Guest Column: Hunters’ main agenda is not conservation

Guest Column: Hunters’ main agenda is not conservation

By By Jim Justice

I could not help but comment on the recent paranoid ranting of Phil Pash on the subject of the animal protection movement. Normally, I would dismiss his aberrant opinions as the ramblings of an atavistic journalist that date back to his days at the Register Star, but his suggestion that the animal protection movement has misrepresented itself made it necessary to comment. If anyone is eminently qualified to speak on the subject of misrepresenting one’s position in the world, it would be the hunting community, and Phil Pash has brilliantly played the part of their misguided apologist for years.

The first distortion that needs to be addressed is that hunters are “conservationists” out to make sure nature doesn’t run amuck and harm itself. In fact, it is quite the opposite; current hunting practices actually pose a danger to wildlife. The reason for this lies in the way man manipulates game populations in order to produce a surplus of animals for recreational killing. Instead of keeping our game populations in healthy balance, state wildlife agencies manipulate game species by selectively removing males from the population, leaving a larger percentage of females to reproduce, thereby increasing offspring. This technique is called “maximum sustained yield game management” and was developed right up the road in Madison, Wis., by Aldo Leopold, when he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin.

This management technique results in a larger number of more inferior animals because more members of the species reproduce, diluting out the gene pool. At the same time, hunters are removing the biggest and best animals from the herd because they want that trophy animal to hang on their wall as a testament to their manhood. These two practices together have degraded the quality of our wildlife. Leopold, prior to his death, regretted his contribution to wildlife management after he saw how his techniques were misused in order to manipulate game populations to promote hunting. Therefore, hunters do not control game populations; game populations are controlled to encourage more recreational killing. Once hunters begin to understand that they are being manipulated as much as the animals, then maybe they will stop viewing themselves as God’s gift to nature.

The second major lie that hunters like to promote as justification for their killing is that they “pay for their play.” Once again, this is a total fantasy on the part of the hunting community. And I will call on no less than the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to prove my point. In a memorandum written by Fran Harty from the IDNR for one of the past Governor Conferences on Conservation and Recreation, he completely debunks the myth that hunters are the ones footing the bill for our wild populations. In response to the statement: “The sportsman pays for the habitat. They pay their way unlike hikers and bird-watchers, but they get to use the area anyway.”—Mr. Harty writes: “Only 25 percent of the Department’s budget comes from hunting and fishing license fees. 75 percent of the DNR’s budget comes from general revenue funds and other funds such as the State Park fund and boating funds. In fact, hunting programs are heavily subsidized.”

Mr. Harty goes on to cite numerous examples of programs that benefited hunters but were financed to a large degree by general revenues, which means that 95.4 percent of the population that does not hunt is bankrolling the hunter’s recreation. That is tantamount to nothing more than a hunter welfare program.

Hunters resort to the type of disinformation spewed by the likes of Phil Pash because they see their sport ebbing away. A recent survey released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that the number of hunters in the U.S. declined by 7 percent between 1996-2001. During that same period, the number of wildlife watchers, people who enjoy wildlife without harming them, increased by 5 percent. More than a decade ago, T. A. Herbelein and E. J. Thomson, experts on hunting demographics at the University of Wisconsin, predicted that by 2050, sport hunting could well cease to exist. This recent decline prompted Heidi Prescott from the Fund for Animals to comment that the “prediction of Herbelein and Thomson is right on target, the end of hunting could be no more than a generation away.” When this happens, wildlife agencies will be forced to manage our wildlife for the welfare of the animal and not the enjoyment of the hunter.

My last comment has to do with the gratuitous plug that Phil Pash put in for used-up rocker Ted Nugent. I can only hope and pray that the hunting community continues to embrace Ted Nugent as the hunters’ front man. This will only serve to accelerate the demise of hunting. Why anyone would choose to emulate someone who stands by with a big S-eating grin while an animal writhes and screams in pain from having a broad head arrow slammed into its body is beyond me. But then, hunters have never been comfortable functioning in the mainstream. If you doubt what I say, then just check out one of Nugent’s sadistic videos, after which you will wonder why the Hannibal Lector of bad rock isn’t in a psych hospital somewhere. And please, parents, don’t fall for his old ploy that it is better to go out and torture and kill an animal as an alternative to drug use; you don’t have to trade one disgusting behavior for another; resist them both.

Jim Justice is a local resident affiliated with Animal Watch Illinois. He has a degree in Microbiology and Clinical Laboratory Science from Colorado State University.

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