December 3, 2022

Ideology And Dismissing Our Rights

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Bill Schneider of New West has an “opinion” piece in the January 25, 2007 edition online. It is published as an article but more accurately should be an op-ed. The basis of his piece deals with the oddities of three groups mired in a debate over elk farming and hunting on elk ranches in Idaho. I’m not here to convince Mr. Schneider that elk farming is safe and that hunting on ranches is ethical. What I would like to do is clear up some things he presented as fact and ask some questions about issues he touches on.

The first part of his writing addresses the issue of the Humane Society of the United States teaming up with the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council during an event in Boise called Camo Day. It is fact that the Idaho Humane Society posted a link in the right-hand side bar of their website to an advertisement page that declared that HSUS had teamed up with ISCAC for Camo Day.

It is also fact that the advertisement page was located on the HSUS’ website with contact information to members of HSUS. Schneider wrote in one of his columns after Camo Day that ISCAC denied that they had teamed up with HSUS but offered no proof. My efforts to contact someone at HSUS to get their side of the story have proven fruitless.

At this time we only have he said she said unless Mr. Schneider has information he is not sharing. It would be only reasonable to expect anyone who saw a full page advertisement declaring the joint effort of ISCAC and HSUS to fight elk farming and ranch hunting as a legitimate collaboration, do become defensive and fight back. Schneider says that once ISCAC denied they teamed up effort, HSUS pulled the ad.

This grew out of an unauthorized notice posted on the HSUS website saying the animal rights group and ISCAC were “teaming up” to fight for a ban on canned hunts. Officers of the two groups did have a conversation, but there was no formal “teaming up,” and ISCAC has asked HSUS for a retraction. Since the article, the notice has disappeared from the Idaho Human Society website.

The notice did disappear but in all fairness, Camo Day was past history. We don’t know if HSUS pulled the ad because they were found out they did an improper thing or pulled because the event was over.

Schneider then goes on to make a statement that makes one question where he got his facts.

This “misunderstanding” says something really bad about game farming and canned hunts. Lost in the debate was the fact that both the people who loathe hunting and people who live to hunt want exactly the same thing–a sudden and complete end to canned hunts, the embarrassing practice of shooting domestic elk and other wildlife in high-fence enclosures. Instead of fighting each other over the merits of hunting, the two normally polarized groups are working, albeit separately, for the same goal. Before going to the next paragraph, think about that for a minute.

This should send Idaho legislators a strong message that quite a large majority of their constituents disapprove of game farming and especially canned hunts, which occur on most of them.

If the writer is referring to those who “live to hunt” as the few members of ISCAC actively fighting the elk industry, then perhaps he is right. They do want the same thing. But I believe by looking at further statements he is assuming more than that. He says that legislators should realize a “large majority of their constituents disapprove of game farming”. I would be curious to know where he gets that data. He also claims that “canned hunts, which occur on most of them”, stating that most of the near 80 elk farms offer canned hunting. According to all accounts I’ve read and information posted on the Idaho Elk Breeders Association website, there are only about a dozen.

We have a total of 77 elk ranches here in our fine state. 55 of those ranches produce meats, velvet antler, horns for various uses. The other 12 ranches offer unique harvesting experiences for those who are not otherwise able to do so in the wild.

The remainder of Schneider’s article spews forth ideology about how the lion and the lamb should lay down together in perfect harmony to accomplish all the similar goals that the two groups, HSUS and ISCAC, have with no thought or consideration about the rights of elk farmers.

Schneider revisits the past and tells us that what he’s learned over the years is that these animal rights groups are our friends and they really only want the same thing hunters do.

This affair also brought back a little nostalgia for me. I’ve been writing about outdoor issues, including hunting, since the early 1970s. The first article I ever sold to a magazine was about the rapidly growing anti-hunting movement and the threat it posed to legitimate sport hunting. After several more articles and many more years, I have gotten over my fear that animal rightists will put an end to the sport of hunting.

Now, I believe it would be so much better for both groups to set the emotional issue of hunting aside and work together on many common goals, like an end to game farming and canned hunts, but that is hardly the only slice of common ground. Both groups enjoy viewing nongame wildlife, for example, and can collaborate on wildlife watching and habitat protection that always benefits all wildlife, not only charismatic game animals. Both hunters and nonhunters, including anti-hunters, want our roadless lands to remain roadless, so why not work together toward this goal instead of hating each other because of our theosophical divide over hunting? Both groups would benefit from wildland preservation, but you rarely see any collaboration because of precisely what happened in the ISCAC/HSUS tryst. Somebody stands up and says they can’t stomach jumping in bed with the devil, and the promise of mutual benefit quickly disappears.

It’s nice to have such sweet dreams but that doesn’t accomplish much when you must wake up and live in the real world. Dealing with groups like HSUS reminds of the time once as a young boy I was asked if I wanted to hand feed a very hungry cat. Giving the cat the first bite wasn’t too bad. I thought it was cool and the cat took the bit and almost instantly swallowed it, returning for more. I couldn’t get the next chunk of food ready and into my hand quickly enough and the cat latched onto my hand with its mouth and scratched my arm from elbow to wrist drawing blood. Needless to say, I had no more interest in feeding hungry cats.

The issue in Idaho about elk farming, as I’ve said countless times before, is a rights issue and an ethics issue. Those opposed to elk farming have tried to present a picture of the industry being a threat to the safety of the wild elk herd and perhaps other wild animals. The elk industry has shown factually that there is no disease nor any cross-breeding that poses any threat to the wild herd. When members of the elk industry exposed the fact that they found a full-page ad on HSUS website declaring partnership with ISCAC, their attempt was to further expose the few members of ISCAC who are fighting against elk farming.

Can we blame them. Their industry involves a lot of people, families, jobs and brings valuable dollars into the state’s economy as well as providing a needed food supply. When hunters feel threatened because anti-hunting groups want to shut them down, they fight back. The elk industry is fighting back. They are fighting for their rights, their livelihoods.

I would be the first to stand up and shout to shut down an industry that was a real threat to our wildlife. I would hope that part of an agreement that would be done in this debate should the elk industry be given a green light, is that a plan be drawn up to deal with all “what if” situations. The elk industry, in working with the Department of Agriculture, has shown to be doing a pretty good job. Instead of shutting the industry down, let’s make it the best it can be.

The legislature needs to know that the majority of Idaho citizens want what is right. They want assurances that the elk industry is safe and well regulated, they want assurances that this industry will not pose real threats to its wildlife, they want to be secure knowing that their property and individual rights aren’t being infringed upon and that government isn’t forcing its moral land ethical values on the masses. I believe that’s what Idaho wants.

Tom Remington