Animal Writes
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From 1 May 2005 Issue

Letter To Editor Re: Hunting

In an attempt to rationalize sport hunting to many Americans concerned about humane treatment and protection of wild animals, the hunting contingent has intensively promoted self-serving methodologies and disingenuous statements pertaining to this cruel form of recreation. Although these insidious strategies have been effective to some degree, many people are beginning to question the accuracy of information provided by press releases and well-paid spokespersons which, understandably, are not considered the most reliable of sources. This biased information routinely ignores critical points that need to be considered in order to provide a thorough analysis of sport hunting in contemporary America.

State wildlife agencies rarely operate in the best interest of all citizens or the wild animals they supposedly protect. These state wildlife agencies depend heavily upon revenue from the sale of hunting licenses. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, deer hunting permits for the year 2003 represented nearly $6 million in revenue. Because of this revenue-based dependency, wildlife agencies view hunters as their primary constituents even though this segment of the population comprises less than 6 percent of state residents. The stewardship of our wild neighbors as a resource for all to enjoy is overshadowed by the demands of a few when it comes down to current wildlife management strategies.

Wildlife management strategies have contributed significantly to the preconceived overpopulation of white-tailed deer. Wildlife agencies routinely manipulate sex ratios and habitats to provide increased hunting opportunities to sport hunters as hunter satisfaction is proportional to the number of animals available to kill. The cycle continues as hunting reduces resident herd sizes and allows for increases in available food for the survivors. An increased nutritional supply translates into breeding by immature does and increases in the number of twins and triplet fawns born, thereby creating more live targets to shoot. This biological certainty, commonly referred to as the rebound effect when referring to preferred game species, is the inspiration behind the phrase renewable resource.

Historically, wildlife agencies have manipulated deer populations to their financial advantage while aiming to convince the public that hunting is required to maintain healthy populations for future generations to enjoy. However, unlike true predators that play a pivotal role in the overall health of the delicate ecosystem through the natural selection process, hunters rarely target those animals that appear to be spindly or unhealthy. Instead, sport hunters routinely kill the largest, most magnificent specimens available, thereby removing these animals from the gene pool. Ironically, too, the only species that hunters profess to kill because of overpopulation (and supposedly, protection from starvation) is deer -- a species which represents less than 5% of the total number of animals killed by hunters in this country. There is no similar justification for the annual killing of the 130 million other animals.

In an attempt to garner support for this ruthless activity, sport hunters routinely donate large contributions of meat to local food banks. Although many hunters have publicly proclaimed their concern surrounding the consumption of venison due to chronic wasting disease, they seem to have no qualms about accepting accolades for donating this potentially tainted food source to the homeless and most vulnerable citizens. If this act of charity were truly altruistic, hunters could find a more cost-effective manner in which to assist people in need of nourishment. In example, according to statistics gathered through the University of Maryland’s Extension Service, hunters in 1990 harvested over 46,000 deer. After factoring in all costs involved (i.e., licensing fees, lodging, clothing, etc.), the total price for each deer killed was approximately $1,100. Considering each animal provided approximately 45 pounds of meat, the overall cost for this venison amounted to $24 per pound (The Humane Society of the United States).

In another effort to appear kind-hearted to the impressionable public, hunters assert that they contribute millions of dollars through various taxes and licensing fees. Taxation and mandated licensing fees, however, are hardly indicative of a generous spirit! Furthermore, over 60 million gun owners -- the majority of whom are non-hunters -- fund the government mandated Federal Aid in Fish and Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) Act, along with other citizens who purchase outdoor recreation and camping equipment via imposed taxes. Hunters have been exaggerating their role in this major conservation program for years.

It is outlandish to hear sport hunters assert their sensitive side by proclaiming a “love” for wildlife. Their perverse definition of “love” allows for the stalking, terrorizing, and destruction of unsuspecting victims. Based upon this depraved standard, it could be reasonably argued that serial rapists love women and pedophiles love children. Would that somehow make these heinous violations any less repulsive?

The sport hunter’s fascination with death and need to assert dominance is a blatant denial of any moral obligation to other forms of sentient life. There should be no place in a civilized culture for unnecessary killing -- especially when conducted solely for enjoyment purposes. Understandably, people who were previously receptive to the false, misleading statements provided by those self-serving individuals and government agencies intent on maintaining the massive flow of cash and status quo, are beginning to reshape their positions. The fact that the United States condones and advocates the killing of trophy animals should serve as a humbling reminder of the hypocrisy surrounding the ethical standing of a nation – especially one which revels in any opportunity to wave its proverbial finger in the face of other cultures.

Laura M. Nirenberg, Executive Director
Wildlife Orphanage, Inc.
LaPorte, IN 46350
[email protected]
[email protected]

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