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On Blaming Animal Rights Activists for Alligator Attacks

Bea, who also lives in Florida, suggested I write about Kasey Edwards, the young man who lost his arm to an alligator earlier this week.

First let me say that he’s 18-years old. That’s my biggest problem with quoting him as if he knows what he’s talking about. There’s something vaguely unfair about deconstructing what he says. Remember what came out of your mouth when you were 18-years old?

What I do feel comfortable doing is saying that drinking alcohol and "hanging out" along canals that are known to be the homes or travelways of alligators is not a good idea. Even without the alcohol it isn’t a good idea. And no one should be shocked to discover that when they go to the home or travelway of alligators, there might be alligators there. Each week there is an alligator story on the news, complete with anchor people laughing and joking after the clip of the alligator getting tied up, having her mouth duct taped, and then fighting for her life as she’s dragged onto some truck and it’s announced, much to everyone’s relief I’m sure, that the alligator was "destroyed" (for, you  know, being an alligator). The alligators are vilified, all because we have pushed them and pushed them out of their homes, and then some of us are ignorant enough to actually try to feed them, thereby giving them mixed signals (sound familiar? Can you say bears?), and then when they approach people or try to catch a meal in the form of a dog (they’re predators, remember), they are killed.

Alligators can’t win.

[Edwards] blamed what he feels are the misguided efforts of animal-rights activists for allowing the Florida alligator population to mushroom in the past 10 years. With so many gators competing for limited resources, they’ve become much more aggressive, he said.

So the never-ending development of Florida has nothing to do with the problem? Animal rights activists are the problem? Going to one of the few places where alligators can be alligators without people disturbing them isn’t part of the problem? I think Edwards is right to blame people. But I think he’s pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction.

[Edwards also] said that the real issue is the overpopulation of alligators. Florida wildlife authorities issue 3,000 permits a year for alligator hunters, he said, but animal-rights activists buy as many as two-thirds of the permits to prevent the alligators from being killed.

Edwards has his facts wrong about the animal rights activists, the number of permits, and the number of alligators killed, and it would be nice if the Today Show did a follow up to that effect. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife,

on average, 70 percent of all hunting tags purchased are turned in as required with proof of a gator kill. 82 percent of the tags were used last year . . . .

The state points out Lake Okeechobee, where Edwards was bitten, is experiencing record drought. Large gators are concentrated in canals. Casey Edwards dove in at two in the morning when gators are most active, most dangerous.

Write the Today Show and tell them that Edwards (whose name was indeed spelled with at K by one source, and a C by the other), is incorrect. He put himself in a very dangerous position, was injured, and someone else was killed because of what he did.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patty #

    I watched the video…he was swimming in the canal at 2AM. You come into my home at 2 AM, I may not bite your arm off, but I might attack.

    June 27, 2008
  2. I feel horrible for the alligator, but something about this story just makes me crack up. I mean, you can't make this up. Drunk guy dives into alligator territory, gets arm bit off, blames animal rights activists. Hahahaha.

    June 27, 2008
  3. Roger #

    I am with Patty. This is all bound up with the arrogant human believe that we have the right to BE everywhere and on OUR terms. I often feel like Patty when I hear of shark attack – well don't mess around in their home numb nuts! Such we can BE everywhere are elements of human supremacy views, which I looked at in greater detail here:

    Love and kisses, Roger – keeping away from "gator" places.

    June 27, 2008
  4. GrizzlyBear #

    Dr. Martin, for the first time, I stand in complete agreement with you on something. This guy has no one to blame but himself for his predicament. It was nothing more than his own stupidity, irresponsibility, and recklessness, not ARAs, or anyone else, that got him here.
    My wife and I live in the foothills west of Denver. We have a similar situation here with bears sometimes. The first people to complain about "nuisance bears" are most often the ones who do not understand or fully consider the responsibilities that come with living in the wildland-urban interface. They usually do not do anything, such as securing their trash, not leaving food outside unattended, etc., to minimize the chance of conflict. If someone is going to live or be around wildlife, then they have a responsibility to do what is in their power to avoid conflict with that wildlife, as far as I'm concerned. This guy obviously did not do that. The gator should not have been destroyed.

    June 27, 2008
  5. Mark Harris #

    He's 18 years old. What's your excuse?

    The guy lost his arm and all you got to do is call him a drunk.

    One thing I know for sure. You were never in combat.

