We hear or read comments every day in the press from Members of Congress from both parties about the need to reduce government spending, because of our nation’s multi-trillion dollar deficit. The budget crisis is so severe that even iconic programs that benefit millions of Americans—including Social Security and Medicare—are being examined for major cost savings.
If the Congress seems now to have the political will to confront some of these very popular programs, you would think it’s a no-brainer to stop some of the most outrageous spending programs that cause cruelty to animals, including the use of chimpanzees in experiments and buy-ups of surplus pork and spent-hen meat by the USDA. But surely among the most wasteful, archaic, and cruel programs is the federal government’s wildlife-killing program. Every year, USDA’s Wildlife Services’ program kills in excess of four million animals, including wolves, bears, coyotes, and other creatures as a de facto subsidy to ranchers and other resource users. Cutting this program would not only benefit taxpayers but also provide a break for animals.
But last week, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment from Representatives John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., to cut $11 million from the Wildlife Services program. Remarkably, the House rejected the amendment by a vote of 132 – 287. Only 29 Republicans and 103 Democrats favored the amendment.
We expected agriculture groups to defend the subsidy, since many ranchers love the idea of federally funded trappers and hunters killing wolves, coyotes, and other animals that they think threaten their livestock. They really like their hand-outs, and they want to keep riding the gravy train. But what was shocking was that the NRA opposed the amendment. Many members of the House undoubtedly voted against the amendment because of their obedience to the whims of the gun lobby.
Representative Campbell, who is a conservative Republican and defender of the Second Amendment, was as befuddled by the NRA’s stance as were so many other observers of this debate. I thought Rep. Campbell had a lot of good thoughts to offer on the subject. Here’s a portion of his statement:
I have been a longtime member of both the NRA and the Humane Society. I do not see their missions as being in conflict. I strongly support the Second Amendment to the Constitution and believe that people should have the right to keep and bear arms. This is about freedom, it is about self-defense, and it is about respect for the Constitution. I also love animals. I believe that human beings should treat animals humanely, in part, because they are God's creatures and we have a moral obligation to care for and protect them. I also think that how a society treats animals is closely correlated to how that society will treat its people.
So, what's the conflict here? One can own guns and love animals. I understand that some people like to hunt. I personally don't and could never see myself shooting an animal. But, I respect and uphold the right of others to do so. Unfortunately in DC, sometimes groups or members of Congress will support or oppose something based on who is for or against it, or who is sponsoring it, instead of because of what the bill actually does. That's too bad. And, I won't do it.
I will continue to speak out for and vote to support the Second Amendment. And, I will just as vociferously support laws that protect animals, both wild and domesticated, from abuse at the hands of the dark side of human behavior. I'm a gun-owning animal lover. And, I think that's just fine.