"J" is for justice

"And we therefore yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves, to inhabit the land." - Sitting Bull

by Robert Nanninga
t's rhetorical question time. Who does Pete Wilson represent? Given his ill-advised Presidential campaign, it's certainly not the people who supported him when he promised to serve a full term as governor. Had Republican tides been moving to his favor, he would still be planning to abandon ship. Definitely not the people of California who are caught in the growing tempest of urban sprawl and the associated violence. Nor is it the mountain lions who are now the target of Governor Wilson's floundering political machine.
Less than a week after withdrawing from the GOP presidential skirmish, Wilson's handlers decided their boss needed to flex his political muscle after having been virtually ignored in the national arena. To prove his manhood was still intact, he set his sights on a community of Californians that have no voice, no choice, and because of the ever-expanding circle of human encroachment, no place to run.
In Sacramento, the governor stated, "Mountain lions are a symbol of California rugged wildlife, but they've become frequent visitors to our neighborhoods." Wilson also said, "With two fatal attacks in 1994 and lion incidents occurring at the rate of nearly one per day, it's critical to return management of the cougar to the wildlife professionals at Fish and Game."
In response to Pete's statements, I would like to point out that most of California has been the mountain lion's "neighborhood" long before civilization appeared. Both of the fatal incidents happened in mountain lion habitat, not in the playground of a local elementary school. If Mr. Wilson is referring to any sighting of a lion as a "incident," then sign me up for an "incident."
Death is not the issue. The 'staggering' total of 14 fatalities attributable to cougars in more than 200 years are dwarfed by the thousands killed each year by alcohol and cigarettes. Propaganda issued by hunting enthusiasts claim that mountain lions kill pets and live stock. To provide a bit of balance, far more pets end up as road kill than lion dinners.
If hunters were really concerned about human safety, they would put down their guns. In California alone, hunting accidents killed 23 people and injured 220 more between 1985 and 1993. It seems downright absurd to claim that cougars are more of a threat to public safety than hunters.
If humans can have dinner on the hoof, why can't felis concolor? Don't bother sending me letters with the answer, I already know: cash + testosterone. The hunter doesn't care about the welfare of an ecosystem, he just cares about getting a rush off of trying to kill the few remaining predators with a 20th century gun. The rancher doesn't care about the welfare of the calf; he simply doesn't want to lose the profit from its death. In the words of Wendell Berry, "In plenitude too free, we have become adept beneath the yoke of greed."
I am certain that both Iris Kenna and Barbara Schoener would be outraged to know that their unfortunate deaths had made them poster children for the sport hunting and agriculture lobby's attempt to drive the California mountain lion to extinction. If only Pete would have showed similar moral outrage when a wrong turn led to a barrage of gang gunfire and the shooting death of a toddler still strapped in her car seat.
The current mountain lion population here in the Golden State is estimated at no more than 6,000, in contrast to the 35 million people crowded into an overburdened infrastructure. Add to that 800,000 beef cattle and 945,000 sheep to feed all those armchair predators. I would say human overpopulation is a threat to public safety, public health and anything else that gets in the way of manifest destiny - mountain lions included.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Pete Wilson has signed Senate Bill 28 which was introduced by Senator Tim Leslie (R-Carnelian Bay), placing the measure on the March primary ballot. If the measure were to win, it would repeal the special protected status that was provided by Proposition 117 in 1990. This an obvious attempt to resume sport hunting: Prop. 117 already allows for professional hunters to kill specific animals that endanger humans, livestock and pets.
If put back in the hands of Fish and Game, you can expect high priced hunting permits and a waiting list a mile long for people who want their shot at big game. Don't have enough money to shoot elephants in Africa? Just hang out in your back yard, According to the pro-hunting spin doctors, it won't be long before you will have to protect your family and FiFi, your frantic poodle, from one of the marauding predators.
Some Westerners tell you that animals have no rights, and that human interests take precedence of all. But they're not talking about humans in general; they're talking about themselves. Wildlife is no longer the only target. Those working to protect western ecosystems are being threatened with guns. One rancher in New Mexico has threatened to shoot anyone trying to remove his cattle from federal land.
Isn't it odd how human beings can overlook the most heinous of crimes in other humans, but not allow mountain lions to live according to the law of the jungle? Eat or be eaten, it doesn't get more basic than that. Humans have decided that they can eat anything they want, including mountain lions, yet refuse to allow themselves to be dinner. If we are going to deal out justice, it should be equally dispersed. Iris Kenna is killed, and the alleged animal is shot. Yet Jeffery Dahlmer cannibalizes young men and boys and is given free room and board for life. If we were to kill everyone and everything that is a threat to human life, we would have to execute those responsible for oil refineries, breast implants, and Agent Orange.
If you're reading this article, it probably means you care about the environment and the other species that share it with us. If you care, that means you vote, and if you vote, you're making a difference. In March of '96, all of us will be needed to take a stand for the mountain lion. We need to make sure the cry for environmental justice is not a lone voice in the wilderness, but a voice for the wilderness and everything it represents.
The task ahead of us is not an easy one. Against those seeking to destroy environmental regulations and protected species with big money, subterfuge, and firearms, we must become eco-warriors in the courts, canyons - and most important - the voting booth. The battle lines have been drawn, and I say we are up to the challenge.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and active member of the Green and environmental community.