A high school sophomore from Montana recently reached out to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Thomas Evans chose the topic of his English research paper as wildlife protection: a comparison and contrast of conservation groups and animal rights groups. Below is his final product.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the two main types of wildlife protection organizations and the tactics used to promote their cause. There are numerous groups devoted to wildlife protection in one form or another. The methods these groups use to protect wildlife are as varied as the groups themselves. Wildlife protection groups typically fall into one of two categories. On one side, there are animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA and The Animal Liberation Front or ALF. The other side is that of conservation practiced by groups such as The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or RMEF and Ducks Unlimited or DU. All of these groups and others like them, feel they are helping to protect wildlife in their own way.
Animal Rights groups go out of their way in order to try and save animals. These groups feel that all animals have the same rights as humans and any use of these animals is wrong (PETA). These groups try to protest and help change how people treat animals. Two of these groups are PETA and the ALF. PETA operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment (PETA). PETA’s sole purpose is to protest against what people are doing to animals that may be harming them, and try to get donations to help stop this activity. The ALF also tries to save animals, but has a very different way of doing it. The ALF uses vandalism and destroys equipment and facilities where they believe humans are exploiting animals. According to their website, the ALF says bolt cutters and ski masks are their two most effective tools to protect animals (Animal Liberation Front). The ALF seems to pride themselves that the FBI considers them a Terrorist Organization. These groups both want to protect animal rights, but have a very different way of accomplishing it.
Conservation groups also protect animals, but do it in a much different way than animal rights groups. These groups want to preserve habitat, grow and manage animal populations, and to preserve healthy herds and flocks of animals or birds. They want to get populations of animals back into their indigenous habitat where they have long been chased out of by people settling the land. These groups include the RMEF and DU. The mission of the RMEF is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat, and the hunting heritage of people (RMEF). The mission of DU is, as simply stated, Waterfowl Habitat Conservation (Ducks). These two groups support and protect different animals, but, in reality, they both do the same basic thing.
When comparing these two different sides of protecting animals, there are many differences between the way they work. As previously stated, animal rights groups, such as PETA, believe that animals have the same rights as humans and humans have no right to “exploit” animals in any way (PETA). PETA tries to sway public opinion in their favor with “in your face” articles and protests. An example is the article You Can’t Be a Feminist and Buy a Dog . In this article, the author compares breeding dogs for sale to the sexual exploitation of humans. PETA feels dogs bred for puppy sales are the same as women forced into prostitution (PETA). While PETA is controversial in the way they protest to make their point, there are organizations that use more extreme methods of proving their point.
One of the groups that uses more extreme tactics is the Animal Liberation Front. The ALF advocates vandalism and theft of private property as the best way to protect the rights and lives of animals. An example of the more extreme methods used by the ALF can be seen in the article Fur Shop Windows Painted in Orebro (Sweden) . This anonymous article praises the vandalism of a private business because that business sells fur garments. In the same article, the author recommends that other ALF members “throw a stone,” “start a fire,” “fire a bullet,” and “disarm a cop” in addition to other violent and outrageous acts (Animal Liberation Front). In another article on their website, YouTube Shooter was a Vegan Activist, But PETA and Other Animal Rights Groups Don’t Claim Her , ALF spokesman Will Hazlitt says, “No one knows who is and isn’t a part of the ALF, it’s an underground, anonymous organization” (Animal Liberation Front). Mr. Hazlitt’s comments and refusal to condemn what the YouTube shooter did, along with the recommendation in the other ALF article clearly demonstrate the extreme tactics and philosophies of this Animal Rights group.
Conservation groups use different tactics to make their point and to protect animals.
In the 19th Century, wildlife conservation emerged as a social and political movement in the U.S. and Canada (Wildlife). The movement was led by hunters, who decried the devastating loss of wildlife caused by “market hunters”- those who hunted for profit (Wildlife). In the early
1900’s, sportsmen wanted to have a tax on hunting equipment so that they could help with protecting wildlife (Wildlife). The money generated from the tax would go to help protect wildlife. This tax that was created is called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, or also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (Wildlife). Because of the Pittman-Robertson Act, over $8 million has been collected, and 4 million acres of land has been purchased for wildlife habitat (Wildlife). Thanks to Pittman-Robertson, people do not have to depend on wildlife conservation groups to protect wildlife, they can help by just buying a firearm or buying hunting equipment.
Over the years, the RMEF and DU have worked on several projects to protect wildlife.
In 2017, DU conserved more than 248,000 acres of land, bringing their total to over 14 million acres of land conserved since DU was founded in 1937 (Ducks). Also, in 2017, DU raised a total of $22.4 million with 83% of the money going to conservation efforts (Ducks). Based on these numbers, Ducks Unlimited clearly has spent a considerable amount of time and effort to help protect ducks and geese. Ducks Unlimited is not the only organization that protects animals, there are others, such as RMEF that does this type of work, and are very successful.
Over the lifetime of RMEF, they have protected and enhanced more than 7.4 million acres of land (RMEF). The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation promotes sound management of wild elk, restoring elk to native ranges, and educating members and the public about habitat conservation and our hunting heritage (RMEF). Both DU and RMEF have worked hard and spent large amounts of money to protect wildlife and its habitat.
While doing research for this paper, a phone interview was conducted with a representative from PETA who chose to remain anonymous because answering questions was not his job in their organization. Information gathered from the PETA phone interview was that one of their main successes in animal protection in 2017 was that “We are campaigning to prevent broad extermination of pest animals, such as beavers, skunks, squirrels, etc.” PETA does not want these animals harmed by humans who are living in the same the animal’s habitat. PETA feels that humans should have to adapt with any animals they interact with. PETA chooses not to work with conservation because they will not advocate Veganism (Phone Interview with PETA). An email interview was conducted with Mark Holyoak, Director of Communications of the RMEF. The following information came from the email interview with Mark Holyoak of RMEF. In 2017, RMEF completed 24 land protection projects that protected over 56,000 acres of wildlife habitat. RMEF opened or improved access to nearly 111,000 acres of public land. They also completed 258 habitat stewardship projects that enhanced over 154,000 acres of wildlife habitat. When asked about working with other groups, Mark indicated that RMEF has had great success working with conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and The Mule Deer Foundation. When asked about working with animals rights groups, Mark said “You’ll find animal rights groups generally raise money in order to file lawsuits or conduct costly media campaigns; RMEF places funds generated by our volunteers back on the ground to benefit elk and elk country” (Email Interview with Mark Holyoak, May 14th, 2018). While protecting wildlife and habitat is important to PETA and RMEF, these interviews clearly show that their methods are complete opposites and what each group considers a success are equally different.
The differences between animal rights groups and conservation groups are clear. As previously stated, PETA and ALF protest and demonstrate to promote the same rights for animals as humans have. ALF is more extreme in that they advocate vandalism and theft of property to protect animals. RMEF and DU protect wildlife by purchasing land for habitat and reintroducing animals to their historic lands. These groups also work with Federal, State, and Local Governments to improve public access for all types of recreational land uses. Conservation groups want healthy herds and flocks for a variety of reasons, including hunting. Animal rights groups feel no animal should be used or killed for any reason, even food. Both sides feel the way they are protecting wildlife and its habitat are the right way for the animals. The facts presented in this paper clearly demonstrates that conservation groups, like DU and RMEF have been more successful and have done more to protect wildlife, habitat, and public use of these resources than animal rights groups.