Last week, I wrote about how an agribusiness industry lobbyist said that I and The HSUS were the greatest threat to animal agribusiness. I said he was guilty of hyperbole, but did concede we are a serious threat to factory farming and specifically to farm animal abuses that are particularly cruel (e.g., veal and gestation crates, battery cages, and the most inhumane slaughter methods). But we are not a threat to agriculture in general, since every HSUS member has a food budget and we all benefit from the labor of farmers. We just want to make sure that agriculture operates as humanely and sustainably as possible.
Also last week, the Ohio-based U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance—a trade organization for extreme hunting groups, bow hunting manufacturers, arms and ammunition makers, and others—had something similar to say about us. The group said, "In a precisely-calculated effort, the Humane Society of the United States is assuming control of the animal rights movement’s political agenda. In doing so, it becomes an even greater threat to conservation and hunters’ rights." (Read the USSA’s entire piece here.)
© The HSUS
A Barbados sheep at a canned hunt facility, where shooters pay
to kill animals within enclosures.
I can understand the USSA’s paranoia. We’ve tangled with them in hundreds of battles, among them about 20 statewide ballot initiatives that included measures to ban bear baiting, hound hunting of bears and cougars, the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, canned hunts, mourning dove hunting, and other unnecessary and inhumane practices.
USSA knows through experience that The HSUS targets the worst abuses in the hunting sphere, such as the practices mentioned above. But it tries to whip up hysteria about us and claims we are on a crusade to ban all hunting.
The fact is, hunting itself is declining at a steady pace because of diminishing interest in the practice, especially from young people. But politically, hunting as a general practice is safe for the foreseeable future, as long as hunters eat what they kill, don’t trespass and violate landowners’ rights, do not tolerate poaching, do not exhibit gross callousness to animals, or otherwise intrude on the rights and sensibilities of the non-hunting majority.
But the decline of hunting may be accelerated if the hunting lobby continues to defend appalling practices and allows itself to be defined by its most unethical actors and its worst excesses. These practices—canned hunts, coyote and fox pens, Internet hunting, guided bear kills with baits and hounds, spring bear hunts, contest kills, trophy hunts of imperiled polar bears, pigeon shoots, shooting of cranes and swans—are in danger because they are so at odds with public values and even the hunters’ own rhetoric of fairness, sportsmanship, and sound management. The hunters’ public image will continue to decline if they defend this conduct, and that does not help hunters.
Those are the real terms of the debate, despite the rhetoric of the USSA and the NRA. In the end, the public will side against the practices outlined above, and these groups will decide for themselves if they want to inflict damage to the long-term interests of hunters by defending just about any imaginable act of violence against animals.