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In the middle of broad concerns about a climate crisis, can you imagine anyone wanting to deprive Vermonters of what is perhaps the least carbon-polluting and most organic food source? Wanting to force dependence on a polluting and often poisoned industrial food supply chain? Denying neighbors the health and mental benefits of their connections to the outdoors? Discriminating against what are, for many, spiritual rituals?

We keep hearing from anti-hunting activists that the general public is somehow injured by the fact that hunters, anglers and trappers harvest wildlife. I would like to see that defined. Exactly what is the injury to the general public when portions of that very public are allowed to engage in hunting, fishing and trapping?

If the injury is simply that some dislike the idea of the activities, then the conversation becomes moot. The recourse, in civil society, for disliking these activities is to simply not partake in them. Instead, what we often see is the public doxxing and virulent attacking of community members by toxic social media presences that decry hunters and others as sadistic, evil, abusive, perverse and worse. Anti-hunting organizations have on more than one occasion directed their followers to leave poor reviews on Yelp and Google for businesses they felt should be punished for the “atrocities” of supporting hunting or selling fur.

Why would we accept the idea that outdoor enthusiasts are acceptable to vilify and cancel, as some seem to believe? It’s frankly perverse and has no place in a mature discussion.

These people are not “wildlife advocates” as they try to brand themselves; they are animal rights activists, and it’s time we got that language straight. Their position isn’t rooted so much in any concern for wildlife welfare as it is in a deep-seated hatred for those of us who pursue wildlife. How do we teach our children to be kind even in disagreement if we are going to accept this behavior in public discourse?

If you want reliable information from a true wildlife advocate, go to the Fish & Wildlife Department or go find a hunter, a trapper or an angler.

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The benefits of having wildlife accessible to those who wish to enjoy pursuing and utilizing it cannot be overstated, and while we see regular opinion pieces from the acolytes of the anti-hunting groups pontificating on how they want to see this or that activity banned, here is an equally strong argument: I don’t, and I speak for a great number of people who feel the same. Hunting and trapping are good for the families who engage in them, the communities they live in, and the wildlife resource itself. The mere fact that some people simply don’t like it is the worst possible argument for doing away with the lifestyle that so many Vermonters enjoy.

Beyond the spiritual, mental and health benefits to the individual and the link to carbon reduction, hunters and trappers provide the best tool to manage our wildlife populations and work toward keeping them in balance with their habitat. Furthermore, the sporting community contributes 70 to 80 percent of our Fish & Wildlife Department’s funding, and hunting and trapping are the second largest sector of Vermont’s outdoor economy.

How would we replace all of those added values that the hunting and trapping community currently happily pays to provide the state and all of its citizens with?

We hear complaints from these radicals that too much of the Fish & Wildlife Department staff engages in these activities. One might more properly contemplate that perhaps the reason many of our wildlife specialists pursued a career in conservation was that they grew to care about the environment at a very young age through hunting, fishing or trapping.

Finally, and this is important, we hear classist statements about how only X percent of Vermonters engage in practice A or B, and therefore those folks, their pursuit of happiness and their lifestyle should be deemed irrelevant and done away with. This is abhorrent to the concept of a free society. Would we accept that type of biased dismissal of any other demographic, or are we seeking to be a more enlightened society with space for all?

The wildlife we pursue is ubiquitous and secure for all uses, so prejudiced laws that exclude citizens from hunting and trapping do not merit a moment’s discussion. This is especially true when the entire impetus is a group of activists with an ax to grind and a questionable degree of morality in how they grind it. In a time where we are striving to reach a standard of inclusivity, the only thing we should be legislating against in Vermont is hypocrisy and hate, not healthy self-sufficiency in harmony with the renewable lifecycle of nature.

Mike Covey is a a lifelong resident of Williamstown, outdoor enthusiast, and executive director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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