Govt. Order To ‘Hunt Vermin’: Can The Human-Animal Conflict Only Be Solved By Slaughter?

Posted on June 12, 2015 in Environment

naBy Shambhavi Saxena

Animal lovers, brace yourselves, becuse the central government is officially allowing state governments to hunt wild animals. The reason?

In areas where farmers are facing huge problems due to animals, there is a procedure to declare them as ‘vermin’ like blue bull and wild boar for a particular period of time. We will give them (states) permission to declare such animals as vermin.

– Minister of Environment and Forests, Prakash Javadekar.

Photo Credit: Heather Paul

The rise in human-animal conflict is only to be expected when human settlements have been encroaching on forest land and other animal habitats for centuries. And now, from threatening animals’ right to live, the Centre’s move is outright eliminating that right.

In 2008, ecologist Anthony Barnosky studied the effects of human hunting patterns – the phenomenon of wiping out animal species larger than 44 kilograms – and it’s no wonder mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed tigers, giant ground sloths, and big beavers exist only as museum displays now. You may toss a few phrases like “natural selection” around, but if you’ve observed nature’s pace at all, you’ll notice that human activity has catalyzed changes that are far from natural. We are far too advance with our hunting technology, with our rifles and rangefinders, it has become so easy to dominate these animals that we’ve caused balance to shift. TowerKill documents between 5 and 50 million bird-deaths caused by communication towers in the US alone. Imagine the damage India’s multitudes of unauthorized towers must be causing to avians.

As Dr Manilal Valliyate (Director of Veterinary Affairs, PETA) has already pointed out, it is human intervention that has severed natural corridors for the movement and use of wild animals. The thinning and degradation of Tadoba-Nagzira corridors in Madhya Pradesh has spelt doom for wild tigers in the region. Let’s not even get into the impacts decades upon decades of industrialization and mechanization have had on ecosystems.

Granted, human-animal conflict is not something tigers and villagers can sit down at a table and sort out with paperwork, but what use is the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) if it can be bent to approve a kill order? Yes, animals can be a threat to humans. But also realize that humans have been a threat to animals. The protection of wildlife, flora or fauna should be non-negotiable. The government would do well to develop strategies to keep humans out of animal spaces and animals out of human spaces. Some of these strategies have already been put forth by various groups, including WWF:

1. Installing effective warning and communications systems
2. Ensuring adequate buffer zones exist between animal and human spaces
3. Compensation and insurance for animal-induced damage
4. Responsible land-use planning
5. Investing in sturdy fencing and better protection for livestock

In an issue of TerraGreen, Sharada Balasubramanian and Rahul Chavan insisted that “each local conflict demands to be understood in terms of local factors,” and so the Centre’s move comes across as a particularly lazy one. “Such conflicts,” writes Dinesh Sharma, for the Daily Mail, “are the direct result of environmental protection getting thoroughly politicised.” With more energy being funnelled into politics than preservation, the permission granted to state governments, even for a short period of time, to kill wild animals is inevitable.

The relationship between human and non-human life on this planet is a tense one. We should stop thinking of ourselves as the most intelligent species on the planet if we can’t even figure out how to contain a conflict without resorting to slaughter.