Sunday, March 26, 2023

Strength in numbers

by Warren Illi
| February 17, 2022 12:00 AM

Is the end of all hunting, fishing and trapping in sight?

A few weeks ago, I received information from the Sportsmen’s Alliance, that there are efforts to eliminate all hunting, fishing and trapping in some states. Not only is hunting and fishing being threatened, some proposals by animal rights organizations also propose to end human production and human consumption of all animals and fish. That means no more juicy beef steaks, hamburgers, barbecue ribs or hot dogs. Is that possible?

Unfortunately, yes, with a capital Y. Guess our diets would consist of just plant products. I like a good salad, but no hamburgers or steaks. Yuck! You might not even be able to trap an unwanted mouse in your house.

As an avid hunter and fisherman, I belong to several hunting and fishing organizations. Frequently, going on a hunting or a fishing trip is a one-person or small-group adventure. But this lack of being part of a large group activity creates a danger that threatens our beloved sport of hunting and fishing. This “loner” type of attitude by many hunters and fishermen leads to a danger that well-organized and well-funded, anti-hunting, fishing and trapping organizations will be successful to limit or ban our sport.

Think that can’t happen, don’t fool yourself.

There are well-funded animal rights groups that are dedicated to not just ending hunting and fishing, but all human production and use of animals.

In Oregon, a group called End Animal Cruelty, is preparing a citizens ballot, Initiative Petition 13, which would prohibit the injuring and killing of any mammal, fish, reptile or amphibian unless it was necessary for human self-defense. It is my understanding that this ballot initiative has been reviewed and approved by a state review agency and is now in the process of gathering the necessary number of voter signatures to appear on the fall of 2022 Oregon election ballot.

A similar ballot initiative is gathering steam in Colorado.

Think that can’t happen in Montana? Just a few years ago, a statewide citizen’s ballot initiative tried to ban all animal trapping. It was voted down, but gathered a surprising number of Montana citizen votes.

That citizen’s initiative was strongly opposed by hunters and fishermen who helped vote down this anti-trapping initiative. Hunters knew that if trapping were banned, that hunting was next on the animal-rights agenda. Montana trappers are much fewer in number than hunters, so they seemed like an easier animal rights goal to achieve.

The number of anti-hunting, anti-trapping and anti-fishing groups are endless. A Montana group called, Foot Loose Montana, testified at the recent FWP Commission hearing on setting 2022 hunting regulations.

I recently completed reading a book about the beginning of our Revolutionary War and the development of our democracy. In that book, revolutionary leaders apparently struggled with what they referred to as the “tyranny of the public.”

In that situation, small states were afraid that large or well populated states would impose unfair penalties on the small states, so they instituted a two chamber Congress. One chamber was the House of Representative that represented states based on the number of citizens. To counter balance the House of Representatives, the Senate was established to give some balance to the small or sparsely populated states. Every state, regardless of geographic size or population, has an equal number of senators. This would help neutralize the possibility of a tyranny of the majority.

As America becomes more urbanized, the numbers of hunters and fisherman not only dwindles, but becomes an even smaller fraction of our total population. We must be well-organized to safeguard our accepted right to hunt and fish. So how can we, as individual hunters, anglers and trappers ensure our sport is not voted out of existence?

I think it is impossible for any one hunter or angler or trapper to keep track of all animal rights activities. So, we need to belong to hunting, fishing and trapping organizations. Our collective dues can hire full-time staff members to track and alert membership on what the anti’s are doing and proposing. There is strength in numbers.

I belong to a local sportsmen club, Flathead Wildlife, Inc and the Flathead Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited. Don’t let the name walleyes fool you. They, or we, are not just about walleyes, but very pro-fishing in general. We have members that fish 150-200 days a year. Each of these two organizations belong to statewide organizations.

I also belong to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation and Pheasants Forever. All of these groups have full time staff that track and follow state and federal legislation, and the efforts of the animal rights groups.

I encourage you to join these sporting groups in order to protect our treasured traditions of hunting, fishing and trapping.

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