Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link


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62 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Ikon, the authors offer no evidence in support of that conclusion. The first two reasons are dubious – dingoes and foxes aren’t apex predators in Africa and Asia. I wondered about Europe, and came across this:

    https://howtoconserve.org/2016/06/10/carnivore-recovery-europe/

    The third reason is interesting. Where did all these cats in our National Parks and in the middle of nowhere come from? Why is the blame being placed on urban and suburban cat owners, when these problems have been caused by farm cats, used to protect grain, which are commonly unregistered and left to breed?

    But I also don’t disagree. It isn’t enough to fix the problem.

    From the preceding paragraph:

    “Indeed, the only way Australian native fauna will evolve strategies to cope with predation by introduced predators is to coexist with them as it seems highly unlikely that introduced predators will be eradicated in the foreseeable future given their likely evolution of tolerance to the poisons used and the inability to eradicate them nationally to date, despite attempts over millions of hectares across Australia.”

    This is also worth reading:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macquarie_Island

    Why are we endlessly subsidising farmers’ pest control, when their business is clearly not about ‘saving our national wildlife’? Surely not just to get our meat slightly cheaper at the supermarket?

    For the reduction of urban and suburban stray dogs and cats, this is a big step in the right direction:

    https://www.sbs.com.au/news/victoria-stamps-out-puppy-farms

    All states should be enacting these laws.

  2. Ikonoclast

    Mike Archer is a Professor in the School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales. From 1972 to 1978 he was curator of mammals at the Queensland Museum. You can find his profile here:
    https://www.bees.unsw.edu.au/michael-archer

    Now, none of that makes him infallible, or even infallible on this particular topic, but I think I am justified in attaching greater weight to his judgement than to yours, and he is on record on this particular topic, in Chapter 11 of a book called Going Native, which he co-authored with journalist Bob Beale and which was published in 2004, he discusses experience with the keeping of native animals as pets, and how it shows that in some cases (not all) it can be beneficial both to humans and to the native species.

    Please note that allowing some native species to be kept as pets is not synonymous with allowing anybody to take any of them from the wild at will.

  3. J-D,

    I can’t comment directly without reading his book or at least the chapter you mention. I also can’t comment directly without a wider review of the relevant literature where I might, or might not, find authorities of equal or greater weight who disagree with Mike Archer.

    However, for every enlightened and/or professionally qualified person who has kept native animals as PETS (as opposed to study animals) in a way which somehow benefits native animals of that species in the wild (of which benefit I remain highly sceptical when the process is pure pet-keeping as such), I would hazard the guess that a hundred unenlightened and un-knowledgeable people have kept native animals as pets in cruel manners, often without the intention of being cruel, and with no benefit and even damage to the prospects of the native species in the wild.

    On balance, only trained specialists with credentials and proper approvals should ever be permitted to take and keep native animals of any kind in captivity, temporary or permanent, and only then for approved purposes.

  4. This is nuts! (pun intended)

    “Neuticles, one plugged-in acquaintance revealed, are prosthetic testicles for neutered pets”

    At $69Bn in the US per year and humans anthropomophising wildly, this article is eye watering and eye opening. Cbd for pets! Pawdicures. Cloning. Wow.

  5. KT2,

    “Baroque” is hardly the word for it. Decadent, grotesque and surreal are more the right words. Clearly, an age of terminal decadence is upon us. Children starve in many parts of the world while this goes on. It is perverse and corrupt.

    “The Lady with the Pig” is a work by the Belgian artist Félicien Rops and it perfectly illustrates this issue. Though it was probably intended to have other interpretations at the time of its painting, its specific themes do relate directly to the general theme of decadence. Rops’ image is now strangely appropriate to the fetishization of pets (in both the Marxist and Freudian senses) by many modern Westerners.

  6. There are, of course, many examples of animals (native or not) kept as pets and treated cruelly and, of course, this should not be allowed: and it is disallowed, in the sense that there are laws against it and they are enforced, although making laws against something and enforcing them isn’t enough to stop it altogether. On the other hand, many animals in the wild suffer as much as do animals treated cruelly by humans; and many animals kept as pets and well treated show obvious signs that they enjoy their interactions with humans, a benefit to individual animals in addition to the benefit of greater material well-being if they are well looked after.

    At the species rather than the individual level, for those species whose members do thrive in human captivity (and obviously this is not all of them), any species whose members are commonly kept as pets has excellent protection against extinction from that fact. In addition, the extent to which there is public support and pressure for a species to be protected and conserved is related to the extent to which people are familiar with it; therefore, Mike Archer argues, if native animals were commonly kept as pets, there would be stronger public support and pressure for the protection and conservation of native animals, which seems plausible to me.

  7. I return to my original argument. The conventional view of economists and others is that nature and biodiversity have instrumental value as a consumption good (broadly defined to include conservation, aesthetic and altruistic motives as will as standard uses) and as a factor of production. Thus we stop species from going extinct because it offends the convexity of our preferences – we value diversity. This is an inadequate view for almost all conservation biologists and many philosophers who espouse eco-centrist or bio-centrist ethics. Their claim is that while. of course we should limit extinctions by having conservation reserves, zoos and perhaps native species as pets that this is entirely inadequate as an ethic for thinking about nature – its a “last resort” ethic. We should instead assign an intrinsic value to nature and biodiversity irrespective of what we might want as humans. As argued earlier there are logical arguments – such as the “last person argument” – which suggest this is reasonable.

