In recent days there has been much noise on this blog from certain visitors who are opposed to an anti-trapping ballot measure, I-169. In response to my article from two days ago describing some of the tactics and issues surrounding this proposal, pro-trapping activists expressed outrage at what they perceive to be false charges or bad information. But none of it was inaccurate. To them, I suggest they review facts. I’ll do so here.
First, the two main pro-trapping groups in Montana are the subject of a complaint that was filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices and is now being investigated. If the complaint is accurate, it would mean that the pro-trapping group has misused $25,000 in auction funds that it raised under false pretenses. These funds were raised for the stated purpose of ballot measure advocacy, according to those promoting it, and yet the monies are absent from group’s financial report. Hopefully the commissioner will determine the truth of the matter.
Second, Jason Maxwell, a leading pro-trapping advocate, has been using a state vehicle, a trailer with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks logo on it, to campaign with a traveling exhibit in favor of trapping and against the anti-trapping ballot measure. I am virtually certain that FWP does not approve of Mr. Maxwell using the vehicle to do so, even though, as Mr. Maxwell has claimed on this blog, he supposedly co-owns the vehicle with the state. State equipment cannot be used for political activity and it’s hard to believe that some sort of co-ownership would change this, and especially if he has been advised by FWP that he should not be using the vehicle for such purposes. I have asked Mr. Maxwell whether he has in fact been given permission to use the trailer for political activity, and by whom; he has not responded to that question. Instead, he has only stated “Why would I need permission or approval to use a trailer owned by us?”
Nobody is saying that Mr. Maxwell should go to jail or be fined. But FWP should not be in the business of lending its logo or any other resources in opposition to or support of a ballot measure.
Third, the Missoula Food Bank did indeed notify trapping advocates to tell them to stop claiming that the Food Bank is a supporter of their work. The Food Bank strongly and clearly informed the Trappers that they want nothing to do with their pro-trapping advocacy. I printed the letter here on the blog.
Fourth, to a minor point raised here by a commenter yesterday: when an advocacy group uses photos on its website and social media accounts for political activity, those photos may be fairly used by opponents, just as Steve Daines uses photos from the John Walsh website, or vice versa.
Fifth, let’s all remember the central point: the type of trapping advocated by pro-trapping groups, and which I-169 would make illegal, is a horrid practice which results in the animal’s leg being crushed and the creature left to lie in agony for days before dying. It is cruel and barbaric. And yes, such traps also frequently ensnare and torture animals such as dogs as well as endangered species such as lynx, despite the idiotic protestations by certain commenters here who apparently believe that dogs don’t get caught in animal traps. Here is a sad story from Missoula about a man’s dog.
And no, the fault does not lie, as Dave Skinner and others are saying lately on this blog, with dog owners for wanting to give their pet the ability to run around in the woods while the owner hikes along. The woods should be trap free, by law.
And finally, it is not a defense to trapping to say that it “is a Montana heritage.” Hunting is an age old practice and is a heritage, but it has merit and is actually a more humane way to get meat than by going to the grocery store, where we buy carcasses of animals who lived short and miserable lives in a factory setting. On the other hand, trappers trap to make money or collect pelts as entertainment. Given what the animal must endure, that’s not a sufficient justification.
Finally, many of you will be encouraged to know that each year this anti-trapping effort builds new momentum and two years from now this same ballot measure–which had a volunteer-driven signature gathering effort in 2014–is expected to be back again with strong, carefully-crafted and vetted language, and more funding. Let’s hope that it eventually prevails.