Cecil the Lion's Problem: No One Owns Him

99% of the examples you will ever hear of resources being "raped" result from lack of property rights on those resources or insufficient legal protections for those rights.  This video says it all (starting at 1:00 but the whole thing is funny).  Money line: "There might be a few more polar bears left if people wanted one for breakfast"


  1. Matthew Slyfield:

    Yep. Look at the most numerous large animal species, they are all species that have been domesticated for meat production.

  2. Ann_In_Illinois:

    This reminds me of the confused message in the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax. The Once-ler's greed should have protected the truffula trees, since he couldn't make more thneeds once they were gone.

    Dr. Seuss could have come up with a coherent tragedy-of-the-commons tale where no one took care of the truffula trees because no one owned them, but that wouldn't have fit the agenda, would it?

  3. Gil G:

    Maybe Jeffrey Dahmer should have used this defence back in the day.

  4. vikingvista:

    Cows, chickens, white rats, guinea pigs,dogs,and cats. Ownership plus commercialization makes a species abundant.

  5. morganovich:

    and look at the ones that have been absolutely devastated: tuna, cod, several kinds of whales, swordfish, sturgeon, etc.

    what do they all have in common? no good property rights and an utter tragedy of the commons.

    animal populations have some special issues economically. in many cases, the breeding ability of a population can be destroyed before you get such a strong price signal that consumption drops.

    this is not an issue for coal, but for swordfish trying to find other fish with which to breed, it is.

    below a certain level, populations collapse and disappear. the only way to keep that from happening is to have someone be incentivized to stop it and able to prevent free risers from taking the fish.

  6. Matthew Slyfield:

    "what do they all have in common?"

    No real effort to domesticate them and raise them in captivity.

  7. morganovich:

    in fairness, that's not really a great option for large, salt water fish.

    how does one domesticate a predator like a swordfish or a tuna that needs a huge range to migrate, breed, and feed?

    if you have to pay to feed one, you're really in for it economically.

    apart from fish, almost nothing that we eat is a predator.

    even species (like a chicken) that are omnivores in the wild and eat grubs, worms, bugs, etc are not fed such things in commercial feedlots.

    it's just too expensive.

  8. Matthew Slyfield:

    "how does one domesticate a predator like a swordfish or a tuna that needs a huge range to migrate, breed, and feed?"

    But would they truly need so much space if they were being cared for in captivity? I rather doubt it, aquariums seem to manage.

    "if you have to pay to feed one, you're really in for it economically."

    maybe not. A lot depends on the prices you can get for the meat, that
    will increase as they get rarer in the wild. We'll never know for sure
    unless someone sits down and puts a serious effort into figuring out
    what it would really take.

    "apart from fish, almost nothing that we eat is a predator."

    True, but I doubt it's relevant. Dogs and cats were predators before we domesticated them. Some of them still are.

    "it's just too expensive."

    I rather doubt that you have any actual data to back that up. The truth is more likely that no one knows how expensive it would be.

    Quite frankly people said the same thing about early efforts to farm catfish, salmon and lobsters, but those operations are starting to become profitable.

  9. morganovich:

    "But would they truly need so much space if they were being cared for in captivity? I rather doubt it, aquariums seem to manage."

    yes, they would. they do not breed in aquariums and you cannot pack them in tightly or they will kill one another. so, you need a huge, expensive tank that only hold a huge fish and then you have to feed them.

    you'd wind up paying $500 a pound for aquarium raised swordfish. they are incredibly expensive to raise.

    the costs are known. aquariums know. most will not even keep them they are so expensive. (i happen to have had this conversation with knowledgeable folks. my cousin is a marine biologist and i took an econ class way back on fisheries management)

    if you doubt that the costs of feeding a predator are relevant, than you do not understand the discussion you are having. it's an order of magnitude higher than feeding an herbivore, and that's a low case. this is why there are few predators and so much game is required to support them.

    you have to feed a prey animal, then use that animal to feed a food animal. the inefficiency is outlandish. this is why we do not raise them for food.

    you mention dogs and cats. try thinking about that. a cat takes 3 years to mature. it will then weigh what, 14 pounds? of that, how much is edible? 4 pounds?

    what does it cost to feed a cat for 3 years? 50c a day? so you have spent $550 to produce 4 pounds of meat just on food. then you have to shelter it, provide medical care, etc. cat meat would cost over $200 a pound at wholesale, probably more like $250-300. it would sell retail for $500 and raising a cat is EASY compared to a swordfish. they don't need tanks. ever seen what it costs to run even a small salt water aquarium?

    "I rather doubt that you have any actual data to back that up. The truth
    is more likely that no one knows how expensive it would be."

    and you would be completely wrong. i actually looked at a business plan a few years back to pen areas huge of the ocean to raise tuna. i passed on the deal, but they got pilot funding. the collapsed under outlandish costs and the incredibly difficult mainetence of anything in the ocean. they never even managed to produce fish. the only success in this space has been some very selective breeding for bluefin tuna which sells for over $1000 a pound wholesale. (this is the source of toro a japanese delicacy)

    the math here is simpler than you think. a bluefin tuna eats 15 pounds of meat to gain one pound of adult weight. so, what does a pound of fish cost? even feeding them $5 fish is a $75 costs. then you need space for them, habitat maintenance, and, of course, they die all the time because they fare poorly in captivity. people are having trouble making this model work with a fish that already routinely sells for over $1000 a pound (and some for up to $3000).

    that is simply nowhere near a mass market price.

    at $20 a pound, people are eating a lot less tuna and swordfish. at $40, demand for it would evaporate for any but the highest end tuna for sushi. at $100, it's an absurd specialty like kobe beef.

    salmon are much easier to raise as are catfish. they can live in fresh water, are small animals, and are not nearly as destructive or aggressive as a big predator. they will also eat all manner of junk and food byproducts, unlike a tuna or a swordfish.

    lobsters are bottom dwelling scavengers (and utterly plentiful in nature anyhow, lobsters are thriving)

    people have been trying to farm tuna for 50 years. there has been no significant commercial success even at $1000 a pound for fatty blue fin.

    so, yes, i have a lot of real data, have looked at this market extensively, and the evidence that 50 years of efforts cannot get the price within an order of magnitude of what any mass market would pay is overwhelming.

    i get the desire to presume there's always a way, but this is a truly difficult case.

    there are lots of animals that have simply defied profitable cultivation despite repeated efforts. take a look at how the ostrich ranchers did some time.

    the ability to raise a salmon is about as germane to the ability to raise a tuna as the ability to raise a chicken is to eagle farming.

  10. obloodyhell:

    When Al Gore was born, there were 7000 polar bears. Now we're down to only 30,000.... I think they're doing just fine, myself.

  11. NL7:

    There's an awesome smbc about the Lorax and how following the advice of responsible stewardship basically enslaves trees into being pawns of humanity.