    June 28, 2008
  6. Mark,

    I don't think I need an excuse for anything, and I'm not sure what you mean by I was never in combat. I hope you're not referring to the definition that relates to the military, as I hope you wouldn't want to insult any members of the military by comparing them to a teenager who jumps into a canal where there are probably alligators at 2am. I'm not following you.

    Your essay would be more delightful if you were telling a story about what we believed many years ago, before we woke up. Too bad that in 2008 I still get people telling me animals are balls of instincts that don't make conscious choices or have preferences.

    I'd say I'm shocked that you agree, but I have always read your comments, and as you know, you don't have to be a vegan or animal rights advocate to recognize when someone is acting irresponsibly.

    I wondered if Edwards had somebody coach him on what to say. I thought it was all so odd and kept thinking: Does he really believe that?

    I'm 41 and I can't even grasp the part about being awake at 2am.

    Way back when I was in law school for 5 minutes, I believe this would be "assumption of risk." If you go into a situation that a reasonable person (I think that's the standard) would say is risky, and something happens to you, legally, it's your fault.

    June 28, 2008
  7. Bea Elliott #

    My husband and I share a love of boating and have been up and down most of the rivers and lakes here in Florida. We've seen a few instances where people were "playing" and swimming out of their boats. In daylight this activity is hazardous – at night it's nothing short of "suicidal" and "insane". That alligators (and animal rights activists) should take the rap for this unfortunate incident is absurd…..

    June 29, 2008
  8. GrizzlyBear #

    There shouldn't be any surprise that I would agree with you on this. I have been an outdoorsman since my youth, and am a wildlife biologist by education. I chose that area of study, as most others who do, because of a lifelong love of wildlife and wild places ( which was instilled in me through hunting and fishing ). You are quite correct that one need not be a vegan or an animal rights advocate to recognize irresponsible behavior. One also need not be a vegan or an ARA to to respect wildlife, either. I disdain irresponsible behavior towards wildlife because it serves neither the good of people nor the good of wildlife, as this example clearly shows.

    June 29, 2008
  9. Harris #

    not surprised you didnt post my comment

    you seem a little creepy to me

    you call this 18yo who lost an arm a drunk and shed tears for this alligator.

    only those from the upper middle class could have such sentiments

    ever notice how few minorities are represented in things like "animal rights?"

    June 29, 2008
  10. kim #

    Grizzlybear – "Love" and "respect" for wildlife includes refraining from killing them, BTW. Convincing yourself otherwise is known as rationalization and denial.

    June 29, 2008
  11. Harris (Mark Harris),
    You might want to look more carefully. I did post your comment, and I responded. Next, I think it's very unfair of you to imply that only upper middle class people can have a conscience or a moral code.

    Finally, I have every right not to post a comment from someone who doesn't know me yet calls me creepy. That's a cop out that doesn't deal with any real issue I raised, such as the irresponsibility of the young man, and the injustice of killing an alligator for being an alligator.

    June 29, 2008
  12. "only those from the upper middle class could have such sentiments
    ever notice how few minorities are represented in things like "animal rights?""

    FYI – Take a look at history. Pro-animal concerns have a long history and are mentioned in many religious and philosophical texts. It's not about privilege and class, it's about ethics.
    Also, check out the statistics that show there are more nonwhite vegans and vegetarians than white vegans and vegetarians.
    Also, consider reading Vegans of Color ( (and their blogroll).
    Yes, there are some issues of white privilege within the AR movement. This example about an alligator is NOT one of them.
    Moreover, your claim that there aren't "minorities" in AR is patently false. (BTW, what you really mean is 'people of color" because depending on where you/they are, they aren't 'minorities.')

    June 30, 2008
  13. kim #

    harris – I don't know. He was drunk and stupid and still isn't taking responsibility for his own actions. Doesn't seem like losing an arm is all that impressive to him, as I'm not sure he's learned anything from the experience.

    June 30, 2008
  14. M. Harris #

    I love people who put Phd. after their name but never the university it was from.

    July 1, 2008
  15. Love, Mr. Harris? Really? I wasn't getting that vibe.

    My doctorate is from New York University, founded in 1831. It's in Manhattan and it's the largest, nonprofit, private institution of higher learning in the United States. You may have heard of it.

    And I have never been advised to write the university's name along with my degree.

    I'm officially out of this conversation.

    July 1, 2008

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