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“Teach your children well,

Their father’s hell did slowly go by.

And feed them on your dreams,

The one they pick, the one you’ll know by.” — Graham Nash

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife promotes recreational trapping to children.

They tell children that trapping is “a fun outdoor activity.” In their promotional video they have a young boy who says he gets a bigger adrenaline rush from trapping than he does from video games. As unbelievable as it may sound, they even tell young people trapping doesn’t hurt animals. That is at 8:48 in the video:

If you have the time to watch the entire video you may notice something interesting. Nowhere do they show a trapped animal. But the reality the Department chooses to hide is proudly and openly shared by Vermont trappers on social media. Here is one example: and

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Note: A “whacking stick” is what is used to club these animals to death. The Department sanitizes this with words like “Best Management Practices,” “regulated” and “citizen scientists.”

On April 7, I appeared before the Vermont House Environment and Energy Committee to testify about H. 191, a bill that would ban what the Department tells children is “a fun outdoor activity.” The bill would ban recreational trapping, but the bill would allow trapping to protect crops, livestock, domestic animals, public health and safety, property, municipal infrastructure, and conservation. I brought with me videos that had been taken and posted on YouTube by Vermont trappers. The House Committee had heard that I had shown these videos to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. They had heard that the videos were gruesome and asked that I not show them again. I understood why they didn’t want to look at what we are doing to wildlife. I don’t understand why it is still legal. I criticized the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) because there is no limit in Vermont as to how many animals a trapper can kill for no reason. There is no limit as to how many traps a trapper can put out. There is no limit as to where traps can be put out. And trapped animals can be killed by being clubbed to death or stomped on.

Kim Royar, a spokesperson for DFW testified before the same Committee on the same day. She said animal suffering is simply a fact of life. She has had chickens and she has had to kill them. I too have had chickens. I too have had to kill them. I sure didn’t do it for “recreation.” I did it because we had to eat. I didn’t stomp on them and I didn’t club them to death.

Ms. Royar testified that none of the populations of furbearers that we trap in Vermont are threatened. Therefore, she said, Vermont didn’t need to limit the number of animals killed by trappers. And so last year approximately 350 active trappers killed approximately 9,000 foxes, otters, bobcats and other furbearers. I have spent a vast part of my life in the woods. I have never seen a lynx. I have only seen one bobcat. The foxes, beavers and otters I have watched have filled me with joy and wonder. I don’t want them killed for some kid to get a bigger adrenaline rush than he can get with video games.

To say 350 trappers can go out and kill as many furbearers as they want because we have enough furbearers is to say those animals are disposable. They are not. They belong to a public trust. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is a trustee with a duty to protect and preserve these public resources. And unless we have too many of them the Department should have no right to kill them with no purpose, much less painfully. Kim Royar essentially told the committee that those 9,000 animals were worth more dead than alive.

The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains: “Any sanctioned use of leg hold traps should be accompanied by evidence that their use is necessary and the most humane option that meets the needs of the research or other sanctioned use.”

That is the purpose of both S. 111 and H. 191. Robert Kennedy said our highest purpose here on earth was “to end the savagery of man.” These bills would be a small step in that direction. If we can’t do that, can’t we at least teach our children well?

David Kelley writes from Greensboro. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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