By Mike Barnett
I am amazed that the inflexible ideology of an animal rights group could be the death warrant for the endangered species they profess to protect. That was the take home message for me from a 60 Minutes segment about the Texas exotic game industry.
Three species of antelope endangered or extinct in their native African homes—the scimitar horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle—are thriving here due to the efforts of Texas landowners who have found a steady source of income breeding these exotics for trophy hunts.
This is wrong, according to Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, an international animal rights group. She condemns the practice because she doesn’t want to see animals raised for game hunting. She doesn’t offer much of an alternative, other than saying they should be raised on game preserves in their native Africa—where poachers have driven them to the edge of extinction.
She poo-poos the efforts of the Texas exotic wildlife breeders, who have invested millions of dollars ensuring the survival of these endangered species. I won’t deny their incentive is profit. Then again, I find nothing wrong with profit. Consider the results. Texas is home to more than 250,000 exotic animals representing 125 species. About 10 percent of those animals are harvested annually. The other 90 percent perpetuate the herds—and more importantly, the species.
Friends of Animals has invested their dollars in legal battles which could undo the work done in Texas. Because of their efforts, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will soon begin enforcing a rule that requires a strict federal permit to hunt these three species of antelope in the U.S., which has never been required before.
In other words, they will bundle the process of hunting in red tape, making permits virtually impossible to get. This means no hunters for the landowner. And no incentive to maintain strong Texas populations of these magnificent animals.
Charlie Seale, executive director of the Exotic Wildlife Association, estimated there would be half the numbers of these three species of antelope in five years.
“I would say in 10 years, there will be virtually none of them left.”
Which is just fine with Priscilla Feral. When the 60 Minutes reporter asked if she would rather the animals not exist at all, she replied:
“Not in Texas, no.”
Ideological fervor or illogical idiocy?
You tell me.