What is it about wild animals that make some people feel that it's OK to inflict pain, suffering and death upon them?
As I watched in horror the footage of our investigation which exposes the sickening inner world of recreational and professional wildlife trapping, I asked myself that same question, over and over again.
I cannot forget the bewildered look on the trapped raccoon's face as he is smacked in the head with a stick and then shoved under the water by the trapper's boot, only to reemerge gasping for air and grasping the end of the stick with his tiny paw as if pleading for mercy.
I also cannot help but draw comparisons in similarity between the faces of trapped foxes and coyotes and those of our beloved companion dogs, Luna, Coco and Monster, who come to the Born Free USA office each day with our staff. We know when our companion animals are happy, sad, at ease or distressed. Why do we deny those same feelings to wild animals -- maybe because it just makes it easier for us to kill them.
Surely wild animals suffer every bit as much as domestic animals. Yet the barbaric cruelty inflicted upon trapped animals is in most cases perfectly legal. However, if one were to intentionally inflict similar pain and suffering on domestic dogs and cats, he would be guilty of cruelty to animals -- a crime punishable as a felony offense in many states.
This doesn't mean that cats and dogs are safe from cruel traps. On the contrary, the investigation also demonstrates that despite years of research, trapping cannot avoid so-called collateral damage (non-target animals captured in traps set for other species).
Born Free USA receives hundreds of heartbreaking reports about cats and dogs severely injured or killed in these traps, and keeps an online database of incidents to help bring attention to this public safety issue. This year we also established the Born Free USA Trapping Victims Fund to help with veterinary costs on non-target victims.
Possibly even more shocking than the brutality documented in our investigation is that much of it is done in the name of fashion. Thousands of consumers, leading retailers and high profile fashion designers turn a blind eye to trapping when they choose to purchase, sell or design with real fur. I hope this investigation will help open their eyes and hearts so that they will forgo fur fashion.
While the suffering of animals in cruel traps happens wherever traps are allowed, the bulk of our investigation took place in Pennsylvania.
As in all states, the vast majority of people who utilize Pennsylvania lands do so to observe wildlife and enjoy nature -- not abuse it. According to a 2006 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 37 percent of Pennsylvania residents participated in activities where wildlife-watching was the primary purpose and only nine percent hunted. The percentage of residents who engaged in trapping was not recorded, but is likely much, much lower.
It seems clear to me that a majority of Pennsylvanians (and visitors) would rather see a live bobcat or fox than harm one. Indeed, I would wager that the majority of people in every state value wildlife and the humane treatment of animals and would be sickened to see them suffering mercilessly in body-crushing traps or strangulation snares, or having their life extinguished under the weight of a trapper's boot.
Using these diabolical devices in the name of "fun" or "fashion" is madness and should be banned.
Our position is not radical. Twelve states prohibit the use of snares, eight have banned or severely restricted steel jaw leghold traps, and more than 80 countries worldwide have banned leghold traps completely.
Consumers, retailers and policymakers all are equally responsible for ending this barbaric and unnecessary cruelty by refusing to buy or sell fur and by pushing for and passing stronger regulations and prohibitions on the trapping of animals for their fur.
It's time to stop making wildlife and other animals victims of vanity -- add your voice to our campaign today.