The journal Science has published a special issue called Vanishing Fauna (aka. The Sixth Extinction). You can read the introduction to the issue here. Let's look at some of the abstracts. This first one gives a succinct statemate of the problem.
An animal-rich future (Joshua Tewksbury and Haldre Rogers)
The rate at which animals are vanishing from this planet is one of the signatures of this age, as sure a sign of human dominance as our impact on Earth's nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycles. This disappearance of animals from the world's ecosystems is generally a by-product of human activity, not an intentional act.
Animals do matter to people, but on balance, they matter less than food, jobs, energy, money, and development.
As long as we continue to view animals in ecosystems as irrelevant to these basic demands, animals will lose.
Animals do matter, but not nearly as much as economic growth does.
And what about extinctions being "generally a by-product of human activity, not an intentional act?"
The empty forest (Eric Stokstad)
Much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America suffers from overhunting. Lambir Hills National Park in western Borneo, one of the most diverse forests in the world, is a key case study in how the forest fares when it loses the herbivores that once thinned saplings and the fruit eaters that dispersed seeds. At Lambir, saplings became more crowded, raising the risk that the plants would get sick, and the number of species has fallen.
Some officials and activists are trying to stop overhunting and illegal trade of wildlife. If hunting can be controlled in the parks, researchers hope, large animals may one day return.
So, yeah, animals do matter to people in the sense that they can be killed for food or profit. Often the damage people do to other species is inadvertent, but often it is not.
Here's the Big Picture.
Defaunation in the Anthropocene (Hillary Young, et.al.)
We live amid a global wave of anthropogenically driven biodiversity loss: species and population extirpations and, critically, declines in local species abundance. Particularly, human impacts on animal biodiversity are an under-recognized form of global environmental change.
Among terrestrial vertebrates, 322 species have become extinct since 1500, and populations of the remaining species show 25% average decline in abundance. Invertebrate patterns are equally dire: 67% of monitored populations show 45% mean abundance decline.
Such animal declines will cascade onto ecosystem functioning and human well-being. Much remains unknown about this “Anthropocene defaunation”; these knowledge gaps hinder our capacity to predict and limit defaunation impacts. Clearly, however, defaunation is both a pervasive component of the planet’s sixth mass extinction and also a major driver of global ecological change.
Have a nice weekend.