The Travesty of Trapping

The in depth article by Tom Knudson, appearing April 28 in the Sacramento Bee, is a thorough and alarming expose of the government agency Wildlife Services (WS). Knudson reveals more atrocities performed by this agency than I had thought possible. Golden eagles caught in traps then shot and buried, the slaughter of female mountain lions which leaves the nursing cubs to starve, a rare wolverine shot after its foot was injured in a WS trap. All this and more, and the appalling “mistakes” are covered up.

Knudson’s article, part one in a series of three, is landmark news. It depicts Wildlife Services as they are, an agency that unnecessarily slaughters millions of animals, while keeping their activities hidden from the awareness of the American public.

On the home front, my Guest Opinion on trapping was published in the Medford Mail Tribune on Wednesday. My intention with this article was to raise awareness, as many people in our parts don’t realize that trapping still exists. Here in Ashland, we tend to take the “it’s all good” edit a bit too far and allow our heads to stay comfortably nestled in our organic, locally grown sand.

I haven’t had much input about my article but Sally Mackler of Predator Defense tells me she has had several calls about it. This is good news. We all want to be heard, but more importantly the issue of trapping desperately needs to be brought to the limelight.

Today, the Medford Mail Tribune printed a rebuttal to my article. It was titled “Trapping Can Be a Necessity.” The letter, written by a Larry Martin, identified as a farmer from Central Point, Oregon, explains that if he had not trapped the coyotes who were ravaging his chickens he would never have been able to provide eggs to the Ashland Co-op and others markets.

Yawn… Another livestock producer concerned about their inability to “feed the world’s hungry” with all the nasty lurking predators around. I find this reasoning ridiculous. I’m sure most of us would happily do with a few less eggs, a little less beef, and lot less bullshit if ranchers and farmers would learn to cope with natural predators. Besides, they aren’t being altruistic; their own financial and personal interests are the real issue.

Typically, Larry goes on to globalize regarding us “animal-rights activists,” expressing his fear that “trapping is just one piece of the extreme environmental agenda of restricting the utilization of our natural resources.” Right, Larry, we certainly have this agenda in mind, the collective ecological think tank is scheming away as we speak.

Truth is, and I’ve said this before, those who promote destruction of the environment and its species do so for their own selfish reasons. Those who support the natural world and its animals want nothing… except for the environment to be left intact.

Highlight of the Day:

Guest Opinion by Spencer Leonard of the non-profit Big Wildlife, “Science, Not Timber Interests Should Drive Bear Policy,” ran in the Medford Mail Tribune today as well, and it got top billing over the chicken farmer from Central Point.

Spencer’s letter reveals that black bears, 744 of them between 2005 and 2009, were snared and killed by (guess who) the USDA, governing agency for Wildlife Services. Seems the bears are guilty of consuming too much of the cambium layer of the Douglas fir, making the trees less valuable to the timber industry.

An animal eats trees; not humans, not cattle, not sheep, not even chickens, and it is still persecuted? I need a drink! Anyone else feeling the same frustration?

5 thoughts on “The Travesty of Trapping

  1. Beckie, thank you for helping expose the unspeakable practice of animal trapping. Your editorial was excellent and even if you didn’t’ get a lot of feedback, many people read it and you are helping create awareness.
    We appreciate your important work. Keep writing!
    We look forward to meeting you when we come to Ashland to do a
    TrapFree Oregon presentation later this year.


  2. What a sad state this ‘organisation’ (organised….?…do they qualify?) has got into, one that seeks to cultivate and culture the land and all that lives on it, is and has been, ‘found out’, not only engaging in their obscene actions, but covering them up too. How those people who have had family pets killed hold their tongue, I just do not know. I would be raising hell. I know and understand that the USA is a tough country and that different rules apply, but the killing is bad enough, the cover up is almost unforgiveable. This all reminds me of the old Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451, in which books are burned, information and imagination kept away from the common man for fear of the consequences. I actually think they live and act in fear, not from a superior and responsible position, but from a position of being bullies who pervert their responsibilities, but like all bullies, underneath, they are merely cowards, who know that if the ordinary common man were to rise up in anger against them, they will be held accountable. They act on our behalf and in our interest and at our behest and with our consent. It just needs a mobilisation, a raising of awareness to awake the sleeping giant from its slumber and right these wrongs.
    Rant over, a more cultured response you may find in the wonderful words of Wendell Berry, who gave a lecture at the Kennedy Centre in DC for the Jefferson National Endowment for the Humanities just a few days ago. It should be, as the saying goes, required reading. (Relevant excerpts only, I think, I have reproduced below). Apologies for the length of reply Beckie!

