This Saturday is no cause to celebrate at The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund. However, on this National Hunting and Fishing Day we are happy to lend our voice and remind Americans of outdoor activities that definitely are not hunting.
Sport hunters, let's remember, are quick to claim concern about conservation. Indeed, the whole purpose of having a National Hunting and Fishing Day, according to its organizers, is to celebrate "good conservation."
On this Saturday, let's recognize that "good conservation" cannot be claimed -- or faked. It must be earned. That's why I have been heartened to see reasonable hunting groups stand up and condemn the extremists within their ranks -- take, for example, the "Real Conservation" website by the American Hunters and Shooters Association, which exposes the NRA as a corporate shill for anti-conservation interests.
We do need good conservation, and here are six simple suggestions for sport hunters to start making good on that goal for 2008. They can help rid our landscape of these abhorrent practices that no conservation-minded American can support:
One: Confining animals, usually exotic species, in pens and then selling shooting rights to people who want a shortcut to a trophy is not hunting. Sometimes this reprehensible activity is referred to as "canned hunting," but really it's captive killing, plain and simple. Our members are grateful that millions of hunters agree with us. We encourage more of you to join with us in abolishing these awful enterprises.
Two: Killing polar bears, now listed on the endangered species list as "threatened," is not hunting either. It's madness. These great animals are the modern canaries-in-the-mineshaft for climate change. Their world of ice is melting underfoot. Who but the most uncaring and selfish would presume to add to their struggles? To extremists groups like Safari Club International we say: which are you for, really? Are you for "conservation" as you claim? Or merely the crass "right" to shoot endangered animals?
Three: Using lead ammo is not hunting: It's systematic poisoning of our environment. The same goes for lead sinkers and fishing. Lead is another instance in which hunters and fishermen face the 21st Century test: Are you conservationists or just willful polluters? America took lead out of paint a long time ago. Lead is gone from gasoline. It's high time that hunters and fishermen get out of the low business of lead. Already, efforts to reintroduce the great California condor are floundering because these animals feed on gut piles containing lead shot.
Four: Aerial gunning is not hunting and it has no -- emphasize NO--legitimate place in the management of wildlife. We're thinking about Alaska here, where the state has embarked on frightful military-esque aerial assault on wolves to try and artificially inflate the populations of caribou and moose. We urge right-thinking Alaskans to turn in their hunting licenses and demand a refund until this bloody campaign ends. Otherwise, they forfeit any claim to be conservationists.
Five: Participating in a shark-killing tournament is not fishing. It's slaughter. Once again extremists who fly the flag of "sportsmanship" show their true anti-conservation colors by killing animals whose global survival is in jeopardy. Contest killing, whether at sea or on land, has no place in a civilized society.
Six: When you turn wild animals into bait for bloodsport, folks, you are most definitely not hunting. "Hounding," as it's sometimes called, fosters a trade in captured wild animals -- chiefly foxes and coyotes. The once free-ranging creatures are transported hundreds of miles, and then dumped into pens so that dogs can tear them to pieces. Conservation? Ha.
The U.S. Congress is consideration legislation to address several of these very problems--the Sportsmanship in Hunting Act by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the Polar Bear Protection Act by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), the Protect America's Wildlife (PAW) Act by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the Wildlife Penning Prohibition Act by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). On this National Hunting and Fishing Day, it's time for sport hunters to walk the talk of good conservation by endorsing these common-sense reforms.