Whitetail buck (copy)

Youth hunters 10-15 years old registered 8,173 deer during the recent two-day youth deer hunt.

“State recreation businesses stay hunter businesses, whose objective is to handle nature as the non-public slaughterhouse of the 4.5% of us that hunt.” — John Laundre, assistant biology professor, Western Oregon University 

An Oct. 13 article by John Laundre, "Another Hunter Myth: Americans are Losing Touch with Nature," puts the lie to the hunter propaganda that they are the “conservationists” and that because they spend long hours in the woods killing wildlife, killers are the ones who know wildlife best and should control it.

As interest in killing wildlife plummets, Laundre writes, “Hunters spend billions of ($26.2 in 2016) …Their math is easy, fewer hunters, fewer in help of wildlife. What is going to occur to these poor animals if there are fewer individuals spending cash attempting to kill them?”

Hunters have always pontificated that they are the ones who pay to play. They argue that since they are the ones financing wildlife management with their purchase of licenses, guns, ammunition and crossbows, death stands and ATVs, they should (and do) have exclusive say over our public lands, wildlife and waterways as a recreational public lands slaughterhouse.

Referencing the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey of hunting versus wildlife watching majority, the claims of hunters' superior understanding are based on their average 16 days of the year, “observing, studying easy methods to kill wildlife," Laundre writes.

Since 1996, hunter numbers have plunged from 7% of the population of the United States to 4.5%. From 13.9 million to 11.4 million. Hunters and their wild slaughterhouse state agencies are panicking, doing all they can to recruit and retain children, women and young people. Despite those efforts, especially in the 16-24-year-olds, hunters declined from 2.1 million to 1.2 million, a 42.9% decrease. That means that “sportsmen” are looking for funding from the rest of us to finance their privatized cruelty.

The good news is that the same survey shows 86 million citizens watch wildlife — seven-and-a-half times more peaceful viewers than hunters. More than a third of United States citizens enjoy watching wildlife. That is up a third since 1996. Younger children are 5.6 times more interested in watching wildlife than killing — up almost 50% from 1996.

Non-killers pay three times as much as killers to watch living wildlife ($75.9 billion). They also spend an average of 16 days afield with binoculars. Laundre writes, “Hunters needn’t be involved that fewer hunters go afield to discover ways to kill animals.”

Regardless of the far larger investment of wildlife watchers, the state and federal wildlife agencies remain entrenched in the extinction ideology of managing wildlife as killing commodity for the few. Democratic and Republican governing parties both remain blinded to the suffering of millions of innocent wild beings, who are trying to raise families and survive in a human-dominated habitat.

Extinction of a million magnificent and miraculous species is a human-designed atrocity of incomprehensible magnitude and effect. Many, if not most of them, evolved long before we stomped upon the earth and declared ourselves a wildlife demolition crew. Killing is not conservation and has nothing to do with conserving anything or anyone. The array of interdependent ecosystems that have blessed us with health and wonder have been obscenely taken for granted, and discarded as casual genocide — an afterthought at best.

Their suffering and ecocide is co-equal to climate chaos in destruction of a livable planet.

This is our urgent moral challenge — to prioritize the life of the wild, politically and now.

It is important to question the Department of Natural “Resources” mantra to "KEEP THE WILD WILD." Right now it means keep the wild unknown and out of touch for hunters to kill. Allowing hunters to bait and run dogs on wildlife is hardly “keeping the wild wild.” Killing is hardly keeping any wild creature anything but dead.

Mass murder of wildlife just makes animals afraid of the majority of humans who want to see them and know them. Knowing them would endear them for protection. The DNR does not want that.

I have written about several trappers who adopted coyote pups and reported being “turned upside down” by their intelligence, kindness and beauty. They fell in love with them. I think it is time to end the alienation of “wild” and empower ourselves to help them. Any citizen should be encouraged to engage with wildlife humanely and learn how to do so.

We need general public funding of wildlife and nature partnership replacing “management” and killing license money. We need proportionate fair representation on the Natural Resources Board and in staffing and deciding committees. The DNR should repurpose from killing to humane education courses. For example, educate, as in New Jersey, about bear-proofed garbage cans and provide them to northern residents. The DNR should partner with the Farm Bureau to teach farmers Carnivore Co-existence Lab proven methods of humane deterrence of natural predators from livestock.

Citizens must demand a state agency revolution, focused on repairing the damage of hundreds of years of bloodlust and carnage, damaging ecosystems out of balance. The focus should be on partnering humanely and humbly, in gratitude for wildlife that weave healthy ecosystems together for us.

The 95.5% of us who do not kill cannot remain silent any longer.

Resource Alert:

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month or Reverence for Life month, ending the month with World Vegan Day "to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism." It brings awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. 

Anti-hunting groups seek to oust trophy hunters from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Trophy hunting is immoral and not sustainable. The public has evolved on this issue as shown in the worldwide outraged reaction to killing Cecil the lion.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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