Vermont — our “brave little state” — has been a leader on so many fronts, unafraid to challenge certain “traditions.” Most notably, Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery back in 1777. In our own time, Vermont was the first state to introduce civil unions 10 years ago.
Despite the opposition of many Vermont residents, certain “traditions” still get a free pass, most particularly, cruel traditions that harm and kill nonhuman animals. Trapping, involving the use of leg hold, drowning and body crushing “kill” traps, is a dangerous tradition that inflicts prolonged suffering upon not only the targeted animal, including bobcats and otters, but also unintended animals such as owls and eagles, and even our cats and dogs. Another tradition that is rooted in abject cruelty to animals is the use of powerful, radio-collared hounds that are used as weapons to run down and maul bears, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats and other animals. This is nothing less than legalized animal fighting — all in the name of recreation and tradition.
Vermont has a proud hunting tradition where ethical hunters kill deer for food, but the integrity of that tradition is put at risk when unethical hunting practices get lumped into the same category. We need courageous, compassionate leaders who are ready to take on state-sanctioned cruelty to wildlife and to elevate Vermont’s image and protect its heritage. Sadly, the very state agency, Fish & Wildlife, that is tasked with “conserving” wildlife for all Vermonters, panders to trappers and bear hound hunters. They endorse wasteful and vicious killing practices, including the wanton waste of coyotes who are killed and left in the woods to rot where their lives were snuffed out simply for fun.
I am immensely proud of the thousands of Protect Our Wildlife supporters who mobilized in 2018 to get Fish & Wildlife-sanctioned coyote-killing contests banned in which hunters were awarded prizes for killing the largest coyote, the most coyotes, etc. But there is still so much work to be done. For example, did you know crow shooting contests are still legal here? Did you know it’s legal to bait and kill coyotes, night and day, and nail their lifeless bodies to a tree, as witnessed last year in Worcester?
We are losing wildlife at an alarming rate across our nation and across the globe. We cannot carry on with “business as usual” and continue to support policies that only serve very narrow but powerful special interests. If folks are interested in learning more about what I’ve referred to here, I recommend visiting the Protect Our Wildlife website. The photos and videos of injured, frightened animals languishing in leg hold traps or coyotes being mauled by packs of frenzied hounds, all in the name of “tradition” and “recreation,” communicate everything you need to know. My words will never properly convey the cruelty, but these images will. Ask those running for office this year if they will be a voice for wildlife. The time is past due.
Brenna Galdenzi is Protect Our Wildlife president and lives in Stowe.