The Environment Ministry has asked states which animal species they want to declare “vermin” and kill for a certain period of time in an attempt to address damage to crops and other conflict with humans, but the move has been condemned by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, wildlife and animal protection experts, and horrified members of the public. Ecological balance simply cannot be restored through the barrel of a gun. The killing of wildlife causes tremendous suffering and opens the door to the illegal wildlife trade, but does nothing toward providing genuine long-term help for farmers or others facing conflict.
That’s because shooting animals fails to address the root cause of the matter, which is forests being torn down, and humans encroaching into animals’ homes, leaving animals with almost nowhere but human habitats to go and to venture into in search of food, and because when some wildlife are killed, other animals quickly fill the void left behind.
It is the duty of every Indian citizen under Article 51A (G) of our nation’s constitution to protect wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. To save our tigers and other wildlife before it’s too late, town and project planning must include forest protection, and solutions must be found to conflict by engaging with farmers, animal protection experts and scientists in implementing humane, real solutions such as adequate fencing, noisemakers, and repelling animals naturally from farms through the use of chili plants or other such means. In Africa, for example, the planting of chili plants around crops was found to be successful in addressing conflict with elephants.
In contrast, when animals are hunted, some will be shot several times causing tremendous pain, but many others escape with one gunshot or flesh wound, and die later slowly and in unimaginable agony from blood loss, gangrene, starvation or dehydration. When mother animals are killed, orphaned babies are left behind to starve.
Permission has already been given for wild boar to be killed in Uttarakhand, Nilgai to be slaughtered in Bihar and monkeys to be murdered in Himachal Pradesh. But black bucks’ behavior is similar to that of nilgai. Will they be next on the kill list? Surely we can’t simply declare every species of animal “vermin”, but that’s precisely the slippery slope we will find ourselves on if we continue to go down the road of slaying wild animals. Goa even said it wants to classify India’s national bird, peacocks, as vermin making clear that no animal species is safe.
Provisions to allow wild animals to be killed can also be easily misused and contribute to the illegal wildlife trade. There is already a huge black market for nilgai body parts such as skin, teeth, nails and meat in Uttar Pradesh and wild boar are often used for meat.
Focusing on long-term humane solutions to the conflict we humans have created with animals by stealing their homes, and protecting what’s left of the animals’ natural homes also benefits farmers, and all of us. Forests help manage the Earth’s climate and their destruction releases carbon into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. Forests also help regulate rainfall.
India is already suffering from serious effects of climate change, including a warming climate, changing rainfall patterns, and droughts—all factors which hurt farmers first. Without healthy forests for our wildlife to live in, animals, and humans, suffer.
It’s time to put down the guns and plant trees and work toward other effective solutions that help everyone involved instead.