For many species, hunting is an important part of survival which naturally plays a part in maintaining a sustainable ecosystem. It is a basic instinct that continues the movement of energy between biological organisms and a large part of the flow of natural food chains. It nourishes and keeps populations under control, however, as is the case with many other natural and processes this too has been over-exploited and has caused problems that many believe make it necessary to make hunting of certain species against the law.
Nevertheless, just because something is illegal that does not necessarily make it inherently wrong, and just because something is legal that does not automatically justify it. While the rules vary in scope and scale around the world, some are willing to risk the legal and environmental consequences.
(Note: This is the first part of the series Two Sides of Illegal Hunting which explores the various perspectives of parties involved in and affected by illegal hunting. Parts 1A and 1B introduce with reasons to explain why illegal hunting still happens, and parts 2A and 2B will feature consequences and reasons against it. Although this was a technical assignment, a third nontechnical reflective section will be included. Links to the full series can he found here: http://naturenimbus.blogspot.ca/p/series-two-sides.html)
Reasons Behind Illegal Hunting: Cultural Expression
Sometimes one reason illegal hunting takes place is one to gather resources to be used in cultural expression. African elephants are often killed by poachers —hunters who trespass to hunt illegally— for their tusks, providing material for the demand for ivory for various cultural traditions. Ivory carving is traditionally done in Asia to create religious objects, and amulets are believed to bring the wearer luck and protection from harm in general, and particularly black magic. National Geographic’s investigative report published in October 2012 stated “although the world has substitutes of all of ivory’s practical uses, its religious use is frozen in amber.” An individual expresses, “[ivory] is very precious... so to be respectful [of God] one should use precious material” (Christy, Bryan, 2012). Also believed by some to bless both the giver and receiver of ivory, it is a valuable material in high demand that some use in both religion and cultural artistic expression for the bone’s aesthetic appeal. Parts of a tiger such as the whiskers, eyebrow, teeth and paw soles are also believed to hold magical abilities. These are used in traditional magic rituals and some believe they hold special powers to people who wear the teeth, protecting the wearer from curses similar to the use of ivory, and as a means of cultural expression.
|An adult pangolin. All images are from the Encyclopaedia Brittanica ImageQuest Archives.|
Pangolins are a scaly, ant-eating mammal and an endangered species protected by law that is used in some traditional Chinese medicine. The scales, called Chan Shan Jia, are “traditionally used in Chinese medicine to disperse blood stasis... reducing swelling and promoting discharge of pus... and for expelling wind-dampness (for pain due to... arthritis)” (The Journal of Chinese Medicine). This practice has preserved one small part of Chinese culture in a world that many believe is becoming increasingly “Westernized” and less culturally diverse. Not only as a cultural tradition, Chan Shan Jia has also proven to be an effective natural remedy and benefit to human health. However, although other natural alternatives to pangolin scales have been found (The Journal of Chinese Medicine) they continue to be hunted for pangolin wine for their aesthetic appeal. Their scales and skin are sometimes used in the fashion industry, a vanity some willing to pay a lot of money for which provides more incentive for traffickers (Soft Schools).
Works Cited (for Part 1)
Christy, Bryan. "Ivory Worship." National Geographic Oct. 2012: 63. Print.
The Journal of Chinese Medicine. "Pangolin." The Journal of Chinese Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.jcm.co.uk/endangered-species-campaign/pangolin/>.
Soft Schools. “Pangolin Facts”. Soft Schools. N.p., n.d. Web. December 2014. http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/pangolin_facts/108/
All images are from Encyclopaedia Brittanica ImageQuest Archives.