Arizona’s Game and Fish Commission has voted to ban wildlife killing contests: gruesome spectacles in which participants vie for cash and prizes for killing the most or heaviest animals within a specific time period.
This is a wonderful development because Arizona has been the site for an appalling number of these contests over the years. Once the measure is approved by the Governor of Arizona’s Regulatory Review Council, the “March Madness Coyote Calling Contest,” the “Fox Frenzy” and “Another Varmint Tournament” will be prohibited from taking place. As a result, tens of thousands of animals will be spared needless suffering and death in the future, and we’ll be the better for it.
With the measure’s approval, Arizona would become the third state in the country to act against wildlife killing contests in just the past year. Moreover, its ban would be the most far-reaching because it covers coyotes, bobcats, foxes and other species. New Mexico and Vermont have both banned coyote killing contests, and Oregon lawmakers are now considering similar legislation.
We’ve been working to raise public awareness about wildlife killing contests through our investigations in New York and New Jersey, and more recently in Oregon. Footage shot by HSUS undercover investigators captures the casual indifference participants at these contests show for the suffering and death of animals. In social media images and videos that the participants post, they can be seen posing next to piles of carcasses, grinning, with trophies like belt buckles and weapons awarded for killing the “biggest dog” or “littlest dog.” Many boast about the ways in which the animals died. Children are often encouraged to participate in the killing.
Last year, at Arizona’s “Santa Slay Coyote Calling Tournament” in Dewey-Humboldt, advertisements depicted Father Christmas holding a rifle and standing in a pool of blood.
Arizona’s own Game and Fish Commission proposed this ban, saying these events have “the potential to threaten hunting as a legitimate wildlife management function.” The Commission could also not help but be aware of growing public opposition to the contests, as well as the tireless efforts of grassroots advocates who worked with local governments across the state, including Pima, Yavapai and Coconino Counties and the cities of Dewey-Humboldt, Tucson and Flagstaff, to pass resolutions and proclamations condemning the bloodshed and calling for statewide action.
In other states where similar bans have passed or which are considering such bans, including Vermont, Oregon, and New York, state wildlife management officials have spoken out against wildlife killing contests and the pointlessness of randomly killing top carnivore species like coyotes. New Jersey and Wisconsin legislators are also considering similar action.
Studies reveal that Americans have less tolerance than ever for wildlife killing practices that they view as barbaric, sadistic, cruel or wasteful. These contests have no defensible wildlife management objective and serve no purpose other than providing a handful of people with cash prizes, trinkets and bragging rights.
We are grateful to the thousands of Arizonans who submitted comments to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in support of this proposal and joined us in the call to end these contests. And we applaud the commission for its foresight, and for listening to the voices of its engaged citizens.