At a major intersection in my Denver neighborhood, this large billboard shows a deer and a hunter in an embrace. The caption has the deer saying “Thanks hunter, for making sure my home isn’t turned into a mall.” Really?
The billboard is part of an extensive advertising campaign by The Wildlife Council here in Colorado to convince the public that hunters and anglers care about preserving wildlife. Then why are they systematically killing them by hunting and fishing? If you cared about a group of animals, would you want to kill them? Especially since you are not starving and have no need to eat their flesh?
The billboard bizarrely attributes to deer an affection for their killers. Are we to believe that deer are victims of “Stockholm syndrome,” the psychological phenomenon in which sufferers develop an unhealthy positive attachment to their abusers? Victims come to accept the abuser’s lies and rationalizations for his or her bad behavior.
Hunters will often say that hunting is necessary because when deer herds become too large, a death by killing is more humane than a death by starvation. But let’s be rational here: how does it happen that herds become larger than their environment can support? Because their natural predators have been removed. Who has been the greatest killer of predators? USDA Wildlife Services, a federal program that kills native predators with traps, snares, poisons, gas, and aerial gunning at the request of corporate agriculture and the hunting lobby. They slaughter millions of wild animals a year with taxpayer dollars, including over 100,000 vital native predators like wolves, cougars, coyotes and bears. The agency has refused Congressional requests for transparency and has refused to account for their spending.
But back to the billboard. A quick look at The Wildlife Council’s website hugahunter.com discloses that of its nine-member board, four represent those who directly kill wildlife, namely hunters and anglers. A fifth is a representative of the livestock industry, in whose interest millions of predators are killed every year by USDA Wildlife Services, setting up the conditions for over-large deer herds. It is also because of the livestock industry that so much land that would otherwise be wildlife habitat is now used for ranching. Two more board members represent counties or towns that receive substantial revenue from hunting and fishing.
Does it sound like The Wildlife Council cares about wildlife? Token efforts to protect a few wildlife species are entirely unconvincing. The image of the fox guarding the henhouse comes to mind–of course the fox wants healthy hens in the henhouse so he or she can kill them as desired. At least the fox actually needs the food.
The answer to having large expanses of land for wildlife, in order to have maximum biodiversity and to approach some sort of prey/predator balance without human intervention, is to drastically reduce the amount of land needed for agriculture. How do we do that? Simple: go vegan.