I was deeply saddened reading the article about Montana FWP’s courses on trapping wolves and the guest editorial arguing that even more wolves should be slaughtered to make it easier for hunters to kill elk. I was reminded of Gandhi’s words.
“It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayer the blessing of God, the Compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion for our fellow creatures.” I have seen animals in traps, and it is surely one of the cruelest tortures. I can see a mother wolf caught in a trap enduring excruciating pain but thinking only of her pups who will die without her. Will she be able to chew off her leg and escape before her torturer shoots her or clubs her to death? Violence toward animals who cannot defend themselves is not only cowardly, but it also promotes violence toward humans.
There is ample evidence that spouse abusers and serial killers almost always start out by torturing animals. I attended a conference in Wisconsin devoted to reporting the enormous body of research linking violence against animals to violence against women and children.
The fact that a state agency promotes the torture and killing of wolves does not make it any less cruel or unethical. Violence toward those less powerful (usually women, children, and minorities) is often sanctioned by law. In the middle ages, thousands of women and little girls were tortured and burned at the stake in state and church sanctioned acts of savagery. In some
villages, nearly every woman was burned, often with their pets. Rape, torture, and murder of African slaves was also legal in this country for more than a century.
That brutality was also justified by the profit motive. There is no difference in my mind between those who trap and kill wolves and those who would torture a prisoner of war, stone a woman to death, or mutilate a child. They are all cowardly, sadistic and savage acts that are legal today in many places. African American writer, Alice Walker, sees the relationship between cruelty toward women and minorities and cruelty toward animals. “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women created for men.”
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Wolves live in harmony with nature and their populations stay in balance with prey. Humans are the animals that overpopulate, pushing other species to extinction. Instead of torturing and killing defenseless animals for sport, we ought to be learning to live in harmony with each other and nature.
While humans have killed and tortured wolves to the point of extinction, even burning puppies alive, I know of only one case where wolves killed a human. Yet, there are documented cases of young children wandering off from villages and being rescued by wolf packs. While these wolves could have made a good meal of the child, they protected and reared the child. I read accounts of three such children raised by wolves in India in the 1800’s.
Also, wolves are brave and loyal to each other. I recently saw a documentary where the alpha male and female both sacrificed themselves to save their pack. The courage and altruism common in wolves is often sadly missing in human animals.
I have a friend who is a brittle diabetic. She adopted a wolf pup named Islay when hunters killed his parents. Islay lived harmoniously with children, horses and dogs for 13 years, and my friend is only alive today because Islay became her official “service dog” and went with her everywhere, warning her on numerous occasions when her blood sugar was at dangerous levels. Islay also jumped through a glass window to save three children. When Islay was old and sick, he nurtured and mentored a young dog that had been abused by humans; the wolf trained the dog to take his place as the protector
of my friend. Islay was just the kind of noble creature who will be hunted and trapped in Montana. I agree with Albert Einstein. “If a man aspires to a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.”
Roberta Ray is a professor in Montana Tech’s Liberal Studies department.