In the words of legendary comedian George Carlin, “Save the trees. Save the bees. Save the whales. Save the snails.” For years, environmentalists have championed efforts to rescue endangered species, but their initiatives, which often involve the tool of government, usually fail.
In 1966 and 1973, two historic pieces of legislation were signed into law: the Endangered Species Preservation Act and the Endangered Species Act. The former led to two of the 78 species being recovered, while the latter has only had a 1% success rate on a $2 billion annual budget.
Whether directly or indirectly, it seems the only practical means of animal conservation has been capitalism.
To echo Carlin once again, let’s briefly examine how capitalism saved those planetary elements. John D. Rockefeller’s investment in kerosene saved the whales. The free market has established a surge in honey-producing bee colonies that has kept the bees from extinction. The USB flash disk, tablet, and email have saved the trees. The snail population has fluctuated, and it always has been that way.
Soon after President Donald Trump reversed a 2014 ban on importing elephant trophies last month, the left lost its collective mind, declaring that this is indeed the end of the elephant. Is it? Hardly. The elephant population will likely experience a boom.
Are prohibitions, restrictions, and even the tragedy of the commons the only methods of protecting and preserving species? No. The only way to shield these lovely creatures is to eat them.
Let’s explore, shall we?
Save the Rhinos!
Some rhinoceros horns sell for as high as $300,000. It is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and is quite popular in Vietnam. With such an exorbitant price-tag, it is understandable why poaching soared 9,000% in South Africa between 2007 and 2014.
Because of this, you may have read and heard the doom and gloom headlines: the rhinos are going extinct! What’s the solution? Bans have been unsuccessful, advertising campaigns have had very little impact, and there isn’t an incentive for businesses to protect rhinos.
The only way to salvage the rhino is through capitalism.
For 20 years, South Africa legalized the owning of rhinos and the selling of their horns. This created a thriving business: rhino farming. Farmers would put the rhinos to sleep, saw off their horns – they grow back within three years – and sell them on the market. Poaching numbers plunged, while the rhino population quadrupled.
Perhaps due to intense lobbying from animal welfare activists, the South African government made it illegal to sell rhino horns, eliminating the incentive for the private sector to farm rhinos. The obvious result was the return to widespread poaching and the decline in the rhino population. Thankfully, South Africa is reconsidering its decision.
The market is coming up with another solution to prevent poaching and save the rhinos: artificial rhino horn. In July, media personality John Stossel profiled biotech entrepreneur Matthew Markus, who developed a manmade rhino horn in a laboratory that is barely different from genuine horns. Markus wants to flood the market with lab-grown horns to bring the price down, which would also eliminate poaching by eliminating the profits of the crime. He hopes that these thugs would not take the risk.
Environmentalists are trying to sabotage Markus’s investment. Do they hate the rhino?
Save the Elephants!
Who would ever want to see the demise of elephants? Answer: nobody.
That is why it is essential that trophy hunting continues, and the Trump administration’s reversal on elephant trophies being brought into the U.S. is a step in the right direction.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are part of the U.S. waiver. These countries manage their elephant populations by monitoring, maintaining, and protecting them from poachers. This comes with a hefty cost, which is why these conservationists permit hunters to take down an elephant, usually older ones.
Elephant farmers overbreed these gorgeous creatures to ensure that the killing of several elephants will not impact overall breeding programs. When thrill-seekers pay to hunt these elephants, the funds are reinvested into conservation programs to track, care for, and shield them from external forces.
In addition to these efforts, the marketplace is already beginning to help eradicate elephant hunting through public shaming. A Utah man was slammed this week for applying for a permit to import African elephant trophies, and now he is adamantly defending himself, claiming that he is producing a documentary. He wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, to be pummeled into submission. Everyone likely remembers the Minnesota dentist who lost his career over killing a Zimbabwean lion.
In a perfect world, nobody would ever hunt elephants. But we do not reside in such a place.
Save the Bison!
In the 19th century, the American bison population crashed from tens of millions to only a few hundred. The animals were on the cusp of extinction: the U.S. military wanted to exterminate them, bison products were in high demand, and railroad companies paid for their deaths to avoid potential delays.
It was a sad time for the American bison, but it was also a perfect example of the tragedy of the commons.
But the free market came to the rescue.
With numbers cratering, entrepreneurs noticed an opportunity: ranchers began to herd wild bison on their ranches. To see the success of this venture, you only need to examine population growth since 1889: from 1,091 to 500,000 today.
The ratio is even more interesting. The latest figures suggest that there are 25,000 publicly-owned bison for every 250,000 that are privately-owned.
Profit Incentives Always Matter
Leftists may want to live in a utopia where there the concept of money is alien, everyone holds hands, Hillary Clinton is empress of the universe, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a god. But this is not the real world.
Animals are still viewed as commodities and natural resources. The average person may think it cruel, but it is not necessarily despicable if it means a species will survive.
We have witnessed first-hand the track record of environmentalists and governments, and it has been abysmal. Bans have encouraged poaching. Ad campaigns failed to convince. Tree-hugging achieved nothing. Rockefeller, Dov Moran (inventor of the USB flash disk), and midwestern ranchers may not have had animal conservation on their minds, but their profit-seeking ways have preserved many moribund species none the less.
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