In my last post I deployed the trite metaphor regarding an elephant in the room. I even had the gall to suggest that elephants are lazy creatures!
Given that governmental ministers in Tanzania are now considering a “shoot-to-kill” policy against elephant poachers, thus backing a kind of jungle-based ad hoc capital punishment approach to the illicit ivory trade, I’m reconsidering the wisdom of using anti-elephant language. The word choice authorities hover over The Pitchfork with the eyes of an eagle (I think I’m okay on that one) and I’m feeling the wither of their gaze.
In all seriousness, tens of thousands of elephants are killed by poachers every year in Africa and many advocates indeed believe that the threat of death may be the only effective deterrent. Good idea?
Said one advocate (a natural resources minister): ”Poachers must be harshly punished because they are merciless people who wantonly kill our wildlife and sometimes wardens” said .. . . . . The only way to solve this problem is to execute the killers on the spot.” He added: ”I am very aware that some alleged human rights activists will make an uproar, claiming that poachers have as much rights to be tried in courts as the next person, but let’s face it, poachers not only kill wildlife but also usually never hesitate to shoot dead any innocent person standing in their way.”
Poaching is a murderous act that warrants the full weight of punitive justice. But death—especially when delivered under duress in the thick murk of the jungle—shouldn’t be a viable legal option. Authorizing open season on poachers would only antagonize an already enflamed situation, engendering more violence and habitat destruction. What’s instead needed is better funding of game wardens, better enforcement of existing laws, and programs that support a level of non-animal based economic development that makes poaching less of an alluring option for poachers caught in their own web of interlocking oppressions.
Plus, advocates of animal rights, human rights, elephant rights, gay rights, civil rights, whatever rights, are almost always better off choosing ameliorative methods that do not implicitly condone what we’re trying to eliminate in the name of decency, compassion, justice, and peace.