By Kathleen Parker Opinion writer for the Washington Post:
If politicians preying upon your attentions this season fail to inspire, you might seek common cause with the beasts — the four-legged variety rather than those running for office.
Ballot initiatives aimed at protecting bears and wolves from hounding, trapping and other inhumane hunting practices are up for a vote in two states — Maine and Michigan.
Oh, be still thy twitching trigger finger. This isn’t an anti-hunting column; it’s a pro-humanity column. Ours. And the referendums, driven by the Humane Society of the United States, are aimed only at minimizing animal suffering and restoring a measure of decency and fair play in our dealings with creatures.
First the bears. Maine is the only state that still allows bear baiting, hounding and trapping. More than half of the 32 states with legal bear hunting allow hounding, a dozen allow baiting, and only Maine allows trapping for sport.
For clarification, hounding refers to the use of dogs that have been trained to chase bears relentlessly and then to corner or fight the poor beast. The bears have no choice but to turn to face a murderous pack or, exhausted, escape up a tree.
That’s when the hunter, who, thanks to electronic tracking equipment, has been able to follow at a leisurely pace and safe distance, points his rifle and shoots the bear from a tree limb. Frances Macomber, the cowardly hunter of Hemingway’s short, unhappy story, looks like a Maasai warrior by comparison.
Baiting means that a hunting guide strews rotting food in the woods and places a 55-gallon drum filled with jelly doughnuts, pizza, grease, fish guts and rotting beaver carcasses in a target spot. The “hunter,” who likely has paid a fee to the “guide” for a “guaranteed kill,” is provided a comfy seat to wait for the bear. Bam!
It’s ironic — or something — that the same state fish and wildlife agency folks who post signs warning tourists not to feed the bears will allow other tourists to feed them for about $2,000 to $4,000 a pop. New signage might read: Kill what you feed.
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