"Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Sat May 28, 2016 2:06 am

ghijkmnop wrote:Please note the italicized above. I do my best to ignore what other people do, unless their fucking tiger/orangutan hybrid creeps up behind me, pelts me with semen-laced feces and then tries to eat me.

OK No-L, you're off my list again.

For now.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby ghijkmnop » Sat May 28, 2016 2:20 am

Redacted
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Crimson847 » Sat May 28, 2016 4:27 am

cmsellers wrote:
Crimson847 wrote:I suppose the main question for me re: pet ownership is what the alternative is for the animal. For domestic animals, the alternative to being someone's pet is usually rotting in a cage at a shelter (or worse, a pet shop) or getting put down, so I'm inclined to leave bureaucratic barriers to a minimum simply to avoid those outcomes. For wild animals, unless it's an orphan, an invasive species, or permanently injured the alternative to being a pet is usually much more acceptable, so I'm less sanguine about the idea and my existing reservations about possible mistreatment or fucking up ecosystems by getting rid of all the cute animals hold more force.


Does this mean that you oppose the raising of domesticated animals for meat, Crimson?


As a matter of principle, no. I do oppose the current hideous approach to it in most factory farms, however.

Your argument sounds suspiciously similar to that expressed the animal rights activists who say they want to ban exotic pets but are OK with cats and dogs (and usually rabbits and ferrets). However these same activists also suggest that being used for food (or having their milk or eggs used for food) is a fate worse than never being born.


I would disagree. Frankly, prey animals are likely to end up being food for another animal in the wild anyway; the quality of their life up until that point is my primary concern.

While I would disagree with them where traditional farms are concerned, I would agree fully where factory farms are concerned. And yet I eat factory-farmed meat because it's cheap and delicious, because I rate my happiness above the life satisfaction of other species. I'd support animal welfare restrictions that drive up the price of meat in principle, but am not willing to vote with my wallet and only buy humanely raised meat.


I feel compelled to note that if taken to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning would argue that I should be able to skin my dog alive, or beat it whenever I have a bad day, as long as doing so brings me some significant measure of joy. Somehow I suspect you would be opposed to this.

Note: I'm not a vegan, and I'm not convinced most vegans have much room to proselytize on the issue either, especially if they hold the view you cited above (care to guess how many animal products go into things that aren't food, or how many field animals are killed by farming equipment like threshers?). That said, friends don't let friends make unsound arguments.

Likewise, on animal welfare grounds, I support restrictions on species that most people are going to fuck up on the care of without further instruction (such as slow lorises), but oppose full-on bans, and think that if an animal's care basically amounts to "feed it a diet that's affordable and easy to provide, clean its cage every week, give it some toys and socialize it (up to an hour-a-day minimum) so it doesn't get bored" it should be legal without restrictions. (Unless of course disease concerns and a nanny-state mentality mean you need to train people on how not go give themselves hantavirabies, which I'm fine with as a compromise.)


Have you considered the impact that a selective loss in population of these critters may have on local ecosystems, particularly in more densely populated areas? I mean, there are almost 2 million people in the metro area I live in. If only 1% of those people decide to go out and snap up a grey squirrel as a pet, that's 20,000 squirrels abruptly removed from the local ecosystems. If a commercial trade gets set up (even with limitations), you'd be looking at a lot more missing squirrels. I honestly don't know what that would do to local ecosystems, and I have even less idea what would happen in other parts of the country with different native species and ecosystems, but the possibility for serious disruption seems to be there.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby PSTN » Sat May 28, 2016 4:46 am

Many wild animals belong in my belly.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Sat May 28, 2016 5:18 am

Crimson847 wrote:I would disagree. Frankly, prey animals are likely to end up being food for another animal in the wild anyway; the quality of their life up until that point is my primary concern.

Indeed, and their death may be considerably less humane than the deaths in your standard slaughterhouse.

Crimson847 wrote:I feel compelled to note that if taken to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning would argue that I should be able to skin my dog alive, or beat it whenever I have a bad day, as long as doing so brings me some significant measure of joy. Somehow I suspect you would be opposed to this.

Indeed. I believe in animal welfare, and therefore that that wanton cruelty to animals is unacceptable. However I also believe that it is acceptable to use animals for our own purposes, within reasonable limits. What defines those limits is up for debate. It seems like you are arguing that we should try to structure our actions with regards to animals such that we can only use them if this use will result in a clear net positive on the animal's life. I cannot tell if this it's an animal welfare or animal rights argument that you're making, but either way it's new to me.

