By Paula Moore and Carla Bennett
Canoeing, camping and killing: Two out of three ain’t bad. Now it’s time
to stop the slaughter of animals in America’s wildlife refuges.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which manages the National
Wildlife Refuge System, bows to the gun and tackle lobbyists. This year, the FWS announced plans to open nine new hunting programs in our national wildlife refuges.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the first official refuges
in 1940, he envisioned sanctuaries where it would be unlawful to hunt,
trap, capture, willfully disturb, or kill any bird or wild animal. Yet
today, these wildlife sanctuaries have become wildlife cemeteries,
where millions of animals are maimed and killed by guns and fishing
gear every year.
The FWS allows and encourages hunters to massacre animals in refuges with
all manner of weapons, from semiautomatic rifles to high-powered bows
and arrows. In addition to the more than 100 million animals reported
killed each year, millions more are killed illegally or simply wounded
and left to die slowly.
Hunting is a violent activity and not a civilized, kind or effective
method of population control for people or animals. Studies show that
herd populations actually rebound with an increase in size after a large
number of deaths in hunting seasons. The FWS has ignored fertility
control, such as Spay-Vac, a longterm immocontraception vaccine that has
lasted for well over six years on gray seals and been successful on
white-tailed deer, horses and every sheep it has been tested on.
Fishing is simply hunting in the water.
Fish cannot always express their suffering in ways that humans can
easily recognize, but common sense–and marine scientists–tell us that
fish feel pain, as all animals do.
According to Dr. Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge
University, The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically,
physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually
the same as in birds and mammals. Adds Dr. Austin Williams, a U.S.
National Marine Fisheries Service zoologist, fish are sentient
organisms, so of course they feel pain.
And don’t think that catch-and-release advocates are off the hook.
Fisheries biologist Ralph Manns says fishing is inherently harmful to
fish, whether we release them or not. There is no doubt they would be
better off if we left them totally alone. No kidding–especially fish
who have their guts pulled out before being released, as fingers or
pliers crudely extract deeply swallowed hooks.
Fishing has other victims, too. More than 85 percent of the pelicans
treated at Florida’s Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, for example, have
injuries resulting from discarded fishing line and hooks. Even the
Missouri Department of Natural Resources–hardly an animal-friendly
institution–recognizes the problem. In an ad titled Death Line, the
agency reminds anglers that improperly discarded fishing line injures
and kills countless animals and birds every year.
Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act permits the use of refuges
whenever it is determined that such a use is compatible with the
purposes for which the area was established. Maiming and slaughtering
animals is completely contrary to President Roosevelt’s original vision
of refuges where wildlife would not be threatened by bullets or baited
There is some hope. The Wall Street has Journal reported that the number of
hunters plummeted 17 percent from 1990 to 1999. Gun companies efforts
to sell hunting to women and teenagers have failed miserably. Today,
less than 5 percent of Americans hunt. Fishing folk have begun recruiting kids to keep interest in fishing high. People are turning in droves to non-violent activities such as hiking, biking, rock-climbing and snorkeling.
As Americans seek ways to stem violence in our lives, let’s start with
the obvious: Stop killing for fun. Let’s turn our national wildlife
refuges back into the sanctuaries of nature they were intended to be,
where the animals can live in peace and we all can find solace and
Paula Moore and Carla Bennett write for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510, PETA.org.
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