Killing for Conservation?

Do conservation biologists make ethically questionable trade-offs when trying to save a species? This is the argument that Marc Bekoff makes in a provocative New Scientist essay. Bekoff, who is a biologist and an animal rights advocate, asks:

Can people who value individual lives work with those who are willing to sacrifice lives for the good of a species or an ecosystem? What role should animal sentience play in such decisions?

Bekoff has long been questioning the practices and ethics of conservation biology. I first talked to him 12 years ago, when I wrote this piece about a controversial program that reintroduced Canada lynx to Colorado. (Earlier this year I wrote a short post about the lynx reintroduction program and Bekoff.) I wish I had more time to talk about his current essay, but I wanted to put it out there and get some of your reaction.

8 Responses to “Killing for Conservation?”

  1. Tom Fuller says:

    I’m not sure we’re at this point yet, but I have no doubt that in one or two hundred years our descendants will say of us that we ‘actually ate meat’ in the same tone we use when we talk about slavery in our own too recent past.
    As for feeding pets to pets, I don’t see anything being done that wouldn’t be done in the wild, except less successfully.

  2. GaryM says:

    Well, let’s start with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and work from there.  The whole climate debate is like a mirror image of that debate.  When I see biologists and environmentalists taking seriously the rise in malaria rates since DDT was banned, I will believe they actually give a damn about the people they are claiming to protect.
    This (2004) grudgingly pathetic attempt at engaging in an issue that actually affects millions of people a year, shows that individual people’s lives carry little weight in the religion that environmentalism has become.  “We urge US AID not to forego consideration of indoor spraying of small quantities of DDT.”
    The Environmental Defense Fund, founded for the purpose of banning DDT, in the face of a real catastrophe where children are dying right now, urge(s) USDA not to forego consideration.  Uncertain climate models, paleo records and surface temperature records justify banning fossil fuels and bringing the world to a screeching halt right away because of speculative risks in the future.  But as to those dying of malaria right now, we need only “not forego consideration ”
    We are spending billions already based on the CAGW alarmists’ claims, and they want trillions more spent on a problem they can’t even define accurately yet.  Imagine if we spent a fraction of those dollars on safe use of DDT and other remediation efforts that can have actual, immediate effects on millions of lives.
    But how would anyone get famous doing that?

  3. Michael Hauber says:

    Perhaps our descendants will state ‘can you believe they actually ate meat?’ in the same tone we talk about slavery

    Or perhaps they will state ‘can you believe that some used to think it was wrong to eat meat’, in the same tones we discuss those who believed that dancing was sinful.

    The future always turns out different to what we expect.

  4. Marco says:

    GaryM: why would you want biologists and environmentalist to lie by omission?

    The DDT story is a good example of how deliberate misinformation has been used to create a false narrative. Today you will still see stories of how malaria in Sri Lanka increased enormously because DDT was banned. Only problem with that story is that Sri Lanka never banned DDT! the government stopped DDT use in 1964 because malaria was almost eradicated (but its agricultural use continued!), and then had to start spraying again a few years later because malaria had increased massively. Unfortunately, the malaria mosquito had become mostly resistant, and they thus had to move to malathion, because DDT didn’t work much anymore.

    The inconvenient facts are:
    1. DDT was never banned for anti-malaria use. In fact, in 2000 DDT got a special status in a treaty in which several other compounds were banned.
    2. Many areas suffer from resistance of the malaria mosquitos against DDT, mostly caused by long-term uninhibited use in agriculture
    3. Increase in malaria is mostly related to this resistance, NOT to any (non-existing) ban on the use of DDT.
    4. DDT now mostly functions as a repellant, rather than eradicating the mosquitos. Other compounds are available that DO eradicate the mosquitos.

  5. GaryM says:

    Don’t tell me, tell the EDF, the WHO and the Washington Post.
    You just regurgitate all the nonsense you want.  The US banned DDT in, I think it was 1976, under pressure from environmentalists.  The same folks who dominate the UN, including the WHO.  The rest of the west followed siut in the 70s and 80s.

    I wonder why so many Africans are fighting to get to use DDT if it is still readily available?  Here, here, here, and here.
    No, greens did not “ban” DDT use in Africa, they just formed the EDF, lobbied the WHI anbd World Bank, and brought all the pressure they could to bear or stop its use.  Notice this quote from the lastlink.  “Asked if the Ugandan government feared the loss of trade with the EU, Minister Muhwezi said: ‘We are confident that because we plan to follow WHO regulations regarding the use of DDT, we will have no problems on that issue.'”
    No, environmentalists did not get a total world wide ban.  But I wonder why would Uganda be worried about trade sanctions if it used DDT in a way not favored by western environmentalists?   Can you say economic blackmail.   Why should they fear economic retaliation if they fail to meet the western elite’s approval?  Why should Africans be forced to go on bended knee to white liberal western activists to obtain approval to save their own children’s lives?
    Probably for the same reason they will have to beg permission (if environmentalists have their way), to use fossil fuels to drag themselves out of poverty.

