LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION
By Courtney Outland, Cailin Ruksznis and Chelsey Santarelli
“The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth” – Marlee Matlin.
Instead of seeking to dominate and control the Earth, we should respect and live in harmony with all of the creatures in it. We do not have the right, as humans, to determine which species can stay and which can go. For this reason, we should do everything in our power to help and protect those that cannot protect themselves.
The survival of the red wolf is in jeopardy, mostly due to human encroachment and unregulated hunting. As of now, it is the most critically endangered mammal in the world and without intervention and protection, it will soon become extinct. The red wolf is the only species of wolf that is native and unique to the United States.
Approximately only 25-30 red wolves are left in the wild, and 200 red wolves are currently being kept in captivity for breeding. The red wolf was officially declared endangered in 1967 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In just the last three years alone, its population has been reduced by over half.
There are a multitude of environmental and philosophical theories that support the protection of the red wolf. First, we must approach utilitarianism, which states that our actions, decisions or judgements should result in maximizing the overall good. The use of animals can be acceptable only if the happiness their exploitation causes is greater than the harm it causes.
It is difficult to think of many examples where this would be the case. Many animals are deprived of their lives after having been deprived of most of the positive experiences they could have had and after having been made to suffer intolerably.
Utilitarianism states that humans should be focused on the interests of others, rather than their own. It also states that the most morally right action is the one that produces the most happiness. Red wolves are a necessary part of the natural ecosystem. They keep the deer population in check, which prevents overgrazing in our forests. Overall, the red wolf contributes to the health of the forests and streams. Overall, it is in our best interest as a species to protect the red wolves.
An additional theory that supports the protection of the red wolf is biocentrism which calls for a reconsidering of the relationship between humans and nature. It states that nature does not exist simply to be used or consumed by humans, but that humans are simply one species among many.
We are part of an ecosystem; any actions which negatively affect the living systems of which we are a part adversely affect us as well, whether or not we maintain a biocentric worldview. Biocentrists discern that all species have inherent value, and that humans are not “superior” to other species in a moral or ethical sense.
Trump’s new proposal will weaken the protection and withdraw all support for red wolf recovery. The current administration had already overturned, or is in the process of overturning, 76 environmental protection regulations. The boundaries for protected areas will be decreased, meaning that any wolf that steps out of the boundaries of protection and onto private land can be shot and killed.
What can you do to help protect the red wolves? Try adopting a wolf! While this is only symbolic, the funds you provide will be used where wildlife experts see fit in the fight to protect the red wolf. If you cannot donate, you can become an advocate for the red wolf by researching and signing petitions, and even sending a message to government leaders. There is something tragically poetic about the fact that the only mammal that is unique to the United States is officially on its way to extinction.
Courtney Outland is a second-year studying animal science and science, technology, and society. Cailin Ruksznis is a third-year studying animal science and zoology. Chelsey Santarelli is a fourth-year studying accounting.