Fwd: Re: Right to collect

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Fri Sep 27 10:08:03 CDT 2002

Heike wrote:

>Doug, I was talking about wildgrowing plants and animals,
>not cultivated ones,

I was using your own example, in which you stated "a farmer".

>  also not about trespassing.

Not every country or every situation is clear-cut in this regard. If
you're alongside a country road in Thailand, how do you know whether
you're trespassing or not? Ultimately, the odds are that *someone*
owns that land, and they don't know you're on it. If you're making
money from things you collect there, then that's unethical. If you
notify the owner, get their permission, but don't tell them that you
are selling what you collect for $100 per specimen, then that is ALSO
unethical - it's a "bad faith" negotiation. There's a LOT of that
going on among wildlife dealers, and the point of regulation is to
prevent exploitation of all sorts.

>  I don't really see that general scientific
>collection permits do anything but waste the time of
>legitimate researchers and often enough inhibit research,
>particularly by students.

I agree absolutely - the ONLY people who should require permits are
those engaged in commercial enterprise, and those dealing with
species that could potentially be extirpated by collecting.

>If my students
>want to collect weedy Portulaca oleracea or Cosmos
>bipinnatus, they should be able to do so without commiting
>illegal acts.


Richard Pyle added:

>Sorry, Doug -- I’m not sure I follow your logic.  What if *you* collected
>500 specimens for research collections, and someone else collects 10 and
>sells them for $100 each?  Or, what if you "sneak" your scientific specimens
>out of the country, while the commercial seller does so with an appropriate
>permit (or appropriate bribe to the relevant local official)? In other
>words, where is the distinction between "fine" and "not fine"?  The number
>of specimens? Their destination?  The degree of financial compensation? Or
>the "sneakiness" factor?

The degree of financial compensation, because that's the one case
that represents exploitation. That one's easy, because it's an
objective answer (assuming that it's impossible to extirpate the
species in question by research collecting - and I don't know a
single scientist who would *actively* collect 500 specimens of
*anything* - the only way that happens is passive bulk trapping). As
above, if I buy a permit or bribe an official for $50 and then make
$50,000, then I haven't given proper financial compensation; by not
informing the people giving me approval of how much I stood to make,
I've *cheated* them, even if I haven't broken any laws.

Ron Gatrelle wrote:

>Doug, the farmers land is _private_ property.  The National Forest is
>_public_ property = my property (as well as yours).  I am thus collecting
>on my own property.  The government is my representative and the rangers my
>hired stewards.

Ron, are you familiar with "The Tragedy of the Commons"? Communal
resources are there, in principle, for the *communal* good - no one
person has the right to exploit those resources at the expense of the
others'. Real-life technicalities and legalities do not necessarily
reflect or uphold this principle, and a bad law is still a bad law -
like the abysmal, ancient Mining Law that lets anyone claim public
land in the US *as their own* if they can prove there's a viable
mineral resource there. This is unfair to everyone else who nominally
shares ownership of that resource, and just because the government
approves doesn't make it ethical; it just means that the government,
in this case, puts the desires of the individual *before* the desires
of society. Should we accept an unethical philosophy as desirable,
simply because it's the law?

>Then there is the violation of my constitutional right to equal application
>of law.  Hunters of animals and birds can get a license to "hunt" (for
>recreation) on National Wildlife Refuges, but I am not even afforded the
>opportunity to hunt for insects.  (I may swat them though if mosquitoes and
>flies or gather them as fish bait.)

Right. Again, a bad law. The world is *full* of bad laws that favor
exploitation and inhibit science. Laws are not always based on
reason, objectivity, *or* ethics - they are based on *politics*,
which too often means giving those with money and power exactly what
they want. There's a lot of things that are illegal that shouldn't
be, and even more that should be but aren't. Scientific collecting is
one of the former, and virtually all of us accordingly break some law
almost every time we try to do our job - from the act of collecting,
to the transport of specimens across international boundaries, to
putting specimens in preservative fluid in the mail, we inadvertantly
violate umpteen regulations and become criminals against our will,
even though our efforts are in mankind's best interests.

How's THAT for irony?

Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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