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What State Wildlife Managers Don't Want You to Know
Philosophy and Money, Not Science, is Secret Motive for Goose Killings
Every state has a wildlife agency. Sometimes they have obvious names such as the, "Department of Fish and Game" or the "Department of Wildlife and Fisheries." In some states, these agencies are part of a larger government entity such as the "Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)," or the "Department of Natural Resources (DNR)." Regardless of the name the agency uses or how geographically different one may be from another, all share a remarkably aligned belief system that they use to make policy, address wildlife conflicts and ultimately advance their primary mission.
While not advertised as such to the general public, the central goal of these agencies is to promote, manage and expand the killing of wildlife for "recreational" purposes. Despite widely held misconceptions, it's not that killing wildlife is a necessary form of management and that hunting is just a way to get the job done conveniently; it's about money - the fiscal survival of wildlife agencies. Since hunting license fees are used directly to pay wildlife managers' salaries, when wildlife managers argue that hunting is needed, they are not making a statement of biological fact; they are acting in their own self-interest.
But the economic stakes are even higher and more insidious than this. Each state wildlife agency competes with other states for a portion of federal funds based on a formula that relies on the number of hunting licenses they sell (Pittman-Robertson Act). The more licenses they sell, the bigger their slice of the money pie. In addition to the economic motive, there is a conflict of interest involving the managers themselves.
With few exceptions, wildlife managers are (or were) hunters. They possess a strong drive to defend their anachronistic killing fetish from a world where hunting is increasingly irrelevant and viewed as brutish depravity. The non-hunting majority are justified in being uneasy about the legitimacy of this trigger-happy "fox in charge of the henhouse" system.
Faced with a wildlife controversy and various wildlife management options, the bias of these agencies typically rears its ugly head in the form of a call for more hunting. Given the context described above, this outcome is a no-brainer. The dogma is often carried to absurd heights when, for example, wildlife managers assert that high wildlife populations are due to a "lack of hunting." They never let on that their agency intentionally bolsters wildlife populations (through habitat manipulation, gender-selective hunts, etc.) to create and optimize hunting "opportunities."
One might wonder, what does hunting have to do with the barbaric and obscenely cruel practice of live-capturing Canada geese and sending them to a slaughterhouse? Why do state wildlife agencies approve permits to do this and sometimes engage in the practice themselves? Why do they intensely oppose non-lethal control programs in the face a growing number of examples where these programs are effective? The answers to these questions can be traced to a single explanation, one that has nothing to do with sensible goose management and everything to do with the survival of hunting - their economic lifeblood.
When the public challenges lethal means of wildlife control, such as Canada goose roundups/slaughters, the public is actually challenging the entire premise (myth) upon which modern hunting is tolerated by society - that is, the belief that killing is necessary. Such challenges go for the very jugular of state wildlife agencies.
The public, hunters and the media have been duped by wildlife agencies into thinking that hunting is a necessary "wildlife management tool." In truth, wildlife is managed FOR hunting and the agency-sustaining revenues it generates, NOT the other way around. The public has been programmed by these agencies with the help of a passive media into accepting hunting as a regrettable, but necessary, evil. Hunters rely on a related justification system that embraces oxymoronic concepts, including the notion that killing wildlife with weaponry is for its own good. State wildlife managers have taught hunters to feel that their recreational killing is actually serving an important function. What they don't tell hunters is that this function is to pay their salaries.
The roundup and slaughter of geese typically comes with an associated publicity ploy: An attempt is made to feed the dead geese to the needy (despite potential contamination from environmental toxins, such as lawn chemicals). This is merely an opportunity to advance the bizarre moral logic of the hunting cult even further.
Hunters often justify their acts of recreational killing by saying that they "eat everything they kill." While this is probably an exaggeration, they are unable to explain why the act of killing for "sport" is made right by ingesting their victims. Along similar lines, feeding dead geese to the needy - an act that might be seen as charitable by the ethically challenged - does not add legitimacy to killing programs nor does it make them effective. In fact, using the needy to advance the wildlife killing agenda is socio-economic discrimination. These schemes are an opportunity for the wildlife management establishment to reinforce the acceptableness of eating "wild game" and by implication, hunting. If hunters want to risk their health by eating from an unregulated food source, that's one thing, but to force this flesh onto the most vulnerable in society is unethical.
The Bottom Line
Wildlife managers are terrified of the potential impact that non-lethal wildlife control will have on their ability to justify hunting. As a result, they adamantly suppress or discourage the use of these methods while facilitating and arguing in favor of the necessity of killing programs, regardless of what form they take or how little sense they make or who they will harm.
Wildlife managers are afraid, and rightly so, that biologically sound, non-lethal control programs will shatter the myths that constitute the foundation and acceptance of their lucrative hunting programs.
Copyright © 2001 Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese