Philosophy of Gear...

5:30 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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This question was posted in a public backpacking forum just a short time ago:

"If I happened upon a pristine planet full of wildlife somewhere, and decided to use it for producing sleeping bags, I think I would do a lot less harm, and cause a lot less suffering on balance, by making them from silk and down than by making them from plastics."

Of course it got me thinking, which is why we're here now. Hi!

I imagined the most ethically-and-morally responsible way it could happen, starting with absolutely wild geese not conditioned in any way to humans...imagined people not conditioning or capturing them, striving only to interact with them in the most "natural" way possible...imagined people stealthily sneaking up to geese nests as they are away to steal plumes of the finest down...the range of reactions such an action would receive on the public scale in today's actual world...the nature of the conflict...

Then I thought about the geese. As I understand it the geese are assaulted quite frequently, almost the whole time they are nesting, by myriad predators and thieves. To guard the nest is a part of their life. To the individual goose, people carefully coming up to the nest--in the manner they would need to in order to steal down--would certainly look like any other animal that comes along for something, and would be handled in the same way, without any bias, methinks.

In other words, the nature of the argument that certain products, made in certain ways with certain techniques, are not to be desired on the grounds of their immoral or unethical practices towards an "involved" animal might not be as I previously thought...

5:57 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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I would never harm the nest or the eggs. One would wait till all are hatched and are on their own. Then you kill the older geese for food and warmth. This is what would have to be done with all animals of the wild. And you never kill the biggest or the strongest. Instead you take the week and sick.

6:09 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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Why would you never harm the nest or the eggs, mike? Are you stating that stealing down from among the nest-building materials is causing harm?

(Yes, the weak and sick...for the "betterment" and "vitality" of the species...if so, then why is making one, a few, or most of them work harder to build a nest a "bad" thing? Would it not, in the same way, work only to produce offspring better and more efficient at building nests?

Nature doesn't "try" to take the weak and the sick; it happens most often because the alphas are out front, not lagging behind. Believe you me, that group of lionesses doesn't want the sick, dying Nyala...

If one purposely takes the sick young and dying, and follows this rule too much to a fault, the affected population can become quite unhealthy indeed: plummeting resistance to disease, decreased rates of successful skill-passing-on, and really, the slow death or breakup of the population...can't have all leaders and no followers...)

7:01 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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Here where I live, people still hunt and fish. My supper is usually something that lived near me and was killed by someone I know.

Our culture has one solid, abiding ethic: no suffering. Death is far from the worst thing that can happen to an animal. I have known hunters spend all night and all the next day tracking a wounded animal, refusing to leave it to suffer. If anybody hits a moose on the highway and the wildlife officers are too far away, informal mercy squads immediately form to find it and put it out of its misery.

So we're a bit puzzled by the anti-hunting part of the animal rights movement. We would say that subjecting an animal to a life of suffering (small dirty cage, fear, loneliness) is pure cruelty, and we don't care how 'humanely' you kill it after that. Its quality of life is what matters most of all.

And when an animal dies a natural death, it's not pretty. An injury results in starvation, but not for a very long time. Death by predator is an animal's good luck. There are no veterinarians in the woods. In a spruce forest in springtime, the observant walker might see old bloodstains on the jagged tops of standing deadwood. This is where a moose walking in deep snow sank and impaled itself. How long do you think it took that moose to die? If an anti-hunting person ever saw an animal dying a 'natural' death, they'd wish there was someone there with a gun. To put it out of its misery.

End rant. Sorry. All I wanted to say was, whether it's a down jacket or Sunday dinner, I only have one question. Did the creature suffer? I'm not in the market for any down gear, but if I was, I'd need the company to have an answer.

Now climate change is making the creatures suffer, and the whole thing has gotten much more complicated.

7:14 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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If man was the only predator your assumptions could be true.

I'm making the assumption  that I'm not as fast, strong, or in someways intelligent as other animals in their environment. Nor am I presuming that I have the tools to kill at long range. I'm no longer at the top of the food chain. 

2:04 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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I am very happy to be part of a forum where people think about this kind of stuff and are aware of the impact of their decisions.  This is a time in America when we need a lot more thoughfulness.  Thank-you.  I respect all the comments, but liked Islandess the most.

5:01 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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+1 what ppine said, espescially the islandess part.

8:58 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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Not that I don’t have similar thoughts, but really we are so presumptuous in the moral basis for our ethics.

The late George Carlin, one time sixties hold out, hippy cum philosopher/comedian had a good piece that stands all we assume on its ear, regarding our role in the big scheme of things here on the earth.  After listening to his perspective I have decided that perhaps we should continue making plastics to justify our existence, but perhaps more slowly, so we don’t work ourselves out of this gig so quickly– milk it, if you know what I mean…  As for that goose; it didn't mind I stole its eggs, and made a coat from its plummage - it tasted good!

Ed

9:45 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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The people of the Vega islands in northern Norway have a long-standing, more or less symbiotic relationship with otherwise wild eider ducks that allows them to collect down from the nest while providing good nest sites and protecting the birds from predators.

http://www.nordnorge.com/?id=178726952&News=234

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1143

11:54 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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BigRed, thank you so much for these stories! Wonderful links. Beautiful place! And now I want to go there.

December 28, 2014
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