I look forward to Fridays each week. Fridays are for Noesis, our philosophy class. Over the years I have veered more and more towards literature and philosophy embedded in literature. But sometimes, we take up something topical and dive deep in to it. 29th July, Friday was International Tiger Day. I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss about the philosophy of wildlife conservation.
I am deeply moved by the jungles of India. It is our living heritage. What one feel's at dawn in the Sal forests of Kanha Tiger Reserve can never be described. The jungle pulls the long forgotten strings of our hearts.
To mark the day, we did a close reading of the position statement of The Wildlife Society on Animal Rights and Wildlife Conservation.
I had the following key goals:
- To recognise the key arguments presented in the statement.
- To identify implicit assumptions made to make those arguments (and other claims).
- To ascertain, evaluate and ground one's own position on wildlife conversation, man-animal conflicts, animal rights, etc.
- To substantiate one's position on the above with values-personal or general, anecdotes and evidence.
The position statement came as such a strong force to many of the participants because it stood in such glaring antipathy to their fundamental (though unclarified) values.
Some questions that we tried to think about were:
- Can each individual animal be afforded the same basic rights as humans? What happens when a choice has to be made between the well-being of humans and well-being of animals (particularly wildlife)?
- Can animals be "used" for human purposes? Are we using them knowingly or unknowingly?
- Does the value of an animal depend on its rarity? Is a tiger more valuable than a spotted deer? Why?
- Can an individual animal be killed for the good of the species?
These are difficult questions; some of them leading to slippery slope arguments. Pertaining to point (1) above, we discussed about the Leopard containment centre at Devalia Park in Gir (euphemism for jail), where leopards who have attacked humans are kept in perpetual captivity. Students argued that if we are to give the same rights to animals as humans, then they should be punished for harming others just like humans. So a jail for leopards is appropriate. To which I asked whether (a) leopard was aware of the consequences of the act (b) who determines leopards were wrong, whose territory was encroached on? (c) was there a trial?
As with all Noesis sessions, our goal remains to deliberate and think deeply. Nuance and perspective are key to looking at the world more clearly, more justly.
I leave you with some pictures.