Events usually sponsored by a local restaurant or bar or perhaps a national organization, typically held over a weekend. Contestants pool resources for prizes – like either cash or guns. Frequently billed as a family event which involves children
Contestants spend a day or several days searching and destroying as many animals as they can. Frequently calling devices are used which mimic calls such as a pup in distress, which lures usually cautious coyotes
Coyotes are the most frequent victims. In Nevada, they have Unprotected status which means they can be killed anywhere anytime – no limitations.
The dead carcasses are hauled into the meeting place on the last evening. They are weighed and prizes awarded for categories such as largest, smallest, most killed, etc. Then food and festivity.
About Wildlife Killing Contests in Nevada
The National Coalition to end Wildlife Killing Contests is making phenomenal progress nationwide. Working with local activists, the Coalition has successfully enacted prohibitions on killing contests in seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington.
Spurred by this momentum, here in Nevada, on March 2, 2021, the Clark County Commission unanimously approved a resolution condemning these horrific events. This boosts our ongoing efforts to achieve a Nevada ban.
And due to efforts of Reno Councilperson Naomi Duerr and to our Fauna Tomlinson, the Reno City Council will vote Sep. 8, 2021 on a proposed resolution supporting a ban on wildlife contests! The resolution will honor the late Norm Harry, a noted advocate for the wild.
The Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners (NBWC)is taking cautious steps toward perhaps someday voting on a prohibition. They rejected petitions from wildlife activists in 2015 and 2016, despite a tremendous turnout from our side, standing in line to testify.
But this June the Board, with different membership, agreed to discuss the matter further. They needed to see a list of our objections because some of them couldn’t fathom why anybody would object! Below are some of the fundamental reasons we find killing contests heinous, uncivilized, brutal and cruel. You are welcome to use these as talking points in your comments to NBWC.
Friday August 6, 2021 NBWC held a virtual meeting. Unfortunately they are still grappling with the question and put further discussion off to some cloudy future. Stay tuned; any new developments will be on this page and in the Nevada Wildlife Watchers Newsletter.
Suggested Talking Points
Visit Project Coyote for complete information, watch their film, and sign the petition!
Coyote populations have a rebound effect. The more killed, the more will be born. They have expanded their range despite efforts to cull their numbers.
It is not Fair Chase to use electronic calling devices, snares, and powerful guns to kill animals.
Children are exposed to violence and disrespect for animals.
These contests are giving Nevada’s hunting community and her residents a bad reputation.
As more states ban the contests, predator hunters are flocking to Nevada to enter killing contests.
More shooters on the loose pose danger to the public.
Randomly killing wild carnivores will not prevent conflicts with livestock and will not increase numbers of deer or other game for hunters.
Coyotes are essential to the ecosystem as rodent control and scavengers.
The myth of the evil coyote is folklore believed by generations. An animal is not “evil” because it is a predator. For that matter, coyotes are omnivores, eating many foods in addition to meat.
Contrary to the myth of the evil coyote, the majority of the public admire the intelligence, agility, adaptability and iconic sound of the “Song Dog”.
Peaceful co-existence with coyotes can be achieved through simple precautions in suburban and rural locations.
There have only been two recorded incidences in the United States and Canada of humans being killed by coyotes. One involved a child in Southern California in the 1980s and the other a 19-year old woman in Nova Scotia in 2009.
Page Two: Warning! Disturbing Photos of Coyote Killing Contests. And even more outrageous – Disrespectful, mocking lingo used by participants.
Trappers are paid by city and county agencies and private land owners to trap Nevada beavers. This is a lethal solution to a situation that instead can be handled humanely. Almost every time trappers are involved, the beavers are killed. Trappers uphold the deep-rooted, long-lasting rural belief that beavers are nothing but bad guys, causing depredation.
Where conflicts arise, non-lethal solutions can be employed, creating a win -win situation. Locally, Sierra Wildlife Coalition provides these solutions. Modern science now demonstrates the amazing extent to which these “Nature’s engineers” benefit environment and biodiversity. Now they are respected as a vital keystone species.
