I Want To Believe in the DPG

With only 4 days until the USA release of Fallen Kingdom, everyone’s getting excited! A lot has been happening in the JWFK marketing and promotion campaign, and we’re seeing new stuff every day, like this behind-the-scenes featurette:

What really caught my attention was the Extinction Now twitter account, which takes the opposing viewpoint to the Dinosaur Protection Group and advocates for non-intervention on Isla Nublar. Fans have taken part in the debate between the two groups as each has made their case, and it really got me thinking. Here, from the point of view of someone in-universe, are my thoughts on the issue.

 

There has been a lot of debate recently over the dinosaurs that once populated Jurassic World. Isla Nublar is under threat of an imminent volcanic eruption from Mount Sibo, which would almost certainly kill all of the island’s occupants; that we can all agree on. But disagreements arise as to what should be done with the dinosaurs that tourists used to fly across the world to see. The Dinosaur Protection Group, led by Claire Harding (former Operations Manager of Jurassic World) is working to rescue the dinosaurs and bring them to the mainland. Extinction Now, of which Dr. Ian Malcolm is a notable advocate, says that we should allow nature to take its course and that the dinosaurs should go extinct again.

Everyone is taking sides on the issue, especially on social media. As a paleontologist and animal rights advocate, naturally I’ve formed an opinion, but it’s not entirely within the dichotomy. From purely an animal rights perspective, I believe that the Dinosaur Protection Group has good intentions, but there might be unforeseen consequences for their actions. With a sizeable budget and complete dedication to dinosaur welfare, their plan of dinosaur conservation might be achievable; however, this is highly unlikely. Extinction Now, on the other hand, seems entirely misguided except on one or two points. The way things are now, there seems to be no perfect answer to the Isla Nublar question.

First I should establish that, in my opinion, the dinosaurs from Jurassic World do have a right to live. Regardless of how they were brought about, there is a population of living, breathing animals that should not be left to certain death by volcanic eruption. As the DPG is fond of saying, we brought these dinosaurs here and it is our obligation not to abandon them. However, these dinosaurs do not have an obligation to reproduce or be cloned again. I believe that conservation of the dinosaurs themselves is ethically necessary, but there is no urgent reason why they should be allowed to breed, and it would be outright wrong to clone more dinosaurs or create more dinosaur species. This is purely from a standpoint of concern about how the next generation (and this one, which I’ll discuss shortly) of dinosaurs could be exploited or forced into an inhumane existence.

The Indominus Rex and the Jurassic World Incident that it caused are examples of how human greed can cause dinosaurs to suffer. Indominus was an animal created purely for entertainment purposes. When Dr. Henry Wu patched together its genome, he didn’t consider the animal’s welfare or quality of life—he only wanted to make it “bigger and louder with more teeth”. The results of this are well-known, and animal behaviorists who have evaluated the incident agree that part of the animal’s aggressive behavior was due to its extremely inhumane environment. Just for profit, Jurassic World was willing to create a dinosaur with serious abnormalities that would have made its life difficult if not outright cause it to suffer (for instance, its teeth grew directly out of its skull and therefore couldn’t be replaced if they were damaged, a serious issue for a large carnivore) and to raise that animal in total isolation. If given the chance, there is certainly at least one other bioengineering company that would do the same if it could make a quick buck from the practice. If resurrecting dinosaurs and creating hybrids is a practice available to anyone (since InGen is now defunct, its patent on its dinosaurs may no longer have any power) there are many people who would use that technology to create dinosaurs which would make them plenty of money but would also live in pain. Although there are scientists out there who would clone dinosaurs out of pure scientific interest and with absolutely no greed in mind, those are certainly not the only people who would take advantage of the technology.

I, along with many other animal rights activists, believe that there is no ethical way to raise an animal in a lab for study purposes in the first place. Therefore, cloning dinosaurs even for pure scientific research would be wrong. Jurassic World’s dinosaurs are still adjusting to the world they live in now, which is drastically different from the Mesozoic environment that their various species adapted to live in. The ethics of resurrecting them in the first place is questionable, but it would definitely be wrong to create dinosaurs just to use them as lab rats, even to learn more about the behaviors and physiology of the original dinosaurs that they were cloned from. Not only was there already a long window of time to study the dinosaurs while they still lived in captivity in Jurassic World, but as Dr. Alan Grant puts it, they still are “genetically-engineered theme park monsters” at the end of the day. They were created to pander to the public’s idea of what dinosaurs looked like, and there is only so much we can learn from animals that are, at best, a rough imitation of how their ancient counterparts looked and acted. Paleontologists can only learn so much from these hybrid creatures, and that small amount that hasn’t been learned about dinosaurs from them—is that enough to sacrifice their rights for? The DPG has discussed how much science could learn from Nublar’s dinosaurs, but it doesn’t seem to realize that using the dinosaurs for even pure scientific study could be a violation of their animal rights.

