Ethics of wildlife conservation
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18-08-2013, 02:02 PM
Ethics of wildlife conservation
After watching a documentary earlier on the conservation of Britain's native wildlife, I've been thinking. Part of the show focused on Scottish Wildcats, which are "under threat" from breeding with feral domestic cats. Essentially the so called hybrids are wild cats with markings similar to domestic animals, otherwise they are still wildcats.

Since watching the show I've been reading about how in Scotland a program of DNA analysis is being carried out to ascertain which wildcats are "pure" and which aren't. Those deemed "impure" are having their breeding controlled, in some cases being neutered or physically separated from the so called "pure" cats.

Without this, the wildcats won't actually go extinct, but simply the DNA of domestic cats will enter the gene-pool and alter their characteristics slightly. The changes are so subtle that mere visual identification is too unreliable to distinguish between "pure" and "impure" cats...

To me this talk of "purity" seems a lot like Nazism applied to nature... and makes me feel very uncomfortable. Surely, whether you're religious or not, we can agree that it is not our place to define what should or shouldn't be in nature?

I just find it very sad, that these people cannot appreciate a living thing for what it is, and have to label it "pure" or "impure", and then try to alter it to suit their definition of what it should look like.

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18-08-2013, 02:23 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
The problem is that we are talking about Scottish Wildcats.

I'm guessing that the domestic cats are English (the auld enemy!)

It's the no true scotscat fallacy.

No

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18-08-2013, 03:11 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 02:23 PM)DLJ Wrote:  The problem is that we are talking about Scottish Wildcats.

I'm guessing that the domestic cats are English (the auld enemy!)

It's the no true scotscat fallacy.

No

I don't think that's the case... they're just feral domestic cats from the same area. A breed called British Shorthair, descended from cats brought over with the Romans. Not "native" in that sense... but "naturalized" since they've been here for at least 2000 years.

It's not a case of an alien species out competing a native species, causing it's eventual extinction. But interbreeding between the breeds, producing a new variety incorporating DNA from both lineages. This new variety is being deemed "impure" and so is having it's breeding prevented. I find it quite disturbing.

Really my point is, when a similar process is applied to humans we call it racism, eugenics and in extreme cases, genocide. Why are we so happy to apply it to animals?

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18-08-2013, 03:34 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 03:11 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  I don't think that's the case... they're just feral domestic cats from the same area. A breed called British Shorthair, descended from cats brought over with the Romans. Not "native" in that sense... but "naturalized" since they've been here for at least 2000 years.

It's not a case of an alien species out competing a native species, causing it's eventual extinction. But interbreeding between the breeds, producing a new variety incorporating DNA from both lineages. This new variety is being deemed "impure" and so is having it's breeding prevented. I find it quite disturbing.

Really my point is, when a similar process is applied to humans we call it racism, eugenics and in extreme cases, genocide. Why are we so happy to apply it to animals?

Because it isn't quite the same thing.

It's not an alien species, but the dynamics are that the interbreeding will eventually overwhelm the unique genetic heritage of the wild population.

It's still a bit silly to go to such lengths to stop it, but that's the idea behind it - preventing loss of diversity. Whereas the things you mention are generally designed to eliminate it...

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18-08-2013, 03:51 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 03:34 PM)cjlr Wrote:  It's still a bit silly to go to such lengths to stop it, but that's the idea behind it - preventing loss of diversity. Whereas the things you mention are generally designed to eliminate it...


Yes, this. Conservation can be a bit tricky in a multitude of ways. For example, often times one species is outright killed so that another can survive. Animals are held captive in order to keep them alive when little to non are surviving in the wild. I'm not entirely decided on the subject but it's something I have to consider as a Zoology student studying conservation. The decisions that have to be made are sometimes really difficult.
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18-08-2013, 04:43 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 03:34 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(18-08-2013 03:11 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  I don't think that's the case... they're just feral domestic cats from the same area. A breed called British Shorthair, descended from cats brought over with the Romans. Not "native" in that sense... but "naturalized" since they've been here for at least 2000 years.

It's not a case of an alien species out competing a native species, causing it's eventual extinction. But interbreeding between the breeds, producing a new variety incorporating DNA from both lineages. This new variety is being deemed "impure" and so is having it's breeding prevented. I find it quite disturbing.

Really my point is, when a similar process is applied to humans we call it racism, eugenics and in extreme cases, genocide. Why are we so happy to apply it to animals?