Let’s start with Beavers 101, courtesy of PBS program Nature
Not only has trapping never played a necessary or useful role in wildlife management, it has been actively detrimental to wildlife conservation. Trapping wiped out beaver populations. . . Many of these beaver populations never recovered, rendering this damage permanent. Beavers are ecosystem engineers . Their dams and ponds sub-irrigated fertile floodplains, boosting productivity and biodiversity. . . Their activities benefit a variety of wildlife from waterfowl to trout and elk. – Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project
Most people only become aware of beavers when they are a nuisance, but did you know that biologists classify beavers as a Keystone species? Beaver ponds create wetlands which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. They increase plant, bird and wildlife variety, improve water quality, and raise salmon and trout populations. This one species supports thousands.
How is this possible? By opening the tree canopy, sunlight reaches the water and triggers an explosion of biological activity. Algae and aquatic plants grow in the sun drenched, nutrient rich water. This organic material supports microscopic organisms, which are eaten by a variety of invertebrates. These become food for fish, birds and mammals. An entire food chain is created in a beaver pond. While infamous for killing trees, beaver dams actually create diverse habitats. Grasses, sedges, bushes and saplings grow on the perimeter of the pond. These plants provide food and cover for foraging animals. Beaver ponds become magnets for a rich variety of wildlife. From important game species like wood duck, mink and otter, to vulnerable anadromous fish like rainbow smelt, steelhead and salmon, biodiversity thrives due to beaver ponds. Beaver dams also protect downstream spawning areas from sedimentation, and create cool, deep pools which increase salmon and trout populations.
How do dams affect water quality? They actually improve flow and quality. By functioning as natural sponges that store runoff water and slowly release it, they reduce downstream flooding and erosion. The algae, plants and sediment in the pond improve water quality by absorbing dissolved nutrients, processing organic wastes, and removing runoff toxins (e.g. heavy metals, pesticides and fertilizers) from the water. These wetlands serve as the “Earth’s Kidneys”. Beaver ponds also recharge our drinking water aquifers, stabilize the water table, and better maintain stream flows during droughts. Beavers are even being relocated by states throughout the west to improve arid lands. Beavers are sometimes regarded as pests, but in truth there isn’t a single species that will better benefit your watershed. Although they can present a challenge, by using flow devices you can control problematic flooding and reap countless environmental rewards.
1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Functions and Values of Wetlands, EPA 843-F-01-002c, September 2001. 2 Baker, B. W., and E. P. Hill. 2003. Beaver (Castor canadensis). Pages 288-310 in G. A. Feldhamer, B. C. Thompson, and J. A. Chapman, editors. Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. Second Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. 3 Cooke, H., Zack, S. (2008) Influence of beaver dam density on riparian areas and riparian birds in shrubsteppe of Wyoming. Western North American Naturalist Vol (6) No 3. 3 P. Collen & R.J. Gibson (2001) The General Ecology of beavers. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries vol. (10) 439-461 4 Langcore, T., Rich, C. & Müller-Schwarze, D. (2006) Management by Assertion: Beavers and Songbirds at Lake Skinner (Riverside County, California) Environmental Management Vol 39 (4). 5 Pollock, M., Pess, G. & Beechie, T. (2004) The Importance of Beaver Ponds to Coho Salmon Production in the Stillaguamish River Basin, Washington, USA, North American Journal of Fisheries Management 24:749–760.00 6 Terry. N & Bañuelos, G.S. (2000) Phytoremediation of contaminated soil and water. CRC Press LLC
THE PROBLEM: LACK OF DIVERSITY ON 9-MEMBER, GOVERNOR-APPOINTED NEVADA BOARD OF WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS (NBWC):
There is an over-representation of hunter/trapper/ agriculture on the NBWC and an under-representation of the general population/conservation/ scientific (without hunting licenses). The goal should be to shift from operating under a framework focused only on a narrow set of wildlife interests (hunters) to a social-ecological approach that embraces the interests and participation of a broader public, a true democratization of the NBWC.
Nevada’s population has changed; now there are fewer consumptive users (hunting/trapping) and more non-consumptive and wildlife watchers.
Licensed hunters, trappers and anglers comprise less than 5% of the state’s population, yet constitute more than half of the NBWC. Five members must have purchased wildlife-killing licenses in 3 of the 4 preceding years.
While one farmer and one rancher are required to be on the board, they presently encompass less than 1% of the state’s population and are often also hunters/trappers, bringing that demographic representation on the NBWC to 77%.
There is only one member who represents the general public, despite the fact that 95% of the state’s residents are non-consumptive users and wildlife watchers; also, one member representing conservation interests. See NRS 501.171 below.
With the state population at approximately 3 million, fully 2/3 of that population resides in Clark County; NRS limits commissioners from counties with populations over 700,000 to 3 members. Only 3 out of 9 members from Clark County?