I therefore have to ask you: is it acceptable to attempt to eradicate the rat populations on islands off New Zealand, killing hundreds of rats yearly merely to keep them in check, so as to preserve endangered birds who number in total perhaps the same as the rats who are being killed yearly? I would argue that it is acceptable. However I reject the standard argument that humans have a responsibility to undo the ecological damage that we did. That egg cannot be unbroken, but the ecology would eventually reach a new equilibrium without us. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable and fun for humans to see saddlebacks and kakapos in their natural habitat; and a small-scale rodent genocide is worth that benefit.

Crimson847 wrote:Have you considered the impact that a selective loss in population of these critters may have on local ecosystems, particularly in more densely populated areas? I mean, there are almost 2 million people in the metro area I live in. If only 1% of those people decide to go out and snap up a grey squirrel as a pet, that's 20,000 squirrels abruptly removed from the local ecosystems. If a commercial trade gets set up (even with limitations), you'd be looking at a lot more missing squirrels. I honestly don't know what that would do to local ecosystems, and I have even less idea what would happen in other parts of the country with different native species and ecosystems, but the possibility for serious disruption seems to be there.

1% seems unrealistically high. It might be plausible as the number of people who would take baby animals from the wild if it were allowed, it might even be low in rural areas. However it is unrealistic to assume that that 1% will all be interested in the same animal, and will collect that animal all at once.

That said, by picking squirrels in Portland you picked just about the worst animal/locality combination to make your argument. The squirrels you see in urban areas on the West Coast are non-native invasive species: eastern gray and fox squirrels. If people could decimate their population, that would be a plus, but that is not going to happen. Squirrels are r-strategists, meaning that the majority of young die before their first year. If you assume people in Portland are taking squirrels from within the city, urban habitats are created from human disruption anyways and are not some delicate equilibrium which you will ruin by collecting the squirrels. This would be true even if the squirrels in question were native, as with eastern grays in Boston or fox squirrels in Austin.

That said, I think it is highly unlikely that any collection of non-endangered animals locally is going to pose a problem. If people are collecting animals from the wild in cities, the ecosystem is so heavily based around human activities that only a few animal species tend to predominate, and these animals are wildly successful out of all proportion to their success in rural areas. Moreover, even if you managed to extinguish a species in an urban ecosystem, the fact that the keystones species in these ecosystems are humans means its unlikely to make a difference. If people are collecting from the wild in rural areas, the population density of the animals vs the population of the humans who want them generally means that humans will be a rather marginal predator.

The problem comes if you're collecting animals in rural areas for sale elsewhere. When that happens, you allow for unsustainable harvesting practices. People have been keeping lorises and tarsiers as pets for years in their local environments, but it's only when demand for them abroad lead to large-scale capturing that it become an ecological problem. Still, the collapse isn't sudden. We're seeing an ongoing population decline which lets us know that these animals should be subject to a moratorium on collection. The problem is that these animals are being collected in countries with poor conservation records and sold to countries without much respect for the rule of law. This would not be a problem in the United States, where conservation agencies could react quickly to any local population decline.

And this assumes that we will see a cottage industry of people trying to sell locally abundant species in other parts of the country. I find this rather unlikely, since the only animal the United States has which approaches the charisma of the slow loris is the raccoon, which is abundant nationwide, and which is moreover (unlike lorises or tarsiers) easy to breed in captivity.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Crimson847 » Sat May 28, 2016 7:41 am

cmsellers wrote:Indeed. I believe in animal welfare, and therefore that that wanton cruelty to animals is unacceptable. However I also believe that it is acceptable to use animals for our own purposes, within reasonable limits. What defines those limits is up for debate. It seems like you are arguing that we should try to structure our actions with regards to animals such that we can only use them if this use will result in a clear net positive on the animal's life. I cannot tell if this it's an animal welfare or animal rights argument that you're making, but either way it's new to me.


I'm open to the idea of limited animal "rights" for a select few highly intelligent and emotionally/morally sophisticated species. I haven't explored the practical consequences in much depth, but some of the research on animals like chimpanzees, elephants, and dolphins and the limitations of our knowledge about their ethology have led me to ponder the idea. Beyond that, it's mostly an animal welfare argument.

