In response to my January 22 column titled "Poaching Statistics - HSUS Style", I received an email from Elise Traub who manages the anti-poaching program of the Humane Society of the United States. She included the text of a letter from another HSUS official to the editor of the Warren Times Observer. Both women objected to my view.
Here's my reply to Ms. Traub:
Thank you for your response to my January 22 opinion column and for the courtesy of emailing me the letter of another HSUS official to the Warren Times Observer.
I'm surprised that you would question my thoughts on HSUS poaching statistics without backing up those statistics. The Time magazine article you cite from 2007 says, "Wildlife officials estimate that the number of poached animals matches the amount of game legally taken each year."
Who are these anonymous "wildlife officials"? Are they game managers? Agency heads? Enforcement officers? Biologists?
Might these "wildlife officials" also be members of anti-hunting groups, such as the HSUS? No one knows, but I'll bet only a small minority of "wildlife officials" would support that statistic.
And since Time magazine did not source the number 100 million poached animals annually, I don't see how anyone can responsibly promote that number without knowing and reporting how that estimate is reached. The HSUS discredits itself by not doing so.
You say you have seen the statistic cited widely, but I'm suspicious that the only reason the statistic is cited widely is that the HSUS relentlessly trumpets it and all citations may in fact trace back to the HSUS.
You say Time magazine "received their information from state wildlife agencies." Did the Pennsylvania Game Commission contribute to it? The number doesn't reflect the realities in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania, like every state, has hunting laws and regulations that the vast majority of hunters cheerfully obey. Poachers are a tiny minority who disobey laws and resent regulations. They have no more in common with hunters than a bank robber has with a bank's depositors.
You're the manager of an anti-poaching program that focuses solely on illegal hunting. I don't fault you for that, but HSUS efforts to combat poaching would be more credible if it actually supported hunters and hunting. Instead, even though the HSUS recognizes that hunting is a lawful activity, it scorns hunting as "lethal wildlife management." It actively opposes legal methods of hunting, and often uses the phrase "illegal hunting" while never using the term "ethical hunting" - indeed, it appears to believe hunting is never ethical.
The HSUS blurs the clear line that exists between the illegal abuse of hunting laws and wildlife by poachers, and the active support of hunting laws and wildlife by the largest contingent of conservationists in the world - hunters.
The HSUS official's letter to the editor does not counter the views I expressed, but clouds the matter by raising issues I did not address. I did not deny that poaching occurs too often. I did not deny that poachers have no regard for the law or for fair chase. I did not deny that poachers put people at risk and are enemies of all citizens. A normal reader might easily be misled into thinking I said something I did not say. The truth is that those are a few of the reasons I, and hunters everywhere, oppose poaching.
The letter actually reinforces my view that the outlandish numbers cited by the HSUS are indeed extrapolated from a few isolated cases. Astonishingly, it suggests that questioning the HSUS claim is "quibbling over numbers." If we're quibbling over unsubstantiated numbers, then the best way to stop is for the HSUS to quit repeating them.
Finally, the letter to the editor says "poaching is a serious crime that should concern both the animal protection community and the hunting community. Rather than quibbling over numbers, wouldn't time be better spent working to combat poaching together?"
Hunters do combat poaching, and we're thankful that most people oppose it with us. Unfortunately, the HSUS combats poaching and hunting, too. That does not make the HSUS a friend of hunters.
When The Everyday Hunter isn't hunting, he's thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell him exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com. This column and others can be accessed online at www.EverydayHunter.com.