The thin young beagle was dodging traffic on a Virginia highway when two fieldworkers with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals spotted him. They were barely out of their car before the friendly pup was jumping up on them. His collar had no name but it did have a phone number, so they took him to PETA’s Norfolk headquarters for food and to get cleaned up while they got in touch with his owner.
As soon as the call went through, it became clear how this gentle dog ended up alone on the side of the road: He had been used for hunting. Countless dogs used by hunters become lost or are abandoned at the end of the season or when they refuse to obey, a common practice known as “hound dumping.”
The beagle’s owner didn’t want him back — he hadn’t even bothered to give him a name — but he was willing to drive the hour and a half to the office to retrieve his tracking collar. He got the collar, but Augie got a new name and a new family.
Working for an animal advocacy organization, you never know what the day will bring. All you know for certain is that it’s your job to help the animals others have failed. That often means cleaning up after some of the same people who claim to respect them: hunters.
PETA has rescued deer suffering from injuries after being shot by hunters and then lost, another common occurrence. Separate studies by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and a member of the Maine BowHunters Alliance found that the “wound rate” for bowhunting exceeds 50%, meaning that for every deer killed by a bowhunter, at least one more escapes injured.
PETA has pushed authorities to prosecute hunters who post videos showing cruelty to animals, like the recent deer-torture case in Pennsylvania, and pressed for charges against the bowhunter who started the devastating California Rim fire, which killed countless animals, including birds, foxes, mice, deer, squirrels, coyotes, bears and even cows and horses. PETA has persuaded more than 40 airlines to stop shipping trophy hunters’ macabre souvenirs. And the list goes on.
Witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by hunters makes it all the more challenging to stomach their worn-out excuses for blasting animals full of bullets and arrows.
One tired refrain is that of “managing populations.” But hunters know full well that their “managing” isn’t to reduce deer populations (after a hunt, the ensuing spike in food availability encourages breeding and results in more twins) but rather to kill off wolves, coyotes and other animals who keep populations in check naturally in order to ensure that hunters will have plenty of living targets. That’s why you can’t shoot a doe in breeding season. Hunters want her to deliver more deer for them to gun down.
“Funding conservation” is another popular chorus, but the facts don’t support that claim. Most federal wildlife management and conservation programs are funded from general tax revenue, such as personal and corporate income taxes, with about 95% of federal, 88% of nonprofit and 94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management derived from the nonhunting public.
Those who kill animals for fun also boast about “preventing starvation,” but here again, the opposite is true. A veterinarian concluded that “starvation is a likely fate” for many animals hunters injure, and when they kill the largest and strongest members of a herd or pack, the young, old and sick have a harder time finding sufficient food.
Regardless of what flimsy justifications hunters use to defend the indefensible, true wildlife advocates don’t turn animals’ forest homes into war zones, and they don’t delight in a pastime steeped in pain and misery.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michelle Kretzer is a senior writer covering hunting and wildlife issues for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.