Forget about raging criminals or outspoken college students, wildlife like bears and moose may soon have to start worrying about getting Tased, too -- for, well, being wild. Today, one stun gun manufacturer announced the release of a brand new non-lethal (or, rather not always lethal) alternative for outdoorsmen to enjoy their almost authentic experience in nature -- a new Taser designed especially for use on wildlife. Its maker says the product is a more humane form of protection, but aren't most situations where you might need to Taser an animal best to be avoided anyways?According the manufacturer, Taser International, the animal oriented stun guns are capable of firing multiple shots, delivering a shock specially designed to stop animals like bears and moose in their tracks. Law enforcement officers have been using similar devices for years, but now the Tasers are available for any outdoor enthusiast who fears a run-in with disgruntled wildlife.
For researchers and park rangers whose job it is to study and protect the animals which could put them in dangerously close proximity, however, the device could be an invaluable way to preserve both their lives if things get out of hand. But making it available for everyone may simply be inviting non-professionals from venturing where they shouldn't.
Considering that firearms are more likely to be used in such situations, some may animals lovers may laud the 'humane' alternative offered by Tasing, but it could potentially do more damage than it prevents. One of the primary criticisms against arming police with Tasers for dealing with humans applies when it comes to animals as well -- Tasing often becomes the preferred non-lethal use of force even in situations which could be resolved without it.
The fact of the matter is, for whatever reason, animals occasionally do attack people, but more often than not such threats are merely perceived. Whereas an a situation outdoors may call for giving an animal a bit of extra space, or even avoiding their territories altogether, it would be difficult to avoid being a bit more cavalier when armed with a weapon that puts wildlife in 'sleep mode' for a while.
Then there's the basic fact that Tasers aren't as non-lethal as they claim to be. No data on animal deaths resulting from their usage yet, but Amnesty International has documented 334 human deaths caused by the devices.
A piece from New Scientist points out that the very basis for animal-Tasers relies on the false premise that wildlife poses an inherent threat to humans:
This would be laughable if it wasn't so obviously cruel. Taser has a point - a very small one - in that some bears' lives might be saved if fishermen and other adventurers in grizzly country replace the firearms they sometimes use to defend themselves from attack with Tasers.
But research about bears shows that they are rarely aggressive, and most dangerous encounters are the avoidable result of human stupidity or bears' desperation, rather than rogue animals inured to humans.
As for other animals - like bison - there's plenty of visual evidence that it's the people who are the instigators, not the animals.
It should be said that given a choice between a bullet and an electric shock, the latter is clearly more humane, but we forget sometimes that there are many more options yet -- like maintaining a healthy respect for nature, which includes not provoking them to attack. Tasers, while controversial in terms of law-enforcement too, are more or less designed for a world of rules, of law and order. Break the law or be disorderly and there's a pretty good chance you'll get Tased.
Wildlife, on the other hand, shouldn't be subject to our rules, particularly in their natural habitats. In such situations, we're the guests -- which is what makes spending time in nature such a profound experience for those who approach it with the respect it's due. So leave the weapons at home and bring your wits.
In other words, don't Tase wildlife, bro.