I therefore have to ask you: is it acceptable to attempt to eradicate the rat populations on islands off New Zealand, killing hundreds of rats yearly merely to keep them in check, so as to preserve endangered birds who number in total perhaps the same as the rats who are being killed yearly?


Possibly. Threatening an endangered species introduces issues of biodiversity, irreversibility, and potential scientific losses. Meanwhile, I don't reject the goal of minimizing our impact on ecosystems, so if rats were brought to these islands by humans I'm less averse to attempts to undo that mistake than I would be if the rats were native.

That said, by picking squirrels in Portland you picked just about the worst animal/locality combination to make your argument. The squirrels you see in urban areas on the West Coast are non-native invasive species: eastern gray and fox squirrels. If people could decimate their population, that would be a plus, but that is not going to happen. Squirrels are r-strategists, meaning that the majority of young die before their first year. If you assume people in Portland are taking squirrels from within the city, urban habitats are created from human disruption anyways and are not some delicate equilibrium which you will ruin by collecting the squirrels. This would be true even if the squirrels in question were native, as with eastern grays in Boston or fox squirrels in Austin.


Probably should have clarified: I live in the inner city now, but I grew up in suburban Portland within sight of the urban growth boundary, an artifact of Portland's restrictive "smart growth" policies that creates a bright line at the edge of the metro area where suburban housing developments abruptly turn into farms and fields or wild forestland. There are plenty of Western greys and other native squirrels to be found in such areas thanks to the close proximity of rural areas or wildland. Most of Portland's population lives outside the inner city (where the Eastern greys do indeed reign supreme), much of it in areas like this, and given the popularity of outdoorsy activities here even the people in the city spend a fair amount of time in nearby wildland areas.

If people are collecting from the wild in rural areas, the population density of the animals vs the population of the humans who want them generally means that humans will be a rather marginal predator.


Agreed. My concern here would be commercial interests or tourists coming in and stripping the place, but that seems like a fixable problem in principle. That said, I note that we're putting a lot of faith in the swiftness of legislatures and their attentiveness to ecological issues here, which seems like a presumption that would often fail in practice.

And this assumes that we will see a cottage industry of people trying to sell locally abundant species in other parts of the country. I find this rather unlikely, since the only animal the United States has which approaches the charisma of the slow loris is the raccoon, which is abundant nationwide, and which is moreover (unlike lorises or tarsiers) easy to breed in captivity.


Ahem.

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Raccoons may be the only cool animals left in Texas, but... ;)
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Sat May 28, 2016 8:01 am

Hey, Texas has cool animals.

Spoiler: show
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It's just that I hear far more stories about people adopting raccoons from the wild than any other animal; it's also one of the only North American mammal species which has become invasive abroad. If there were any native species I'd worry about becoming a craze, it's the raccoon.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Crimson847 » Sat May 28, 2016 8:56 am

Most of the stories I've heard around here from private individuals (to be clear, we're talking about a tiny, very biased sample of like 10 people and maybe 15 adopted animals between them) are from people who've adopted squirrels or reptiles/amphibians. If the species was specified it was usually non-native (some folks are very quick to mention this, which probably has something to do with Portland's environmentalist reputation), but in several cases no description more specific than "gray squirrel", "garden snake", or "big frog" was given. I've also seen a fair amount of interest in adopting small birds like bluejays, hummingbirds, or chickadees if it weren't for the MBTA.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby DashaBlade » Sat May 28, 2016 12:14 pm

cmsellers wrote:I therefore have to ask you: is it acceptable to attempt to eradicate the rat populations on islands off New Zealand, killing hundreds of rats yearly merely to keep them in check, so as to preserve endangered birds who number in total perhaps the same as the rats who are being killed yearly? I would argue that it is acceptable. However I reject the standard argument that humans have a responsibility to undo the ecological damage that we did. That egg cannot be unbroken, but the ecology would eventually reach a new equilibrium without us. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable and fun for humans to see saddlebacks and kakapos in their natural habitat; and a small-scale rodent genocide is worth that benefit.