Because it isn't quite the same thing.

It's not an alien species, but the dynamics are that the interbreeding will eventually overwhelm the unique genetic heritage of the wild population.

It's still a bit silly to go to such lengths to stop it, but that's the idea behind it - preventing loss of diversity. Whereas the things you mention are generally designed to eliminate it...

Actually, I do see it as the same thing.

We (humans) are unique in that we manage and control our environment. The natural order of things is that sub-species interbreed to evolve new strains.

Therefore, mixed-culture marriages are natural; marriage between religious faiths is natural; marriage between nationalities is natural.

Why be sentimental about all the millions of species that have died out?

The question is therefore: Should we fight the natural order of things... should we fight evolution... should we play god?

Deep, huh?

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18-08-2013, 04:45 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 03:34 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(18-08-2013 03:11 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  I don't think that's the case... they're just feral domestic cats from the same area. A breed called British Shorthair, descended from cats brought over with the Romans. Not "native" in that sense... but "naturalized" since they've been here for at least 2000 years.

It's not a case of an alien species out competing a native species, causing it's eventual extinction. But interbreeding between the breeds, producing a new variety incorporating DNA from both lineages. This new variety is being deemed "impure" and so is having it's breeding prevented. I find it quite disturbing.

Really my point is, when a similar process is applied to humans we call it racism, eugenics and in extreme cases, genocide. Why are we so happy to apply it to animals?

Because it isn't quite the same thing.

It's not an alien species, but the dynamics are that the interbreeding will eventually overwhelm the unique genetic heritage of the wild population.

It's still a bit silly to go to such lengths to stop it, but that's the idea behind it - preventing loss of diversity. Whereas the things you mention are generally designed to eliminate it...

All this idea of "heritage" seems to be irrelevant to nature. It's not like the cats themselves care about "purity". The fact that pure wildcats are freely breeding with feral cats, producing hybrids that will eventually become the dominant breed doesn't seem a very big deal to me...

As I said, it's not a case of native animals dying of alien diseases or starving because of competition from invaders... it's simply new DNA entering the gene-pool. I don't see why they need to be kept "pure"... other than for entirely human reasons.

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18-08-2013, 05:03 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 04:43 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Actually, I do see it as the same thing.

We (humans) are unique in that we manage and control our environment. The natural order of things is that sub-species interbreed to evolve new strains.

Therefore, mixed-culture marriages are natural; marriage between religious faiths is natural; marriage between nationalities is natural.

Why be sentimental about all the millions of species that have died out?

The question is therefore: Should we fight the natural order of things... should we fight evolution... should we play god?

Deep, huh?

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It's the same insofar as it's doing something with regards to population management. The why is different, for however much that matters.

(18-08-2013 04:45 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  As I said, it's not a case of native animals dying of alien diseases or starving because of competition from invaders... it's simply new DNA entering the gene-pool. I don't see why they need to be kept "pure"... other than for entirely human reasons.

Yes, but that's backwards. It's the old DNA being replaced! At least, that's the concern.

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18-08-2013, 05:05 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 05:03 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(18-08-2013 04:43 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Actually, I do see it as the same thing.

We (humans) are unique in that we manage and control our environment. The natural order of things is that sub-species interbreed to evolve new strains.

Therefore, mixed-culture marriages are natural; marriage between religious faiths is natural; marriage between nationalities is natural.

Why be sentimental about all the millions of species that have died out?

The question is therefore: Should we fight the natural order of things... should we fight evolution... should we play god?

Deep, huh?

Thumbsup

It's the same insofar as it's doing something with regards to population management. The why is different, for however much that matters.

(18-08-2013 04:45 PM)Paranoidsam Wrote:  As I said, it's not a case of native animals dying of alien diseases or starving because of competition from invaders... it's simply new DNA entering the gene-pool. I don't see why they need to be kept "pure"... other than for entirely human reasons.

Yes, but that's backwards. It's the old DNA being replaced! At least, that's the concern.

But why is it a concern from a purely natural perspective...?

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18-08-2013, 05:18 PM
RE: Ethics of wildlife conservation
(18-08-2013 05:03 PM)cjlr Wrote:  ...
The why is different, for however much that matters.
...

The 'why' is that we can play god because, well, we are god.

The argument for not destroying the rain-forests (apart from the CO2 stuff) is that there is as yet undiscovered and unstudied DNA that might be beneficial for humanity.

The same does not apply for animals.

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