The Maasai people have done what a lot of groups refuse to do. In 2008, Masaai leaders recognized the unsustainability of their traditional lion hunts, so they turned to the Big Life Foundation for help in eliminating the custom from their society.
Instead of competing for lion manes, the young men of the Maasai vie for medals to demonstrate their physical prowess, while promoting conservation and sustainability.
The Maasai tribe have proven that it is not necessary for humans to perpetuate the suffering of animals in the name of tradition, especially animals that are in danger of extinction. Now it’s time for other cultures to follow their lead.
Here are some inhumane traditions from around the world that we wish would just get with the times and change already:
1. Canadian Seal Slaughter
Sealing in Canada began as a means of sustenance and survival for the indigenous Inuit tribes. When the selling of seal pelts became a viable trade for European settlers in the sixteenth century, commercial sealing was born, and the violent exploitation of seals began.
This year, Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced an increased quota of 468,000 seals for 2015’s hunt, despite the waning global market for seal products. Many sovereignties and unions have banned the trading of some or all seal products, including the United States, the European Union, Russia, and Taiwan.
Polls show that a majority of the citizens of Newfoundland, where much of the hunt takes place, support putting an end to the commercial seal cull. Despite both public and international protest, the mass killing of seals continues today.
Worse still, commercial sealers seem to specifically target seal pups. In the past, more than 98% of all seals killed in the annual slaughter were pups under the age of three months.
Canadian harp seals also face danger from early ice melts due to increased temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean. However, evidence that they may disappear has not deterred Minister Shea from making the harp seal the most hunt-able species of seal on the planet.
Last year, buyers paid sealers no more than $35 per pelt. Is such a small amount of money really worth the destruction of an entire species?
2. Coyote killing contests
While Canada’s killing of seals for a tiny profit may seem bad, the U.S.A. does something arguably much worse: killing coyotes for fun. At least twenty-one of the fifty United States participate in contests wherein the main goal is to kill as many coyotes as possible.
These contests, sometimes called “varmint” or “predator” hunts, offer prizes to the hunter who kills the largest or highest number of coyotes. According to Project Coyote, an estimated 400,000 coyotes are slaughtered each year in the United States, primarily during government-funded helicopter hunts and independent killing contests.
Hunters who take part in coyote contests argue that their prey cause problems for farmers and ranchers; that the hunts are designed to eradicate a nuisance. However, coyotes don’t typically attack livestock, and tend to hunt smaller animals for food.
Coyotes are uniquely adaptable, and decimating them will doesn’t actually solve anything. In some cases, reducing coyote populations may cause more problems for farmers, ranchers, and more importantly the ecosystem.
A study of coyote breeding behavior found that, in areas of declining coyote populations, breeding females can actually increase their average litter size, likely as a result food abundance. When coyote populations decrease, small mammal populations increase, and coyotes rebound.
Therefore, there is no practical value for the mass slaughter of coyotes. It serves no purpose other than to give hunters something to shoot.
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3. The Grind
The International Whaling Commission established a moratorium against commercial whaling in 1986, but the people of the Faroe Islands continue to kill on average nearly 850 pilot whales each year, though yearly kill counts range from zero to over 1,500.
The government of the Faroe Islands claims that their annual slaughter, called the “Grind” or “Whale Drive,” is a sustainable and necessary component of their culture. That somehow killing whales and divying their meat is a right afforded to them through tradition, despite widespread protest against it.
Killing whales — which are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet — is more than just ethically questionable. It’s also a matter of public health. A nearly three-decade study showed that whale meat attained during the Faroe Islands’ slaughter contained dangerous levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl, both of which can have damaging health effects.
Additionally, killing such a large number of apex predators can have a residual effect on the oceanic ecosystem. Biodivesity can plummet as species lower in the food chain flourish, and (since cetaceans have a slow reproduction cycle) it may take years for whale populations to rebound. Population data for pilot whales is too deficient to determine its conservation status.
While the government of the Faroe Islands claims that there are plenty of pilot whales to kill, and that their meat is a “staple part of the national diet,” the annual slaughter has no significant impact on the economy, and islanders view the meat as more of a delicacy than something to eat as a meal. So why does the carnage continue?