“They have as much right to live as anything else! Really?
I first heard this phrase a decade or two ago in a discussion about the reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem. It confused me. Accordingly, I have thought about the phrase off and on ever since. Last week I happened across a petition protesting the legal hunting of Polar Bears in Canada. Having taken an ecology class from a professor who, at the request of the Canadian government, spent a summer studying the hunting of bears in Canada; I stopped to read what was being said. Again, there was the phrase, “They have as much right to life as anything else.” Once again, I found myself mildly confused. So, I politely asked what criteria was used in making that determination. So far in the discussion, I have been questioned about my sincerity in asking and I have been offered the criteria that Polar Bears are on the endangered species list. Neither of these responses gives me reason to believe the statement has any validity whatsoever. Think about it.
The statement, whether wolf or polar bear, is that “they have as much right to live as anything else.” If we claim that being endangered is part of the criteria, then wouldn’t being on that list make them more valuable rather than equal? The statement however, is clear in saying they have the same right as anything else. So, the same right as a cockroach or a fruit fly then? If all life had equal value, there would be another petition to protect cockroaches.
The real point to this statement comes when we ask, does a wolf have the same right to life as a human? And here, by simply looking at the question from a different angle, it begins to come into focus. Here is what is really being said. We, as humans, have no more right to live than a polar bear. Therefore, we must protect the bear rather than shoot it. That is what this confusing message is all about. It is merely an emotional ploy to give a bear’s life equivalency to a human. So, our question then becomes, is this implied equivalency valid? Again, shouldn’t there be some valid criteria? That there must be criteria can be determined simply by asking does a human fetus have equal rights with a polar bear? There are large portions of our enlightened society that would say no. So, what are the criteria?
Obviously, while all men are given an inalienable right to life, all forms of life do not share that God given blessing. I feel little remorse in dispatching the occasional black widow that finds its way into my warm house when the fall weather starts to chill.
So, why do we shy away from being honest in our beliefs about life. Having carried a loaded machine gun in defense of our country’s nuclear arsenal, I have a firm grasp on my criteria. I have had to think about what my beliefs about life are. For example, polar bears, and wolves, fall a little shy of having equal rights to my life or the lives of my little girls. Should a scenario arise where a polar bear becomes a threat to either, the bear will lose. Do I want to go shoot one for sport? Nah… probably not. That does not however, make the bear’s life equivalent to my own. If the bears had equal value, it would be the humans that would be endangered.
My conclusion is simply this: all life has value, but all life does not have equivalency.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we used science and wisdom in making our political points rather than emotional balderdash? We are the climax species. We are at the pinnacle of our ecosystem. Because we are capable of reason, we have an obligation to be wise stewards of our surroundings. We need to make informed, well-reasoned, and convincing decisions. We need to be able to articulate and defend our positions. Emotional government is neither ethical nor viable.
By the way, I didn’t sign the petition. There are some valid reasons why the Canadian government continues to support the hunting of bears. One reason is that old boars, beyond the age of being able to sire cubs, can keep the younger bears from reproducing. That is what my professor discovered. At his suggestion, they got rid of (hunted) two old boars and the next spring the hills were alive with new baby bears.
Samuel Waen Jensen