The Heart and Soul of the Wolf Wars

Money or education, which is the best means to stopping the annihilation of wolves in the West and elsewhere? This question has sparked an interesting discussion following one of my blog posts. Of course, both finances and education are powerful entities in effecting change, yet there is more to human beings than thoughts and pocket books.

Deeply hidden as it may be, people are also comprised of souls and hearts. The manifestation of these aspects of person-hood is primarily determined by conditioning and modeling from family and community. We sort through the details of this throughout our lives, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. But the truth remains, much of who we are as human being is created by that which surrounds us. It takes a tremendous effort to rebuke ones conditioning, to throw away the bad and keep the good, and to allow for a true evolution of the soul.

But personal growth can happen, if one is willing. When I read of the Idaho wolf slaughter, or the upcoming ones in the Midwest, I envision an auditorium packed full of trappers, hunters, some ranchers (the Idaho governor is there as well), all undergoing intense therapy in order to come to terms with their irrational fear and loathing of wolves and other predators. These folks may need to be sedated (tranquilizer darts to the hips provide a relatively safe and effective short term effect) to end up there, but once the session is complete the subjects emerge into the evening light as more evolved beings, in touch with their deepest hurts and purged of the impetus to destroy other life in order to feel worthy.

This vision is not only my own. I came across the website for Society and Animals Forum, an organization based in Maryland whose objective “…is to reduce violence against human and non-human animals.” Jane Goodall is on their Advisory Board. Society and Animals Forum boasts the first “psychological treatment approach specifically for the treatment of animal abusers.” Much of their work is in exposing the link between animal abuse and violence inflicted on humans, as was the case with the Columbine School shootings, as well as other similar tragedies. They produced a video called “Beyond Violence” and their staff offers training sessions and presentations nationwide to raise awareness and instruct others in their innovative methods.

Am I way off here, or are the psychological and spiritual elements essential in helping us understand, and hopefully influence, those who see the destruction of wolves as a legitimate activity, one to pass onto their offspring and in doing so, perpetuate the slaughter? Reading this, I feel a need to stand back from my own opinions and consider if the hunting and trapping of wolves really is inherently cruel, or is it simply a sport we should learn to live with, tolerate as a form of recreation, even if we don’t agree? But my thoughts travel to the photo of Josh Bransford, face beaming as he crouches in front of the gut-shot wolf he has trapped. There is clearly an emotional disconnect here, the smile and the blood, the dying wolf with head hung low and the man responsible posing for the camera.  If this is not cruelty then the word needs to be rewritten, and the new meaning will condone a blatant ignorance of all types of feeling, both physical and emotional.

We need to support wolves in a myriad of ways, with education and money, but also with a look to the internal workings of those who see no problem with the destruction of certain life forms. Perhaps we need a Special Forces army in the wolf wars, one trained by wise therapists and gentle gurus who arm their students with understanding, patience and wise words, as well as a few tranquilizer guns to begin the process.

5 thoughts on “The Heart and Soul of the Wolf Wars

  1. Beckie,
    Thoughtful writing. Very thoughtful. Thank you.
    Yes there are psychological and spiritual elements to aid understanding. What makes a person susceptible to the influences that cause cruelty upon any animal, non-human or human? Money is the ultimate cause of such cruelty, earned mostly by those perpetuating the cruel approach. Them taking advantage of those susceptible to influence and cause them to inflict the cruelty. Their money helps them lobby, obtain media coverage, elect those they want in power, and even breed those who attain power. How many elected officials have come from ranching backgrounds, complete with hoards of money?
    But as throughout all recorded history, there’s only two ways for peoples and ideologies to prevail. Superior wealth, which yields superior power. And superior numbers. In the absence of organized superior numbers, superior wealth/power always prevails. Given organized superior numbers, these numbers will prevail over superior wealth/power. The Arab Spring is only the most recent example.
    To invest the time to change all the minds of those perpetuating cruelty would surely be successful, but how many animals will die unmercifully and unnecessarily in the time it takes to do that?
    We must remember that we live in a democracy. And that if we motivate all animal lovers to make their voices heard, we can sometimes prevail.
    Food for thought.


