(Note: This is the final part of the series Two Sides of Illegal Hunting which explores both sides of the issue of illegal hunting. Parts 1A and 1B introduce with reasons to explain why illegal hunting happens, and parts 2A and 2B will feature consequences and reasons against it. A third section, an informal reflection, is also included. Links to the full series can he found here: http://naturenimbus.blogspot.ca/p/series-two-sides.html)
Sentience & Personal Reflection (Informal Addition)
This section was not included in the original essay as it was a technical written assignment but it is incomplete without it. A large part of me resents the technical nature of this series as well as other pieces I have written because the heart of most environmental debates and conflicts transcend individual facts and statistics but deal with the value of life and the situation as a whole. Economy is a linear system built on numbers and the number of births and deaths may leave you with a population count, but we don't have a unit to quantify sentience or the value of a life. We may not know how to measure everything, but in nature everything has a purpose regardless of whether or not it was measured and by ignoring intuitive aspects without statistics an argument is made more one-dimensional and leaves holes because some things don't feel right for a reason.
As mentioned in the outset, I believe just because something is legal that doesn't make it okay, and therefore just because something is illegal that does not make the action itself inherently wrong. Looking at this in a technical way we are list of numbers, and unfortunately because greed is a feeling that can assign itself a number that feeling often sneaks in with the title of a reason while things such as care are dismissed.
Some may argue that feelings are not reasons, but often they lead us to reasons we just didn't see yet and just because they can't be measured that doesn't mean they don't have an effect. Seeing issues based solely on statistics versus choosing to not dismiss intuitive direction means the difference between seeing the world in a series of shades on a single scale and seeing it in colour, but it can only work if we are willing and able to see the entire spectrum. Although we may not have a unit of measurement that we can use to compare one person's argument with another or even the ability to match the will to know and take into account all the facts, but that is where empathy comes in.
As sentient beings, animals are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. Elephants have even been known to hold a grudge, remember acts of kindness and pass that on to others, but none of their population statistics showed that. Numbers showing money made by poachers did not show if the motive was to feed a family or if it was a trafficker or someone's greed and desire for luxuries. Neither of the statistics showed the loss families suffered because of the greed of others, or the way elephants mourn for their own dead.
We may not be able to know all the facts, but when we accept that and make up for it in empathy and a view of the bigger picture, it becomes more clear.
Personal Opinion (formal) and Conclusion
The effects of illegal hunting extend both to wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole, including humans. I do not think it is not justifiable to kill for aesthetics or out of greed, and though it is more understandable when it is done out of poverty and genuine need markets are fueled by consumer demand, and it is important to help find people in those situations alternative ways of making a living. Every reason to justify illegal hunting is also a reason against it, because unsustainable practices not only destroy natural heritage but eventually will eliminate the resource entirely in an example of “tragedy of the commons”. Although hunting out of need is the most valid argument, eventually unsustainable practices still come back to us and other living things because are all part of the ecosystem. Cultural preservation should come second to life and sustainable ecosystems, because that is the natural heritage of every living thing on this planet.
The justifications are subjective and involve many other influencing factors; the consequences however, are absolute and can be applied to any unsustainable hunting practices on a wide scale, legal or not. The reasons behind preserving wildlife such as respect for life and maintaining the health of ecosystems that we all share. From either a biocentric or anthropocentric standpoint, it is clear from the first law of ecology that “everything is connected to everything else”, that our well being is tied to that of wildlife, and it is vital that we make the health of the ecosystem we all share priority.