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Holistic hunters' knowledge can be harmful

Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
2 September 2002

Hugh Brody contrasts the hunter gatherer's holistic knowledge of his environment to the alienated relationship to prey and territory of the recreational hunter-land owner.

It is not clear which hunter is better for the environment. There is good evidence that many plant and animal species in North America were decimated by Native American hunting, burning and berry gathering.

When Lewis and Clark mapped the Mid-West and West in the early nineteenth century, they noted in the expedition records that quantities of wildlife "are usually found in the country lying between nations at war" - only in these no-man-lands could animals find the protection to flourish.

The holistic understanding of the hunter gatherer, in which hunting success is associated to spiritual occurences, is not the most secure basis for ecological welfare: is it more sustainable to hunt young elk, or old? male or female? The spirit's answer in North America, where maturing females were predominantly the choice of prey, does not seem to have been aimed at sustainability.

Better rely on the empirical knowledge of those land-owners who "control the means of production" of the hunt if sustainability is the aim.

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