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Elephants and Ethics: Toward a Morality of Coexistenceby Christen (edt) Wemmer
Synopses & Reviews
The entwined history of humans and elephants is fascinating but often sad. People have used elephants as beasts of burden and war machines, slaughtered them for their ivory, exterminated them as threats to people and ecosystems, turned them into objects of entertainment at circuses, employed them as both curiosities and conservation ambassadors in zoos, and deified and honored them in religious rites. How have such actions affected these pachyderms? What ethical and moral imperatives should humans follow to ensure that elephants are treated with dignity and saved from extinction?
In Elephants and Ethics, Christen Wemmer and Catherine A. Christen assemble an international cohort of experts to review the history of human-elephant relations, discuss current issues of vital concern to elephant welfare, and assess the prospects for the ethical coexistence of both species.
Part I provides an overview of the vexatious human-elephant relationship, from the history of our interactions to understanding elephant intelligence and sense of self. It concludes with a discussion of the issues of stress, pain, and suffering as experienced by elephants in human care and the problems inherent in assessing these subjectively.
The second part explores how humans use elephants as tools and entertainment. It reviews domestic uses in Asia, examines the history and roles of elephants in zoos and circuses, and discusses the methods and ethics of training and caring for captive elephants.
In Part III the contributors examine the fragile and conflict-filled world of human-elephant interactions in the wild. Each chapter delves into a different angle of the elephant problem — the all-too-human problem of our growing populations taking over space that was historically the domain of these pachyderms. The chapters explore attempts to tame and train elephants in populous areas, the struggle over balancing species preservation while maintaining biodiversity in protected areas, and the conundrums posed by hunting, tourism, and human-elephant competition on rural land.
That the future health and survival of elephants is dependent on human actions is irrefutable. In addressing these issues from multiple perspectives, Elephants and Ethics promotes mutual understanding of the cultural, conservation, and economic difficulties at the root of the many troublesome human-elephant interactions and poses new questions about our responsibility toward these largest of land mammals.
Book News Annotation:
The papers in this volume came from a 2003 symposium sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution entitled "Never Forgetting; Elephants and Ethics." The elephant is a symbol of the problems inherent in the desire to protect nature faced by the continual growth of the human population. Unlike an endangered fish or flower, it can't be ignored. Speakers were not in agreement. There were arguments in favor of and against elephants in zoos and circuses. The question of the status of working elephants in Asia in particular is a thorny one. The last act of the symposium was to gather all the participants to find points on which they all could agree. Among them was the belief that elephants needed a place to roam freely. However, realizing that this is not possible for all elephants, humans must take the responsibility for their humane treatment and continued existence. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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