I was thinking about this last night as I fell asleep. The reason why there are so many rats is because of humans too. I don't know if you ever watched that show "Life After People" but one episode talked about how animal populations would be affected if humans disappeared. Rats would experience a massive die-off because without humans, they'd have to go back to working for a living. Er, finding their own food. So I'd say that killing off a few thousand rats a year is, in a way, undoing some of the ecological damage that humans do by merely existing. If humans brought the rats there, the least we can do is get rid of them ourselves.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Anglerphobe » Sat May 28, 2016 12:35 pm

There are really only two concerns I have with exotic private pets. One is animal welfare, which seems to have been sufficiently covered here, and the other is ecology. It goes without saying that getting virulent foreign organisms all up in your biosphere is not a good thing, and this is pretty often a consequence of a booming exotic pet industry.
I don't think it's cause to ban things outright in most circumstances (for countries with vulnerable wildlife such as New Zealand and Madagascar, it very much is) but certainly necessitates some kind of countermeasure policy to keep feral numbers of non-native species at a minimum. Mandatory neutering/spaying where possible would be such a policy. That vitamin deficiency gene from Jurassic Park would be another effective, if slightly morally cloudy one.
These are measures I for one would extend to non-exotic pets as well if I could, so maybe this whole post should be snipped and relocated to the greater pet ownership thread.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby Matthew Notch » Sat May 28, 2016 8:30 pm

I don't have much to add to the debate except to say that we are actually housing an endangered species in our backyard right now. That's right, the Swedish Flower Hen is an endangered breed of chicken. According to Greenfire Farms:

Swedish flower hens are the largest breed of chickens native to Sweden. Roosters can weigh as much as 8 lbs. With the commercialization of Sweden’s poultry flocks in the last half of the 20th Century, this breed almost became extinct. A couple of decades ago remnant flocks were identified in three small, rural Swedish villages and a focused effort was made to save the breed. By the late 1980s fewer than 500 birds existed in the world. Today, about a thousand Swedish flower hens live in about fifty scattered flocks, and until Greenfire Farms began working with this breed, few if any could be found outside remote villages in Sweden.


This is actually true of a lot of breeds of chickens or ducks that aren't Tyson chickens or mallard ducks. Factory farms ensured their ruination because, well to be honest, none of my Swedes would make a particularly filling meal, and they took a lot longer to get to the size they are in the first place. A couple of my ducks are Pekin ducks, which are a meat breed, and you can see quite a difference between them and the rest of the flock, although much of the flock now is a cross between Pekin and Swedish Blue.

Here, I'll witter on about my chickens some more. I can always tell when a clutch was raised by a mother hen and when it was raised in a pen by humans, because the chicks in the pen get used to humanity a lot quicker, and tend to be smarter at just about everything they do, at least in comparison to the wild birds. It might owe more to the fact that their habitat when grown is very much a human engine, so it only makes sense the birds more used to that sort of life would handle it more intelligently.

It does make me wonder how much an animal like the chicken or turkey or duck or cow or pigeon or what have you owes as a species, meaning all breeds everywhere, worldwide, to human intervention. Because while it's hard to argue that human interference has critically limited the number of chickens in the world, it has most certainly done a number on their genetic diversity, for better or worse. Whichever it is remains up to the reader.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby DanteHoratio » Sun May 29, 2016 7:50 pm

Exotic animals should NOT be kept as pets. There is NO reason for people having Lions, Tigers, Bears(oh my!), Chimps, Gorillas, Orangutans, Cheetahs, Crocodilians, Wolves, or other exotic animals like that.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Sun May 29, 2016 8:07 pm

DanteHoratio wrote:Exotic animals should NOT be kept as pets. There is NO reason for people having Lions, Tigers, Bears(oh my!), Chimps, Gorillas, Orangutans, Cheetahs, Crocodilians, Wolves, or other exotic animals like that.

People keep these animals for much the same reasons people visit them in zoos. They enjoy watching them, and have the want the benefit of being able to interact with them up close and personal. So yes, there absolutely is a reason for keeping those animals.

If you don't want a tiger, don't keep one. Personally, I don't think any of the animals on your list except crocodilians (specifically alligators and caimans, which are very placid as long as they get fed regularly) are worth the effort. However other people feel the same way about the animals I want to keep, which is why sugar gliders were illegal in Massachusetts until 2013, why prairie dogs and crows are still illegal in Massachusetts, it's why the PWD decided to reinterpret Texas law to ban fennec foxes.

