Hunt Farms

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Quick,
why do you call left-wing environmentalists watermelons? Because
while they are green on the outside, they are also red on the inside.

No
better illustration of this political mindset can be seen in the
present controversy involving hunt farms in Canada. In these game
ranches — now legal only in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec, they
have just been banned in neighboring Montana — fees are charged
to customers who shoot deer, elk and sometimes other such trophy
animals.

But
the watermelons are livid at the prospect. A spokesman for the International
Fund for Animal Welfare is trying to ban these enterprises in Alberta,
now, and Saskatchewan is his next target. The group People for the
(so-called) Ethical Treatment of Animals considers these game farm
practices cruel and immoral. Other left wing environmentalists characterize
them as lacking any challenge, akin to shooting fish in a barrel.

But
what is it with this emphasis on sportsmanship, of all things? Cows,
chickens, sheep and pigs are not given a "fair chance"
to escape from the "hunt" for them in the stockyards of
the nation. If hunters want a sure thing, why should this be of
any concern to those claiming to be advocates for the environment?

Are
these watermelons in favor of playing games by the rules or preserving
endangered species? If the former, then they should cease and desist
all further fund raising activities, for these are intrinsically
fraudulent. In any case, all hunting, whether on game farms
or in the wild, is necessarily unfair, at least when done with guns.
To make it a real sporting event, even bows and arrows give the
humans too great an advantage. In athletic games, the goal is to
achieve competition between at least rough equals, so that no one
knows, beforehand, who will win. To attain this level of an even
playing field, the homo sapiens should be allowed no more than short
knives with wolves and bears, and animals of their ilk, and nothing
more powerful than, say, a baseball bat or a spear with deer and
elk. Then, as back in the cave man days, the animals would have
a "sporting" chance.

If
the latter, then very much to the contrary of their practice, the
interest of those presumptively concerned with the environment should
be to protect animals. Thus, the question to be asked is
not how big must the private game preserve be so as to allow
adequate cover and protection for the animals, but rather whether
this process will reduce, or enhance, the chances of survival for
these at risk species.

When
put in this manner, there can be little doubt of the effect of these
enterprises on the long-term survival probability of deer and elk.
They will be positive, very much so. For the prices these farmers
can charge the hunters will give them every incentive to make sure
that their meal tickets never vanish. The going rate for a medium
sized elk is $7,500; for a large one, up to $15,000; and for an
exceptional bull, no less than $35,000. If there were any farmer
foolish enough to allow his "seed corn" to vanish in an
orgy of greed for present profits, he would soon enough be forced
into bankruptcy. Survival in this industry means, above all, not
allowing young female animals, particularly pregnant ones, to be
harmed. As in the case of domestic animals, those most at risk are
females past child rearing ages, and almost all males. This, in
sharp contrast to the hunt for animals in the wild, where just about
anything goes.

The
free market environmentalist (not an oxymoron) point is that if
you want to preserve species, benevolence, even coupled with wise
government regulations (when is the last time you saw one of those?)
is not enough. If you want to get the job done, as Adam Smith saw
over 200 years ago, you have to make in the financial self-interest
of entrepreneurs that this be done.

Nor
should this insight on species survival be limited to deer and elk.
Not even to bears, wolves and lions. More exotic animals can also
be helped out through the magic of the market, including rhinoceroses
and elephants. Yes, the barnyard in these cases might have to be
a bit bigger, and the surrounding fences a lot stronger and probably
electrified to boot, but game farms for them, too, are the only
guarantee we shall continue to have them available to us.

Whales
and other fish present a bit of a greater intellectual challenge.
But any species that can land one of the own on the moon can surely
come up with electrified fences and other aqueous counterparts of
barbed wire, to keep a bunch of fish in their places. Only then
can private owners of the denizens of the deep have the financial
incentive to protect them — at a profit.

With
this bit of economic analysis under our belt, what can we make of
the efforts of so-called "environmentalists" to oppose
hunt farms, a program so clearly in the interest of endangered species
survival? In a word, it is hypocritical. It would appear that their
hatred for capitalism is stronger than their desire to protect deer
and elk. They ostentatiously attempt to hold high the green flag,
but their actions belie this, and instead bespeak their internal
true red colors.

August
3, 2001

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