When we worked to outlaw cockfighting in the last U.S. state where it was legal, we knew that the people of Louisiana didn’t support the practice and had their own aspirations of banning such blood spectacles in their state. The politicians there had it wrong for years, somehow convincing themselves that there was strong support in the state for the practice and perhaps not having much of a moral center themselves on animal welfare issues.
In the end, when Louisiana legislators finally outlawed cockfighting — with all the state’s major newspapers and so many business leaders supporting it — they didn’t face a popular revolt. Quite the opposite. They won applause, and a good dose of “what took you so long?”
That’s the same thing with the grossly unsporting, inhumane, and reckless practices that are the current focus of our congressional activities. The U.S. Senate is poised to vote soon on H.J. Res 69, or its Senate companion, S.J. Res. 18 – a Congressional Review Act resolution from Dan Sullivan of Alaska that would enable the state of Alaska to allow private hunters to use aircraft to scout grizzly bears, to hunt wolves and bears during their denning seasons (even killing the animals in their dens), and to use steel-jawed leghold traps and neck snares on grizzly bears and black bears on national wildlife refuges.
These are outlier practices – the worst of the worst in wildlife management, and practices essentially not allowed in any other state. But Alaska. Rep. Don Young, who was the author of the companion resolution in the House that passed in mid-February, has long been a champion and apologist for the most extreme practices. In fact, during the debate on the issue on the House floor, Young proudly announced that as a young man, he killed wolves in their dens and pocketed the bounty paid by the federal government.
However, the federal government, in the decades since, has moved from persecutor of predators to protector. In this case, it’s trying to restrain the worst instincts of a small minority, and assert federal authority on lands specifically designated to protect the diversity of wildlife. Don Young may not have changed his views all that much since he took office in 1971, but the people of the United States, including the vast majority of Alaskans, have evolved quite a bit, and for the better.
It’s the special interest groups, like the Safari Club and some guides and outfitters, that promote these practices. They’ve somehow been able to convince leading Alaska politicians to favor these activities. They have also been able to convince them that the imposition of reasonable rules to restrict cruelty and promote conservation amounts to some nefarious plot to restrict all hunting or to usurp Alaskan authority. They’re wrong on the history. They’re wrong on the science. And they’re wrong on the question of sportsmanship and hunting ethics.
Last week, we released a video that gives voice to Alaskans who support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule. People who understand the notions of fairness, decency, and common sense. People who understand that no animals, including magnificent grizzlies and majestic wolves, should be victims of a scorched-earth policy. A recent poll also shows that Alaskans strongly support the elimination of these cruel practices.
Hear these Alaskans. One day soon, we’ll wonder why it took Alaska’s politicians this long to hear their howls of protest against the policies they are pursuing.
P.S. Please do contact your two U.S. Senators and urge them to oppose S.J. Res. 18. Forward this notice to others who’ll help.