A Wildlife Article from All-Creatures.org

We are who eats us: A cultural argument to protect large carnivores

From Andrea Natan Feltrin, EcologicalCitizen.net
June 2024

Large carnivores occupy a significant place in our culture and psyche, embodying qualities like wilderness and strength; yet they also stir primal fears. These animals, with their evolutionary adaptations of sharp teeth and claws, are often seen as the man-eating monsters of our darkest nightmares. The key challenge is how modern Western societies, used to a semblance of safety, can coexist with these ancient rivals. The future of our interactions with these impressive creatures hinges on this delicate balance.

Eurasian lynx
Eurasian lynx - photo © John Linnell/NINA

Natan, a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas, specializes in environmental ethics and multispecies justice. His work, rooted in his studies at the University of Milan and research on beaver reintroduction at the University of Stirling, focuses on rewilding and ecological coexistence.

In this article, I explore Europe’s partial success in enhancing wildlife conditions, while pointing out its shortcomings. I examine the continent’s inadequate commitment to a globally oriented conservation exort, and the escalating challenges of coexistence with non-human species, particularly large carnivores. I will argue that living alongside large predators necessitates a profound shift in our cultural perspective – a move towards an ecocentric ethic, which would acknowledge humans as integral members of the biological community. This would recognize our status as animals amongst other animals, and thus entities that are ontologically consumable within the carbon cycle.

In the past century, Europe has seen a significant increase in its large carnivore populations due to rewilding, ecological restoration, protective laws, public support, and practices promoting coexistence with humans (Chapron et al., 2014). The migration of people to urban areas has led to the expansion of forests in recent decades, with almost 90,000 square kilometres of woodland (1.4 per cent of the total) reclaimed in Europe between 1990 and 2015 (Palmero-Iniesta et al., 2021).

This habitat growth, coupled with reduced persecution, has been instrumental in the recovery of large carnivore populations. Additionally, there has been a notable shift in attitudes towards these animals, such as wolves and bears, with greater recognition of their ecological significance. Historically, these species endured substantial declines owing to persecution and habitat loss, hitting a notable nadir from the late- 19th to the mid-20th century (Deinet et al., 2013).

Through dedicated conservation initiatives, Europe has made significant progress in the resurgence of its large carnivore populations, once on the brink of extinction. The continent, excluding Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, now hosts approximately 46,000 large carnivores. This recovery is exemplified by the brown bear (Ursus arctos), with numbers exceeding 17,000, and the wolf (Canis lupus), boasting a population of over 20,000 within the European Union. Additionally, the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) further enriches Europe’s biodiversity with around 9,000 individuals (all figures from https://www.lcie.org/Large-carnivores) . These statistics highlight the efficacy of wildlife conservation efforts throughout Europe and the potential to overcome cultural resistance toward these iconic species (Patkó, 2020).

In addressing wildlife management, Europe’s progress in conservation presents a complex picture. While achievements in local wildlife conservation are noteworthy, they often obscure a broader issue: the displacement or ‘outsourcing’ of wealthy nations’ ecological footprints, particularly to the Global South. This displacement results from globalization, which tends to shift negative environmental impacts and extractive activities to less affuent regions.

These regions, often rich in biodiversity and home to the remaining primary forests, are disproportionately affected. The preservation of large fauna emerges as a global concern, accentuated by challenges such as habitat destruction and the bushmeat trade (Ingeman et al., 2022). These issues signal Europe's participation in a wider international conservation effort. However, this engagement unveils a paradox: Europe's efforts to reduce its ecological footprint locally, by outsourcing resource extraction, inadvertently harm ecosystems in regions with lax environmental regulations. The situation highlights the need for a conservation ethic that transcends national borders – urging Europe and other Western regions to support wildlife flourishing globally, not just within their own territories.


Please read the ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE.

large carnivores

Posted on All-Creatures.org: June 27, 2024
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