Earlier this year, I wrote an enthusiastic column about the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014,” which had just been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Among other things, this bill’s provisions included a clarification of the Toxic Substances Control Act to prohibit unwarranted curtailment of the use of lead in fishing tackle or ammunition, an amendment to the Pittman-Robertson Act to allocate more funds to shooting ranges, a requirement that federal land managers consider how their plans would impact recreational hunting and fishing and a clearly worded mandate requiring the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to keep their lands open to hunting, fishing and shooting.
After describing the bill far more thoroughly than space permits today, I walked out on what at the time appeared to be a very sturdy limb and predicted that it would become law in near record time. I apologize to all of you for being so naive. I neglected to notice that while the bill had bipartisan cosponsors, it was officially introduced by a Democrat. When the time came to invoke cloture, a parliamentary move that ends debate so a vote can be taken, the motion to do so was defeated on a strict party line vote, effectively killing it for this session.
Closer to home, for reasons totally incomprehensible in any version of the real world, Missouri’s legislature passed HB506, which transfers the legal authority to regulate “captive” deer being held on game farms and private shooting preserves from the Missouri Department of Conservation to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The bill is the brainchild of what I’m confident is a small minority of the owners of these facilities who want to block the MDC’s efforts to control the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD.)
CWD poses the worst threat that Missouri’s wild whitetail deer have ever faced. If the MDC is not allowed to take every necessary step to prevent its spread to the wild from infected captive deer, the impact on the state’s $1 billion per year deer hunting industry will be devastating.
The MDA agrees and opposed the new bill on the grounds that it isn’t equipped to deal with the problem. Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed this bill, but he’s a Democrat, and the legislature is controlled by a veto-proof Republican majority. It’s absolutely imperative that every Missouri citizen who hunts deer, who likes to watch deer or who is concerned about the health and well-being of wild deer contact his or her legislators and insist that Gov. Nixon’s veto be allowed to stand.
As of this writing, the Missouri state constitutional amendment known as “Right to Farm” passed by a razor thin margin of approximately 2,500 votes, and its opponents were pondering a request for a recount. I voted for the amendment at the request of several friends who farm, but I didn’t (and still don’t) know specifically how its passage might benefit outdoor recreation. That said, I’m totally convinced that any legislation the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is willing to spend millions of dollars to defeat would have strengthened the ability of Missourians to make common sense decisions regarding both domestic and wild animals.
It’s impossible to overstate the danger HSUS poses not just to hunting and fishing but also to pet ownership and a number of nonconsumptive human interactions with animals. Rather than being reduced by repeated failures at the national level, the organization’s potency increased when it decided to wage war on a state by state and issue by issue basis.
With the U.S. Congress’s failure to pass the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, it’s certain that HSUS will ramp up its efforts to ban the use of lead in fishing weights and lures on the grounds that water birds might consume them. This possibility has been studied extensively by professional biologists throughout North America, and with a single outdated exception that dealt with a small number of a single species, every study has found that lead fishing weights pose no threat to any species of water bird. Ridiculous, you say. Not really. HSUS has been successful in getting lead fishing tackle banned in a few eastern states.
But as much as I disagree with HSUS’s goals, I’m more repulsed by its deceptive tactics. Both its name and much of its advertising are deliberate attempts to raise funds from people who think their donations will be used to provide direct aid to abandoned or abused pets like local shelters do. Hidden deep within its website is an admission that HSUS neither operates nor provides financial assistance to provide shelter or any other tangible benefit to individual animals. Instead, after paying its well above average “administrative costs,” all remaining funds donated to HSUS are used to fund its efforts to enact or defeat legislation.