Increasingly more often, a number of organizations concerned with animal welfare and protection express their arguments and points of view in provocative and denigrating ways against those who trade in all types of animal products.
These publications are often accompanied by bloody and graphic images, aimed to provoke immediate shock in even the most indifferent readers, who feel they must, immediately and concretely, manifest their dissent. To whom? Naturally, any company selling that particular product. Such a company, which could be yours, is suddenly overwhelmed by a storm of negative comments, abuses and threats. At this point, since we are all human, it is easy for an employee or supporter, likely being faced with an emotional limit, to lose ability to sustain a discussion. How do we respond to this?
Offenses and threats, in fact, affect everyone deeply, especially when the subject in question is the welfare and preservation of animals. So how can we respond to this situation while maintaining calm and peace of mind? What can the company do to protect the emotional well-being of its workers?
Our experience has shown that having a “standard” and politically correct answer for each situation is not enough. And ignoring this situation is, simply, worse.
How to respond then?
In this article, we will investigate and analyze only one case: products of alligator skin. Such analysis, however, should be carried out for each individual case. Similarities will be varied.
From the internet to the press, the topic of the production and trade of alligator leather handbags is always on top: animal welfare organizations, theoretically authorities in this area, periodically call for the boycott of trade, production and sale of such articles, with posts denigrating the manufacturers and instigating hatred toward them.
Every coin has two sides and the problem arises when the reader is always and only presented with one. So, what is the other side of the coin?
It is this: “If you want to save an alligator, then buy a handbag. And that is entirely true” – affirms Ruth Elsey, wildlife biologist at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Program in Louisiana – “And we want to make people understand this. ”
How is it possible to have two so radically opposed views?
To understand this and get to the bottom of the problem, it is necessary to analyze both points of view. But first, we want to give you some basic information without which it is impossible to understand the importance of the problem.
We will mention facts about the “Alligator Marsh to Market” program, implemented in the United States, more precisely in Louisiana, since 1972.
This innovative program is the perfect example of how legalized and controlled trade serves to safeguard nature. Thanks to this program, the alligator population and the entire marshland, which is indispensable for their survival, is protected.
“In Louisiana, there are approximately 1.5 million hectares of marshes serving as alligator habitats,” says Noel Kinler, biologist at the Department of Flora and Fauna in the United States. “About 75% of these territories are privately owned and, with few exceptions, every hectare is qualified and involved in the program. ”
The owners of these territories earned money on the hunting of ducks and deer, on the fishing of fish, allowing camping and hiking tours in these swamps. However, these activities did not bring much profit, so the landholders may have chosen to remediate this land and sell it, as an example, for the construction of new buildings.
These territories provide many environmental benefits: protection against storms, shelter for migratory birds, recharging of aquifers. Given these circumstances, the interest in the total preservation of these areas is evident.
The idea of the “Alligator Marsh to Market” program was born in 1972, when alligator hunting was only minimally regulated. Already since 1963, the hunting of the alligator was forbidden, as the number of specimens had undergone a sharp decline. A few years later, after studying the life cycle of alligators, biologists had developed management, breeding and hunting programs, subsequently traced back to the above-mentioned program. This program over time has allowed the number of wild specimens to stabilize. Studies have shown that only 17% of eggs hatched in the wild result in alligators that survive up to one and a half feet in length. The rest die of natural causes. Ruth Elsey explains, “Many eggs are dispersed during floods, dried by the sun or eaten by other predators.” In addition, even small alligators are very vulnerable: larger alligators, birds and other predators follow the course of nature and devour them.
Therefore, the creation of farms, the harvesting of eggs in the wild and the preservation of breeds by the farmers have solved many of the above-mentioned problems.
In addition, the owners of these lands where the alligators live receive money for controlled hunting licenses: every year, in fact, the state sets a number per month of specimens that can be hunted, based on the number of nests made at beginning of the year.
According to Ruth Elsey, thanks to this program, everyone earns something: breeders have a source for egg collection and landowners make a generous profit by safeguarding their territory.
But not only that! This program has also succeeded in solving the problem of alligator poaching. Kinler adds that when landowners recognize an economic advantage in the alligator, such landowners are immediately reluctant to tolerate any cases of poaching and report them to the competent authorities.
How can these facts extend also to the final purchaser of the product? “Purchasing an alligator skin product” says Ruth Elsey,” sustains the conservation of wetlands and hence of habitats benefited not only by alligators, but by other mammals, aquatic birds and all other organisms that live there. It is a true act of conservation.”
Having said that, what benefits come with the legal and controlled trade of these specimens and the products created from them?
- The interest of landowners to keep marshlands in their natural state for the preservation of alligators.
- The collection and protection of eggs for farms, crocodile breeders and the maintenance of certain species in farms.
- Reduction of poaching thanks to the establishment of official hunting fees and for the owner’s interest to report cases of poaching.
- Conservation of the habitat, not only of the alligator, but of all coexisting flora and fauna.
- Funding for the support of this program. No doubt, in fact, alligators used for trade help protect their habitat.
These facts must inevitably be studied and known in a conscious manner by every employee of any company that trades in exotic leather.
But is it all so beautiful and perfect?
Obviously, no. And this is the moment for analyzing the first side of the coin, the one that is so often referred to by the animal rights organizations and the one for which our problem was born. The treatment of the animals. Is this a completely made up problem? Surely not.
These associations deal with animal welfare and the problems that are mentioned exist without any shadow of doubt. To solve them, it is indispensable to bring them frequently to light with articles dealing with the ethical treatment of animals. And what better way to do that, than to publish shocking and raw articles, to provoke the most humane part of us all?
Probably, we will all agree in saying that it is very important to talk about, if not indispensable. Thus, the problem is not in the topic, but in the solutions being proposed: entirely boycotting exotic skin products and sabotaging the work of those making up part of that world. These are the real causes of the threats and offenses which swoop down out of the blue and onto the company, causing only hate and not the true preservation of the species.
As demonstrated in the aforementioned example (“Alligator Marsh to Market”), the creation of certain programs and the legal and controlled trade of species and products made with them not only does not harm the habitat, but it brings real and concrete results and benefits to its conservation.
So the real problem is not in the trade; the real problem is in the need to have farm control techniques where the animal’s ethical and human treatment should never fail in any stage of its life. Unfortunately, we cannot deny that in some cases the financial interest wins over everything else. Even in the most innovative program.
- It is a fact that established and controlled trade contributes to the conservation of wild habitats. Any company that falls into this area and operates according to the laws and regulations in force can contribute to conservation in a concrete way.
- Certainly, the problem of the animal’s ethical treatment exists, but the solution is not in the total erasure of trade or in sabotaging it. This is, in fact, a proposal that creates greater ignorance and hatred.
How do we respond?
- The only way to react calmly and quietly to the storm of insults is to know the background in a profound and detailed way. Every employee or supporter, on the basis of what he has learned, must first build on his own arguments and point of view: anyone can become a victim (by phone, email, chat, shop, office and even outside of work) of the reaction of people who see only one side of the coin.
- It is also essential to draft and assimilate a neutral and “politically correct” answer to be provided when there is no possibility of continuing a discussion – both for emotional reasons and for the indifference of the other party.
- It is imperative to understand that many insulting offenders, if you can show them the other side of the coin with a peaceful and proper dialogue, may become your supporters.
Last but not least, the tranquility and the need to be prepared to face similar situations. This is, in fact, a topic that can and must continue to be discussed; this is a problem that can be and must be resolved.
The key to everything is this: the buyer has no means to be 100% informed, your business does. You are the one who must make the first step towards discussion.