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‘Humane’ Isn’t a Dirty Word

Jun. 8, 2010
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Only in Wisconsin would it be controversial for the state department charged with protecting wildlife to collaborate with a private organization that cares about animals.

As we watch in horror as birds and reptiles get slimed with toxic gunk as a result of man’s blundering about in our fragile environment, our state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) should never demonize people who care about wildlife.

And, in fact, the DNR has taken the positive step of collaborating with a national animal welfare organization to produce public service announcements warning kindhearted people not to remove baby animals from the wild.

This is important public information because all of us have been propagandized by heartwarming movies about lonely children adopting wild animals that become their best pals.

In truth, wild animals are far better off staying in the wild instead of growing into domesticated beasts that might do what comes naturally and eat their little friend, Johnny.

The DNR and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) split the $12,000 cost of two radio spots, “Don’t Bother Wildlife in the Wild” and “Wildlife Are Not Pets.” Who could possibly object to securing private funds to reduce government’s cost of public education and reach more people with valuable information?

The answer is Wisconsin hunters who’ve always felt—often accurately—the DNR exists only to serve them. To hunters, anyone who advocates “humane” treatment of animals is a sworn enemy.

George Meyer, a former secretary of the DNR, obviously took the agency’s pro-hunting stance to his current job as executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The wildlife federation describes itself as an organization of “hunters, anglers, trappers and others that are actively engaged in the outdoors” working “to assure that healthy wildlife populations…will be available for our children and grandchildren to appreciate.”

By “appreciate,” the federation apparently means “shoot.”

Meyer’s reaction to the collaboration of the DNR and the HSUS was “shock and disbelief.”

“If I hadn’t seen it on the DNR’s website, I would have thought it was a hoax,” Meyer said. “This is a group that has worked to end hunting, fishing, trapping and the animal livestock industry.”


Seeing Past the Rhetoric

Meyer’s rhetoric is the usual overblown hyperbole by hunters who claim the only true friends of animals are those who go out and kill them.

Hunting, fishing and raising animals for food are not going to end in the United States any time soon, despite commercials telling people not to bring home wild bunnies.

Rob Sexton, a lobbyist for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, a national pro-hunting organization, made the even more absurd statement the HSUS was supporting the Wisconsin DNR campaign to try to “sanitize its image.”

Since when does an organization with “humane” in its name need to clean up its image? When did “humane” become a dirty word?

What has gotten twisted in Wisconsin is the idea advanced by hunters in defense of their blood sport that the only way to protect wildlife is to kill it. It’s the old Vietnam concept of destroying the village in order to save it.

Controlled hunting is a tool the DNR employs that, in fact, can help to maintain a healthy wildlife population. The problem is hunters have used that argument so often to, yes, sanitize what they do, they’ve deluded themselves into believing animals should get up off the ground and thank those hunters who blow them away.

In fact, the public debate over how to protect wildlife is changing with the growth of animal protection organizations such as the HSUS and even the dreaded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In fact, the ad campaign partially funded by the HSUS is not the first time the organization’s efforts have coincided with the interests of legitimate hunters.

One of the primary missions of the HSUS is to stop illegal hunting. And once again they’ve put their money where their mouths are. Since 2008, the HSUS has offered $180,000 in rewards for the arrest and conviction of poachers who kill endangered species or hunt out of season or in illegal areas.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, says illegal poaching probably kills more animals than all legal hunting. Curiously, you don’t hear about pro-hunting groups posting any rewards to stop competition from illegal poachers.

Hunter, traditionally all-powerful in Wisconsin, are a diminishing voice in the environmental debate as their numbers decline. Wisconsin was so desperate to increase new hunters that it lowered the hunting age to 10.

Hunters always press to kill more stuff, such as the endangered gray wolf gracing the state’s environmental license plates. Animal protection groups including HSUS have successfully raised counterarguments.

The DNR, as the state agency protecting our threatened natural environment, has to listen to both sides, not just to the most heavily armed.


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