HISTORY: When the original commissions were created for their states, they were primarily made up of game wardens (See “The Hiring, Firing, and Distribution of Western State Game & Fish Commission Members” August 2019, Mountain Pursuit); now commissions must tackle many other issues besides hunting.
GENDER AND ETHNICITY
There are presently only 2 women on the NBWC. There are no African-American, Latino, Asian-American or Native-American members.
VALUES & MISSION
TRADITIONALISTS (those who believe wildlife should be used and managed for the benefit of the people): their number has declined over the years to 28% of the U.S. population. MUTUALISTS (those who see wildlife as part of their extended social network with rights equal to humans) have increased to 35% of the U.S. population. See The America’s Wildlife Values Project: https://sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu/wildlifevalues/.
In Nevada those numbers are even more pronounced: Traditionalists count only 22% and Mutualists are now up to 44% of the population.
In Nevada, wildlife belongs to all Nevadans; public lands belong to all Nevadans, not just the hunters and trappers. See below: NRS 501.100.
NBWC MISSION STATEMENT: “To protect, conserve, manage and restore wildlife and its habitat for the aesthetic, scientific, educational, recreational and economic benefit to citizens of Nevada and the U.S…” See http://www.ndow.org/Our_Agency/. However, NBWC rarely helps genuine conservation and protection of wildlife. Instead it is used to ensure a steady supply of animals for hunters and trappers to kill. Hunter/trapper convenience, opportunity and success are the overarching refrains from the commission.
While many believe that hunters/trappers/anglers fund the entire Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) budget through license fees and public taxes (Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and Dingel-Johnson Act of 1950); Pittman-Robertson funds derive from 11% excise tax on arms and ammunition and Dingel-Johnson funds come from 10% excise tax on fishing and boating equipment. Hunting groups claim that because they say they spend more than non-consumptive users, only they should have a say in wildlife management decisions. According to USFWS survey numbers, this claim is simply not true with wildlife watchers outspending hunters 3 to 1. Also, with approximately 100 million gun owners in the U.S. and only approximately 11 million hunters, it is clear that it is the public who funds NDOW through Pittman-Robertson public taxes by purchasing guns and ammunition.
NEVADA REVISED STATUTES: BOARD OF WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS
NRS 501.167Creation; number and appointment of members.The Board of Wildlife Commissioners, consisting of nine members appointed by the Governor, is hereby created. (Added to NRS by 1969, 1557; A 1977, 1229; 1979, 891; 1989, 2191)
NRS 501.171Appointment and qualifications of members; officers.
1. A county advisory board to manage wildlife shall submit written nominations for appointments to the Commission upon the request of the Governor and may submit nominations at any other time.
2. After consideration of the written nominations submitted by a county advisory board to manage wildlife and any additional candidates for appointment to the Commission, the Governor shall appoint to the Commission:
(a) One member who is actively engaged in and possesses experience and expertise in advocating issues relating to conservation;
(b) One member who is actively engaged in farming;
(c) One member who is actively engaged in ranching;
(d) One member who represents the interests of the general public; and
(e) Five members who during at least 3 of the 4 years immediately preceding their appointment held a resident license to fish or hunt, or both, in Nevada.
3. The Governor shall not appoint to the Commission any person who has been convicted of:
(a) A felony or gross misdemeanor for a violation of NRS 501.376;
(b) A gross misdemeanor for a violation of NRS 502.060;
(c) A felony or gross misdemeanor for a violation of NRS 504.395; or
(d) Two or more violations of the provisions of chapters 501 to 504, inclusive, of NRS,
Ê during the previous 10 years.
4. Not more than three members may be from the same county whose population is 700,000 or more, not more than two members may be from the same county whose population is 100,000 or more but less than 700,000, and not more than one member may be from the same county whose population is less than 100,000.
5. The Commission shall annually select a Chair and a Vice Chair from among its members. A person shall not serve more than two consecutive terms as Chair.
Nevada has the opportunity to create a more diverse NBWC, reflecting the population and concerns of ALL Nevadans, encompassing participatory, transparent, and democratic administration, incorporating diverse perspectives, adapting to environmental and social change.
Increase the number of members from the non-consumptive public (those who do not hold hunting licenses).
Increase diversity of members from gender and racial/ethnic groups.
