Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wolf lottery: Anarchy or democracy at work?

20 hours ago

This July, an international consortium of behavioral and brain scientists at a Cambridge, England, conference wrote "The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness." This document asserts that animals possess states of attentiveness and sleep; have decision-making abilities; can experience emotional states much as humans do; and, like us, are conscious beings possessing awareness and exhibiting deliberate behaviors.

From my own doctoral research on behavior, development and the effects of domestication of dogs compared to wolves, coyotes and foxes, I can assert that wolves are fundamentally no different from our domesticated canine companions. They show devoted care giving behavior to their young and to injured companions and mourn their death. Just like the family dog, wolves show fear, anxiety, depression, joyful anticipation, affectionate greeting and playful invitation.

Millions who love their dogs have a natural affinity and respect for the wolf. Others reject "big, bad wolf" folklore because they know something about wolf intelligence and highly evolved cooperative pack society and social dynamics.

Many Minnesotans who embrace such sentiment and ethics voiced opposition to legislation to legalize the trapping and trophy hunting of wolves. Nineteen days after Gov. Mark Dayton signed an bill approving this legislation, the state's Department of Natural Resources announced that it would accept public comments directed to its website, but that there would be no final public hearing.
Just because wolves are wild, why should they not enjoy the same protection under state animal welfare statutes as our dogs?

That wolves are now essentially state property, no longer protected by the government as an endangered or threatened species, does not erase the fact that the wolf is of great emotional, aesthetic and spiritual significance as a symbol of all that is wild and free. Wolves serve as a sacred totem to traditional Native Americans — many of whom voiced opposition to Minnesota's wolf hunting and trapping legislation.

With a reported 23,000 hunters and trappers paying $4 to enter the lottery for a wolf killing license to the Department of Natural Resources, wolves will help replenish state coffers.

Wolves are regarded as state property on public lands, but public trust is betrayed when the protection of wolf and wilderness is sacrificed for the pleasure and profit of an anarchistic minority whose ethically unexamined activities are sanctioned by the laws they enact to justify and protect what they deem culturally acceptable. Anarchism, the antithesis of democratic process, flourishes when policymakers dismiss public polls and referendums because of the demographic bias of larger urban versus rural populations.