Monday, November 23, 2009

Female Bison on the Pill

Stop the presses! Contraception is being introduced to a bison herd on Catalina Island, California (,0,1351086.story). The goal is to control the size of the herd at about 150 head so the animals and the environment will be healthier. When the herd was about 350 in size, the bison’s health was deteriorating and they were trampling native plant communities, altering tree canopies by rubbing against trees, and undermining weed management efforts.

This raises questions, deep and important questions. First, how can family planning be acceptable for bison, yet be a taboo subject for humans, whose vast numbers are making a mess of the entire planet? How can such a vitally important issue be ignored? Why are we so blind?

Second, if an optimal population number can be determined for bison, then surely one can also be calculated for humans. In fact, similar studies suggest the earth can sustainably support no more than about four billion humans. But there is no discussion how this number might be achieved. Just an overwhelming silence .

Third, if a contraception method can be used for bison, which does not harm them nor change their social structure, can we not devise similar, humane methods for humans?

Fourth, why have the religious right, the Catholic Church and other pro-lifers not intervened in this case? After all, they get their moral knickers in a knot at even the hint of contraception, family planning or anything related to controlling human numbers. Human life is sacrosanct, they argue. But why is a bison’s life not sacrosanct? Humans and bison are both animals, two species that are genetically very similar (just look at the DNA structures). The arguments of the religious right are steeped in elitism: humans are the superior race.

Finally, the religious right fights vigorously to save the lives of those yet unborn. Yet their actions condemn future populations to lives that will be significantly inferior to what we enjoy (more elitism), just as the health and environment of the bison herd on Catalina Island degraded when their numbers became too large. Religious zealotary cannot reverse this unassailable fact.

Let’s recognize that human population is a serious problem, and let’s start talking about it. Maybe we can answer some of these questions.