The debate between the pro and anti has raged, however, this reason why the rhino horn trade should not be legalized is quite unusual.
This morning a friend shared a disturbing experience with me.
She’d been invited to come along. She was of course thrilled, however that soon changed.
The vehicles lurched over the bush terrain. The helicopter started closing in. The small rhino crash thundered wildly ahead of them. They began to split up. She saw that they were terrified, and why shouldn’t they be with the ‘whap, whap’ noise of the chopper overhead and three vehicles closing in on them?
He leaned out of the helicopter, shouting to the pilot to hold her steady, he aimed then fired. She saw the huge rhino cow miss a step, she crashed through the brush, slowed then fell awkwardly. The drug was taking hold fast but although now on her side her stout legs were still running, pawing the air in a last desperate attempt to get away. The chopper landed, the vehicles moved in.
She was amazed how horrible she felt seeing this magnificent huge beast brought to her knees with terror in her eyes. The guttural grunts and groans of the flailing animal rolled towards them. They would forever haunt her. The team moved in quickly.
No this was not a poaching event. This was a legal darting to help protect this rhino from poachers. The vet was well trained as were the staff and techs. She knew that, she saw that as they moved quickly to do their work. But still, it seemed to strip this iconic animal of her dignity. How had it come to this? That even the good guys had to inflict fear? Invade private space?
About three rhino are brutally attacked by poachers every day in South Africa. Their horns are hacked off and most are left to die. Because of this, rhino owners and wildlife officials have had to resort to drastic measures to try and protect them. This includes the practice of dehorning as well as infusing the horn with poison.
Some believe that legalizing the trade of rhino horn will curb the illegal poaching. However, one reason why the rhino horn trade should not be legalized is because then rhinos would be subjected to this horrible chase, drugging and frightening routine every few years to cut off their horn.
Now of course that is not the only reason why legalizing the horn trade is a bad idea. It is one that most of us have probably never thought about as we’ve not experienced what really happens when a rhino is darted with an immobilizing drug.
Other reasons why the trading of rhino horn should not be made legal:
- It is a myth that rhino horn has medicinal value (it is composed of the same substance as our fingernails.) Profiting from selling a placebo or feeding a myth seems ethically wrong.
- Farming rhino to be able to harvest their horns would reduce this wild animal to a domestic one so that it is no more than a goat or a cow.
- Once the door gets opened to legalizing a trade that is harmful to wildlife it would be an easy step to making the sale of lion bones and other animal body parts legal. All leading to further exploitation of already fragile species.
There are probably other legal, political, ethical and business reasons that make legalizing the rhino horn trade a bad idea, however, these surely are suffice to find alternatives to assure the rhinos’ survival and keep it living wild and free.
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