By Valerie Will
It felt like I had stepped into the "Twilight Zone." Men
were sauntering around with the remains of dead animals on their
heads--the glistening plastic eyes of foxes and skunks staring
over the men's foreheads with the furry tails swayed on camouflaged
Families were lined up, paying their dollars, to walk past
once beautiful wild animals who were now lying listlessly in their
small, stuffy cages--a declawed mountain lion, a lonely wolf and
a tired deer. Further on was a "raptor" exhibit where
regal nocturnal owls were forced to endure lights and crowds. One
owl was obviously suffering from the stuffy warm room and had to
continually have water sprayed into its mouth as a small fan failed
to cool him properly. The majestic eagle was tethered to a fake
plastic pool. Not that far away from the "live" animals
were the stands with row after row of pelts that no longer covered
the bodies of foxes and coyotes. One could even buy the flattened,
eyeless "face" of a real fox for just a few dollars--a
real bargain at this show.
In another part of the room even more eyes stared: the deadened
eyes of "trophy" animals. Killed and stuffed, a once
powerful bear with a fake grimace stood among the remains of animals
he never would have been near if they, too, hadn't become victim
of the trophy hunter's gun or arrow. Seeming way out of place in
displays of huge wild animals, curiously enough, was a miniature
deer. A sign above one display of trophy animals declared that
this group fought for "hunter's rights." In the name
of hunter's rights they spent $22,000.00 to stop a deer immunocontraception
program. In this nightmare world it would seem that shooting a
deer with an arrow is preferable to preventing a deer being born
in the first place. One would assume the reasoning being you can't
mount a deer that hasn't been born. A seminar was taking place
in one room. The slides showed arrows that had been shot through
necks and jaws--causing deer to starve to death. The audience was
told that they should watch for blood trails after hitting their
deer. We were also told that not all wounded deer were found, but
yet this bloodsport is "adventure!"
While some seemed to need to convince attendees that hunting
was done to control wildlife populations, others were inviting
them to pay to hunt animals on a preserve. In fact, you could travel
thousands of miles to do it. While some bragged that it was "hunter's
dollars" that paid for wildlife programs, a State agency was
handing out brochures that reported "General Fund" tax
dollars paid for wildlife programs, too. Some campaigned to recruit "outdoors
women" while other tables sold bumper stickers and t-shirts
that demeaned women.
All the hunter's talk about "respecting the animal" seemed
to be ridiculed by the taxidermied deer that was displayed sitting
on a toilet.
As I left the building, turkey calls ringing in my ears, I
felt sick. How could human beings really enjoy looking at the caged,
miserable wildlife; how could they walk by all the dead faces and
not feel remorse? How could they be so enthused about and be willing
to pay for snuffing out the life of our wonderful wild animals?
I went to the outdoor show to further my education on the bloodsports.
I left realizing I had actually learned more about a certain segment
of society than I really cared to know.
VALERIE WILL is the past President of Animal Rights Advocates
of Western New York. She is currently on their Advisory Board and
is Wildlife Director.