    Instead of viewing nature instrumentally we should recognise that we share the world with non-human species and generally seek to minimise our impact on such species by conserving ecosystems. To the eco-centrists we can (humanely) kill a duck for the pot are not allowed tot destroy its environment. This focus takes us away from the paradoxes of “animal liberation” because it now makes sense to destroy feral species which damage environmental sustainability. The suggestion is that in all human activities we should seek to preserve local environments by restricting human populations and their activities so that we have minimal adverse impacts. This also means conserving or restoring soils and waterways that sustain natural populations.

    The “zoo mentality” (just keep enough nature so our human preferences are satiated) needs to go. We need to conserve natural populations everywhere by not irreversibly destroying them but drawing on them only in a minimal way. Human activities should enhance degrade environments not further destroy them. The idea of preserving species (or sub-species) alone is inadequate, anyway, from a long-term viewpoint anyway since we need to preserve local populations which provide the basis for speciation – the creation of new species. All we are doing at preserve is wiping out global biodiversity and substantially limiting its regeneration.

    The practical ways of achieving this change in attitude are suggested in Tim Jackson’s, Prosperity Without Growth, viz by fostering education and cultural activities as a substitute for resource-depleting activities and, controversially, from the viewpoint of “deep ecology” by substantially reducing global human populations.

  8. The statement by J-D that “any species whose members are commonly kept as pets has excellent protection against extinction from that fact” rests on a number of dubious assumptions. The first dubious assumption is that humans themselves don’t face a serious extinction from their own activities. Humans in fact do face a definite extinction threat from their own activities. Other species heavily dependent on humans for survival are quite likely to go extinct if humans go extinct. A better survival strategy for animals in general might well be to survive without humans and as far away from their civilization as possible. Thus being extremely human-shy might well prove to be the best adaptive strategy.

    It is our own activities which have driven some of these animals to the sad pass where being “commonly kept as pets” becomes the final hedge against their extinction. This is scarcely a recommendation for the activity. It is more a condemnation for all the activities which have driven these animals to such a sad pass. In any case, a species avoiding extinction by association with civilized humans is already in the situation that its natural mode of survival in the environment is extinct even if the species itself is not. Again, none of these statements by J-D really constitute recommendations or commendations for keeping native animals as pets. They are rather indictments of a whole slew of ill-conceived human activities, including pet keeping itself, which have brought matters to this sad outcome.

  9. The suggestion is that in all human activities we should seek to preserve local environments by restricting human populations and their activities so that we have minimal adverse impacts.

    That seems to me like the Larkin solution:
    ‘Get out as early as you can
    ‘And don’t have any kids yourself.’
    But it’s not only Larkin’s solution:
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/96
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/241
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/253
    Make of that what you will.

    The first dubious assumption is that humans themselves don’t face a serious extinction from their own activities. Other species heavily dependent on humans for survival are quite likely to go extinct if humans go extinct.

    The assumption you mention is not mine. Whether through our own activities or not, the human species will sooner or later become extinct, because that’s what ultimately happens to all species. No human course of action can change this, for ourselves, or for any other species. Also, when the human species does become extinct, it will mean extinction for any species dependent on humans, such as Pediculus humanus, which occurs naturally in two subspecies, the human head louse and the human body louse. They are not known to parasitise even our closest living relatives (which are subject to parasitisation by other, related, species of louse): when we go, they go, and that’s all there is to it.

    A better survival strategy for animals in general might well be to survive without humans and as far away from their civilization as possible. Thus being extremely human-shy might well prove to be the best adaptive strategy.

    Do you know, in the years now thankfully long ago when my daughter was periodically infested with head lice, it never occurred to me to advise the lice that their strategy of depending entirely on parasitising humans was a poor choice and they’d be better advised to adopt a different one? Somehow, it never occurred to me to think of it as a strategic choice on the part of the lice.

    It is our own activities which have driven some of these animals to the sad pass where being “commonly kept as pets” becomes the final hedge against their extinction.

    Absolutely true, but the fact that it is a situation which humans created does not change the fact that it is the situation which now obtains.

    In the situation we find ourselves in right now, it is sometimes the case that being kept as a pet is bad for an individual animal, and in those cases, that is a good argument against keeping the animal as a pet. But it isn’t true in all cases. In some cases being kept as a pet is beneficial for the animal.

    Regardless of the effect on the individual animal, if being kept as pets brought a species closer to extinction, that would be a good argument against keeping members of the species as pets. But it’s not the case that being kept as pets brings a species closer to extinction.

    On the other hand, the fact that humans have done terrible harm to the biosphere–and it is a fact–is not, by itself, a good argument against the keeping of animals as pets.

  10. J-D,

    I was quite aware of the issues relating to parasites and symbiotes of humans. In context, we were discussing pet species or possible pet species, particularly native animals. One does not list in a blog post all the caveats which are or should be context-obvious to anyone concerned about the substantive issues.

    The “situation which humans created” certainly will not change (in any good way) if humans don’t learn from their mistakes. On the holistic view, doubling down on mistakes is not the way to correct them.

    Pet keeping, almost by definition, is done by amateurs. The proportion of pet ownership by aficionado owners, who are also genuinely knowledgeable about native animals, can be predicted confidently to be very, very small. They idea that native animal pet owners are, on balance, having a positive effect on preserving native species and pristine or balanced ecosystems of native species is preposterous.

    Sure, a lot of laws and regulations about keeping native animals as pets are quite tight now, to protect both native animals and people. They would bear further considerable tightening.

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