From THE LOCAL (Sweden):
A recent government decision to temporarily halt Sweden's licensed wolf hunt is nothing more than an attempt to fool the EU commission, environmental organisations claimed on Tuesday. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen), World Wildlife Fund and the Predatory Animal Association (Svenska rovdjursföreningen) have decided to send the EU commission a joint statement on the matter.
“We feel that it’s highly important that we inform the EU commission that the government is trying to trick the commission. They’re pretending to halt the hunt but then continuing it again, despite the fact that the wolf population isn’t viable,” said Mikael Karlsson, chairman of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation , to Sveriges Radio.
Several experts have argued that the wolf population in the Nordic countries needs to grow to at least three times its current size to remain viable.
Following pressure from the EU commission, the Swedish government agreed to stop the licensed wolf hunt this winter. However, they hope to resume this hunt as soon as the winter 2012-2013.
Minister for the environment Andreas Carlgren stated, “Sweden’s policy on predators must be carried out with great consideration and respect for those that take the consequences of living near predators, that is the local population.”
COMMENT: I do not believe that the Christian religion is responsible for all the violence in the world. In fact, I believe Christian moral teaching acts as a brake against violence in many situations and helps initiate reconciliation after periods of violence. However, the arrogance of some Christian theology is responsible for causing much pain in the world. For example, the Church's continued insistence on the legal oppression of more than half the population of the world based only on the accident of their gender is probably the main reason for the Christian faith's accelerating demise. Another negative cornerstone of Christian belief, one which has resulted in, maybe irreversible, damage to our planet, is the claim in Judaic mythology, adhered to by Christians, that humans have been given dominion over all nature. Theologians can argue, and have argued often, about how the word "dominion" should be interpreted but human nature, being biased towards self interest, has meant that the theology of dominion has been mainly used as an excuse for Christians (and non-Christians whose morality is based on the Christian tradition) to do whatever they like in the natural world and damn the consequences. This is very much a Judeo-Christian mindset. The religions of Asia tend to emphasise that humans are part of nature and not above it.
It is this theology of human dominion over nature that informs Sweden's minister for the environment when he states that his country's "policy on predators must be carried out with great consideration and respect for those that take the consequences of living near predators..."
Within this statement is the assumption that human interest is "naturally" more important than the interests of any other creature and even the ecosystem itself. But, for a modern, scientifically informed, philosophically attuned, Christian is this a defendable moral assumption to make? Personally, I do not thinks so, even though I can see how a universal adoption of such a view would lead to almost definite problems for myself and the rest of humanity.
The ethicist, Peter Singer, among others, has argued for the acceptance of the innate personhood of all sentient creatures (with sentiency being defined to include self awareness at all levels of consciousness) and I am intellectually convinced by his reasoning even though my practice does not reflect my beliefs on this matter as consistently as Singer's vegetarian lifestyle does.
As "enlightened" Christians we strongly believe that no human being should be treated as an object by other human beings. Therefore, unless we believe that God created every non-human, sentient animal to be nothing more than objects, we would be hypocritical in demanding the non-objectification of humans whilst allowing the continued objectification of other creatures.
So, in respect of the specific example in question, the wolves of Sweden, how far can humans go in effecting their population, opportunity and standard of life of the wolves simply in order to protect human interests?
I would suggest that, logically, if we confer personhood on the wolves then we can interfere in their existence no more than we can interfere with the lives of our fellow humans. In fact, as wolves are from a different social group to ourselves, in no way beholden to obey our group's rules, and do not have the ability to understand human moral values, we should be biased to their needs in preference to our own. Personally I believe we have the right to defend ourselves when attacked and to defend our property if we are present at an attack on that property. It would be unreasonable to expect a farmer to stand and watch his livestock being ripped to pieces in front of him. But killing wolves because they might attack domestic livestock is an attack on their personhood and should be as unacceptable as killing Muslim babies because a very few Muslim babies grow up to become suicide bombers.
Wolves learn from communal experience and will normally stay away from situations that they understand to be dangerous to themselves. But, if forced by their survival instinct into no other choice they will overcome their fear and they will attack and kill livestock "belonging" to human beings. Unless we all turned into vegetarians there is no practical way to stop this happening that respects the interests of wolves. But, just as wolves are pack animals so are humans and we should take care of all the members of our pack. So losses incurred by farmers caused by our pack respecting the right to life of the wolf pack should be born by the whole of our society and not the individual farmers. If society wishes to reduce the amount of compensation paid out then it should invest in physical, non-harmful, deterrents rather than bullets rather than leaving such preventative measures, and their cost, to individual farmers.
Our God is far, far superior in all faculties to human beings than human beings are to wolves. We should be careful when we deny moral rights to animals based on their perceived status of being "less" than us just in case God decides to view us "insignificant, little ants" in exactly the same way.