I am politically left-of-center, but think that environmentalists, vegans, Greens, etc...are sometimes inherently impractical and irrational. Nowhere is this impracticality and irrationality more pronounced than in regard to the "Deer Problem" in the northeastern United States.
National Geographic says there are now more Whitetail Deer living in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut than there were in pre-Columbian times. This, despite the heavily retreating spread of woodlands.
What kind of Problems are Being Caused by the Deer?
First of all, the spread of Lyme Disease is skyrocketing due to the deer population. Whenever an animal exists in crowded, cramped living conditions, disease spreads like a wildfire. Same thing goes for deer. There are so many of them, in such small areas, that they are spreading pretty dangerous diseases not only to eachother, but also to human beings. Lyme disease is a pretty bad disease and it can ruin your whole life, as there is no cure and the symptoms re-occur throughout your life. Roughly 30,000 people are infected with Lyme Disease each year and suffer severe neurological damage, often involving paralysis, as a result. The disease is endemic in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut.
Second, car accidents. State Farm Insurance Company has a report showing that 1.5 million automobiles crash into deer each year, causing 150 deaths and $1.1 billion in damages. As the population of deer skyrockets, with no external controls, these rates keep going up. Some insurance companies refuse coverage for animal-impact crashes in certain counties of certain states, where these crashes are common.
An indirect problem is the high cost of food. Beef, poultry, pork, lamb and a variety of other types of meat are currently rising in price again, due to the rising cost of fuel, fertilizer, transportation costs and decreased demand, due to the job market. As a result, many low-income families, families on public assistance and the homeless are facing increasing rates of malnourishment. If a cheap, readily available source of meat could enter the market, more people would have more fully balanced diets and the price of other meat products would come down as well. We would also have so much meat that we could process it and send it abroad as emergency-relief food for foreign-aid missions and natural disasters.
So why is there a deer overpopulation issue?
(a) There are no predators like wolves or coyotes anymore in the northeast. Normally, regardless of how much deer reproduced, a certain number of them would get eaten when young, old or injured. Because wolves and coyotes have been killed-off in the northeast, deer have no predators, minus man. But even here, man is not much of a predator these days.
(b) We aren't hunting them in the same rates we did 200 or even 500 years ago. Native Americans also played a large role in keeping the deer population stable, at or below its "biotic potential," or the natural limit a given ecoysystem has to sustainably maintain a species population, without it adversely impacting other species. When the European colonists came, they increased this rate of hunting until, by the mid 20th century, deer were rather scarce in the urban and suburban northeastern U.S. At just about this time, hunting regulations began and deer mortality rates plummeted as a result, due both to decreased hunting and the lack of another predator to pick up the slack, due to hunting laws and restrictions.
(c) Strict, Byzantine environmental protection laws. Many of the fishing and hunting laws/prohibitions we have today were enacted by the Livestock and Commercial Fishing industry during the Great Depression. Many families, being destitute, were fishing and hunting to supplement their diet with much needed protein. As this idea caught on, and more people became accustomed to it, fewer people were spending money at the butcher, prefering to save it for other things. As such, the price of fish, beef, poultry and pork declined, which threatened the US economy even more, as many were employed in these industries, especially in Democratic Party strongholds, like Boston (fishing) and Chicago (Livestock--the Union Stockyards, the Jungle, etc...). As such, the Cattlemen and Fishing Industry pushed various laws through Congress to limit and restrict hunting and fishing, so that people couldn't avoid the grocery store altogether. They justified these laws with Teddy Roosevelt conservationist jingoism, but this was just white-wash. Later, in the 1960s, they spread the rumour that they wanted to curtail hunting, because it posed a "danger to the community," even if the state park was gated, posted and within 10 miles of an inhabited area. The lobbyists' aim was to make it hard to people in densely populated areas to go hunting, or fishing, so they would be forced to go to the grocery store. Even today, many people instinctively regurgitate the "danger" or "conservation" mantras, without thinking about the geneology of these PR campaigns.
(d) In addition to the legislative-oriented PR games above, there also a great many PR campaigns out there that merely aim to influence consumer tastes and spending habits. Well-crafted public relations campaigns, funded by the cattle and fishing industry interests, often plant stories in the media (false flag advertising) about the adverse health effects or bad taste of venison, wild-caught fish. I can't tell you how many people tell me they don't like Venison because it is "gamey," only to have them follow this up by stating they never had venison. Obviously, they are regurgitating a highly persuasive factoid they heard somewhere. The farm-fishing industry also tells us to avoid wild-caught fish, because of mercury. To fight back, their competitors, the wild-caught-fishing industry, shoots back by claiming that farm-raised fish have unhealthy levels of anti-biotic in their diet, knowing that being against anti-biotics is a new fad among the health conscious and seeking to corner that market.
Let's not forget Bambi. The book, written in 1923 by Austrian writer Felix Salten, was intended to serve two purposes: (a) awaken children to the growing environmental movement and (b) serve as a subtle anti-fascist narrative for adults who read it. That being said, the impact of the book was always limited until Disney turned it into a movie. With the movie, almost all rational discussion on the hunting issue ceased to exist. Emotional, gut-reaction became the order of the day as people clinged to the sentimental images and feelings of childhood, and attached them to the lyme-disease carrying deer in their backyard. Children forbade their fathers, uncles, brothers and husbands to go hunting. Wives and sisters scolded men for wanting to be "mean" and hunt.