Decrease the number of hunters/trappers on the NBWC. Holding a hunter/trapper/ angler license for 3 of the 4 previous years should not be prescriptive, no pay to play.
Decrease the number from agriculture backgrounds. Nevada is no longer rural-centric.
VALUES AND MISSION
Increase the number of “mutualists” and decrease the number of “traditionalists.”
In recognition of global warming, loss of habitat and declines in biodiversity, increase the number of members with conservation/scientific expertise.
Acknowledge that Nevada’s public lands belong to the public; Nevada’s wildlife belongs to the public. Public trust principles must apply to Commissioners. Attending only to the interests of narrowly-focused stakeholders (hunters/trappers) is not consistent with public trust principles or good governance and will face decreasing public support.
In recognition of the higher revenue brought into the state by wildlife watchers, a seat should be given to a non-profit organization representing this demographic.
Because the general public far outspends hunter/trapper/anglers for the NDOW budget, more seats should be assigned to them on the NBWC.
Now that Nevada has an Office of Ecotourism, include a member from that office.
The Raccoon is the survivor, who lives alongside man as if to show him that he cannot truly conquer the land.
Circa Summer 1972
Keeping a raccoon as a pet is highly controversial. Like the cat – who can be her own master, living by her wits, or maybe cozy up to you – or the coyote who thrives in rural/urban/or whatever – this guy can adapt to a variety of situations, so it’s not a black and white question. With raccoons, it also depends upon the season of the year. This story wouldn’t have happened if the raccoon was older or if it was autumn or winter. But, this summer my 4-year-old daughter and I were caretaking an old family property in upstate New York. We had a rundown house that was receding back into Nature, a scattering of furniture, 160 open acres and a lake. If you have a setting like this, why not share it with a raccoon, if you’re lucky enough to find one.
Our family’s first summer house in West Copake, NY. Here it’s intact; circa 1929. By 1972, it was rapidly becoming one with the surrounding woods.
Anyway, for a short time Jacques was with me – hard to define the relationship as pet/owner – but we lived together. The crowning animal experience of my life. Daytimes I would take him to the lake – him riding on my shoulder, under my long hair. In the water, he scrabbled about in the shallows. But he always stayed nearby. I never taught him anything. He chose to be close. No, he didn’t wash his food. But he loved to manipulate wet rocks.
As for bathroom habits, he chose an area and that was the latrine, just outside the house, and that was it and I never taught him. He just did it.
Constant rapid manipulation of stuff was his joy and set him to chuckling. I got no sleep because he wanted to spend the night perched on my chest, relentlessly trying to manipulate my teeth, and chattering away. Finally I had to close the door and leave him in the hallway with a steel tub full of old wooden doorknobs floating in water. This occupied him for hours. He kept up his one-sided conversation as the knobs banged and splashed.
Known to be extremely vocal creatures, raccoons interact by using more than 200 different sounds, which include purring, chittering, growling, snarling, hissing, whimpering, and even screeching like owls. Baby raccoon sounds include mewing, crying, and whining. For example, raccoons may whistle like an owl when communicating with other raccoons. Raccoons also growl in defense when in the presence of danger. Other vocalizations may include a low grunt, loud purr or even a scream (when under stress).There is also a kind of roar. If you heard it from a distance, you might think a 30 pound animal is lion-sized.
He got his rabies shots, nearly destroying the vet’s office in the process. He literally bounced off the walls, spraying from his anal glands as two vets tried to catch him. If you haven’t heard an angry raccoon yet, you need to. You will think the sound comes from somebody as big as a tiger, let alone a cute furball weighing no more than 20 pounds. I was delighted; why were these men so dour when we left? If I must analyze – Jacques was the channel for all my resentments and discontents with society. I reveled in his utter insubordination. It was the same with the impossible dogs I chose to love in later years. Sadie, for example…
He knew my mom was afraid of him. He recognized the sound of her car and when he heard her coming, he rubbed his hands together and chuckled, then he hid under her chair. She sat, and he sprang out and grabbed her ankles every time she came over, chuckling to himself over her screams. I can’t say why she never anticipated this, but he stayed a few steps ahead of her. It was all a game. He never hurt or scratched any of us.
He opened jars and soda bottles with screw on tops. He loved sweets. He loved eggs. Also milk. Feeding an omnivore is a no-brainer. Use anything you’ve got.
If you do not have a need to dominate, if you have a sense of humor and access to the outdoors, if you can appreciate a brilliant non-human intelligence, then I say do yourself a favor; spend some time with a raccoon.
