Killing to Protect Endangered Species: Legal and Effective, and Necessary?
An article by Mogomotsi & Madigele in SA Crime Quarterly (June 2017, p. 52-59) raises a very relevant moral and empirical argument in favor of “Shooting to Kill” poachers of rhinos. The argument cites the ineffectiveness of alternatives to preserving rhinos such as “market-oriented” approaches such as the sale of the horn or non-lethal measure such as “arrests.” The article cites empirical data that show these alternatives have been ineffective in deterring rhino poaching. By way of contrast, it shows that poaching of Botswana rhinos has 1.12% of African rhinos but only experienced 0.1% of rhino mortalities due to poaching compared to South Africa (where there is no shoot-to-kill policy) which had 79.32% of rhinos but 89.6% of mortalities. It argues that the main purpose of the policy is to deter poaching and that it has been effective. It cites data that arrests for poaching have risen in South Africa but poaching has continued—most arrested get off and those that are convicted are bottom level poachers. The authors argue that only shoot-to-kill or “improving detection of poaching and illegal trade” work. It cites the additional example of Zimbabwe’s instituting a shoot-to-kill policy to protect elephants in the 1980s as another example that worked. The article also discusses and defends the morality of shoot-to-kill policies for preserving endangered species such as rhinos. It acknowledges the argument of Roderick P. Neumann in a 2004 Political Geography article that sharply critiqued shoot-to-kill policies for “humanizing wild animals” and “denigrating poachers” who are merely “impoverished peasants” rather than the wealthy people running the trade and the wealthy clients who purchase the horn. However, the authors reply is that “militarization” should be implemented with “complementary alternatives” but that the parks with rhinos are, in effect, “war zones” and thus it is appropriate to principles of war. I discuss such ethical questions in several chapters of my book--Chapter 9 is devoted entirely to value issues. My own view is that there are now billions of humans in the world who have refashioned the Earth to totally dominate their environment leaving small patches for species such as rhinos (or elephants, etc.) When there are billions of people who consume so much of nature’s resources, is there not some point where the value of non-human lives exceeds those involved in killing endangered species if this killing will deter and thus preserve the endangered species? The “shoot to kill article” is available at http://journals.assaf.org.za/sacq/article/viewFile/1787/2601
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