America`s sporting heritage is under attack by animal "rights" extremists who want to ban all hunting, trapping and fishing. Recently, two of the most rabid anti-hunting organizations merged. The Fund for Animals has joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to form an anti hunting cabal with a budget of nearly $90 million. (Note: HSUS isn`t the same group that runs your local shelter, just listen to Wayne Pacelle, CEO of HSUS: "If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would."-- Associated Press, Dec. 30, 1991.)
Until recently, anti-hunters had focused their efforts on winning passage of ballot initiatives and referenda that attacked a specific type of hunting or trapping. This strategy was best explained by Wayne Pacelle himself, "We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States.... We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped. . . ." Full Cry, October 1990.
Early on these attacks had some success. However, as voters become more educated about the true agenda of these groups they have rejected these ballot measures. In 2004, anti-hunting ballot initiatives were defeated in Maine and Alaska. Both measures would have seriously curtailed bear hunting and threatened the scientific bear management in both states. Also in 2004, voters in Louisiana and Montana approved constitutional amendments protecting the right to hunt, fish and trap, and did so by overwhelming margins. There are now eight states that have protected our hunting heritage with constitutional provisions.
Now, with their efforts at the ballot box defeated, the anti-hunting groups are taking a page out of the anti-gunner`s playbook. They are turning to the courts. Through the combination of trial lawyers and activist judges they hope to enact policies they have been unable to convince legislatures and voters to accept. In 2004 anti-hunters successfully used this strategy in New Jersey to disrupt a bear hunt that state wildlife officials said was needed to control the population.
This new strategy is a major component of the HSUS, Fund for Animals merger. Even before the formal unification of these groups in January 2005, the creation of a new litigation division-The Animal Protection Litigation Section-for the purpose of bringing lawsuits to interfere with hunting and hunter`s rights around the nation was announced. Hunters across the country soon could be at the mercy of activist judges. At very least, it is certain that these lawsuits will tie up valuable dollars of Fish and Game departments in their efforts to fight them. These dollars will come out of the pockets of hunters and will be spent on lawyers and court costs rather than hunter access programs and wildlife management.
The anti-hunting movement-like gun prohibition- has enjoyed great success overseas. American sportsmen should take note of the success of these extremists in Great Britain, where centuries of tradition were uprooted when fox hunting was banned by Parliament in 2004. No sooner had the ban been put in effect than the anti-hunters announced that pheasant hunting was next on their list. Just as anti-gunners have used the success of anti-gun movements in Canada, Australia and the England, to legitimize their positions, the animal "rights" extremists view the United States as their next battleground.
For sportsmen who believe that the anti-hunters will be placated by the elimination of less popular types of hunting, just look to New Jersey. Emboldened by their successful opposition to the 2004 black bear hunt, New Jersey activists have formed a new organization-The Animal Protection Political Action Committee. The Director of the new groups calls it "the command base for the coming struggle against hunting" and has set a total ban on hunting as his priority.
With new groups forming, existing groups combining forces and a host of activist judges waiting to enforce their opinions rather than the law, the threat to America`s hunting tradition has never been greater. Just as the gun ban groups have tried to divide and conquer by targeting certain types of guns and gun owners, the hunt ban groups will target specific forms of hunting and attempt to whittle away at our hunting heritage one step at a time. Now is the time for hunters to stand together and protect our heritage.