  6. Marco says:

    GaryM: did you actually read the letter from the EDF? It asked USAID to fund the use of DDT (or rather, not see the use of DDT prohibitive to funding). Yes, the EDF and other organisations got the use of DDT in AGRICULTURE banned. But it was never banned as anti-malarial method.

    Regarding your references:
    1. Great, referring to Lyndon Larouche
    2. Did you actually read this one? These people don’t want DDT used as a pesticide! Saoke has repeatedly pointed to the adverse effects of DDT use to human health
    3. Good example of someone who has fallen for the misinformation campaign. Rachel Carson clearly noted the importance of DDT in malaria control, but also pointed out that resistance was rapidly developing. Now, the action of DDT is mostly as a repellant…
    And the issue is that agricultural products are often stored in the sprayed houses. There was a worry that the presence of DDT in agricultural products would not be accepted by western countries. Economic blackmail? If so, I guess you don’t mind your child drinking some polluted milk product from China? Failure to accept that product would be economic blackmail…

  7. GaryM says:

    1.  This article,written by Marjorie Hecht may have been published by Larouche (admittedly a moron), but facts are facts no matter the source.  If Keith Olbermann says its raining, I at least look outside to see if I need an umbrella before going out.  I probably should instead have cited from a dozen other similar articles from more hospitable sources.
    2.  I linked to this article because it provides as follows:
    “Uganda and Tanzania) justified the re”introduction of DDT on the basis of the “WHO statement”
    It contains the recommendation:  “Shape public opinion on health matters related to DDT and malaria with an emphasis on supporting the use of DDT as stipulated in the Convention text while being vigilant on the implementation process in accordance with Annex B part II requirements”
    and advocates “political commitment for the re”introduction of DDT “an effective and cheap insecticide for IRS .”
    Forgive me for seeing this as support for the use of DDT in Africa.
    3.  Yeah, what do a couple of black Nigerians know about the conditions in their country that you don’t.  Suckers.
    4.  “And the issue is that agricultural products are often stored in the sprayed houses.” Yeah, that was the issue.  That is why the WHO now grudgingly agree to using DDT in homes now.  They want to poison American children.  Great logic.
    The danger was never as great as the activists claimed (sound familiar?).  The “science” was presented (and on some points misrepresented) as, shall we say, more certain than it was (again, sound familiar?).  More to the point, the holy jihad against DDT, which so many want to continue, was the prototype for the identical current use of “climate.”
    “”If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before.  In a sense, much more is at stake than DDT.” Charles Wurster,  chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, Seattle Times  October 5, 1969.  (From Chemistry Daily, which I suppose somebody will now tell me  is published by David Duke….)

  8. Marco says:

    1. Marjorie Hecht is wrong. She has claimed the WHO had reversed a ban on DDT in 2006. Only problem, WHO never banned DDT. She has also claimed there is no evidence DDT causes harm. Only problem, she never provides evidence, only a narrative. Marjorie Hecht fits right into Larouche’s anti-science.

    2. It was a review of the recommendations. It might be smart to look up Saoke. He’s had some choice things to say about DDT.

    3. Yeah, what do they know compared to scientists who on a daily basis work with malaria treatment and eradication. Also look at the website’s name. Tells you the politics and the likely narrative.

    4. The WHO never banned DDT use! How often do I need to repeat that? The only difference is that it currently actively recommends it, mainly because several countries don’t want to use much money on malaria control (Vietnam didn’t use a drop of DDT to eradicate malaria, but it DID put in the required money), and something is better than nothing. But regardless of that recommendation, it still means that DDT may enter agricultural products, which means many countries may decline these products on their inner market. Exactly like those countries stop the sales of many other products that contain chemicals that are not allowed. If that’s economical blackmail, you better start a campaign to get all those products approved in your country.

    I see you once again want to start a narrative that links DDT and climate change by activists, but fail to see the opposite narrative from inactivists and deniers that was also very, very active: the science was misrepresented (grossly, to the extend that Rachel Carson is called a mass murderer); the danger was actively downplayed by industry-funded shills and thinktanks (Monsanto paid a LOT of people to create doubt); false claims were put online and are (still) actively promoted (including by GaryM) as facts; etc.

    Yes, DDT was about more than DDT. It was about the limitless marketing of known toxic compounds, of which the safety-toxicity profile was completely neglected for the new god of the 1950s and 1960s: making money by big corporations. Try making a list of the chemicals that have been actively marketed in that period, and their safety. You can start with PCBs: already in 1940 known to be very toxic, but uncontrolled until the 1970s. We still find it in large concentrations throughout the whole foodchain, including in polar bears (who live thousands of miles from the places PCBs were used). Oh, and that toxicity was first observed by the companies making PCBs, but never reported. Sounds a bit like the tobacco industry actively fighting any link between smoking and cancer, while their own researchers had already noted that link many, many years earlier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *