Is any form of hunting "fair"?

Maine referendum campaign to limit bear hunting and trapping

With the support of the Humane Society of the United States (H$U$) and the Fund for Animals, Maine Citizens for "Fair" Bear Hunting is raising funds for a state ballot initiative to ban some forms of bear hunting and trapping.

Originally scheduled to begin on the July 4 weekend, the petition drive will "begin soon" according to a July memorandum from Robert Fisk, the former state legislator who serves as director of both Maine Citizens for "Fair" Bear Hunting and Maine Friends of Animals (MFOA, no relation to the national organization Friends of Animals, which staunchly opposes all forms of hunting.) The first paragraph of the memo begins with a report on fundraising, which is apparently the top priority of both Fisk's organization and H$U$.

Both the Humane Society of the United States and certainly the Fund for Animals receive millions of dollars in donations from caring animal people who trust their printed materials and information on their websites strongly opposing sport hunting. When H$U$ "Senior Vice President" Wayne Pacelle came to Maine to announce the formation of Citizens for "Fair" Bear Hunting he justified the name, and the general approach of the group, as based on "scientific" polling of Mainers. While the poll questions and results have not been released, both Pacelle and H$U$ Director of Ballot Campaigns Katherine Bragdon said that one of the questions asked whether the respondent had a family member who hunted. (In later correspondence, Bragdon indicated her belief that it is necessary to "appease" the hunters, as well as the public as a whole, in order to "win" a campaign for "fair" hunting.) According to its 2001 IRS form 990 (the latest report available to the public) H$U$ paid Wayne Pacelle an annual salary of $113,310. (Self-styled "CEO" Paul Irwin received $285,532 from H$U$ in 2001.) Excessive fundraising expenses (28% of its budget) place H$U$ nearly at the bottom (149 out of 154) of the list of animal-related charities ranked by Charity Navigator.

Yet, the H$U$, The Fund and MFOA continue to promote the "Fair Bear Hunting" idea. People who have supported these groups are wondering if this is a shift in policy(?) Are these groups now going to work on "appeasing" the hunting/trapping interests, ignoring the very ideals and official policy statements on blood sports that have been the backbone for their solicitations to members and potential members? What are caring animal people to think and who can we trust? Is there perhaps another, broader "compromise" agenda in the making with the H$US and The Fund?

Fisk is still working on the second priority, using his legislative experience to make the initiative sufficiently complicated to win acceptance from his fellow hunters. Fisk's strategy of appeasing the hunters proved disastrous in the recently completed 2003 session of the Maine State Legislature. MFOA's top priority, a bill to ban the use of elephants in circuses, was turned into a meaningless bill to authorize state game wardens to enforce already existing federal laws regulating circus animals. Even worse was the fate of a bill to ban the notorious state coyote snaring program, which was turned into a bill to support the program with minor modifications. (Fortunately, a combination of lack of state funds and potential conflict with the federal Endangered Species Act is likely to stop the program, at least temporarily.)

What would the initiative actually accomplish if passed? The only copy of the proposed referendum currently available to the public appears on the website of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, the leading hunting and trapping organization in the state, which is mobilizing its forces to oppose any attempt to restrict hunting and trapping, however limited in scope. According to this draft, the official "ballot measure summary" is as follows:

"This ballot measure would make it unlawful in the State of Maine to engage in the unsportsmanlike practices of baiting, hounding, or trapping to hunt or kill bears, except where necessary to conduct scientific research or to protect property or public safety. The use of dogs, bait, or traps would be lawful for certain scientific or research purposes, or if undertaken by federal or state employees to kill or capture specific animals that threaten livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, property, or public safety. Baiting would also be lawful if undertaken by commercial timber harvesters to protect their trees."

What is a "fair" bear hunt? Bow and Arrow? Chasing bears with snowmobiles? These are very common bear hunt activities which the initiative does not address. Is it "fair" to hunt a bear with a gun, wounding it and letting it crawl off to die a slow death, as many do every season, perhaps leaving a cub or two?

Most people oppose these cruel practices. The 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation reported a 7% decline since the last survey in 1996. Yet a small number of powerful hunting guides and outfitters make tens of thousands of dollars every year by making bear killing fast and easy for their fee-paying clients from other states. Eighty percent of the bears taken each year are killed by out of state trophy hunters.

Will the initiative place any restrictions at all on state employees, biologists, game ranchers, or the pulp and paper industry? The wording appears to allow all these groups to kill bear by any means, however cruel or unfair, as long as they can make some claim to promoting science or protecting commercial resources.

Peace and Justice for Animals will encourage people to sign the ballot measure as a first step toward the elimination of all forms of bear hunting and trapping. But in view of the questionable financial and political practices of H$U$ and MFOA, as well as their misguided campaign in favor of "fair" bear hunting, we will discourage anyone from making financial contributions to Maine Citizens for "Fair" Bear Hunting.

We are told that using this "fair bear hunting" tactic is "politically expedient." We are told to trust the experts who know best how to carry out political campaigns. Have we learned nothing these past months in our country about "political expediency"? What has it gotten us? We have lawmakers in D.C. who have caved in, compromised our civil rights, our environment, our economy because they all wanted to appear "reasonable." They, too, said it was "politically expedient." There is another phrase for being "politically expedient": It's called "sleeping with the enemy."

The NRA, Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, and the Trappers' Association do not compromise on their positions. We may not approve of them, but we certainly can respect the fact that they stand by their beliefs. They are totally opposed to the H$U$, The Fund and any other animal group that wants to protect animals from human exploitation. We may have some hunters who will work on this bear initiative, and that is fine, but what makes the H$U$, The Fund and Robert Fisk of Maine Friends of Animals think we will ever have any "official" support from this industry?

Those who truly care about bears and other wildlife should take a stand, be brave, speak the truth, and speak out. We may not always be liked, but we will be respected. Let the H$U$, The Fund and Robert Fisk of Maine Friends of Animals know what you feel. Remember, when humans compromise on animal causes, the animals always lose.

Call, write, or e-mail these groups now--let's help keep them on the right track for animals.

When people compromise fundamental values in the attempt to arrive at a "win-win" situation, it is the majority of the Earth's creatures who lose.

  — Common Sentience.

Peace and Justice for Animals
P.O. Box 515
Camden, ME 04843

This statement reflects the views of Peace and Justice for Animals, and has not been authorized by Maine Citizens for "Fair" Bear Hunting or any other hunting organization.