Such Bambi-made critics have no problem eating steak and hamburgers, though. Its not that they think deer are more worthy than cows, its just that Bambi "personalized" deer and made them more human, whereas nobody has yet made a popular children's cartoon that personalizes a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse....
The fact of the matter is that a cow in a slaughterhouse has a much worse life and death than a deer you quickly shoot and kill in the woods. The latter is more natural, more "organic" and results in less waste. There is also less of a carbon-footprint involved with hunting, because you dont need to spend millions of dollars fertilizing fields of hay and clover with dangerous, petroleum-based chemicals. Deer live off the land, eat natural grass free of pesticides. They also don't eat/drink the post-slaughter animal-byproduct that many ranchers feed their cows and pigs. As such, there is no risk at all of Mad Cow disease.
That being said, many yuppies see hunting as being inherently mean or nasty, even though the same such people eat meat. What is their issue with it? Are they opposed to killing? Clearly not, how else would they get hamburger? There is no logical reason. The only reason is a gut, emotional response, a visceral dislike of the word and image of "hunter," even though, in their minds, similar such revulsion is not associated with those who work in a slaughterhouse. Personally, I see nothing wrong with hunting. Even Lenin hunted.
Just the other day I was reading a local paper. They were discussing the best way to handle the deer problem. All the middle class yuppies were opposed to hunting them, because they feared they would accidentally be killed in their homes by a wayward bullet (has never happened in all of recorded history during one of these gvt-regulated hunts), or because they thought deer were like Bambi, "were here first" and should be given a wide berth. The poison issue was dropped, obviously, because that could hurt people and pets. Numerous people have advocated having veteranarians manually run up to deer and injecting them, by hand, with norplant birth control devices, so we can limit their numbers, even though this would cost tens of millions of dollars every couple of years in order to successfully sterilize the entire deer population. This is money better spent on the poor, on education and on healthcare. That educated people seriously consider this and don't see the silliness of these and similar-such suggestions make me fear for my country.
This is a very good example of how modern man is often an idiot and shoots himself in the foot when looking for solutions to very serious, but easily solved problems. Colonial Americans would never have had a Lyme Disease problem. They would have eaten the deer and saved their arguments and political passions for issues like the Stamp Act and the Boston Massacre. They had neither the time, nor patience to be concerned with Bambi's feelings.
We waste time, money and energy on nonsensical, irrational quibling, engaging in pointless debates about whether we have a "right" to kill the deer, whether they were "here first," or whether our human interest in limiting car accidents or lyme disease infection rates should be subordinated to the so-called "quality-of-life interests" of the deer. Granted, one should treat deer humanely and not gratuitously inflict pain upon them. When hunting them, it should be done with the same respect the Sioux and Cheyenne showed the Plains Buffalo. We should always behave decently toward any creature we kill and eat. This is why eating farm-raised cattle can border on the unethical. That being said, behaving decently doesn't mean we should adopt an emotionally-justified moral relativism in which deer are equated with people for purposes of balancing rights and interests. The infamous Australian animal ethicist and philosopher-in-chief for PETA, Peter Singer does this. He acknowledges that a single adult human has more utility than a single rat, but he asks whether a sufficient quantity of rats can be found such that their over-riding moral interests surpass that of a single human. He further asks whether or not a mentally handicapped person, a baby, or a feeble, elderly person would have as much utility as a highly intelligent person and if not, would a smaller number of animals be needed in order to achieve a similar state of utilitarian equilibrium. These are dangerous ideas and clearly illustrate the slippery slope we tread when we start equating human rights with animal rights. By doing this, we are attempting to help the deer, but we inadvertantly create an intellectual precedent in which we degrade and minimize the integrity and inherent worth of human life.
This is an issue in which irrationality and dangerous utilitarian-influenced scales of moral relativism prevail. I always take issue with people when they can't analyze a topic rationally, when they let their emotions and irrational passions dictate their decisions. I also take issue with people using a man-made construct, utilitarian and/or relativist philosophy, in such a way as to undercut the rationale for developing said methodology to begin with. We created utilitarianism and relativism as tools to analyze human conflict from an objective perspective so as to create the maximum good for the greatest number of people. The philosophy asks us to look at the different interests or perspectives of competing voices. This is the essence of the Hellenistic dialectical method, later delineated by Hegel. The purpose behind such tools is to advance humanity, not create a state of Hamlet-like intellectual/moral indecision, the perpetuation of which works to the detriment of living, breathing human-beings.
This happens with many other issues of public discourse, and it is a major charecteristic of the hunting debates today.
The facts of the matter, the only facts that even count, are that 30,000 people get Lyme Disease and 1.5 million car accidents are caused by deer-collisions each year. Isn't it time to stop being emotionally influenced by a children's cartoon (or maybe even Jeremy Bentham) and start being serious?