|We had to eat the tiger to save the tigers
||[May. 15th, 2009|06:18 am]
John Stossel recently did a TV special, and wrote an article about how to save tigers from extinction. The content of each is pretty identical (well, there was more to the show than the segment on tigers, but you get the point). This seems an example of when well meaning, but not particularly rational, people set out to do some good.|
The basic problem is that there are very few tigers left in the wild. Even though there are international bans on stuff made from tigers, there's a lot of demand from places like China, and other places where people from China have moved, like, say, the US. The people behind the bans are convinced that this is the right way to save tigers, even though it obviously isn't working.
"If people would just stop buying the tiger stuff, the tigers would be safe!" Well, duh. But like with other illegal things, the illegality doesn't stop the demand, especially when the demand is founded thousands of years of culture. In fact, the artificial scarcity just makes activities like poaching even more lucrative, and guarantee that it will continue, no matter how many public service announcements are made.
On the other hand, the solution that Stossel comes up with may strike some as counter-intuitive, which says more about your intuition than the solution. The idea is to make it all legal, and allow people to set up tiger farms, so that people can eat tigers and use parts of their bodies to make folk remedies. After all, as Stossel reminds us, no one is worried that chickens will go extinct.
One ban proponent tells Stossel that there's no need to farm tigers. She is clearly not paying attention. While she cites a poll showing that 90% of Chinese support the ban, 50% of them are in favor of using tiger based products. And the illicit market demonstrates that there is a demand, such that farmers could definitely make money selling tiger meat or other parts for profit. It would probably also have the effect of ruining the demand for poached tigers. Modern agriculture beats hunter-gatherers hands down.
This is a great example of the sort of fuzzy thinking that permeates most of the 'environmental' movement. I'm not talking about cleaning up rivers, or using unleaded gas. I'm talking about banning DDT (and, by the way, killing millions of people). I'm talking about ruining our economy over the fantasy effects that some believe a crucial for life, trace gas might have on the climate due to some unrealistic computer simulations.
Though some of these sorts of issues may have begun with a rational search for answers, at some point they were hijacked and no longer make sense, given what we know.