We’d hate to be in the same boat as these guys.
An argosy is a type of boat, and this 1953 Argosy—the self-billed “complete men’s magazine”—has a type of boat on the cover and a boatload of interesting features within. Much of them focus on hunting, which has been in the news Stateside of late due to several rich folks being outed for killing African animals. Argosy glorifies hunting in a way that was typical of the 1950s, when guys like Ernest Hemingway and John Huston mainstreamed knowledge of the practice.
The presumption that man has a natural right to kill African animals for sport oozes from these Argosy stories. We made a game of inverting that presumption by mentally adding “because I was trying to shoot him” to the end of sentences. For instance, “He turned and hurled his entire three tons at me…” became, “He turned and hurled his entire three tons at because I was trying to shoot him.” We liked the stories, though. They are exciting. But hey, times change—it ain’t The Snows of Kilimanjaro out there anymore. These big animals are way too important to be killing for sport.
About fifteen years ago we took a road trip across the U.S. and came upon the Petrified Forest National Park. We expected to see countless mineralized trees, and we did see some, but the place is just a plain of scattered rocks. It didn’t used to be that way. A sign explained that millions of artifacts had been removed from the park over the years by tourists. Each one seemed meaningless to the person taking it, but over time the forest disappeared.
Today we understand two important things we didn’t during the 1950s. First, humanity has no restraint when it comes to killing animals. There’s no point where the animal is too rare or valuable to be killed. The opposite, in fact—people simply pay more for the glory of doing it, and the number of interested parties is limitless. Second, a species reaches a level of scarcity where collapse is assured unless there are active and expensive human efforts made to prevent it. That collapse point comes long before every animal is killed, yet we don’t know exactly where it is for each species.
All of this means no large animal exists in true abundance. It doesn’t matter if a person shoots one of 50,000 of a species or one of the last 50. If a market exists for killing even one of them, the species is ultimately doomed, because stoppage is not structured into market systems—only higher pricing. There’s no doubt about this at all. The jury’s in. Anybody who doesn’t recognize it is lying to himself or herself. And extinction or near-extinction is too high a price for the ecology to pay in service to human ego. Scans below.