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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hunting Industry Group Sets its Sights on Pets

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance takes aim at animals when they’re most vulnerable. Polar bears in the Arctic, as their ice floes are vanishing, body weights are declining, and populations are dwindling. Mourning doves in states where they’ve been protected for decades as backyard songbirds, still nursing their young during September target practice. Endangered antelope stocked in fenced pens for captive trophy hunts, where they have neither the opportunity nor the inclination to escape.

But now this Ohio-based trade association for weapons manufacturers has stooped to a new low.  By firing with its blunderbuss, the group is going to wind up with dogs and cats in its trophy case—just when these abandoned pets need our help the most.

281x144_dog_in_box The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance has declared that your community should not join hands to help hundreds, maybe thousands, of pets impacted by the foreclosure crisis. Moreover, a kind-hearted business that saw fit to try and assist has to be blackballed to drive home the point.

You think I’m kidding?

What we have here, friends, is a brand-new Boone and Crockett record in the department of loony thinking.

The facts are that The Humane Society of the United States, after hearing of the increasing needs from animal shelters and rescue group volunteers around the nation, started an emergency fund to help the animal victims of housing foreclosures. What do dogs and cats know about investment bubbles anyway?

Specifically, the fund is designed to help animal shelters and rescue groups from coast to coast that are feeling the worsening pressure of more abandoned pets. Understanding the nature of this tragedy, many businesses and kind-hearted individuals have reached into their wallets to assist. The HSUS is acting as a clearing house for these funds.

In the Midwest, the Meijer chain of regional stores agreed to chip in up to $5,000—$1 for each customer who entered the company’s pet photo contest on its website. Thank you, Meijer.

Then this fringe group claiming to represent hunters enters the picture. Because The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund oppose such things as shooting captive, hand-fed animals in fenced enclosures for guaranteed trophies, the sportsmen’s alliance finds itself opposing anything that The HSUS and HSLF support. Even to the extreme. Even to the point of dooming dogs and cats to suffer.

How do these people sleep at night, you might wonder.

Sadly, Meijer succumbed to the extremism of this demand. No more will the company help shelters in this crisis.

As Wayne Pacelle wrote in his blog today, “Let’s not let them get away with this.” People of conscience can teach the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance a lesson, by donating to support The HSUS’s Foreclosure Pets Fund, and also donating to support HSLF's work to pass animal protection laws in Congress and in state legislatures.

Whether you are a hunter, or a wildlife watcher, or a pet lover, or a solid citizen down the block, you can join us in deploring the tunnel vision of an industry trade group that cannot lift its eyes high enough to see the real target. This is not a fight about hunting. This is a matter of kindness in a crisis, yes or no? The housing mess is claiming animal victims. Do you care?

281x175_internet_hunter_ist The truth of the political landscape is that The HSUS and HSLF frequently partner with hunters, and sensible hunting groups, when our interests converge. And this occurs more often than some people recognize—on legislation to ban Internet hunting and captive hunts, to restore the prohibition on importing polar bear trophies, to protect habitat from development, to fight the effects of global warming that will threaten all wildlife, and to crack down on poaching by barring the commerce in bear bile and gall bladders.

Many hunters recognize that they are part of an evolving society. As their numbers diminish, their standing in our culture can only be jeopardized by the absurd, mindless radicalism expressed by the so-called sportsmen’s alliance.

This murky group claims, in its mission statement, to be seeking “public support” for “stewardship” in the name of “heritage.”

Those are big words. Too bad they are spoken by people with such small thoughts.

Next time the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance defends the worst abuses of the hunting industry—practices that many rank-and-file hunters agree are inhumane and unacceptable—remember that this is the group that wanted to abandon the dog and cat victims of foreclosure to suffer.

To them, let me recall the grand challenge posed by Winston Churchill long ago: You do your worst and we’ll do our best.

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