When I first published this column in Game and Fish Publications in 1994, a number of Oregonians recognized the author as a guy who worked at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They made the assumption that it was a real life treatise by an anti-hunting mole and they took a number of steps to try and get me fired. These included phone calls by a couple state representatives. It was a lively time. The piece is satirical, but I believe it is also an accurate, if fictional representation of the efforts of committed anti-hunters. I’d enjoy your comments. Best,
One Step at a Time
©1994 by Pat Wray
Welcome, everyone, to this special meeting of the Citizens Against Cruelty to Wild Animals. Those of you not presently on the board of directors have been invited because you have proven yourselves with long-term commitment to the principles of animal protection.
You have been foot soldiers in our campaign. Now we directors believe you are ready to assume leadership roles. In order to do so, you must completely understand our objectives and methods. Blind commitment is no longer enough. You must be ready to take the offensive, to plan and execute new strategies on behalf of wild animals.
I must remind you that we do not speak publicly about these concepts, except in the most general of terms. This is not because we are ashamed; we just don’t want to help the enemy by letting the public see our complete agenda. Full knowledge of our goals would help to coalesce an essentially leaderless enemy. Stated simply, we are working for the elimination of sport hunting.
In our effort to bring an end to the insane cruelty of sport hunters, we have embarked on a series of small incursions based on the timeless principle of “divide and conquer.” Our first step has been to isolate and end trapping. Leg-hold traps elicit strong feelings among many people, especially city dwellers, and make no mistake; our battle will be won or lost in the cities.
Even dedicated hunters, who might be expected to support trapping, have shown animosity toward the practice. This breach allowed us to isolate trappers from other outdoorsmen and end their horrific practice in several states. As our nation’s population becomes more urbanized, we expect to eliminate it altogether. Ten years at the outside.
Our experience with trapping illustrates fatal flaws in the hunters’ psyche. You must understand these to be successful. First, although they kill and eat wild animals, hunters do care about those animals. However, their concern is for the species and not, like ours, for individual animals.
Now, don’t look at me like I’ve betrayed a sacred trust. This is no time for wide-eyed innocence. I’m revealing a weakness you can exploit. Because they actually care for animals, hunters are quick to condemn someone else’s actions as detrimental to wildlife. Why do you think hunters deserted trappers in referendums around the country? Why would more than 50 percent of Colorado’s hunters voted against spring bear hunting in 1992?
So, given hunters’ sentimental approach to wildlife and their tendency to vote against each other because of different techniques, what should our next target be?
Hunting with hounds, obviously.
Running animals with hounds, like trapping, is easy to portray as cruel. People have a prehistoric fear of being chased that helps them identify with prey. However, attempting to completely outlaw hunting dogs would guarantee failure for us. We would get caught up in questions about the use of pointers and retrievers in upland and waterfowl hunting. We will go after those activities at some point in the future. The time is not yet right.
In the meantime, we have begun a campaign in several western states to eliminate the use of hounds in hunting bear and cougar. We are optimistic of success for the same reasons we were successful in Colorado and Oregon. Most hunters do not hunt bear or cougar. History tells us, because they don’t take part in the practice, those hunters who do not participate will gladly help us vote it down.
In order to strengthen our effort, we are actively portraying bear and cougar populations as being in desperate need of protection. This is not strictly true. In fact, a great deal of state fish and wildlife data indicates bear and cougar populations are healthy and increasing in most areas. But before you condemn our Machiavellian manipulations, remember that we are involved in a crusade to wash the disgrace of sport hunting from our national canvas. It is a noble purpose and one that justifies occasional deviations from the truth. If the cause is just, the end truly does justify the means.
Our next logical step is bowhunting. Again, we have a natural chink in the armor. Many rifle hunters resent bowhunters because of our claims that a higher percentage of animals are wounded and lost with arrows than with bullets. Again, this weakness results from the hunters’ concern for animal welfare.
There is also an element of jealousy involved. Bowhunters are allowed to hunt for longer seasons and during the rut, when the animals are most vulnerable. To make our jobs even more simple, bowhunters themselves are bitterly divided over their equipment. What kind of gear should be considered traditional or modern, and which should be legal or ethical? Although we philosophically oppose hunting, we hope the modernists take control. The more high-tech and effective their weapons, the more bad feeling will be created within the ranks of gun hunters. Ultimately, the larger the schism between archers and gun hunters, the easier it will be for us.
You should be thinking along these same lines as you develop strategies for the future. It should be a relatively easy process down the road to pit the blackpowder enthusiasts against the modem riflemen, etc.
One final thought. As successful as we have been, you must all be aware that our potential for failure is very real. If we get too greedy, if we try to take away too much too soon, we might actually revive America’s hunters and galvanize them, into a potent political force. We can’t afford a mistake like that.
Let’s take it easy, one step at a time.