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Capitalism Has Granted Wolves a Temporary Reprieve from Extinction

The Capitalist Commodification of Animals

ISBN: 978-1-83982-681-8, eISBN: 978-1-83982-680-1

Publication date: 30 November 2020


Human presence tends to decrease biodiversity and often results in the local extinction or even global extinction of megafauna. The focus here is on how humans have affected wolf populations in what are now known as the contiguous 48 United States. While the arrival of indigenous peoples to the region produced the extinction of some species and a reduction in wolf populations, the cultural values and economic system, i.e., capitalism, utilized by the European invaders led to anthropogenic decimation of wildlife species on an unprecedented scale and the near local extinction of wolves. Although capitalism almost led to the local extinction of wolves in the contiguous 48 US states, it also produced an educated, affluent urban class concerned with protecting endangered species. Unlike farmers and ranchers, this urbanized class does not view wildlife as a potential economic threat. The vast majority of contemporary Americans, i.e., 96%, do not engage in sport hunting, so most do not view apex predators as unwanted competitors for game species. Moreover, many individuals who belong to the urban affluent class, even those who do not engage in wildlife viewing or other forms of outdoor recreation, value biodiversity. Since the late twentieth century, this has resulted in the preservation of existing wolf populations and reintroducing wolves to some of their historical ranges. These trends are likely to continue in the coming decades. However, capitalism should not be viewed as a system that initially decimated wolf populations and eventually created an economic class that saved them. It is argued that, due to its growth imperative, if left unchecked, capitalism will ultimately destroy wolves and many other species that have been granted temporary reprieves from extinction.



Simon, A. (2020), "Capitalism Has Granted Wolves a Temporary Reprieve from Extinction", Clark, B. and Wilson, T.D. (Ed.) The Capitalist Commodification of Animals (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 137-160.



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