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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 23 - Nick Arrivo

Nick Arrivo

You must listen to this interview with Nick Arrivo, attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, who is challenging Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 decision to remove endangered species protections (“delist”) for the Yellowstone grizzly bear and to allow a trophy hunt of grizzlies. (Five other cases have also been filed). Nick has been involved in a slew of interesting issues, from a successful ban on bobcat trapping in New Hampshire, efforts to prevent Washington state from increasing cougar hunting, and bans on a New Mexico cougar trapping program that threatened to kill endangered Mexican wolves and jaguars. In the interview, Nick reveals a strong ethical backbone and fierce compassion for animals, domestic and wild. Nick challenges us to imagine a different relationship with plants and animals, and says this about his mushroom hunting hobby: “it forces you to pay attention to forms of life that are maybe a little less sexy, that aren’t at eye level. There’s an incredible diversity of life underneath the leaves and along the roots of trees that if you aren’t looking for it, you don’t really notice - but once you start, it’s this entire alien kingdom of life!”

Nick outlines the deficiencies of the government’s decision to delist Yellowstone grizzlies, including this: “I think the [Fish and Wildlife] Service knew that the states were doing a pretty poor job throughout the entire process, and kind of looked the other way, while the states went through regulatory processes that were legally and substantively pretty poor -- the most important component of which of course is the plan to allow trophy hunting.”

We can rest assured that the fate of Yellowstone’s grizzlies is in good legal hands!


"…in order to maintain enough of a supply of trophy game species, you have hunters, in conjunction with state wildlife agencies, kind of deliberately culling coyotes, mountain lions, wolves, bears, even in Alaska -- and that is not sound wildlife management. It’s not driven by a scientific or ecological approach…It’s a bad system and what is particularly difficult about it, I think, is the politics around state wildlife management, especially in western states. It’s difficult to break into if you are a conservation organization, or if you are just an individual citizen who is strongly invested in non-consumptive use of wildlife or natural resources."

"So I think you can argue all you want -- and show up at meetings and present incredibly detailed and well thought-out positions, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to fight against that naked financial interest until that law changes, or until there’s another source of sustainable funding for these state agencies that does not come from hunting."

"And that’s the challenge for the citizens and for the organizations that want to stand up and defend the ESA is to not take it for granted, to not assume that someone else is kind of watching out for these issues -- even though there are a lot of great organizations doing great work. But I think our voices need to be as loud and as unified as the voices on the other side."

"I think that there are questions about intrinsic value and about value that goes beyond individual suffering or individual pleasure that are precious -- and that society, we enacted the ESA, we care about biodiversity, and those are values that don’t translate that cleanly into utilitarian terms."

"I think there is a tremendous change coming with -- the sort of clean meats and the growing acceptance of food sources that do not require cruelty to produce, but that also are delicious things that you would actually want to eat. And I think there is kind of a lot of entrepreneurship being married with activism in a way that’s driving a lot of change right now that I’m encouraged by."


And here is another wonderful interview with Nick, Animal Law Podcast #12: Why Grizzlies, Cougars, And Bobcats Need A Good Lawyer, with Nick Arrivo, Our Hen House, 5/27/16

I could not resist this intro to a reading that Nick sent:




— George Orwell (1984)


— U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


Recovery in a Cynical Time – With Apologies to Eric Arthur Blair, by Dale Goble (Download, PDF)

All Animals are Equal, by Peter Singer (Download, PDF)


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