The Raccoon is the trickster, the sly and crafty one who may appear slow, but who is quick and agile; the opponent who outsmarts his enemies, and who uses his hands like a human.
January , 2000
The cat food bowls in the garage emptied pretty quickly. But Bub and Nutmeg stayed sleek so I never thought about it. They were indoor/outdoor cats with a cat door to the garage. They hung out on the roof and the neighbors’ boat. I left them at a cattery while I went overseas.
Then right after I got back from my 3-week trip to India in January 2000 she – an unnamed raccoon – was in my garage when I opened the door, drinking out of the cats’ water bowl by the door. So she knew the territory well. She was not particularly impressed by my presence. She sauntered to the cat door. I’ll never know how long she’d been a trespasser.
Frequently visited deck Encounter was here, but had no camera!
April 29, 2004
About 5:15 AM Barest dawn. Roger barking at the door that opens to the deck. I flip on the light to see a striped tail facing us as the creature pulls itself up the border of the deck, feet on the flower planter box. I instantly know it is no cat. The movement is slower, more deliberate.
She turns to look at us, the classic coon face in full view. I say “she” because she visits a few days later with her kits. I turn the light off and hug the still barking Roger to calm him down. The barking had no visible effect on the little prowler.
She tests each potential departure route; eventually she goes down a nearby tree, head first.
A few forays here and there – back up once more – then she descends to the shadowy turf of the side yard where she blends into the darkness.
August , 2004
1:30 AM – 2:55 AM on the deck. Roger barking. A Mom and her three kits, about 2/3 grown. I could hear the chitter.
At first shone flashlight on Mom. She was hanging head first on corner of deck. She noticed me; again, no big reaction on her part . She’s fat and the kits look healthy. So they get food someplace.
Cars go by but nobody knows or even suspects. And until now, I didn’t know they lived here, at least part of the time. Raccoon moms have a few dens in different locations, and move the brood back and forth as she sees fit.
Circa Feb. 2013
This keeps happening. Stuff I thought I stashed safely for later disappears. The best stuff. Frantic searches through old photos, old discs, old flash drives Can’t find notes I surely wrote about this encounter, so can’t pinpoint the date. I do know this happened on a night probably in February or March sitting at my computer writing final draft of testimony for my first Legislative hearing to push the trappers off our firearms restricted congested areas. And push them further from local hiking trails and parks. It worked and we got SB213. No question of sleep, writing through the night.
There is what I call an animal sidewalk directly outside my basement office window. It’s a concrete skirting that borders the east side of the house which is supposed to prevent floods into this finished basement – which I only heard about after buying the house.
Various animals parade here and pause to stare at me behind my monitor.
Fleeting encounters here from animal point of view
On the night in question, I pause my keyboarding to gaze out the window into the face of a raccoon. We take a good long look at one another before he/she ambles away. I take this as a powerful portent of success tomorrow and of course approval and support from the animal souls. I’m flooded with euphoria which, it turns out, was justified.
I name the pointy-nose masked agent of the Universe Wellstone. That’s because Paul Wellstone, liberal warrior, died October 25, 2002 on a charter plane in Minnesota fog along with his wife, a grown daughter, and somebody else…an aide? Now for reasons lost with my lost data, I care passionately about this loss which I just found out about, and no other name will do for this harbinger of success.
Sep. 2, 2014
Between 8:30 -9PM Watched a raccoon walk along sidewalk then up the juniper. She takes a running jump, grasps the trunk and pulls herself up.
In the photo above, the juniper’s highest branches touch my roof, providing a bridge for the raccoons.
This bridge sees raccoon foot traffic on and off for many years. From the living room one can hear overhead a scratchy shuffle and sometimes a two-footed plodding that sounds like a human walking; amazingly heavy tread upon those plantigrade back feet.
After several sightings, I know they come down headfirst. Then they jump down when they’re about 2 feet above ground. The peeling bark beneath their claws sounds like rain falling.
Sep. 7, 2014
5:40 AM One kit gets itself stranded on far pine branches high up over the driveway. I can see that part of the tree swaying although there is no wind. Mama appears, coming out off the roof along the branch that extends over to my roof. She gives a few harsh chirps. Then she makes her way closer to the little stray. Little stray comes toward Mama very slowly and hesitantly. Mama is too smart to go out on untested branches. She leaves but the little kit finally makes it to the overhanging branch and slowly walks along toward the roof. Gets a bit halted by fork in middle of branch, but takes his/her time, regains balance and tightropes it onto the roof. Mom keeps an eye on him, but he has to do it.
