Cook: Personal touch needed to counter 'antis'

Cook: Personal touch needed to counter 'antis'

May 21st, 2009 by Dan Cook in Sports - Outdoors

Earlier this year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Pennsylvania's governor, Ed Rendell, urging him to support legislation making it illegal for anyone under 18 to hunt in the Keystone State.

Pressure from elsewhere led the U.S. House of Representatives to vote 282-144 against scenic-river protection legislation that had been approved 73-21 by the Senate. The proposal intended to preserve 350,000 acres along 86 newly designated wild or scenic rivers.

Conservationists and sportsmen need to voice their opinions to lawmakers also, Rob Sexton emphasized at this year's convention of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Nashville, but they will get minimal results from mass e-mails and form letters. Personal contact works much better, he said.

Sexton is vice president for governmental affairs for the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance based in Columbus, Ohio.

"We can't afford to ignore bills in Washington," he said. "But we need to do a composed letter, not a form letter."

E-mails and form letters are "less effective," he said, "because they don't show that you really care. It's important to demonstrate that you really care. Send a letter through the mail."

Despite attacks by coyotes in places such as Bloomfield, Colo., and other dangers from wild animal overpopulation, legislators have trouble ignoring large, well-funded anti-hunting groups. One of the most powerful, Sexton pointed out, is the Humane Society.

"The Humane Society of the United States has more members than the National Rifle Association and more money than the NRA," Sexton said in his address entitled "Hunters in the Crosshairs: How anti-hunters plan to use the new government to end hunting."

A common technique of the "anti" groups is to make it seem that sportsmen embrace detestable practices such as "canned hunts" and "puppy mills." As Sexton pointed out, however, a hunt on the famed King Ranch in Texas is hardly unfair to wild game because there happens to be fencing around the property: There are about 50,000 acres in the "enclosure."

Lawmakers need to read reasonable rebuttals to the antis' emotion-stirring assertions. They need to hear about the need for hunting to keep animal populations under control and to hear reasons why streams should run free.

But they need to hear it from people taking time to write complete thoughts, not just signatures or e-mail forward addresses.

"We have to develop relationships with them," Sexton said.