Now, there are actual arguments against the animals you've raised. I've only addressed some of them. But suggesting that there is no reason to keep these animals is condescending, closed-minded, ignorant and blatantly false.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby DanteHoratio » Mon May 30, 2016 10:24 am

cmsellers wrote:
DanteHoratio wrote:Exotic animals should NOT be kept as pets. There is NO reason for people having Lions, Tigers, Bears(oh my!), Chimps, Gorillas, Orangutans, Cheetahs, Crocodilians, Wolves, or other exotic animals like that.

People keep these animals for much the same reasons people visit them in zoos. They enjoy watching them, and have the want the benefit of being able to interact with them up close and personal. So yes, there absolutely is a reason for keeping those animals.

If you don't want a tiger, don't keep one. Personally, I don't think any of the animals on your list except crocodilians (specifically alligators and caimans, which are very placid as long as they get fed regularly) are worth the effort. However other people feel the same way about the animals I want to keep, which is why sugar gliders were illegal in Massachusetts until 2013, why prairie dogs and crows are still illegal in Massachusetts, it's why the PWD decided to reinterpret Texas law to ban fennec foxes.

Now, there are actual arguments against the animals you've raised. I've only addressed some of them. But suggesting that there is no reason to keep these animals is condescending, closed-minded, ignorant and blatantly false.

My concern is the danger of a exotic animal killing somebody or escaping(or being released) into the wild. Something like a Sugar Glider is fine as it is both not dangerous and not endangered as fine as I'm aware.

But some people release large snakes or lizards or even crocodilians as soon as they get too big to handle.

Look at how bad it is in Florida, with the large Pythons, and Monitor Lizards that now live in Florida. There have also been reports of 3 Nile Crocodiles found in Florida, and it is believed that there is more out there. Nile Crocodiles are alot more dangerous than the American Crocodile and Alligator, almost as dangerous as the Saltwater Crocodile.
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Re: "Wild Animals Belong in the Wild"

Postby cmsellers » Mon May 30, 2016 7:12 pm

Do you have any evidence that exotic pets escaping and killing people is a problem? Better still, do you have evidence that, as a proportion of the pet population, it is a bigger problem than domestic dogs doing the same? I know of exactly one case where an animal both escaped and killed someone unconnected to the owner, and that involved a venomous snake.

Regarding killings, this article shows that there was exactly one fatality as a result of a pet big cat between 2000 and 2010. Even if you include the two deaths from pet bears, even if you assume all of the victims were unconnected to the owner (which is unlikely), that's still a far lower fatality rate than from domestic dogs.

Why would it matter if an animal is endangered if it's captive-bred? Captive-bred animals should have no influence on the wild populations.

With regards to Florida, you're raising two distinct issues.
  1. Do people buy animals they shouldn't?
  2. Should be people be allowed to species that could become invasive in an environment where they're not yet established?
The answer to the first question is unequivocally yes. For animals that either involve a lot more care than people expect (most parrot species, but especially, especially macaws), or that grow far larger than people expect (iguanas, large constrictors, sulcata tortoises, all crocodilians), I think that there should be some form of licensing requirement which involves interaction with the fully grown animals.

I'm ambivalent about the second question. Most species which have become naturalized from the exotic pet trade have become naturalized because of large-scale escapes by wild animals, when a truck has an accident or a store is destroyed by a hurricane. For example your vaunted Nile crocodile problem involved four crocodiles who escaped from a breeding facility and were all recaptured, not idiots releasing them into the Everglades.

I'm fine using caution with unknown animals in states like Florida and California, and would strongly encourage it in places like Hawaii and New Zealand. However I'm opposed to bans on Quaker parakeets on the mainland United States, because it's been demonstrated that even when naturalized they're not really invasive and because there are no known cases of individual pets (as opposed to truck accidents and the like) producing colonies.

I will say that attitudes like yours allow animal rights groups to push either blanket bans on large groups of animals, or worse: to ban anything that's not explicitly permitted. Blanket bans on carnivores cover raccoons, foxes, and kinkajous; bans on primates cover marmosets, bush babies, and lemurs; bans on crocodilians covering dwarf caimans. None of these animals are any more dangerous than a domestic cat (they might cause minor injuries, but nothing that requires hospitalization). Even the tigers, chimpanzees, and Nile crocodiles which drive these bans are statistically less dangerous than large dogs. And a lot of states go further, banning anything that isn't permitted. Fennec foxes, prairie dogs, and mousebirds are completely harmless, but are still illegal in Massachusetts.
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