The Wildlife Watch Binocular
Fall 2004 / Winter 2005 Issue
OUR TOUGHEST OPPONENT COULD BE OUR STAUNCHEST ALLY
By Ron Baker
“We can never hope to change our society for the better unless we first change ourselves for the better.”
— Samuel Butler
All of us, even those who try to avoid it as much as possible, are exploiters
both of the earth and its plant and animal life. Even the strictest vegan finds
it almost impossible to avoid all animal products. There are animal by-products,
for example, in such diverse things as asphalt used in road construction, the
tires of automobiles, and photographic film. There would be no paper for this
article if there were no logging operations which kill and displace many animals.
In fact, each time a person purchases any product he or she is responsible
for environmental disruption and animal deaths as a result of the exploitation
that occurs to procure the basic raw materials. This is another case of blindness
to cause and effect relationships. How many people who think that they care
about Nature are aware of the destruction that is wrought to produce their
stereo set, VCR equipment or new home computer?
The trick, then, is to try to keep the destruction of life and the environment
to a minimum. There are many ways that people can do this. Couples can make
a commitment not to add to the population or at least to limit their family
to one or two children. People can refuse to purchase any obviously frivolous
nonessential product, particularly if this product wastes gasoline or electricity.
In so doing they will help to prevent the destruction of wildlife habitat and
the construction of new dams, atomic and fossil fuel plants, offshore oil drills,
pipelines, and transmission lines.
People can recycle reusable products. They can grow some of their own food.
They can become a vegetarian, or better still, a semi-vegan. (I use the term “semi-vegan “because
virtually no one can avoid all animal products.) Animal agriculture is energy
inefficient and environmentally degrading. A cow consumes ten to twenty times
the amount of grain needed to nourish a person. An average chicken slaughterhouse
uses 100 million gallons of water in a single day. Factory farming generates
massive amounts of animal wastes that cannot be property disposed of and are
polluting our atmosphere and water supplies. Production of beef cattle results
in overgrazing of land, cutting back of forests and accompanying erosion. Wildlife
suffers from the destruction of habitat and from predator control programs.
In addition, beef imported from northern South America is a major factor in
the destruction of rain forests that are vital habitat for many threatened
and endangered plants and animals. Vegetarianism and semi-veganism aren’t
panaceas for all of the world’s problems, but they are a good beginning.
If done for selfless purposes, and not simply for health reasons, they are
an accurate gauge of a person’s willingness to sacrifice for the good
of all life.
Sadly, most people do not want to sacrifice for the benefit of Nature. This
is a result of a far greater problem –that being the nature of the human
animal. There are no easy solutions. Perhaps enlightened self-interest will
someday result in an environmental ethic which will include the concept that
the lives of all creatures are sacred. But one thing is certain: The toughest
opponent that we in the animal protection and environmental/ecology movements
face is not any of our traditional adversaries. Our very toughest opponent
is here, deep within ourselves. It is our greed and selfishness. We have met
the enemy and it is us. Let’s try to search for and embrace the friend
Ron Baker homesteaded in the Adirondacks for 27 years, living in tents and
a cabin made of indigenous fallen trees. He is a co-founder of Wildlife
the first wildlife protection group in the Adirondacks. He is author of The
American Hunting Myth (Vantage Press, 1985) and editor and writer of the Backwoods
Journal. Some excerpts from that out of print publication will occasionally
be printed here.
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