At least 3 or 4 occasions Sadie barking at night. There are coons on the upstairs deck. At that time, there was a healthy aspen to the west with branches providing easy access to the deck. I learned it was Mom and 3 kits. They moved very slowly and cautiously from branch to branch. I didn’t feed them enough to sustain them, but I did leave out occasional treats. A package of sliced turkey was as far as I ever went. Mama was seated at right angles to me and I could watch her in profile as she picked out one slice after another, held it dangling to her uptilted head, and lightly chewed with her pointy back teeth.
Sadly, I had no camera in 1972. This stock photo illustrates the side entry eating technique.
I am not Catholic, but I say you don’t have to be Catholic to love this Pope. He gives us an elegant, eloquent document that goes beyond mere”humane” or “ethical” or “right” to the universal in the widest sense. Every line is quotable. Please read and be inspired anew.
He is the first pope to have taken the name of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, who was always said that he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of brother or sister.
And he is also the first Pope to be named PETA’s Person of the Year. 
Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves”.
For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”. (QUOTING PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW)
(ON THE WRITINGS OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI) If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
FUTHER QUOTING FRANCIS OF ASSISI “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world”
Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.
Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.
As examples, I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle. These questions will not be dealt with once and for all, but reframed and enriched again and again.
“If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations”.
Environmental destruction in Indonesia caused by palm oil plantations
The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.
Migratory paths and habitat ruined by wall between USA and Mexico.
We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23).
“You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.
“Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.
IV. THE MESSAGE OF EACH CREATURE IN THE HARMONY OF CREATION
The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other”.
A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love”. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.
92. Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”. We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality: “Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.
III. THE CRISIS AND EFFECTS OF MODERN ANTHROPOCENTRISM
An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.
In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.
The monks sought the desert, convinced that it was the best place for encountering the presence of God
When we speak of the “environment”, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it
There is an interrelation between ecosystems and between the various spheres of social interaction, demonstrating yet again that “the whole is greater than the part”.
We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity’.” In the Encyclical by Pope Francis
To be trapped in a mind
that views the trapping of animals
as a point of pride—
as a way of life to be revered,
romanticized, and protected…
I wanted my next line to read:
Is a reality I cannot imagine.
But I can imagine it.
I’ve been there—but I got myself out,
I got myself free from my own binds.
My voice is one of empathy
devoid of sympathy.
I have no sympathy for the delusions,
denial, the apathy, and self-avoidance
that one must embrace
in order to defend their
identity, their existence,
as a Trapper.
There is nothing romantic,
nor mystic, about the blind delusion
of the Rugged Individualist, nor
the fiction of the Mountain Man—
fictions as easily accessed
as they are debunked.
The Mountain Man was never
one with Nature.
He was an exploitative exporter—
dependent on the City’s steel,
and the Chemist’s powder—
controlled by Big Business oceans away.
He was a man who toiled to diminish
Nature so he could privately profit from
its spoils in Foreign Markets.
Mother Nature has made no grievous error.
She does not need
sprung steel to balance Her order.
But those truths don’t paint
the Trapper’s portrait in the way
they wish to see themselves.
Of course I know how scared
the Trapper must be to face the fallacies
the fallacies that have been passed down
through their generations.
It is a fearful thing, indeed,
to expose the Self to its own wrongdoings—
to the shortcomings
of the Ancestors that it was
taught to Worship.
It is a fearful thing, indeed,
to submit one’s identity to
the uncertainty of Change.
But it is better to face
one’s fears now—while there still
exists the luxury of Choice.
For if we wait until the Wilds
and its inhabitants have been diminished,
as has been done in other Lands,
there the Trapper will sit,
with their pile of rusted jaws, still Trapped
inside their minds—
and our Natural World will sit
alongside them, dormant and deadened,
as they search desperately
for some new Thing to blame
for their own miseries and folly.
Perhaps if the Trapper were to borrow
some virtue from the Lion—
maybe if they held the same
reverence for our waters as the Beaver,
the same devotion to family
as the Wolf—
perhaps if they borrowed some
awareness from the Marten,
and some wisdom from the Coyote—
perhaps then the Trapper might
find the strength—
the motivation and accountability
they so desperately need—
to free themselves from their Traps.