I’m a vegetarian (with exceptions when I’m in Mongolia or when my friends donate meat that they’ve hunted), and I’ve often wondered why I find carnivorous animals so fascinating. After all, they make their living by being brutal. I rationalize by reminding myself that the brutality of a wolf or a wolverine or a bear is necessary for its survival, unlike the most brutal of animals, humans, who actually have a choice, but who seem to delight in their own cruelty.
So it was a relief to discover, at long last, a potential vegetarian wolverine.
(Of course, for all you true Gulo gulo dorks, this is a joke, but that’s what happens when you start surfing eco-tabloids. There was also an item about the “10 worst celebrity cleavage tattoos of all time,” one of which featured what I thought were wolverine paw prints. So it could have been worse. Fortunately, they turned out to be dog prints….)
Update: I published the above about two hours before Jason, our executive director, pointed out a recent opinion piece in the NYTimes, suggesting that we should promote the extinction of carnivorous species in order to make the world a rosier place for everyone.
The piece is convoluted and relies exclusively on a Judeo-Christian interpretation of the universe, including the indisputable existence of binary good-and-evil. In this worldview, suffering (the suffering of an animal being killed by a carnivore) serves no purpose and is simply evil. Worldviews exist, however, in which suffering does serve a purpose, and there are many, many cultures in which carnivores play vital spiritual roles. To suggest that the entire natural world should be re-ordered to suit Judeo-Christian morality is, even as an abstract argument, offensive. Certainly no one respectable would make that argument about global human society, so why would you even broach it when discussing nature?
Beyond culturally-specific ideas about the morality, immorality, or amorality of nature, the piece highlights why we seek to understand the function of the natural world through science instead of religion or philosophy. Ecology tells us how things work, and it has told us in no uncertain terms that taking predators out of an ecosystem is a terrible mistake. The value of nature, species, and individual animals is a topic for philosophy and religion, but hard scientific fact says that if you’re going to have herbivores on the landscape, you need predators too.
I’m not going to get into this further, because I think that the entire argument is absurd, but I will say this: the most destructive carnivorous agent of suffering is Homo sapiens, so if we’re talking about phased extinction, perhaps we ought to be top of the list.