    • I think everyone needs to razeile the reason all wildlife populations are shrinking is because of people. Not wolves. Period. Habitat fragmentation, loss of range due to roads and development, introduced species, disease, poor concepts of management, grazing, ranching, (although I would rather see cows than condos), poaching, you name it are all factors. The wolf has been histories scapegoat. We need to take a much harder look into our own actions and extend our combined passion for the outdoors beyond just hunting and into our everyday lives. If we the outdoorsmen don’t come together and protect these lands no one will. That protection must come beyond voting for politicians it must be incorportaed into our everyday lives and the lives of our children. Join outdoor groups, educate young people, practice and enforce the ethical use of our wildlands, and just maybe we can have wolves and elk and deer and people.A note for everyone who will email me in response to this and whom questions my comments I have been a hunter for as long as I have been alive and I will have it no other way. I live in AZ where we just reintroduced the Mexican Grey Wolf and I have a degree in Conservation Biology and I believe that if you want to gripe become educated and find a way to make a difference. I hope you all enjoy many beautiful days a field.


  2. I certainly do think that the crux of the problem has as much to do with values as it does with knowledge, and I’m a little bemused by wolf advocates who think that if we just educated everyone thoroughly enough, they’d come over to our side. A person who views animals as commodities will want to kill wolves no matter how thoroughly he is convinced of their harmlessness.

    However, I must say that I’m not at all persuaded of the ability of psychotherapy to cure evil or repair fundamentally flawed philosophies. Maybe some trophy hunters kill as a way of compensating for serious self-esteem issues or past trauma that a good therapy group could solve. I suspect, though, that a lot of them simply do it because it’s “good fun” at somebody else’s expense, and they have issues with being told “NO” by anyone. In other words, they’re selfish and stubborn. How do you make someone develop empathy and respect? IMO you can’t. You can try to encourage people to go the right direction, but at the end of the day whether someone will care about any life form besides himself comes down to a personal choice. That’s why we have government to force people to behave themselves; if there were a way to transform all of us into good citizens, we wouldn’t need laws at all. Unfortunately, when it comes to animals, the laws aren’t anywhere near prepared to restrain the killers. Wolf killers can be converted — I know of several examples — but I don’t know of any case in which it happened because someone sat them down and had a nice talk with them. In all three cases, the conversion took place because of an actual encounter with a wolf. In two of those cases, it was a dying wolf. The exercise of killing was what exposed them to its horror … obviously not an ideal method of changing minds.

    I suspect that other people either hunt themselves or support hunting simply because it is part of their established culture. Denouncing trophy hunting or wolf-hating as a form of animal abuse would require them to declare their neighbors, friends, family, etc. to be animal abusers, and they just aren’t prepared to do that.

    Rather than psychotherapy for individuals (who, as you pointed out, would have to be drugged to get them into a session anyway), I think the key is a broad cultural values shift. The handful of raving anti-wolf lunatics aren’t the real problem; the problem is the large number of average Americans who ignore or tacitly accept them. “Well, wolf hunting isn’t my thing, but if you wanna do it then I guess it’s your choice, pal.” That is the attitude we need to fight. We must create the widespread impression that wolf hunting is something decent people just don’t do. The average Joe should feel comfortable denouncing trophy hunters, and those trophy hunters whose minds cannot be changed should be made to feel so embarrassed about their “hobby” that they would no sooner admit to it in public than they would admit to murdering a baby. Once this major shift in public opinion comes about, the laws will follow. The history of the movements that eliminated slavery and segregation should be useful inspiration for the techniques that will be needed to achieve this.


  3. I really appreciate your comment.
    Hope you know I was a little tongue in cheek about the group therapy thing. I don’t believe it would get to many of the wolf killers either, but perhaps a few would be open to change. What you said about the community standing up against trophy hunting is an important insight, and one I believe the pro-wolf people are working on. The by-stander effect allows atrocities to happen, as with slavery and segregation as you said, as well as crimes against women and all minorities. Abuse of women is not an issue females can solve, but one the men in the community can end by standing up against perpetrators. Jackson Katz is doing some phenomenal work in this realm. Bullies are another example. In fact, I see trophy hunters as bullies, individuals who feel powerful and gain attention by harming something in a weaker position than themselves.
    Thanks for your input and hope to hear more from you!


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