We sometimes get letters from people who have been traumatized by seeing a television program where a carnivore slaughters an innocent animal. We have been conditioned by Disney-type movies such as Bambi or Nemo, showing cute and cuddly animals. The idea of them being eaten by other animals is not on our radar and certainly not what we want small children to see. But, in the real world, predators are essential.
The reality is that the design built into the living system involves population control and that design is far more humane than what happens without it. Predators are essential because when animals become so numerous they cannot find enough to eat, the result is cruel and painful.
There are countless examples of what happens when predators are removed from an area. Years ago, the deer population was in serious trouble in Indiana’s Brown County State Park. The state finally decided to allow a hunt because the deer were eating all of the park’s vegetation. When scientists studied the deer that hunters culled from the population, some 12-year-old deer weighed less than 50 pounds. Their immune system had been compromised because they were emaciated due to a lack of food. The wolves and other predators that had kept the deer population in balance with the food supply had been removed from the park, and the deer suffered as a result.
Animals are not humans in costumes. They do not have a concept of self, and death is not cruel. Starvation, pain, and disease are rare in populations controlled by predators. To vilify God based on animal predation is an unfortunate choice based on ignorance since predators are essential for a balanced system.
It is interesting that most large predators have their numbers limited by low birth rates and small numbers of offspring. Also, many predators’ numbers are limited because larger predators prey on them. Hammerhead sharks limit dangerous shark populations in the ocean. Seventy-one percent of the hammerhead’s diet consists of other sharks.
Designing a world that balances the environment and the animals it supports is incredibly difficult. Humans often upset the balance in nature, and some cases require replacing a predator they have removed from an ecosystem. Caring for all of God’s creatures is essential for our own health and survival.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Data on Hammerheads from “Sharkfest” PBS television special 7/25/23.