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Cecil Was a Bad Boy

August 3, 2015 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

“American, single-handedly, saves 600 African antelopes and 12 baby elephants — by killing a lion.” As you read the first part of the previous sentence, you most likely are thinking “this is a good guy.” But when you read the last part of the sentence — particularly if you are a cat lover — you may be thinking “this is a bad guy.”

Adult lions on average eat about 15 pounds of meat a day. In the wild, they feed primarily on medium-size animals, such as antelopes and occasional baby elephants. The late Cecil the lion, killed by the American dentist, was reported to be about 13 years old. Cecil probably killed and consumed roughly 70,000 pounds of meat during his life, which likely included many hundreds of antelopes and baby elephants.

When you see a wildlife movie where a lion is chasing an antelope, do you root for the lion or the antelope? Even if you are a cat lover, how many antelopes do you think should die to feed one lion?

In Northern Virginia where I live, whitetail deer are very plentiful — too plentiful, according to the wildlife biologists. So the county police and others kill deer from September to February by shooting them with guns or arrows. The local animal rights people are opposed to such deer “culling,” but seem to have no good answers as to how to control the deer population. The deer reproduce rapidly because their natural predators have been eliminated — and have only partially been replaced by the automobile. Each year, there are thousands of collisions between deer and automobiles. A few years ago, in a tragic accident, a local school librarian was killed when her car hit a deer. If we killed all of the deer, how many automobile accidents, including some human deaths, would be reduced? How many deer lives should be sacrificed to save one human life? Some may consider this to be a politically incorrect question, but biologists, economists, political leaders and others are forced to think about such questions. The statistics about deer populations and related auto accidents are quite robust, so the question is not academic.

People naturally do not like to think about such tradeoffs. The American dentist who killed the lion (and apparently did not realize that he was not in a legal hunt) has received death threats. If some of these death threats are …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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