As you can see, my objections to dinosaur conservation are based around the idea that cloning more dinosaurs would inevitably lead to more exploitation—they could be used with no regard for their welfare (in the military, to make money for corporations, in experiments to create hybrids, etc.), or for scientific study which could still exploit them and which would ultimately prove futile. The DPG has stated that they plan to keep the rescued dinosaurs in a private nature preserve, owned by Dr. Benjamin Lockwood, on the mainland. In theory, this would be an excellent way to allow the animals to live undisturbed. I think that this plan is too idealistic. For one, there would be plenty of ways to steal the dinosaurs’ DNA, which would allow for cloning and lead to the consequences I discussed above. If one worker for a bioengineering company snuck onto the preserve and took a syringe of dinosaur blood, their company would then have a full dinosaur genome and therefore free range to clone that dinosaur for any purpose. It’s doubtful that this proposed nature preserve has the full security to ensure that no one can get their hands on any of the dinosaurs’ DNA.

Also, some of the dinosaurs have the potential for very long lifespans. Will the DPG and its supporters maintain their gusto for dinosaur rights in ten years? Twenty? The costs of keeping so many different dinosaurs on a preserve, especially one run by a not-for-profit organization, will surely run high. It would be incredibly easy for the place to be turned into a zoo or other attraction just to keep up the cost of maintenance, or simply if the DPG or its benefactors decide to stop sitting on a tourism gold mine. The dinosaurs wouldn’t necessarily be exploited in that scenario, but they would essentially be in a Jurassic World 2.0. Whether Jurassic World itself was exploitative of its dinosaurs is a question for another time, but locking them up in another dino-zoo is at least questionable. Once the DPG has secured their dinosaurs (which is presumptuous in the first place, considering the history of dinosaur escapes in Jurassic Park and World) they may not decide to keep them hidden away forever. It should also be noted that the organization hasn’t made their stance clear on whether the dinosaurs would be allowed to breed or whether they would clone more. As I stated earlier, I think these dinosaurs have the right to exist but not to reproduce, and production of more dinosaurs could lead to problems like environmental disruption, which Extinction Now uses as a main selling point.

As for Extinction Now, their fearmongering that rescuing Nublar’s dinosaurs could somehow lead to humanity’s extinction is completely misguided. (Keep in mind that I’m talking on a global scale. EN’s assertion that the San Diego Incident could “happen again” in the event of a large dinosaur breakout is not entirely unfounded.) The only way that carnivorous dinosaurs could replace humans at the top of the food chain would be if their populations were able to grow exponentially from the tiny numbers they have now, and if those populations became fitter for their environments than humans are. As I stated, dinosaurs evolved in a completely different era than the one they live in now, and even if there were several breeding populations of each carnivore species in several different places, they would still have a long way to go in order to be fully adapted to today’s world, let alone replace mankind. The fact that their genes were tampered with in the cloning process would only make it harder for them to remain fit in the face of today’s evolutionary pressures. In other words, it’s ridiculous to think that our species will be extinguished and a new age of dinosaurs will begin if Nublar’s dinosaurs are brought to the mainland.

However, the idea of environmental disruption caused by the introduction of dinosaur populations could prove to be an issue. Herbivorous dinosaurs like Triceratops consume a lot of plant matter, and if herds of herbivores were ever introduced into our ecosystems (through an escape or by the DPG’s own hand) it could have a huge impact on the animal populations living there. The DPG says that dinosaurs can adjust to new habitats with minimum disruption, but having a bunch of huge, heavily-armored eating machines move into a rainforest could cause some serious issues. There’s a point where we should evaluate whether conserving dinosaurs is more important than conserving existing species. Extinction Now is correct in saying that dinosaur conservation might end up harming existing species—as long as the dinosaurs are on the mainland, there will always be the possibility that they’ll break out and lead to environmental disruption—but that species would certainly not be us.

So if the DPG and Extinction Now both have flawed plans as to what to do with the dinosaurs, then what should be done? The answer isn’t clear-cut. I believe that the most ethical solution would be to transport all of the dinosaurs from Nublar to a more secure island, possibly Isla Sorna, another island in the Los Cinco Muertes chain, or somewhere that human intervention could be limited. Maybe only paleo-veterinarians that would help maintain the dinosaurs’ quality of life would be allowed in. Even that plan isn’t perfect, though—as with Isla Sorna, poaching and trespassing would be a threat to the animals’ safety. But at least it would limit the possibility of people with inhumane intentions from getting to the dinosaurs, and it would be a lot tougher to make the place open to the public in the future.

I want to believe that the Dinosaur Protection Group’s idea of a peaceful existence for Jurassic World’s dinosaurs can perfectly come true. I think that the dinosaurs should definitely be rescued and brought to a safe place. I just have a hard time believing that there are no flaws in the organization’s plan and that everyone involved will have perfect intentions forever. Things could go very wrong if they manage to bring dinosaurs to the mainland. At the same time, I don’t follow Extinction Now’s idea that dinosaur conservation would be purely catastrophic. Instead of the solution being framed in black and white terms, I propose that all those concerned for dinosaur rights should work together to find a way to preserve all of these animals without allowing them to be further exploited or to harm the environment around them. Somehow, we can make a way for man and dinosaur to coexist.

While you’re waiting for the movie to come out worldwide, make your thoughts known on Twitter– tag the DPG and Extinction Now and let them know where you stand! Both accounts frequently respond to fans!

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