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If you don't kill, you don't count

Deron Overpeck
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 21, 2000
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In the past few weeks, the Arizona Senate voted to add to the November ballot a proposition to require a two-thirds vote to pass future wildlife-related referenda. Supporting legislators argue the proposition is needed to ensure "environmental extremists" aren't able to set the state's environmental policy. But in truth, the wretches in the Senate are the ones in league with extremists-"game"hunters who believe their right to kill is more important than the democratic process.

Thanks to its government, Arizona has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for hunters. The organization charged with setting wildlife policy, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, is top heavy with avid killers. Several belong to the Safari Club International, an organization devoted to shooting to death all manner of wildlife, including endangered species.

AGF commissioners also support vile contests like Predator Hunt Extreme, which awards a cash prize to the individual who kills the most coyotes, mountain lions and other animals within a set period.

Arizonans generally despise such contests, and vote to support initiatives designed to protect wildlife and what remains of the region's unique environment. To its dismay, AGF has received more than 10,000 citizen complaints about contests like Predator Hunt Extreme. In 1994, they backed a ban on trapping, and voted for a growth management plan in the last state election. Many political commentators believe an even stronger growth plan will pass when it makes the ballot, further irritating anti-environmentalists.

Big game hunters and their lackeys want to silence citizens. In order to keep the wishes of decent human beings from becoming law, they worked the Senate to ensure the passage of the supermajority proposition. They, with the support of AGF commissioners, paint as "extremists" anyone who opposes their fetish for hunting down and slaughtering animals for trophies.

Clearly, to these people citizens count only if they support hunting. Their proposition makes the votes of average citizens worth less than the votes of hunters. That the Senate would even consider such a proposal demonstrates once again that a particular ideology is more important than the rational, moral beliefs of the populace.

AGF's role, theoretically, is to manage Arizona's wildlife. Although the question of whether nature needs to be managed is debatable, the particular way AGF interprets its duties troubles any sensible person. Given the commissioners' membership in hunting clubs and attitudes towards morbid contests like the Predator Hunt, they clearly prefer slaughter as a means of keeping animal populations under control. In fact, one could reasonably believe AGF sees animals' sole purpose as to provide targets for hunters.

Note that the issue here is not killing animals for food. Most nutritional needs can be more than adequately met on a meat-free diet, but at least people who hunt for meat are doing so to fulfill universal needs. The only reason the Safari Club members and Predator Hunt Extreme participants hunt, however, is to fulfill a perverse desire to have a severed head hanging on their wall.

Most Arizonans, however, see animals as other than potential trophies. They see them as important parts of our eco-system, as creatures who deserve to exist without having some camouflage-coated jackass blasting buckshot at them. This belief does not rely on some Disney-fied version of nature that portrays an idyllic environment of friendly animals disturbed by human interference, as hunters like to claim. Nature can be violent and harsh without requiring the presence of humans looking to make it more so.

Enlightened people realize this, but evidently AGF isn't enlightened. They prefer to exist in a world where humans have the moral right to kill something for pleasure's sake. People who want to live in a more humane state, where life is respected, are "extremists" violating hunters' privileges.

A wise person once said, "A sportsman is someone who every now and then simply has to go out and kill something." Their proposal and stance of the Predator Hunt make clear that one of the things the Senate and AGF would like sportsmen to kill is the democratic process.

Deron Overpeck is a graduate student in Media Arts. He can be reached at Deron.Overpeck@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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