Monday, December 17, 2012

First, the brontosaurus...  

Now the white tiger. Is nothing real in my mental zoo?
 This level of misinformation should not come as a surprise. Many of the venues that display white tigers have a long history of shading the truth about their mutants. The Cincinnati Zoo, an otherwise respectable institution, labels their white tigers as a “species at risk!” Nowhere on the zoo’s website or at its tiger enclosures does it point out that this species at risk is in fact an ecologically useless hybrid of Bengal and Siberian strains, inbred at the zoo’s own facility for big money. The Cincinnati Zoo repeatedly bred closely related animals over the past few decades to produce more of the white tigers, which they sold for around $60,000 each. [More
I have long been uneasy with where the line should be drawn for artificial breeding programs. What we do to dogs long since passed bizarre to border on inhumane, IMHO, but taking species to extremes seems to be part of our human culture. Nor do I have any profound suggestions as to how/whether to correct this tendency.

 But it seems to me to be one more negative influence that alters how we see our relationship with other animals, and one more background thought that will push us toward different attitudes regarding meat consumption. Not a biggy on its own, but part of the growing drift away from old, perhaps even instinctive disregard for other species. 

Add in the shrinking population of hunters, and you accelerate the drift toward nontraditional views of humans and wildlife in our culture as a whole.
States that rely on tens of millions of dollars in hunting license fees annually to pay for environmental conservation are trying to boost a population they had never thought of protecting: the endangered American hunter.
The number of hunters has slid from a peak of 19.1 million in 1975 to 12.5 million last year, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [More]
While the protein industry has rightly been concerned about who shapes American attitudes about eating meat, I think the currents are far deeper and stronger than just YouTube videos from slaughterhouses. Not am I sure the industry should seriously think they can guide the evolution of how our population thinks about food animals. There has been too much crossover emotion from pets, too much reliance on obscurity of our activities and apathy among consumers, and now too much continual revelation of husbandry practices that activate what moral psychologists lable the sanctity/purity moral foundation

These nudges yield proscriptions like kosher law and similar cultural taboos concerning food. Once established to address some hard-to-define uneasiness, they become difficult to modify. I think we are in the middle of modifying our moral attitudes toward other species, and it not just foodies doing the questioning.

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