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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Defending the Wicked Part 9: The Owner of Endangered Species

If you happen to be part of an animal activist group such as PETA or whatever this supposed villain represents not only what is wrong with the entire world but possibly the whole universe. How dare someone own these poor little creatures, that is evil. But what is surprising and very counter-intuitive is that this wicked evil person turns out being the best means of protecting endangered species.

Why do animals go extinct? They go extinct because the rate of their death is greater than the rate of their birth consistently. Every day species go extinct and 99% of all species that have existed are now extinct; humans have contributed so little to extinction when all life history is properly considered that we might as well be excused from causing extinction. But when humans endanger a species they do so by what is known as the tragedy of the commons.

The tragedy of the commons is the result of everyone wanting more for themselves and being afraid that his neighbor is able to get his portion. Consider the following situation. Consider you are at a party and there is food for everybody on the table. You realize that if you do not have your food then someone else will take your portion, so you rush to eat everything as fast as possible. But not just you, everyone does that same rushed eating. This is an example of the tragedy of the commons. Everyone pursuing to eat as much as possible because of the fear that his neighbor will take his portion. This is the principle behind why humans endanger species of animals by hunting for them. The animals are out there in the open, everyone wants an animal for themselves, but we are afraid that if we do not kill animals someone else will kill our portion, so we kill more than what we even need based on this fear. Thus, we have the problem of killing animals at a faster rate than their birth rate. This leads to species endangerment and in rare cases extinction. This is exactly what happened with the buffalo.

Now consider a different scenario. Consider you come to a party and the food has name cards written on them. Every person is given a plate based on his identity. All of the sudden all the chaos that emerged in the serve-yourself scenario now becomes at peace. Nothing gets rushed. Because everyone has their own share and the shares of others are respected. The point of these two examples is to state an important lesson. Property is what created the peace and the lack of property is what created the chaos. In the first scenario the lack of property and the desire to get more for oneself at the fear of losing it to another is what lead to the tragedy of the commons. In the second scenario the concept of property, whose plate belongs to whom, creates peace, there is no more rushing for food.

The problem with the buffalo was not the ownership of the buffalo but the lack of ownership of the buffalo. There is no such endangerment problem with regard to chickens, pigs, or cows. Because we eat them and have farms that own them. Farmers make a profit of from their livestock. Thus, it is in the interest of the farmers to look out after their livestock. Not to kill them out at faster rates than they are able to give birth, for otherwise, the farmer will lose profit. The farmer also has an interest to provide healthcare for his livestock, to make sure they have food to eat, and promote a level of security so that his livestock are defended. Thus, the farmer, the owner of chickens, cows, and pigs, actually defends them from being extinct by properly taking care of them. The moment there are farms and farmers there is property defined, and property eliminates the problem of the commons.

If however chickens, cows, and pigs were out in the open, we would kill them out at much faster rates because we would be afraid someone else would get our share. If we had livestock unowned then they might face extinction problems. But luckily for us we have farmers who prevent this problem from happening.

The problems facing endangered species is precisely that they are unowned. If there were owners of various endangered species because of the value that can be derived either by their consumption or dead body value then these owners, by their interest, will make sure to defend the endangered species from going extinct because they make profits off of them. Thus, paradoxically the best way to save endangered species is to eat them.

There are owners of tigers and other big cats in Africa, and those people really make sure their big cats are well defended from hunters. If it were not for these owners these cats would have been already killed out by the human hunters. Therefore, the owner of endangered species is the best means of protecting endangered species. And for that his is heroic.

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