evolved and ethical model of conservation that puts animals first. As the book says, “this is the path to our moral evolution”.

The minority who work on behalf of wildlife can do no better than blunt the raw use of power against wild creatures and to try to modify anthropocentric bias. Anything else requires a new belief system. We have a tiny window of hope.” – Max Foran

The Subjugation of Canadian Wildlife is part of my Recommended Reading List and can be purchased on Amazon or as an eBook on Kobo.

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and Holiday! Sharing one of my favorite Christmas videos from Robert Martinez, aka Parliament of Owls, of a bunch of forest critters meeting Santa. Watch out for the bobcat!

A Haven For Cats

Chachi’s Haven is a cat shelter located in Tel Mond Israel that has been run for over 20 years by animal advocate Gail Joss. It all began when Gail met a stray cat, who she later named Chachi, on a factory grounds in South Africa many years ago. She began feeding Chachi and the other cats at the factory, eventually moving them to a cottage she rented to keep them safe. She had no experience with cats prior to rescuing Chachi and the others but soon learned to care for them and began a life long mission to help stray, abandoned and injured cats. Gail now resides in Tel Mond Israel in a warehouse where she currently cares for approximately 150 cats, most neglected and abused, plus another 300 street cats. The next major step for Gail includes moving from the current warehouse location to a new property that will eventually become a clean and safe shelter for both her and the cats. To find out more about her work, the move and what life is like for street cats in Israel, I reached out to Gail who took time from her extremely busy schedule to answer some questions.

How many cats are currently in your shelter and how many street cats do you care for?
 
There are currently 140 cats in the shelter, which varies as we lose some cats and new ones come in. This years kitten season has been particularly bad with a lot of kittens being dumped on the street to die (sometimes with their mothers, sometimes not). I take in every single one that needs help. Outside the shelter I was feeding about 250-300 street cats in about 28 colonies, however it will be more now because I have 2 new colonies. An elderly man died 10 days ago in Tel Mond and he fed 2 colonies plus an additional 20 cats. I am now feeding them.

What is your daily routine like?

My day generally consists of cleaning, washing, feeding, vets trips (for TNR), treatment of kittens/sick cats. For my street cats the routine is different, for my own and the cats safety, I set off at 2 am with 50kg of dry food, come rain or shine to feed them, and this will increase because of the 2 new colonies I have taken over. Saturday is a religious day in Israel and people cannot drive cars so I walk 17 km carrying the heavy bags of food. The street cats are always there waiting for me as they know I won’t let them down. In 22 years I have only missed feeding the street cats once when I was in hospital. New street cats constantly appear and the colonies get larger as word gets out, sadly I lose a lot of street cats.

There is little time for anything else, including eating, and I tend to go with 3-4 hours sleep a day. With the expenses mounting to cover our day-to-day needs, I have had to borrow money and work outside the shelter to cover the debt.

 

Describe what the general attitude is like towards cats and street cats in Israel

I face a lot of adversity for my work and sadly do not receive support from the community at large. Israel has a massive population of unwanted cats (in the region of 2 million – a large number for such a small country) and the government fails to fund its TNR programme. Generally cats are not regarded highly by the majority of Israeli‘s and are often abandoned, abused, killed and poisoned. People have set their dogs on me, I have even been verbally and physically abused for helping the cats, and the street cats, they will go round after me and throw away food and turn over tubs of water. Some people have even put poison in the food. There are laws to protect cats and street cats in Israel but they are not enforced. The police do NOTHING even when you have photo’s or video’s, so the abuse towards animals and those who care for them continues.

What has been your biggest challenge in gaining support for your work?

I think it is hard to get help because cats in general are often considered vermin and a nuisance. I desperately need donations, local volunteers to help with the daily running of the shelter, anyone willing to help out with maintenance, repairs of the shelter and with TNR.

Please tell me why you were looking for a new location for you and the cats

The warehouse that I am currently in is ₪3000 (Israeli Shekels) a month, approximately £625/$820 a month, and the place is literally a death trap that is falling down. It has massive cracks down the walls, the electrical is extremely unsafe, the windows and doors don’t shut properly, it’s boiling hot in the summer, it floods when it rains and it’s full of mold – all of these things have had a detrimental effect on myself and the cats health. The cats as a result often have colds, sinus and respiratory problems which all impact my workload and medical expenses.

In addition my current landlord is an uncooperative and can be abusive, he often turns off the water supply, leaves dogs loose outside that terrify me and the cats and, he refuses to fix the problems in the warehouse. The general area outside the shelter is not safe either, we have vipers around and 2 cats Lovey and Doogy have been bitten. Fortunately I was able to act fast and luckily they both survived. 4 other cats, Vivi, Freddy, Bubbly and Elsa were all poisoned while they were inside the shelter and sadly only Elsa survived.

I understand a new location has been found, what is the best way people can help you?

Donations for the move in addition to cover our daily expenses are going to be needed even more now! Currently only a small number of followers donate regularly. The rent in the new location will be double – ₪7000 a month, approximately £1500/$1900 a month. The renovations are ridiculously expensive and are over double what I planned on but I have no choice because the basics such as electricity, plumbing etc…all need to be fixed. Phase one of the renovations are underway and it is going to be a massive improvement with fresh air, lots of space and no mold! Once it is done it will be worth it.

Although the Facebook page has over 14,000 likes and Instagram nearly 2,000 followers it’s getting harder and harder to get the posts visible. As you know posts are restricted because they want people to pay for them to be boosted, but this is something I do not have the money for.

Once the new shelter is ready I will be bringing about 80-100 street cats there, they will be from the Moshav we are on now because they will not be safe once we leave here. Some will be from another ‘religious’ Moshav because they are in the most danger daily.

Is there anything else you would like people to know?

Chachi’s Haven is a registered charity with an accountant and a board that I am accountable to. In addition to TNR and helping the street cats I also campaign to raise awareness for animal welfare in Israel.

How you can help

  • Please share this post and help spread the word about Chachi’s Haven, especially if you have friends or family that are cat lovers – you never know who will be in a position to help, or perhaps know someone who can
  • Donate to Chachi’s Haven directly on a monthly or one time basis to help Gail and the cats in their new location, with food, medical care or supplies
  • Virtually adopt a cat or physically adopt one of the cats from the shelter
  • Volunteer  – especially for those who are in the area. Gail is always looking for and in need of dedicated people to commit to helping her on the ground

Chachi’s Haven can be followed on Facebook and Instagram, please like, donate if you can and spread the word!