Wildlife killing contests are animal welfare and conservation disgrace

By on October 17, 2017 with 6 Comments

In October and November, participants in two gruesome wildlife killing contests in Nevada compete to claim the most coyote carcasses for cash or other prizes. The town of Austin recently held its annual Coyote Derby in early October, and next month the Nevada Predator Hunters will hold the 8th Annual Nevada Coyote Calling Championship in Las Vegas.

Wildlife killing contests, which target coyotes, foxes, bobcats, or even prairie dogs and pigeons, are grisly spectacles that are about as far as one can get from ethical, fair-chase hunting, and are no better than a blood sport like dogfighting or cockfighting. It’s all about body counts and has not a thing to do with the values that rank-and-file sportsmen profess.

At the coyote contests in Nevada, for instance, participants often use high-tech equipment such as powerful weapons and electronic calling devices that lure these curious animals by imitating the sounds of a fellow coyote or prey in distress. Countless dependent young may be orphaned during these events, left to die from starvation, predation, or exposure. Participants often toss away the bodies as if they are trash.

Wildlife killing contests occur more frequently across the United States than any reasonable person might imagine, although they are more heavily concentrated in the upper Midwest and the Northeast, and in Texas and the western states. Nevada also features the “High Desert Shootout,” while Arizona marks the holidays with the “Santa Slay Coyote Calling Tournament” and Idaho does the same with a “Christmas Songdog Challenge.” The Idaho Varmint Hunters host a “Whistlepig Tournament” for killing the heaviest groundhogs. Hawaii has the “Keep the Blood Flowing Hog Hunting Tournament,” while Iowa’s “Annual Howlers Bawl Coyote Contest” offers prizes for the largest number of coyotes killed, as well as for bringing in the “big dog” and “little dog.” In 2017 Montana took aim at coyotes, foxes, badgers, porcupines, and rabbits in its “4th Annual Fur-Busting Coyote Derby,” and Texas draws in participants for an astounding variety and number of contests that put coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and many more species in the crosshairs.

After the contest, participants often toss away the bodies of the animals as if they are trash. Above, carcasses of coyotes after a killing contest in Illinois earlier this year. Photo by Marc Ayers/The HSUS

The HSUS is working with regional and national wildlife protection organizations like Project Coyote, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and others to address wildlife killing contests at the local, state, and federal levels with litigation, legislation, and public outreach. So far California, Colorado, and Maryland have passed laws or regulations limiting some of these contests which vary by species, and the state of New York is currently considering a measure to ban them outright.

The contests have also been opposed by some sportsmen’s organizations, including the Boone and Crockett Club whose Big Game Records Committee issued a statement condemning “programs, contests or competitions that directly place a bounty on game animals by awarding cash or expensive prizes for the taking of wildlife.”

Mass killing of animals by people is anti-ecological. Persecution of coyotes disrupts the social structure of coyote communities, and may even trigger an increase in breeding and produce more coyotes. The indiscriminate killing of native carnivores fails to target problem animals, and can actually lead to an increase in conflicts with livestock. Coyotes also play a large role in controlling rodent populations and other species often considered “pests,” so the entire predicate for the mass killing is faulty.

Newspaper pictures of stacks of bloody carcasses from coyote killing contests send a message about disrespect for life and classes some animals as “good” and others as “bad” or “evil.” The state of Nevada recently approved landmark legislation to end the trafficking in the parts of imperiled wildlife, and the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners just enacted a tremendously forward-thinking ban on the commercial collection of reptiles. The Silver State should continue this positive trend by banning these backward, cruel, unsporting, and, frankly, embarrassing coyote killing contests.

Advocates across the United States can now fight back against cruel wildlife killing contests in their own communities with our new toolkit, “Wildlife Killing Contests: A Guide to Ending the Blood Sport in Your Community.” Email the HSUS Wildlife Protection team at wildlife@humanesociety.org for your copy.

Gov. Jerry Brown makes California first state to ban puppy mill sales at pet stores

By on October 16, 2017 with 1 Comment
Gov. Jerry Brown makes California first state to ban puppy mill sales at pet stores

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday cemented California’s status as the leading state on animal welfare by signing into law AB 485, a bill that makes California the first state to ban the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet stores, unless shelters or qualified rescue organizations supply the animals. Pet stores will have one . . . 

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Puerto Rico residents show a deep bond with animals, even during despair

By on October 13, 2017 with 1 Comment
Puerto Rico residents show a deep bond with animals, even during despair

Amidst the tragedy and suffering wrought by Maria in Puerto Rico – and that toll exacted on animals and people is incalculable — there are also extraordinary demonstrations of the power and durability of the human bond with animals. Adam Parascandola, director of animal protection and crisis response at Humane Society International (HSI), reports that . . . 

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Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, expands animal welfare commitment to broiler chickens

By on October 12, 2017 with 1 Comment
Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, expands animal welfare commitment to broiler chickens

Today marks another milestone in our global campaign to improve the lives of animals in agriculture, with Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, demanding changes in the way chickens are raised for their meat. Nestlé will require a specific set of important reforms from all of its suppliers and will phase out its use of . . . 

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Ballot measure launched to ban trophy hunting of America’s lions

By on October 12, 2017 with 50 Comments
Ballot measure launched to ban trophy hunting of America’s lions

Two summers ago, a color photograph of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer and his hunting guide kneeling over Cecil, an African lion they’d slain, found its way onto social media platforms and ricocheted across the planet. In response, 45 of the world’s biggest airlines – including all major U.S. carriers – said they’d no longer ship . . . 

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Breaking news: Gucci goes fur-free

By on October 11, 2017 with 34 Comments
Breaking news: Gucci goes fur-free

In what is perhaps the most meaningful fur-free announcement worldwide to date, luxury fashion brand Gucci has proclaimed that its future is fur-free. After working with The HSUS and the Italian-based animal welfare group LAV (a member, with The HSUS, of the Fur Free Alliance), Gucci’s president and CEO Marco Bizzarri shared the news today . . . 

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HSI’s lifesaving work for street dogs, in the Philippines and around the world

By on October 9, 2017 with 1 Comment
HSI’s lifesaving work for street dogs, in the Philippines and around the world

One of Humane Society International’s most high-impact programs, Street Dog Defender, has the ambitious goal of improving the lives of 300 million street dogs around the world. These are animals who typically survive outside of homes or commercial locations and often live on the edge, without regular sources of food or water, let alone any . . . 

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Global movement against the ivory trade gains more momentum

By on October 6, 2017 with 2 Comments
Global movement against the ivory trade gains more momentum

“On animal welfare we will take the tough action necessary to deal with those whose callousness or greed inflicts pain and suffering on innocent creatures. At the moment the maximum sentence for animal cruelty is just six months. I believe that when we face deliberate, calculating and sadistic behavior, we need to deploy the full . . . 

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Congress should ban malicious animal cruelty and bestiality

By on October 5, 2017 with 16 Comments
Congress should ban malicious animal cruelty and bestiality

Last week, the Kansas City Star reported that an elementary school worker in Springfield was being investigated by federal authorities for pornography involving sexual acts between that individual, a four-year-old child, and a dog. The facts in this case as we understand them are deeply disturbing and, by all appearances, the U.S. attorney in the . . . 

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Extremist package of hunting, gun policies should be permanently nixed

By on October 4, 2017 with 4 Comments
Extremist package of hunting, gun policies should be permanently nixed

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., announced yesterday that the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act is not going to come up for consideration on the House floor anytime soon. That’s a relief. But let’s be clear: this disgraceful bill should never be revived or resuscitated. It’s an appalling package of reckless items on gun . . . 

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