Costa Rica bans hunting

Costa Rica will soon be the first country in the Americas to ban sport hunting.

An overwhelming majority of the country’s lawmakers voted 41 to 5 to protect its greatest treasures – the animals who call this tropical paradise home.

Costa Rica is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, and welcomes around 300,000 visitors a year who come to enjoy exotic species like jaguars, pumas and giant sea turtles.

Supporters of the ban say it was a question of simple economics.

According to Reuters:

“We’re not just hoping to save the animals but we’re hoping to save the country’s economy, because if we destroy the wildlife there, tourists are not going to come anymore,” environmental activist Diego Marin, who campaigned for the reform, told local radio.

The ban will not apply to indigenous groups who hunt for subsistence, nor to scientific research. Sport fishing was also left unaddressed, most likely because that practice draws tourists and a good amount of money.

But that’s no reason not to celebrate a win for conservation, for animals and for the nation as a whole that is protecting this legacy of biodiversity of life for generations to come.

This tiny Latin American nation, just shy of five million humans, has become a model for the world to strive to emulate.

In 2010, Costa Rica was awarded the Future Policy Award at a global summit for proving that its exemplary biodiversity law could be successfully put into practice.

“We are declaring peace with nature,” the ambassador of Costa Rica, Mario Fernández Silva told the Guardian in 2010, referring also to his country’s abolition of its army in 1958. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility about looking after our wealth of biodiversity. Our attitude is not progressive, it is conservative. Our view is that until we know what we have, it is our duty to protect it.”

To have such wealth, and actually appreciate its value is rare. Perhaps that is one reason the United States ranks so low on the Happy Planet Index, while Costa Rica takes top honors as the happiest country on the planet.

We have it all, but we constantly fall short when it comes to appreciating the importance of our natural resources.

It took Costa Rica 54 years to go from abolishing the legal murder of people to evolve to banning the legal murder of animals. At least the army existed under the pretense of protecting the innocent, while sport hunting by its very nature means killing the innocent for the fun of it.

American sport hunters will extol the necessity of their services to “manage” wildlife, as if America were a mess before Europeans showed up to administer some order to the imbalance of nature. Just last week Wyoming opened its first killing-for-fun open season on re-introduced wolves who were more than willing to attempt to “manage” the state’s prey animals.

Without their hunting license fees, they say, wild lands would not be protected. Costa Rica’s policy proves that there are other ways to acquire funds to preserve our natural heritage.

According to the Guardian:

“Costa Rica channels funds from a fuel tax, car stamp duty and energy fees to pay for nature reserve management and environmental services like clean air, fresh water and biodiversity protection.

“Landowners are paid to preserve old-growth forests and to plant new trees. As a result, forest cover has risen from 24 percent in 1985 to close to 46 percent today.”

What if we took the billions in livestock subsidies we award to one of the industries responsible for our loss of biodiversity and told all our hunters we’d like to attempt to evolve toward a non-violent society, since, unlike animals, we have that choice?

Unfortunately for America’s Happy Planet rating, Costa Rica’s live-saving policies will persist as a distant dream for some time.

As one Grist reporter put it, “Needless to say, it takes chutzpah to intentionally anger people who like killing things.”

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