A Montana trapper has publicly confessed to animal abuse. In a guest opinion recently printed in The Missoulian (http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008/02/11/opinion/guest/guest11.txt), Montana Trappers Association member Dennis “Foothold” Schutz wrote, “We trappers do cause pain and suffering to animals and apologize to no one.” While this is a change from the fur trapper’s usual claim that trapping is humane, the admission was obviously not made in a mood of contrition.
“Foothold” Schutz exults in his candor. He’s bragging, like Michael Vick and his buddies probably bragged about how they killed their fighting dogs. He justifies his cruelty by saying, “We are predators, period,” ignoring the fact that most human predators in the USA hunt with guns or other methods that kill quickly and precisely, death occurring in seconds or minutes rather than hours or days. Hunters select and kill an individual animal, not any creature that comes within range. Wounded animals are pursued and killed, not left to suffer.
This trapper’s candor exposes the attitude of trappers to animals. While most sportsmen take pride in a clean kill and their skill in stalking, trappers are indifferent to how their victims die. Nor do they care, aside for the inconvenience it may cause them, how many untargeted animals die in their traps. In a country that has been outraged by the cruelties of the dog-fighting racket, it is strange that this agony inflicted on wild animals is still overlooked.
Mr. Schutz’s connection of trapping with our American freedoms is distorted. Many of our ancestors did come here to escape oppression or better themselves, but not to beat up animals. The necessity of living off the land is long past. What was a way of life for some is now just a hobby, a sport, a diversion. Fur trapping is not an occupation any more, and Americans have changed the way they look at animals. Just as we now see racial discrimination as unjust and unfair, so we see have come to see animal abuse as foul and unethical. When people harvest “renewable natural resources” by means of wasteful and cruel means, it is no longer a “right.” When a few individuals claim they have a “freedom” to abuse and torture animals, they are wrong.
What stands out most about trappers is their failure to grant animals any dignity, compassion or understanding. If they saw the endless hours of agony a trapped animal endures, if they saw the casual brutality with which a trapper kills and discards unwanted victims, and if they saw the smug contempt with which the trapper beats and suffocates his “prey” to death, most Westerners would vote to outlaw this savagery.