Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics
Description Long before the Endangered Species Act and the spotted owl controversy, American conservationists debated the ethics of wildlife protection. Although all were alarmed by the rapid destruction of game species in the late 1800s, some sought to preserve animals for their aesthetic and material benefit to humans, while others believed it was wrong to mistreat any wild creature. Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics shows how the latter view evolved into the animal rights activism of today. Lisa Mighetto examines portrayals of wildlife in popular literature dating from the nineteenth century, revealing how early conservationists looked for evidence of morality in animals that would make them more acceptable to the American public. Arguing that animals should be protected because they think, feel, and act in a manner similar to humans, some went so far as to claim that these creatures have rights. Not all wild animals readily conformed to the new image. The first conservationists did not extend their ethics to predators or "varmints," and supported government efforts to wipe them out. By describing how animal lovers gradually came to advocate protection of even these creatures, Mighetto traces the development of modern ecological values and the biocentric perspective. Americans now stand at a critical point in wildlife protection, wielding the threat of extinction over numerous species. Mighetto places arguments regarding wildlife protection in historical perspective and thus helps us evaluate our inherited attitudes and assumptions about the animal world. Enhancing the text are more than fifty illustrations that demonstrate the interaction between humans and wildlife over the last century.
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