How killing wild animals became a game in the US

Not all hunters approve of this system. “It’s not hunting,” says Robert Brown, a member of the ethics committee of the Boone and Crockett Club, a non-profit organization founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt and other hunters to protect wildlife resources. “It’s just shooting. Moreover, according to him, the tricks commonly used in beauty pageants are “unethical”. They give the hunter an unfair advantage.”

In February 2020, an undercover Humane Society investigator visited a Sullivan County coyote hunt and reported finding dead coyotes in a barracks dumpster, including a large female expecting cubs.

After these surveys and release in 2021. Wild Animal Killing Competitions, a documentary about it by National Geographic researcher Philippe DeAndrade, participants became extremely suspicious of covert activists lurking in the crowd. Some of the hunters I meet wonder if I’m a “real” journalist who actually writes for National Geography. At the firehouse, a man told me bluntly that I was probably working undercover for the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Carl Lindsley, the administrator of the Hunters’ Federation, was initially suspicious, but agreed to invite me to the competition because he felt I genuinely wanted to hear the hunters’ point of view. He recalls an activist who infiltrated an event in 2020. “Some people are upset by the idea of ​​killing coyotes,” he says, sitting on a folding chair in the barracks. But what this activist didn’t know is that most of the coyotes in the dumpster have been picked up by a local fur manufacturer who skins them and sells their fur coats (for about $25 each, or about $24) as well as their skulls online. buyers. , he adds.

In addition, he explains that the competition raises significant funds for outdoor programs for children and their families, as well as for habitat restoration. “If all we did was sit around and brag about how many coyotes we have and how much money we have, this contest would be pointless,” says Lindsley, who retired in 2016 after 48 years in the conservation industry. wildlife in the New York Preserve. State Department of Environmental Protection. “In fact, if we don’t catch coyotes, I’m glad we can leave more money for our programs. He says it would be nice if people bought tickets just to eat at the banquet, but he admits that most come for the game and prizes.

Most wild animal slaughter competitions are not fundraisers. Their only purpose is sports. Hunters defend these competitions, online or in person, arguing that the participants are not breaking any laws: it is perfectly legal to kill many predatory species, including foxes, bobcats and coyotes, often without restrictions. And, in their opinion, if it is legal to kill them, then what is wrong with organizing hunting competitions? The coyote “will end up underground anyway,” the hunter writes on Facebook.

ENVIRONMENTAL ARGUMENT

“The antis don’t understand that we are actually helping nature,” says Kautz. There are a lot of coyotes, and they eat everything: big cats, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, which will unbalance ecosystems, the deputy sheriff adds. They also attack pets and livestock, and more recently several mother sheep. “This is the first time this has happened, but probably not the last time,” he said. “I think the coyote population has increased a bit. »

“Coyotes need to be controlled,” agrees John Van Etten, president of the sports federation, as they warm up in the firehouse, where members chat and admire the catch of other candidates listed by hunter name and coyote weight. , on giant sheets of white paper covering cork boards. “Hunters play that role.” Otherwise, he says, coyotes will suffer from diseases like scabies, a skin disease caused by mites, or starve.

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