Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What course of action results in less wildlife death?

Alaska is locked in a seemingly unending struggle with the jihadists who oppose wolf management. ( Note that I am using the word jihadists pejoratively, of course, but I don't think it's totally inaccurate, given that jihad is loosely applied to religious war. And it strikes me that no few of those involved in this struggle have taken up the religion of secular humanism, or environmentalism. But, I digress.)

It occurred to me tonight while writing elsewhere about Alaska wolf management that controlled wolf management might actually lead to the deaths of fewer wild things in the short or intermediate term.

While that may seem counterintuitive, watch this: Alaskans harvest moose and caribou primarily for meat. Fewer moose and caribou in the larder mean more beef, pork and other domestic meat imported to the state.

Moose and caribou are raised at low environmental cost. Even with wolf control, relatively few animals die to meet the protein needs of Alaskans.

But....when moose and caribou numbers are depressed by wolves, people buy more domestic meat. Domestic animals are raised at substantial environmental cost by comparison to wild animals. The costs include: lost habitat, pollution, consumption of fossil fuels and increased production of greenhouse gases, and disease, to name a few. All of these cause the death of wild things, large and small.

I don't think it's a stretch at all to reckon that MORE wild things die in the domestic meat scenario than the wild meat scenario.

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