    “But land abuse cannot brighten the human prospect. There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people. When one is abused, the other suffers. The penalties may come quickly to a farmer who destroys perennial cover on a sloping field. They will come sooner or later to a land-destroying civilization such as ours………
    The problem that ought to concern us first is the fairly recent dismantling of our old understanding and acceptance of human limits. For a long time we knew that we were not, and could never be, “as gods.” We knew, or retained the capacity to learn, that our intelligence could get us into trouble that it could not get us out of. We were intelligent enough to know that our intelligence, like our world, is limited. We seem to have known and feared the possibility of irreparable damage. But beginning in science and engineering, and continuing, by imitation, into other disciplines, we have progressed to the belief that humans are intelligent enough, or soon will be, to transcend all limits and to forestall or correct all bad results of the misuse of intelligence. Upon this belief rests the further belief that we can have “economic growth” without limit………
    In 1936, moreover, only a handful of people were thinking about sustainability. Now, reasonably, many of us are thinking about it. The problem of sustainability is simple enough to state. It requires that the fertility cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay—what Albert Howard called “the Wheel of Life”—should turn continuously in place, so that the law of return is kept and nothing is wasted. For this to happen in the stewardship of humans, there must be a cultural cycle, in harmony with the fertility cycle, also continuously turning in place. The cultural cycle is an unending conversation between old people and young people, assuring the survival of local memory, which has, as long as it remains local, the greatest practical urgency and value. This is what is meant, and is all that is meant, by “sustainability.” The fertility cycle turns by the law of nature. The cultural cycle turns on affection……….
    In my reading of the historian John Lukacs, I have been most instructed by his understanding that there is no knowledge but human knowledge, that we are therefore inescapably central to our own consciousness, and that this is “a statement not of arrogance but of humility. It is yet another recognition of the inevitable limitations of mankind.” We are thus isolated within our uniquely human boundaries, which we certainly cannot transcend or escape by means of technological devices……..
    As many hunters, farmers, ecologists, and poets have understood, Nature (and here we capitalize her name) is the impartial mother of all creatures, unpredictable, never entirely revealed, not my mother or your mother, but nonetheless our mother. If we are observant and respectful of her, she gives good instruction. As Albert Howard, Wes Jackson, and others have carefully understood, she can give us the right patterns and standards for agriculture. If we ignore or offend her, she enforces her will with punishment. She is always trying to tell us that we are not so superior or independent or alone or autonomous as we may think. She tells us in the voice of Edmund Spenser that she is of all creatures “the equall mother, / And knittest each to each, as brother unto brother.” Nearly three and a half centuries later, we hear her saying about the same thing in the voice of Aldo Leopold: “In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”
    We cannot know the whole truth, which belongs to God alone, but our task nevertheless is to seek to know what is true. And if we offend gravely enough against what we know to be true, as by failing badly enough to deal affectionately and responsibly with our land and our neighbors, truth will retaliate with ugliness, poverty and disease. The crisis of this line of thought is the realization that we are at once limited and unendingly responsible for what we know and do………
    Even so, land and people have suffered together, as invariably they must. Under the rule of industrial economics, the land, our country, has been pillaged for the enrichment, supposedly, of those humans who have claimed the right to own or exploit it without limit. Of the land-community much has been consumed, much has been wasted, almost nothing has flourished.
    But this has not been inevitable. We do not have to live as if we are alone.”


  3. I much appreciate this comment, including the Wendell Barry quote. He is phenomenal, a true guiding light in the environmental struggles we face.
    The question is, what will happen now that Wildlife Services is being exposed, by Knudson’s article as well as the many other folks who are digging into this mess?
    The next step, after such an exposure, is key. Will our voices be heard, or will the industries (livestock, hunting, timber etc) that support the killing of predators continue to have more influence than ours?


  4. “ gain any sort of media attention for a social or environmental issue requires a circus, a celebrity or an act of violence. We only tried the first two and yes money really does talk. But once you get direct access to ordinary citizens, you discover that the victory of selfish consumerism is not yet complete. Despite the numbness and nihilism in our culture, there’s still an instinct for justice and proportion, a value of self-restraint, an abiding sense of the common good. I’m no Utopian, but I’ve found that deep down humans love the world that sustains them. Given honest information and a bit of respect, they will act to defend it, even for the sake of the unborn stranger…”

    Tim Winton – ‘Lands Edge’. (Highly acclaimed Australian writer who campaigned and continues to do so on behalf of environmental issues)


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