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Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical

This summer USAToday ran a feature on the trophy hunting of a giraffe and the intense backlash against the hunter responsible for it. As people become more educated and anti-sport hunting sentiment grows, there is similar support for bills against wildlife killing “contests,” as have been enacted in New Mexico, California and Vermont. We are calling on Westchester County and New York state to follow suit and pass bills A00722/S04253 to ban them in our beautiful state.

These contests fly in the face of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s purported “sound wildlife management science,” showing it for the lie it is. Indeed, such a random, mindless slaughter of wildlife affects everything surrounding them, such as other animals, plants and trees. It directly harms the natural environment — already negatively affected due to our urban sprawl — by causing a disruption in the food chain and undoing natural predation and wildlife population growth.

Animals are sentient, intelligent beings. Killing living beings for prizes would be considered abnormal, unstable social behavior in a psychiatric nomenclature; these activities are legal due to the hunter-staffed DEC, which was created by and for hunters almost 100 years ago.

Contests include killing crows and squirrels, urging children to join. The animals they target are intelligent, sentient and love their babies. Crows have been shown to make ingenious tools from multiple objects that are individually useless; they generously call their friends when they find food. Squirrels remember where their food is even after two years — and “fake” bury food to deceive onlookers. They express emotions through their tails and cuddle their infants as we do.

Westchester, too, has entered the killing contest realm by instituting a lottery to slaughter deer in our public parks. In the short story classic “The Lottery,” a town excitedly chooses which resident will be slaughtered via lottery; how is this practice in Westchester different? Westchester should be better than this, should be the leader in joining the humane community.

Even hunters condemn killing contests. Jim Posewitz, founder of the Hunter’s Institute, states, “I don’t think any form of hunting should be competitive.” Ed Nuse, former executive director of International Hunter Education Program, said, “We don’t like anything that smacks of commercialization with money and prizes. These contests create very poor PR for hunters.”

Fishing contests are exempt.

The world is changing: It’s time to examine our need to feel superior to others in this cruel fashion. We’d never hold killing contests for dogs and cats — what’s the difference? Killing contests incentivize the lowest form of human nature. Children should be taught to respect the planet’s inhabitants, not act violently toward innocent beings to win a prize. Let New York state be known, not for the amount of wildlife we brag about killing for kicks, but for treating all its inhabitants ethically — and not just those who look like us.

Kiley Blackman is founder of the Animal Defenders of Westchester.

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