Should Culling of animals be allowed

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The Ministry of Environment recently permitted states to declare earlier protected wild animal species as “vermin” under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, thereby allowing private shooters and others to kill these species with few safeguards and no risk of prosecution. Recent examples are Nilgai in Bihar and Maharashtra, Rhesus macaque in HP, Wild pig in all States except Himachal Pradesh

 

Introduction

Culling is basically selective killing of a species, usually as a population control measure. Though in animal breeding, it is known as the process of removing or segregating animals from a breeding stock based on criteria like immunity, disease, etc. In India, man-animal conflict is seen across the country in a variety of forms, including monkey menace in the urban areas, crop raiding by ungulates and wild pigs, depredation by elephants, and cattle and human killing by tigers and leopards. Damage to agricultural crops and property, killing of livestock and human beings are some of the worst forms of man-animal conflict. The increase in man-animal conflict is likely due to the greater resilience and adaptability of wild animals in face of their shrinking habitats, which allow them to live successfully close to human habitation. Section 11(1) a of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) authorizes chief wildlife warden to permit hunting of any problem wild animal only if it cannot be captured, tranquillized or translocate. Section 62 of Act empowers Centre to declare wild animals other than Schedule I & II to be vermin for specified area and period.

 

Basic reasons behind culling

  1. Man-Animal conflict – too many wild animals compete with humans for resources.
  2. Threat to life and livelihood (crop, property damage) makes culling necessary.
  3. Loss of forestland to mines, industry, agriculture, etc. is the primary reason behind man-animal conflict.
  4. Crop-raiding by smaller herbivores due to a population boom & animals raiding nutrient rich crops like wheat and maize are other major reasons for man-animal conflict.
  5. Increased population of such animals
  6. bans or restrictions on hunting,
  7. loss of natural predators,
  8. Availability of non-forest food sources (cropland, garbage dumps), etc.

Legal mechanism for culling

  1. Wildlife laws divide species into ‘schedules’ ranked from I to V.
  2. Schedule I members are the best protected, in theory, with severe punishments meted out to those who hunt them.
  3. Schedule V is the vermin category.
  4. For wild animals in Schedule II, III or IV, chief wildlife warden or authorized officers can permit their hunting in a specified area if they have become dangerous to humans or property (including standing crops on any land).
  5. Section 62 of Act empowers Centre to declare wild animals other than Schedule I & II to be vermin for specified area and period.

Arguments in favour of culling

  1. It is the feasible solution to save life and property of the citizens.
  2. By law, wildlife are protected because they are too few and require protection.
  3. It destroys hard work of one year of the farmers and push them to the debt crises.
  4. The absence of lawful intervention often triggers retaliation by illegal means. Hence such a law is very necessary.
  5. Can be monitored easily using strict guidelines and law enforcement.
  6. Fencing is not a good measure in this regard and is expensive and its maintenance is not effective.
  7. Even selection of crops that traditionally repelled animals does not seem to work any longer. For example, farmers in Sirmour, Himachal Pradesh, now complain that monkeys raid garlic fields that they avoided until recently.

 

Arguments against culling

  1. Ethical grounds: Even Supreme Court recognized the Right to Life to animals.
  2. Animal welfare activists believe that every individual animal is ethically indispensable, even at the cost of putting entire species at risk.
  3. Culling is against animal protection and conservation.
  4. It shows the barbarian mind-set still existing in human beings, according to the animal welfare groups.
  5. Culling creates a conducive atmosphere for the poaching mafia to move in.
  6. Man-animal conflict can be controlled through non-invasive means, including fencing crop fields, planting chilli around cropland, selecting non-edible crops etc.

Alternative solutions

  1. Popularising insurance of crops and other properties.
  2. Forest department should be more active to deter the animals from harming humans.
  3. Use sedatives rather killing.
  4. Reduce activities causing habitat loss of animals

 

Global practices

  1. In the US, some areas require seasonal culling to ease pressure on livestock feed.
  2. In parts of Africa, culling has been used for commercial harvesting.
  3. In Australia even kangaroos are culled.

 

Conclusion

Animals are not the real problem. We need to look into the root cause of such conflicts. Providing human needs, enhancing local amenities, and adopting science-based and sustained interventions will provide more lasting solutions. 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. Also, 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.

Questions

Q.) Recently the Environment Ministry has decided to allow some States to cull wildlife? Should such wildlife be tagged as vermins? Discuss the issues involved in this decision.

References

PIB

THE HINDU

Ministry of Environment and forest website

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