Feral animals in Hawaii: pig hunting leads to dog abuse

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  October 2011:

Commentary by Kim Bartlett


Visiting Hawaii in early 2011,  I was driven around the island of Hawaii 1.5 times and the island of Oahu once,  but I never caught sight of one of the pigs who are said to be wreaking so much havoc.

Feral pigs are blamed for  nibbling crops,  including macadamia nut trees,  and also for eating from people’s garbage cans. On a bus tour of the island of Hawaii,  in a forested stretch of highway north of Hilo,  the driver called out that a pig was crossing the road ahead of us,  but the pig was gone before I saw him.  The driver seemed surprised to have spotted one.

One evening,  en route from Hilo to the volcano viewing site on the coast,  we passed a small pickup truck.  Three or four pit bull-type dogs were chained in the back of the truck.  They all had wide collars with metal spikes or studs.  There was one man driving the truck and another man outside the truck who seemed to be closing a gate to a dirt road into the forest.

The truck was facing the road.  The men did not appear to be native Hawaiians.  The driver looked Filipino. The other was probably Euro-caucasian.  One of the other passengers of our tour van pointed out the dogs,  saying something like “Look,  doggies!”  The van driver said they had been hunting pigs.  I did not see a pig carcass;  if a pig carcass had been in the back of the truck,  the dogs would have been sitting on it.

The passenger who called attention to the dogs was sitting directly in front of me. I had argued with him and the driver earlier about the alleged need and morality of killing the pigs.  The driver claimed the pigs were doing major property damage;  the passenger said the pigs would starve if not hunted.  I said the pigs had been brought to Hawaii by people,  and should not be blamed for simply existing.  I noted that people were starving,  had starved in the past,  and would probably be starving even more in the future,  and I asked if the people should be killed to save them from starving.  Of course there was no response.

What will etch the scene into my memory forever will be the utterly brutalized look of the dogs.  They had the same beaten-up and savaged expressions that one sees on the faces of dogs used for dog-fighting.

I could sense that the dogs were extremely abused,  but also extremely dangerous–like hardened criminals,  and yet whatever cruelties they had been forced to perpetrate were no fault of their own.

People obviously exaggerate the damage the pigs do in order to have an excuse to hunt the pigs,  and to hunt them with little or no regulation and no restriction on the cruelty with which the pigs are killed.

If there were a fraction of the number of pigs in Hawaii that are claimed to be there,  it would not be necessary to go deep into the forest with dogs to hunt them:  one could simply put out a garbage can and then shoot (with gun or arrow) any pigs who showed up to eat from it.

I think it is odd that in North America,  mainstream environmentalists want to return “nature” to pre-1492 when Columbus arrived,  and yet in Hawaii,  they want to return “nature” to a time before the Polynesians arrived with the pigs they intentionally let loose on the islands–more than a thousand years before Columbus arrived in North America.  I guess it is the same logic as enviros wanting to eradicate the Australian dingoes as an invasive species because they were let loose by early Asian sea-farers who reached Australia circa 4,000 years ago.

All the land animals and many,  if not most,  of the bird species in Hawaii were introduced by either Polynesians or people who began arriving in the 18th century.     Much is also said in Hawaii about rats who are supposedly destroying crops.

The mongoose was introduced to control the rats,  but the mongoose is a diurnal species whereas the rat is nocturnal,  so that didn’t work as planned.   However,  I heard it claimed that it had been proven that snakes who happened to be released in Hawaii (accidentally or deliberately) would starve to death because there was no prey for them,  so the rats cannot really be that numerous or the snakes would have plenty to eat.

People also complain about feral cats,  but–as a longtime cat rescuer,  used to finding feral cats despite their nocturnal and furtive habits–I only saw one cat,  on the grounds of a hotel in Kona.

There are humane societies in the Hawaiian islands,  but they do not seem to be willing to speak out about the pig killing– regarding either the cruelty to the pigs or the abuse of the pig-hunting dog packs–probably because they fear loss of community support.

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